You can’t do relationships just in your head!
Like it or not intimate relationships involve a lot of feeling and how we manage them is a vital factor in the health of your relationship. In the beginning we’re willing to embrace these feelings as they’re mostly a cocktail of all things wonderful. Even fear seems like nervous anticipation, anger close to passion and needs feel like desire. Over time as we get a bit more real in the relationship (hopefully) we let our warts show and a greater range of feelings come to the surface.
(Annette says she has been told it is a positive sign of intimacy if your beloved allows themselves to fart in your presence) (Not that women fart at all of course!).
If we lack the emotional intelligence to deal with these feelings as they become more uncomfortable, we judge them as wrong. In order to manage them we focus on our intellect instead of the discomfort, making elaborate mental rationalizations about our feelings, the situation, our partner and/or ourselves because while we are thinking we’re not feeling.
We then choose one of three responses:
We vent our rationalizations and uncomfortable feelings all over our (formerly blameless) significant other. Or we dump them on ourselves making us feel bad, or we simply squash the feelings down inside of us. None of these are a good look.
Obviously if we turn our feelings into a drama and vent our anger, fear, shame etc onto our partners they are likely to get hurt and retreat, or get pissed off back, resulting in the ugly downward spiral of ‘he said/she said/you never and I always’.
Dumping blame might feel good but…
Dumping blame onto ourselves obliterates our self esteem and done often enough, our sense of self worth as well.
The other choice- to not feel at all, may seem nobler but it’s not. The thing about a feeling is that once you’ve created it, it still exists. Squashing down a feeling doesn’t get rid of it, it simply remains in your body, unconsciously fuelling your future thoughts and behaviours.
You might remember a time being surprised at how clearly long forgotten feelings can surface at inappropriate moments, such as when your partner was particularly late home and you were assailed by the hurt of his car accident 10 years before. As you can see not feeling now simply creates more opportunities for it down the track. Science is proving more than ever before that the stress of repressed emotion underlies the development of much physical disease and poor health.
The proactive relationship (and life) step is to practice feeling your feelings, for once you feel and witness a feeling fully it’s gone.
Because we either feel or we don’t.
If we want to feel the ‘good’ things we need to feel everything.
The skill is in learning to do it without escalation into drama, dumping or suppression, unlike this little example:
The way not to do feelings!
Annette can recall some years ago getting into an argument with her (formerly blameless) significant other whilst driving home from the supermarket one night. The venting reached such proportions that he stopped the car and with words something like “I’m not taking any more of this shit!” stormed off home. Annette jumped out of the car and ran around to the driver’s side whilst continuing to vent even more loudly the rightness of her stated position, pointing her finger at his departing back to further make her case. All of a sudden she had the realization that here she was behaving like “those very unconscious people” she had seen and judged in the past for arguing in public. Thanking goodness there was no one else around she continued her spiel a few moments longer but with more perspective and less invective before driving herself home.
This very ugly scene was the result of a deeply triggered emotional pattern and could have been avoided if one or both of us had chosen to practice going within and feeling instead of dumping!
But sometimes no matter how good our skills are we can still fall into being human and just need to forgive ourselves for that and learn from the experience…