I was speaking to a woman at a party this weekend who was having trouble in her relationship. Her and her partner have tried many things, couple’s therapy, various one-day courses…all sorts of modalities to spark more connection and desire in their relationship. In a few minutes I was able to diagnose and have a pretty frank conversation with her about what might be going on.
Her biggest complaint: our relationship has become boring, lifeless, and we’re struggling in the area of intimacy.
I asked some careful, thoughtful questions trying to get closer to the spot of most sensation. She’s a real tricky one and will try to create a fog screen — deflect and distract you from giving real penetrative attention (a common tactic us women use since receiving intense, exquisite attention can be vulnerable) but quickly I felt she actually wants a strong blade to come in here, to cut through all this and allow her to be deeply seen and felt.
Her husband must have a doozy of a time, to the untrained person this all just feels irritating.
I finally asked, wondering how their relationship could have lost all of its electricity: “Does he ever call you out, tell you the truth?”. She let out a sigh and said… no, never. Before that she explained the communication problems they were having. Mainly that she couldn’t get his help around the house. Asking him nicely for things didn’t work, followed by nagging — that certainly didn’t work either, and then finally just her resignation that things were going to be how they were going to be. I also got the hint there may be a lot of growing resentment, from all the things that weren’t being said and done, operating underneath the surface of her communications.
Why is it that he no longer speaks up, tells her the truth, or is an active participant in the relationship? How did he become passive, apathetic, even “lazy”? Who is to blame?
I know this spot well and I know it’s a place many couples end up. Without intervention it’s easy to get stuck and never dig out of.
I’ve laid out some areas to look into if the people in your life aren’t showing up the way you’d really like them to.
Check Your Boundaries
Training… what? Like a dog, a pet? Yikes, that word doesn’t feel good. But alas, we are always showing, teaching, and training others how to act and relate to us.
We have certain patterns that people respond to.
Ever wonder why you’re always getting run over in conversation, ghosted, dumped on or vented to without reciprocation. Yes… the people exhibiting that behavior could perhaps be selfish or unaware, or lack boundaries themselves but you are also training them that behavior is OK with you. Setting, holding, and continuing to maintain firm boundaries is important because you are setting a precedent for all of your future interactions in a relationship. Boundaries are a reflection of a) how you see and value yourself and b) the behavior you are willing to tolerate and what you do or don’t correct.
Check the Expectations You’re Holding Others To
The above-mentioned woman and her husband, whenever he tried to do something for her she admitted — it was “never right” or “never good enough”.
He had to slay the biggest of dragons, fight the best of wars, win the shiniest of trophies in battle to prove that he was a good man, a worthy man for her.
After a certain point, people are going to tire of having to jump through hoops to please you, especially in relationships or in a work setting. It doesn’t feel great if no matter what you provide, you’ll be met with rejection or immediate poor feedback. If you have the feeling in the back of your head that you’ll never be able to win, or that once the one thing is done there will be just another long list of things that are asked of — eventually even the most well intentioned partner will stop engaging.
Check Your Reception
TV reception? Wedding reception? No… as in your capacity to receive, the opposite of giving. Expressing and receiving truth is an art. It isn’t always fun to hear. We may say we “welcome feedback” but in reality it’s uncomfortable to be called out or be seen in a way our ego doesn’t like. For the best of us, it doesn’t like to be anything that isn’t perfect or that doesn’t have it all together. But if every time we punish our partners for being honest with us by meeting them with resistance, defensiveness, or venom we will train them to withhold what they really see and feel. When we throw the blame back on them, being vulnerable will no longer feel safe.
When it feels pleasurable to do things for us, when people feel clear about where they stand, how they can and can’t act, what behaviors are tolerable, and that being open and honest will be welcomed and celebrated — the people in our life are more likely to stick around and want to show up fully.
Molly Godfrey is a coach for women and a published writer. She specializes in the worlds of dating, relationships, and sex & intimacy. She is both a trained desire & intimacy coach as well as an integrated mental health coach. She works work with women 1:1 to help them move from “frustrated to free”. To identify, heal, and change their (sometimes) painful patterns when it comes to their dating lives or even in their current relationship. Heartbreak is a big part of Molly’s story. She’s known by some as the “ex-boyfriend expert” and has a signature “relationship detox” protocol she takes her clients through before they begin to jump back into dating. Her biggest passion is helping women to fully own, know, and embody their brilliance and all they have to offer the world and from that place, powerfully showing up in all their relationships. You can find her here for a free online dating ebook and her “Why You Don’t Have Love in Your Life Quiz.”
Image courtesy of kiwihug.