Enhancing Relationships – Part 3
Hal and Sidra Stone
Personal sharing is a prerequisite for a relationship that is dedicated to growth and the evolution of consciousness. Facing facts is hard work, but it is important. It is only through an honest confrontation of what is happening in a relationship that deep contact is maintained and that growth occurs.
Generally speaking, the more openness we can bring to a relationship, the better off we are. Holding back feelings and reactions usually has the effect of creating more and more distance between partners.
Sharing feelings, however, is frequently easier said than done. The feelings may be out of our sphere of awareness or they may simply produce too much pain, or the possibility of too much pain, if we try to communicate them.
It is also important to be aware of how the inner critic attacks us very often when we cannot share our feelings. If we cannot share them, we simply need to be aware that they are there, that we cannot allow them expression now, and we must not allow ourselves to be criticized because we are unable to express them. We must know that at the right time they will be ready to emerge.
Much of what we feel at any given moment of time is unconscious. All forms of psychological work are valuable, because they help us to learn more and more about the things that are going on inside of ourselves. We have already described how it is possible to share feelings more easily if we are aware of the many different parts of ourselves and how they might be feeling in a particular situation.
If we were to ask you how you were feeling at this particular moment, you might not have too much to say. Imagine that we said the following to you: “We would like to know how the different parts of you are feeling and thinking right now while you are reading this book. How does your intellectual self feel? Your objective scientist? Your intuitive self? Your vulnerable child? Your responsible father/mother and husband/wife? Your free spirit? Your sexual psychopath?”
These different selves would give very different answers, assuming it were possible for you to experience them at some level and tune in to their feelings and thoughts. What interesting conversations we humans would have, how multi-dimensional would be our communications, if we were able to bring to each other the fullness and richness of these many selves.
There is also a danger in the sharing process. This danger is seen particularly in people who have come from backgrounds where extensive personal growth work has taken place. What we see with considerable frequency is a compulsive requirement to always be talking and processing, no matter how the other person feels about it. In this kind of situation, there is no respect for introversion or privacy, and the people are not communicating from an aware ego.
When you are able to share personally from an aware ego, you find that you are in touch with the fear of your frightened child, the empathy that your vulnerable child feels for the other, and the cool clarity of your impersonal self, which can face facts just as they are and present them in a straightforward fashion. You will have an awareness available to you that can look at the entire situation dispassionately and feed you the information that you need from moment to moment. This allows both the other person and you to react in a non-bonded fashion from an aware ego. You are both free to examine whatever is happening without trying to control the course of the conversation.
It is amazing how many times a seemingly selfish request, or a fantasy, or an apparently unfounded reaction will open up new vistas in a relationship or trigger a new step in the evolution of your consciousness.
Roger is dismayed to find that he is no longer sexually attracted to Veronica, his wife. He has not told her this because, in his responsible father, he did not want to hurt her feelings, and he sees that she does everything in her power to be attractive to him.
He knows about relationship as a teacher, however, and he decides to take the chance and share this reaction with her. As Roger expresses his concern in a way that incorporates both his power and his vulnerability, he is surprised to learn that Veronica has been aware of this decreasing interest and that she, too, has felt a lessening of sexual desire for him. She, too, is unhappy about this, because she loves him very much. Her frightened child had not wanted to hear what was wrong and her responsible mother did not want to hurt him, so she had not said anything about this matter herself.
They continue on, allowing themselves to express any reactions that come to the surface. As the conversation progresses, they discover that Roger has gradually, over the past two years, given up his contacts with his men friends. He used to have many friends and had enjoyed meeting them for dinner, but he began to feel that Veronica would be happier if he remained home at night. Without either of them being aware of what was happening, he had given up his meetings with his friends.
As Roger becomes aware of how important his friends are and starts making plans to see them again, Veronica suddenly remembers that she had planned to begin graduate school when their youngest child entered kindergarten. The youngest child is already in third grade and Veronica is still spending her entire life in the responsible mother role, caring for everyone and not beginning to pursue a career of her own. Both Roger and Veronica are delighted to find that their needs mesh. This is so often the case, if we pursue our personal sharing to the very end.
Veronica and Roger make plans that on Thursday nights he will have dinner with his friends, she will go to school, and the children will visit with the grandparents, who have been asking to see more of them. Thus, the parent/child bonding between Roger and Veronica is cut into for the moment, and new vistas open up for each of them.
Neither is hurt or feels abandoned (as the responsible parent selves had feared), and both are excited by their new plans. Their sexuality returns automatically to the relationship. Sexuality usually returns to its former level of intensity in a relationship when a bonding pattern is broken and the next step forward has been taken.
Personal sharing does not deal with emotional reactions alone. This kind of sharing includes sharing in all areas of life. How many of us have thought at one time or another in our lives, “It’s fine that I’m loved now when I’m behaving appropriately, but what if they knew what I’m really like underneath?” We have all been raised to hide as much of ourselves, or, shall we say, as many of our selves, as are necessary in order to gain love and acceptance.
It is in our relationships that we have the chance to open ourselves up to other people. Often in marriage, people are unable and/ or unwilling to show the fullness of themselves to each other when they are quite able to show these parts of themselves to a friend. This is a sure mark of a bonding pattern in the marriage relationship and an indication of potential trouble ahead.
Needless to say, most of us are usually not shy about personal sharing in areas that feel comfortable to us. Some areas, however, are more problematical. Others are areas we may never have thought about sharing with someone else.
Two topics that are frequently uncomfortable are our concerns about our money and our health. There is often a good deal of fear or vulnerability associated with both of these areas.
As we have seen previously, a worried vulnerable child invariably precipitates a bonding pattern if it is ignored. Our vulnerable children have a habit of worrying about our aches and pains and about our financial stability. Therefore, if there is concern in either area, it is important to open it up for discussion.
The refusal to share one’s concerns in these areas of vulnerability almost invariably causes bonding patterns to develop. We have found that joint consideration of financial and health matters gives much comfort in most relationships and helps to promote consciousness and far better decision making when both partners have input in these areas. After all, both people will be deeply affected by whatever happens.
There is another area of difficulty so far as sharing is concerned, and that concerns something physical that bothers us about our partner. This might be a partner’s weight, the way she dresses, the fact that he is losing his hair. This is a particularly sensitive area, because if these kinds of feelings are not shared, they tend to grow out of all proportion.
The issue once again has to do with what part of us gives the reaction. An attacking father can be very destructive in a situation like this. An aware ego will be in touch with vulnerability, and it will come through very differently.
Last but not least is the sharing of fantasies. Most of us are not trained to share our fantasies except, perhaps, with our therapists. Sharing fantasies, however, allows us to know one another at an entirely new level of intimacy.
We have already looked at the sharing of sexual attractions or fantasies about other people in our discussion of attractions and affairs. This is likely to lead to new growth in a relationship. It can also be used with great fun in actual sexual activities. Many people enjoy playing out their sexual fantasies with one another, enriching their sexual encounters and adding to their variety.
For most couples it is difficult to share fantasies, for they are often the core of our disowned selves. They represent our most private spaces, our deepest secrets, our greatest shame. To be able to open these parts of ourselves in a relationship is an act of great intimacy and courage.
This is an important part of who we are. What better place to show this side of ourselves than in an intimate relationship? We say this knowing full well how much the protector/controller may not want this to happen. We must, however, repeat our basic injunction that the feelings of the protector/ controller must be honored in whatever we do and say.
In general, the point of sharing fantasies is to make us feel closer to each other. Sometimes, when we share a fantasy with our partner, it plants a psychic seed that grows into reality. One never can tell what will happen once one’s fantasy is spoken out loud to a lover.