Issue 63 –
Don’t be too shy – or just forget – to say nice things to each other.
Sidra : Another thing is that it’s easy to lose saying that you love each other, or saying ‘thank you’, or saying ‘please’. It’s just as easy to forget to say something when you feel quietly appreciative of the other person. It’s so easy to just go do the dishes, or go back to your email. In our relationship, we both stop and do that. I’m not talking about doing it automatically, particularly if you don’t feel it at the moment and you’re just saying it to quiet the other person. That’s not good. But just to pick up those little impulses and act on them by saying it. “I’m so glad to have you here.” or “It’s nice having breakfast together, ” as an acknowledgement of the relationship. It goes a long way. And it feels good.
Hal : … Or, “Thank you very much for that delicious fish dinner! ”
Sidra : I love it when you say that. It makes me want to go back and cook some more! (laughs at self).
Hal : But generally one only says those things when one is connected at a certain level; when your vulnerability, your energy is in the right place. I’d bet there were long periods of time when I didn’t do that, because I was more up in my head, more busy and not connected into that place.
Sidra : Actually, you’ve been good about that. You’ve always been good about that.
Hal : Perhaps as things go, I’ve always done pretty well with it; but I feel like somehow as I get older, I do it more often and I really feel it. Now sometimes a therapist will tell people, as a technique: “I want you to go home and I want you to practice this. ”
Yes. “Practice saying nice things to each other. ” Yes. That’s okay. But most of the time when you do that just because you’re supposed to, you’re actually cementing the positive bonding pattern. When you do it from the feeling, catching the feeling in your awareness, you just getting used to saying things like that.
We always think about expressing the negative stuff to clear the air. But expressing the positives is just as important. People don’t talk about that and it feels a little embarrassing, or at least strange, at first, to say something nice to someone you’ve been with for thirty-five years. I really learned that early on with you. It wasn’t a natural thing for me and it required going past a reticence or shyness I didn’t realize I had.
Sidra : Exactly! That’s exactly it.
Hal : Yes, it’s very different when it comes from that superficial place.
Suggestion #6: Sharing vulnerability
Sidra : Okay. Something we did talk about yesterday is expressing our vulnerabilities. This really makes such a difference. For instance, you wake up in the morning and you’ve had a bad dream or a tough night or you’re worried about something, or just not feeling well. Or maybe there’s something you have to do that day you’re feeling awkward about, or you’re just having a ‘bad hair day’. For reasons from the sublime to the ridiculous, you’re not feeling aligned and it’s good to just feel free to express it.
First of all, this freedom promotes intimacy. But secondly, it gets you away from having to handle it by yourself. It’s not like putting it in somebody else ‘ s lap to take care of; but it’s saying: “This is what I feel like today. I don’t know why, but I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I feel cruddy and I hope I can pull it together today. ” Not saying anything at all forces you into some kind of gear that protects your vulnerability in a different way. You get harder working, more cerebral, more responsible and certainly less connected. You have to go into whatever self it is that powers through and past that vulnerability.
I’m not saying you should dissolve into a puddle of vulnerability. What I mean is that we simply say to each other, “ “I don’t feel that great today ” ” or “ “I may need a little extra support around this ” , rather than just pushing past it.
Whatever it is that we’re vulnerable about, like Hal was saying about being afraid for a while when it got dark, or I suddenly felt worried about money, or the water, or thinking nobody loves me … … or whatever it is that just comes up, we share that with each other.
Hal : My vulnerability opened up the most strongly together with my anxiety the summer that our water system went down. It took two months to put that together and I began to realize the experience of that level of stress when you’re older, is a very different thing than when you’re younger. It’s like night and day. So I started to learn about the absolute necessity of saying it out loud. It wasn’t enough to keep it within myself or to write in my journal. Forget it! I had to share it. I’m not saying that’s bad, but the sharing of it with another person out loud is very, very important. It’s just a new way of living in the world. People haven’t done that before. They’re used to keeping things more to themselves.
Sidra : Again, it’s one of those things that’s a little bit embarrassing. It’s hard to say “I’m scared I will oversleep and miss the plane tomorrow ” or whatever it is, but once when you didn’t share that, you went into a very tight Responsible Father who carried an energy of “I’m going to take care of this and I don’t need you. ”
Hal : (Nodding) Yes, that’s exactly what would happen.
Sidra : Then I would go into an Offended or Hurt Daughter self, thinking, “I thought that our relationship was working perfectly well. Now, all of a sudden, it feels like you’re pushing me out. ” It would be an opening into a very bad negative bonding pattern: Controlling Father to Rebel Daughter; and on the other side, the wonderful Judgmental Mother to a Guilty Son. We just don’t need that. So, what we discovered eventually was that the sharing of vulnerability was the thing that really made it work.