One of the most challenging relationship skills I’ve had to learn, both for me… and many of my clients, is being ok with others being unhappy with me.
That means being willing to tolerate the discomfort that arises (inside me) at the prospect of saying or doing something that may disappoint, hurt or upset others… and doing it anyway.
In the dating arena… this can be as simple as saying that you’d rather go to a thai restaurant instead of the Italian restaurant your date has picked out… or as stressful as asking the person you’re crazy about to get tested for std’s.
Even in your most secure relationships, the challenge to be authentic and true to yourself and your needs can be an ongoing challenge.
What do you say when, at the end of a long day at work, you just want to go for a walk by yourself… but you sense your partner’s anticipation to come with you?
Or, when you start to feel resentful because most of the household chores seem to be falling on you?
or you notice partner is drinking more than usual…?
For many of us, this isn’t just uncomfortable… it’s terrifying. It can strike fear into our hearts to have to say or do something that will disappoint others; make them angry with us or God forbid… hurt their feelings.
Why is this?… you may be wondering?? (for those who like to geek out on “why we are the way we are” — I will be covering this in an upcoming newsletter)
For now… suffice to say that, as a result of our early experiences, we take on feeling overly responsible for how others feel.
~ In other words, how they feel is more important than how we feel!
PAY ATTENTION NOW…
It is impossible to have healthy, thriving relationships with others if we are unable or unwilling to communicate to them what we genuinely need to be happy, fulfilled, productive and loving.
Relationships where we chronically put other peoples needs before our own don’t work, even for the person on the receiving end of our giving.
Even in the happiest and healthiest of relationships what we need will often conflict with what others want and need. And, in the process of negotiating what we need others will probably not like it.
THIS IS NORMAL!
It doesn’t mean we shut down our needs, grin and bear it or pretend what we want doesn’t matter… it just means we need to learn how to negotiate our needs skillfully.
For those of us who didn’t have this modelled as children the prospect of doing this can be terrifying. That’s the bad news.
But the good news is that this is a skill that can be learned and is more than worth it.
Happy people are people who have lots of loving relationships and loving relationships can only happen if you are willing and able to be authentic and true to what you truly need in order to thrive.
So… whether this is a person you are just getting to know… or someone you’re already in relationship with… the process is the same.
Awareness is the first step:
It’s also being willing to do something imperfectly!
What I have found helpful is to just be open and transparent about what’s going on for you.
Begin by creating safety in the connection by saying something positive about the other person, something you appreciate about them, how important they are to you, how much your relationship with them means to you.
You could say… “I’m really beginning to care about you… something you need to know about me is I have a tendency to put others needs first… it’s something I’m working on. And, I’m noticing right now that I want to say something but I’m afraid to disappoint you…
ie… “I know you were looking forward to going biking on Saturday but I promised my friend, Angie I would help her move”.
If it’s something that’s on-going and you haven’t said anything about it before then you could say something like…
“I really love you, and I’ve been afraid to talk to you about something… please forgive me for my lack of courage up until now, and not trusting that you would want to know what’s going on with me.” Then, share the “data only”, on what has been impacting you. Try to stick to the facts and not your interpretation of the facts.
ie. There something about our love-making that’s not working for me… I’d really like to see if we can find a solution. When you do this…. I feel this… and I know you don’t mean…. what would you think?… You get the idea.
If in the process of taking care of ourselves one or more of our relationships falls away, as hard as this, is it’s better in the long run. It doesn’t mean anyone is wrong, just that what we need and value is a mismatch.
Practice makes Perfect!
No one ever died from feeling uncomfortable or even from a sense of dread.
SAY what you need to SAY no matter how scary it is!
AND… if this still feels too hard. Like you really can’t do it, all it means is that you have some missing development. That’s where I come in. 🙂 This is something that can be learned.
Feel free tocontact meto set up a free 20 min. consultation to see whether coaching is your next best step. I look forward to supporting you.
Difficult conversations are never easy but every time we find ourselves on the other side of them we feel closer and more bonded to our partners. AND we have a relationship in which both we both can flourish and thrive.