After our recent blog about dealing with negative colleagues at work, several people reached out asking; “Can you please write about how to come together with your partner?”
What if one person in a relationship changes?
One woman asked;
“How can I be close to my partner after experiencing personal growth when they’re not supportive? Sometimes when you’re growing as a person, that growth is not always well received by your partner or loved ones and they try to hold you back, or they tell you that you’re still the person you were before. I’d love to know how you deal with that type of negativity.”
Even the person on my team who forwarded me this woman’s email said; “Yes! Please answer that question Vanessa because I really want to know too!”
The urge to merge vs. the urge to individuate.
I recently had Katie Hendricks as the Guest Teacher for our Tactical Magic Mastermind, the ten month program for grads of Create Work You Love (CWYL) that’s focused on creating a life you love.
Katie and her husband Gay are experts at teaching people how to have effective relationships. I trained with them to become a certified coach years ago, have read their books, taken several of their programs, and am a HUGE fan of their collective work.
In our Mastermind Class, Katie talked about how in relationship, each person has both the urge to merge (feel close) and the urge to individuate (create distance).
Often, we override our own internal signals to get closer or to get more separate from our partner.
We do this because of fear.
On the call, I realized that when I’m hard on my husband and think he hasn’t “done enough work” or he’s “not conscious enough” (talk about a projection!), the deeper truth might be that I need more space and I’m scared to admit it, or that I want to feel closer to him and I’m scared it won’t work.
Partners aren’t always in sync.
There will be times in your relationship when you want to get close, and your partner wants to get separate, or vice versa. And that’s ok. In fact, that’s incredibly common.
What’s important is to get curious about your needs.
Katie recommends asking yourself; “How do I know when I want to get close? How do I know I want to get separate?”
You may feel a tightness in your jaw or belly that signals when it’s time for you to take a walk by yourself. Or perhaps there’s a pleasant pulling feeling in your chest like a magnet that lets you know when you want to feel close.
Pay attention to your body’s signals and trust those impulses.
If you’re a woman, Katie said, you’ve been societally programmed to be the “closeness cop,” and often swoop in to fix things, appear desirable, or make sure the relationship is on track, sometimes ignoring your own need for individuation in the process.
Start by being honest about your needs, with yourself and your partner.
If you feel sad or scared that you aren’t feeling close, tell your partner how you feel.
Katie also talked about the top two relationship killers.
The #1 Relationship Killer is criticism.
This includes criticism of yourself. The most important skill you can learn is to shift from criticism to appreciation. (this is true for all relationships, especially the one you have with your inner voice!)
Right now, think of someone in your life you’d like to feel closer to. What are three things you genuinely appreciate about that person? Write them down, and notice how your heart softens in relation to that person.
If you’re feeling inspired, share your list with the other person and notice what kind of connection it creates.
The #2 Relationship Killer is withholding.
According to Katie, who has helped well over 100,000 people in relationships, the common pattern we all have is to withhold, withdraw, and then project.
To switch this pattern, if you notice an urge to criticize your partner, instead ask yourself; “Hmmm, what am I withholding?”
Usually, there’s a deeper truth we aren’t speaking for fear of not being loved or accepted.
The solution is to be authentic and honest with your partner by saying; “The story I’m making up is…”
Our brains are hardwired to make up stories and assume they’re real.
When you own that it’s just your story, not a fact, you step back from judgment or making a conclusion about the other person.
So, if your partner doesn’t seem supportive of your personal growth, try this;
1) Start by authentically appreciating the other person
2) Notice how you feel. Get curious, are you wanting to feel close or separate?
3) Instead of withholding, own your story. Say; “The story I’m making up is…that you don’t like the person I’m becoming or you’re scared I’ll outgrow you (or whatever your story is).”
If you want to learn more about Katie and Gay’s work, check out their book Conscious Loving or their latest book Conscious Loving Ever After (*I just ordered my copy today!) You can also visit the Foundation for Conscious Living website.
I can’t sing Katie and Gay’s praises enough!
Now we’d love to hear from you. What are your relationship patterns? Do you withhold and withdraw when you’re upset? Leave a comment below and let us know.
May you create both closeness and healthy individuation in your relationships,
P.S. I really would love to hear what you thought of this topic! Leave a comment below. I read every single comment, and also love hearing what other questions you have.