This writing comes at a difficult time. For me, there is a real sense of buckling under the strain of the last few months, years even, of relentless personal and practical change, and strain is being felt by my partner in similar, yet different ways. We are both under unusually extreme internal and external pressure.
We’ve both never been closer to another person nor so close to our own personal histories and stuff nor under so much pressure from our day to day lives. It’s a tough time and has been for a little while.
It seems to me that we’ve been caught in a spiral of not acknowledging that we are unable to meet each other’s needs and, caught up in a difficult time, we have fallen back, as happens all too often, on old unhelpful behaviours to cope.
It has taken some very difficult conversations with both of us saying, as well as having to hear, some extremely difficult things, for us both to acknowledge that some of the ways in which we have both been behaving are toxic and unhelpful.
It has taken us both resisting the urge to run away. It has taken us both having to experience and sit with lots of anger, resentment and upset. It has taken us both doing that whilst managing the day to day needs of our lives. The world does not stop spinning and so much of the work of life needs to be done no matter how broken into pieces we might feel.
Sometimes we have to say and hear difficult things to those we love the most. We have to acknowledge the ways in which we have been let down and also let down others. That is so, so, SO hard. But we need to do it. We need to say it and hear it and also be kind to ourselves as we feel, as well as witness, that pain.
The sitting with it, the being there even when it hurts is part of how we begin to understand our instinctive patterns and can learn, slowly, to move beyond them to a place of compassionate and authentic connection. A place where the love that is there, in the deep calm beneath the choppiest of waves, can be truly felt and believed in.
How do we protect each other and what we have whilst we work through difficult stuff and also have lots of demands on us day to day?
Some thoughts… Please do suggest your own in the comments below.
- Set time aside for talking things through as well as time for pure fun – reschedule as needed.
- Be kind to yourself as well as each other.
- Reflect on what you really need and communicate that compassionately.
- Keep talking – agree and set limits to this; be aware of your own emotional bank balance but don’t completely withdraw without agreeing time frames and being clear on boundaries.
- Listen to each other but also be honest when you cannot be present or available.
- Be aware of and then work to stop negative, passive aggressive and love killing behaviours such as stone-walling, sighs, “I’m fine”’s and mean looks – if you are struggling, then acknowledge it and communicate it clearly, not passive aggressively – be honest with yourself about the ways in which old patterns and fears are playing a part in your behaviour and make changes.
- Be honest with yourself as well as them.
- Trust yourself, trust each other.
- Know that difficult times and challenges are normal and to be expected and trust that “this too shall pass”.
- Avoid name calling at all costs.
- Learn to argue and disagree as well as possible: use lots of “I feel…” statements as opposed to “You are…”; focus on examples not generalisations (avoid: “you never […], you always […]”).
- Remind yourself, as well as each other, when you’re feeling safe and able to do so, of the things that you like and love about each other.