Just as the tides produce a cycle of balance, you, in your relationships, can intentionally go through cycles that will bring you and your partner into balance and deeper intimacy.
For anyone who has been reading my blog, you know I have been reading How We Love, by Yerkovich. I just finished it last night and highly recommend it. It articulates so well what has been missing in many of my previous relationships (intimate and otherwise) due to a variety of circumstances. I won’t do this book justice, but essentially it points out that every person has a basic need of intimacy. Intimacy overlaps but is not synonymous with sexuality or sexual gratification. Intimacy entails sharing thoughts and emotions (self-disclosure) with another individual, and having that be reciprocated. Sounds easy, enough, right? But if your parents weren’t able or interested to try to connect with you in an intimate way and to figure out your inner world, your repertoire of communication skills may be lacking as an adult. This book really helps with that. Something so simple as the Comfort Circle, (may seem unnecessary or bring up feelings of embarrassment or discomfort at first), but I think it is the essence of what everyone is looking for. Everyone wants to be seen, understood, and comforted by their partner. So here is my helpful/practical tidbit for you on how to connect with others in an intimate, meaningful way that will enrich your relationships on this wellness Wednesday, taken from How We Love.
If you are comfortable with physically touching/holding the other person while going through this process, do so. If not, consider just sitting close together or holding hands until physical contact becomes safe. Practice being the “giver” and “receiver.” This is a good exercise in practicing listening skills. Going through the following steps should bring relief and increase trust. Example, as the listener and “giver” of comfort:
- Seek Awareness: Awareness, the act of attending to our souls. Ask your partner about what’s on their mind. DO NOT jump to solution-finding or problem solving. Seek to instead, better understand their point of view or current circumstance. This stage is about getting a better understanding and awareness of current thoughts and emotions.
- Engage: This stage is about bringing “the newly discovered feelings, thoughts, and reactions out from the hidden recesses of our souls and into the open light of relationship” (p. 200). This is about engaging with emotions and needs openly, and digging deeper. This is making a mutual decision to connect. This might include asking “for one specific, observable thing you can do that will make you a safer person.” The speaker may ask you for an apology, a hug, an explanation. Hear what they have to say that will make it safer for them to engage with you openly. It may be requested of you to say one thing that you appreciate about your partner, or to tell them that it’s ok and that they are not too much for you to handle. Be open to their suggestions. And BE HONEST.
- Explore: This stage is when you explore the speaker’s thoughts and feelings, while listening, validating, and then ultimately asking what they need and making plans to meet those needs, even if that means simply taking a nap together and not necessarily “solving” a problem that may be out of the speaker’s control. It is also here that you clarify and validate the person’s experience so that they feel heard and known by you, the giver. If you have done a good job listening, you will see the topic from the speaker’s perspective and be able to articulate that person’s feelings and beliefs, whether you agree or not! (p. 246). A conversation starter may be “Tell me about the best thing in your day and the worst thing in your day.” Examples of validation statements:
- “I understand how you could feel that way.”
- “From your perspective, your feelings make sense.”
- Resolve: This is where you actually resolve the needs verbally or with touch. This may include holding, relaxing, or validating that you, the giver, can accept your the speaker’s emotions and thoughts just as they are and love them anyway. If a need cannot be met presently, commit to meeting the need at a specific later time. Ask the speaker to be clear and specific about what they need. Your partner may not actually need anything else from you at this time. The attention you gave them during this exercise may have been enough, and you may also do it more naturally and without thinking as you become more adept at it.