(and the damage that results when you don’t do them.)
I’m in dangerous territory. Last week I declared to a friend that everything I’m doing right now in terms of my relationships is contrary to what I would advise a client to do.
I’m not sure sharing the nitty-gritty is helpful, but here’s what I will say: I am willingly (and with eyes wide open) putting myself in a situation that may not end the way I want it to.
So why am I doing this? Well, let’s just say that there’s something here for me to learn about myself that feels really important. I’m being asked to follow my intuition about something and I’ve decided to give my intuition a pretty long leash. I’m not totally sure what the thing to learn is yet, but I’m willing to be in the situation so I can look at it.
But here’s the thing: I’m not being held hostage by it. No one is “doing” it to me, no one is “making” me feel a certain way. I am here by my choice, and my choice alone.
And the question I have to keep asking myself: If this doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, will I be able to accept that? And then I choose again if this is territory I want to be in.
There’s a way that we often play the game of dating and relationship in a way where we’re trying to get somewhere, trying to make something happen, so we can declare some sort of victory in having the thing we want. (If I play hard to get, I’ll get to feel really special and wanted./If I keep texting him, at some point he’ll realize he loves me./If I show him that I stand by him in good and bad times, he’ll decide he wants to commit to me.)
So we act to get where we want to go, often with disregard for how we feel in the moment-to-moment of those isolated interactions. He texts us, we text back, and then he disappears and we’re left with a pit in our stomachs.
These moments? These moments are the ones that cause damage.
And there are two components to the harm. The first is that we don’t get the thing we want, and in that moment, we don’t feel safe enough or entitled to call it out. Picture it, you’re trying to get a guy to give you the attention you want so that he’ll eventually ask you to be in a relationship, and he just drops a text convo: “hey dude, it’s not cool for you to just not answer my texts.”
You rationalize this to yourself by saying things like, “Well, he doesn’t actually owe me anything. We aren’t a thing. I don’t have the right to feel the way I do.”
The other way the damage occurs is in these moments when you are trying to get something from someone, you may get strategic. You plan out the best approach to get what you want, which often masks what is true between the two of you. (If you want a relationship, you may become more focused on how to get that than how to have the thing that is naturally coming from your connection with this person.)
Usually the way that plays out is by not being able to actually say the thing on your mind because it may jeopardize you getting the thing you want. If you were to say, “Hey dude, it hurts my feelings and has me feel like you don’t care about me when you just abandon our text conversations.”
You might look needy or oversensitive when the woman you really want to show him is cool, calm, collected. He might not be into needy. He also may take it as an invitation that he just doesn’t feel that way about you.
So you cover up the truth. You overlook the things that leave you with a pit in your stomach. You tell yourself you were just overreacting or being too sensitive. You don’t ask questions about the things you need more information about.
You share more about what you think about things than what you feel about things.
And the disconnection grows, because neither person knows where the other person truly stands.
When we stay with maintaining the integrity of the connection instead of trying to get somewhere, the most true thing can happen. And there’s no certainty about what that is or where it will end up, but it is certain that it will be honest. And that is the true foundation of creating intimacy.
You always have a choice in connection – and the responsibility that comes with it.
Own that you are choosing exactly how you act and react – in every single moment.
Remember, no one is making you do anything, feel anything, or taking advantage of you. You are choosing. The more empowered and aware you are of your choice, the more free you are to choose newly at any moment if/when you decide you don’t like the choice you’re making.
If you are participating in a connection, do it without an agenda.
It is 100% OK to want what you want, but pushing what you want on someone who doesn’t want it will never get you the connection you truly want. Be with what is. Name what is. Ask about what is. All of these things will lead you to greater clarity around what may be, what is possible, what is trying to happen – and whether you wish to continue participating.
Invest at the level of depth that you want someone else to.
If you have traditionally felt like you have wanted a level of intimacy in your relationships that your partner hasn’t quite grasped or been able to meet you with, now is the time for you to practice revealing. Not sharing your deepest, darkest secrets with people who don’t deserve them, but by not letting things slide that actually matter to you. This starts with acknowledging to yourself that they matter and not pushing them aside. (Also, this is different than over-investing in terms of time/energy – it is more akin to setting the tone for the level of depth at which you wish to relate.)
Leave a comment below and tell me, of the three items listed directly above, which one has been the most significant for you, and why do you think that is? I look forward to hearing what your experiences have been!