A few nights ago Shaun and I were neck deep in a discussion about a big financial move we're looking to make.
I'd spent all day in the details, in the small print, in conversation, and in the research.
I was toast...burnt to a crisp and burned out by the intensity of the decision.
He was just coming home and able to get involved in the situation with more energy and insight.
He said, "I'm afraid of how little money we will have left."
I felt a sinking in my stomach.
This is it, I told myself. This conversation is over. And in my mind the decision was made and the conversation was over.
You see, I want to make my partner happy. And while I can't always do that, at the very least I can make him comfortable. I can assist him in feeling safe.
So when he was afraid, two things happened inside me:
- A fierce desire to make the whole situation go away so Shaun wouldn't feel any fear or discomfort
- A letdown of something I wanted even if I had to fight for it
I was at war with myself...around two things that weren't necessarily true.
The first thing I did?
I checked in with him.
"When you say you're afraid of how much money we will have left," (Look at me paraphrasing like a big girl who has been to couples counseling! And yes, I have) "do you mean we shouldn't do it?" I asked.
"No," he told me. "I'm saying I'm afraid."
Opportunity for learning here, people.
Can I hold my partner's emotions in one hand, hear what's he's feeling, and continue to keep listening to understand it's part of his process of walking through a major decision?
Can I put feeling and acknowledging my own emotions on hold, so I can be present and loving and compassionate with hearing his feelings?
Can we have a conversation filled with emotions, be uncomfortable, and still make decisions?
It's part of the process for -all- of us. It's just sometimes we can't share our process, because we might get railroaded by someone else's fears, desire to fix things, or desire to avoid confrontation.
Just imagine what your life might be like, what your relationship might feel like, if you can share and express not only what you want to do, but how you feel in the process?
Here's three steps you can take for doing just that, three steps for truly listening to your partner:
STEP 1: MIRROR
Become a mirror for your partner by stating back his or her words or by paraphrasing what you think you heard. It's so validating to hear your own words coming from someone else's mouth.
Try it, and tell me you didn't feel something.
STEP 2: HOLD SPACE
Do your best to set down your own emotions, thoughts, and reactions to what your partner is saying. Try showing up with love and compassion and really feel what it is s/he is sharing. You can request your own opportunity to be held and heard once your partner has taken a turn.
STEP 3: ASK FOR CLARIFICATION
Ask your partner if s/he just wanted to vent of if s/he'd like advice for action. Sometimes we just need to say the things that are in our head and have them be heard. It's so nice to have the option to talk out loud and process while being witnessed by someone who cares about us. We don't even need them to taken action because we've figured it out on our own.
It's really that easy!
After reflecting on Shaun's and my conversation over the last few days, I realize conversations are rarely so neat and clean. By recognizing that our communication may be filled with the need to be heard or the need to be seen or the need to be supported, we can offer more than just our band aids and hammers to fix something that might not be broken — we can heal wounds that have long been scarred and sore.
Here's hoping we all experience integration and wholeness in this life,