In the last few weeks, maybe months, Daisy and I dove (or fell) deeper into a sticky, painful dynamic that is so familiar to me from previous relationships (Which I hope already clarifies that it’s more about me than about her):
Daisy wishes for closeness/intimacy/love and is super nourished by it when it is there.
And I so enjoy being on my own, and am so nourished by that .
The challenge comes when Daisy says: “I wish for love/closeness/connection”, and I hear it as, “what I give is not enough for her”. Then I feel pressure that I should give more, and a vicious circle begins; Daisy wishes for connection, I feel pressure, and the more pressure I feel, the more I wish to be on my own. And the more I wish to be on my own, the more pain she experiences.
I so wish to find a path to make relationships sustainable.
Dialoguing within a painful dynamic:
I have what Marshall used to call ‘Male-litis’ (which means: The sickness of male, which of course not only males suffer from). He defined Male-litis as “I can read a demand from a rock” (Meaning, I look at a rock and I already sense the rock wants something from me).
We were both unhappy. I was feeling more and more pressure, and Daisy was less and less getting what she needed.
The other day I woke up from an afternoon deep sleep. As soon as I looked at her (and I ‘read a demand from a rock’) I saw it- she was disappointed (that we didn’t have more closeness). I freaked out and initiated a conflict (which I celebrate, as it is not my strong suit to be the one initiating a conflict) “I feel so much pressure! I can’t stand seeing your disappointed face anymore!! I can’t have this pressure anymore! It’s enough!”. Thank God Daisy had some Giraffe ears on and didn’t freak out back at me, and instead she let me (clumsily) express something that was sitting deep within.
When I said “I feel pressure”, I actually meant “You put pressure on me”. I blamed her for me not being free to do what I want.
So I looked deeper within to see what is behind my ‘feeling pressure’, and I could see- I am actually scared. So I expressed my fear: “I am so afraid not to give you what you need and that you would then want to receive it from another man… I fear it would lead toward the end of our relationship”.
Expressing my fear is a first step in moving me from holding a ‘victim role’ “you make me feel pressure”, to where I have a choice “Do I have enough inner clarity and courage to follow what I want, even if it risks losing her?”.
Then, to my surprise, Daisy said: “My main pain is not about not sharing enough love but that I am more and more afraid to express my full honesty to you, out of the fear that you will feel pressure. I hold myself back from telling you what I really want. This is why I don’t experience closeness and connection, because I’m hiding my honesty”.
This immediately opened up more possibilities to experiment with. We agreed that in the next 2 weeks she will say EVERYTHING she wishes for. And when I am not available to engage with that, and if she experiences pain around it, she will express it as “I feel because I…”, for example: “I feel pain because I want to express love and be loved…” or “I feel lost because I don’t know how to care for myself”.
This “I feel because I…” supports me tremendously, because when I hear her say “I feel sad” my ears hear it as: “I am sad because you don’t want enough closeness with me”. Enormous gratitude to Marshall and the very basics of NVC that I can so easily keep forgetting…
I am still very skeptical that these changes will cover the whole dynamic. The sad part of the dynamic is that while experiencing pressure, I built up an image of Daisy deep inside me, an image as if her presence is endangering my freedom. As soon as I see her now, deep in me I already feel inner pressure that what I give is not enough, and the pressure of a ‘should’ arises. It is not easy for me to transform this deep image in just 1 dialogue, and rather it often needs some time to ‘recover’ and slowly build, out of experience, a new image of Daisy.
Lastly, as we want to enjoy each other’s presence without pressure or fear, we know: There are million strategies to meet needs. If I am not available to offer her connection/love/intimacy, there are still a million other ways for her to meet her Needs. Our last resort (that we are both not excited about) is having an ‘open relationship’. This would support me to know that I do not need to push myself to give more than I feel like giving, and for her to know she is not dependent on me to meet her precious needs. Yet we do still hope that we could find another way.
With hope for courage, clarity, authenticity and freedom, and with joy in walking within the most delicate chords of my soul,
(and Daisy – who agreed that I share all this vulnerable information with you, thank you Daisy!)
PS: As trainers, it’s not easy for both of us to share this vulnerable dynamic with you, fearing you might be disappointed in our capacity to navigate relationships. And yet, from within myself it is so clear to me that my life is not about being perfect, but about being ‘progressively less stupid’ (as Marshall used to say), which makes life exciting for me to live.