Attuning to Feelings Our feelings matter; but so does our partner's
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Understanding relationships requires more than personal satisfaction of wants, desires and feelings stumps many on their journey to intimacy. True strength generates from recognition of a partnership with another person where their feelings are identified, respected and responded to with kindness. When our emotional life is explosive and unpredictable, we have little room to empathize with partner’s emotions. When the brain easily overloaded with simple emotions, empathizing with a partner during disagreements is nearly impossible. When emotionally overwhelmed, partners become a threat, and we treat them as such. Relationships marked with emotionally charged disagreements incite contemptuous, relationship-destroying comments, hurting tender feelings and creating a wall of protectiveness, preventing intimacy, and destroy trust.
For relationships to flourish, partners must attune to feelings. Trust doesn’t magically materialize, it’s built. When we safely answer the silently question, “When I hurt, will you be there for me?” we lay the foundation of trust. This sounds easy; but it’s not. Expressions of hurt ignites partner’s own insecurities. A partner’s expressions of hurt, disappointment or sadness isn’t comforting. We must draw from an internal reservoir of strength while a partner recovers. For the insecure, this is difficult. Trust requires more than superficial attempts to soothe but from compassionately and courageously being available to a partner during the healing process.
We personalize our partner’s expressions of hurt. Let’s face it, we often are the cause—intended or not. We do something that triggers an emotion—whether the emotional reaction is appropriate or not. The message received, “I hurt and it’s your fault!” This message threatens our security, challenges our evaluation of self. Instead of being there for our partner in their hurt, we become defensive, protecting our ego. With a swift retort—verbal or not—we defend, “You’re too sensitive. You shouldn’t feel that way.” We protect ourselves, but in the process disregard our partner’s hurt.
The hurts we receive burn brightly but the hurts we dealt are conveniently forgotten.
Patterns don’t change easily. But someone must put change into motion. Change the pattern. Change your response. New responses won’t magically undo years of destructive interactions. Hurt feelings, fears of angry responses will taint the new efforts. Persist.
As we attune, compassionately listening instead of defending, the environment slowly transforms. Over time, with patience, attuning to needs, fears, and desires creates security and from security, trust is born. Will our partner change too? Usually. They still have their freewill. We can’t magically transform others. Some need the drama of conflict, that’s all they know. Closeness creates great rushes of energy that they can’t contain the emotions. We don’t need to play into the drama with our own defensive anger. Once we change, express our desires, and they continue in nastiness, we must make a choice. Stay or run. This is a personal choice which requires extensive personal deliberation and often outside guidance. But we have grown. We have prepared our soul for more, and openly invited our partner to come along. Now they must choose.