Some weeks ago I posted an in-depth series on the 5 ways I think you can heal while dating. I’m turning my focus to “How to Heal In Partnership” for the next 5 posts.
(1) Cultivating both skills of deep listening and vulnerable sharing
EXAMPLE: He said, “Hey can we talk about what just happened in the kitchen?” and before I can even get a full breath in to open my mouth to respond I’m already on the defensive. I know this because I can feel my body tense up in preparation for an “attack.” I’m ready to explain, defend and rationalize what happened. I say, “Sure.” and as he begins to share I can’t hear him. I have opened court in my head and I’m building a case for myself and preparing my rebuttal. In my response I totally invalidate his experience and it turns into something much bigger that takes more energy to recover from.
HEALING: He said, “Hey I’d like to initiate something. Are you available for that?” I notice my body tense up with a familiar defensiveness. I know now it's the way I try to protect myself because I'm afraid of getting hurt. Internally I thank it for wanting to protect me, take a breath and say, "Yes, I am." He starts talking and I listen deeply with empathy while he shares, being careful not to grab for excuses in my head or tip over into shame. My spine is strong and my heart is open. I listen for places I can take responsibility for the harm I've caused him and I'm careful not to invalidate him in my head, setting all judgement aside. When it's my turn to respond I reflect back what I heard, ask him if that's accurate and ask him if he needs anything from me to feel resolved. We go back and forth sharing vulnerably without blame until we feel reconnected again. We hug and celebrate the deposit we just made in in the partnership.
LESSON: Partnerships give you a chance to practice going first and going second. If you are used to always talking you get to practice listening. If you are used to always listening you get to practice using your voice to share your vulnerable truth.