Moving on from Unrequited Love

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For over a decade I did all the things I could think of, to attract and be with a romantic match. I did the work on myself- loads of it, deep work. I went to workshops on sensuality, I took up Tantra, I meditated, I cleared out my old relationships, I owned what was mine and looked at, and I mean really looked at it.

I recognised I was attracted to the dance of unrequited love. You know the one where you keep hoping, and keep framing his actions so that eventually he will choose you, turn up on your doorstep and say I can’t believe I waited this long – please forgive me. And then, when I was at one of my lowest points, struggling with a chronic health condition, emotionally sailing highs and lows, a fantastic man sailed right into my life. I am a lot more messy since he arrived. I have had to reveal my vulnerabilities and be witnessed by another person, intimately.

So here’s what I have to tell you – there is nothing wrong with you. There is not a perfect invisible formula that if you just get it right- the right mix of available, confident, sensual, loving, good cooking, sassy lingerie and only then will he show up. What I want is for you to be spared all the angst I endured. I know you are thinking: “Just one more thing to fix and then it will happen, there is some secret I just need to discover, puzzle to solve. The fact that a romantic man of the quality has not walked through my door, is evidence that I just haven’t done enough work yet.” Bar humbug.

He is not absent because you haven’t done enough. He is on his way and moving towards you just as surely as you are moving towards him. (Photo taken by my love). Requited love is so much more satisfying.

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Complaints Department: Give yourself permission to ask for what you want

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There are times in all our relationships, personal and professional, where things build up. Unmet needs or overbearing demands congeal into resentments, and we can get overwhelmed. I have noticed that the first indication that things are building up, is that I start to complain a lot to my friends and beloved. I complain about how other people are not doing what I think they should, or are deliberately thwarting my happiness! If I don’t attend to what is bugging me, in a way that it can be resolved, then I can get very stuck. I start to shut down, and withdraw from the person I am upset with. I may then aggressively push back when other innocent people ask me to do things, or collapse into tears at the end of the day and feeling like I am ‘failing’ at life.

A complaint often masks a desire or need, one we don’t feel we can directly ask for. Some part of us feels unsafe to ask, so we create a barrier and don’t fully express ourselves. The physical and emotional tension builds up in our bodies, starts to infect our relationships, and drains our energy. We start to second-guess ourselves, censor ourselves, or over-react to something minor. Either way, we never feel the simple relief of asking for what we want.

Complaints call centre

It’s our bodies that usually wind up being the place we store up our complaints, disappointments and sadness. Take a moment and think about one thing you feel is unfair, or something you are complaining about. Breathe deeply and feel into your body. What does the energy feel like? What are the emotions you feel?

I often feel a heavy weight on my shoulders, a tightness, like a ball of iron in my stomach. I feel over-whelmed, disheartened and discouraged.

When did you learn that you weren’t supposed to have particular feelings?

Many of us have a history of being shamed for our genuine feelings. We learned that telling the truth, or voicing our needs and desires makes someone else uncomfortable. And further that their discomfort, or more accurately keeping them comfortable, is our responsibility. We have been shamed for having needs, so a lot of us learned to do it all ourselves, not ask for help nor ‘burden’ others with our needs.

Were you scolded for being upset?

Were you told you would get a ‘smack’ if you didn’t stop crying?

Do you try and suppress your anger because it’s ‘not nice’?

How does feel when other people complain to you? Do you think they should just get over it?

While complaining about work, friends and partners is socially acceptable, we all know it feels rubbish. It doesn’t actually make us feel better. Sure we let off steam, but if the essential issue remain unresolved then it pops back up the next day. Then we feel even more stuck.

What if there were another way? What if you could stop the spiral down into resentment, stress and distress? Let me be clear here, there is nothing wrong with these feelings. They are messages that something very important is going on. And there are ways to attend to some of your needs before you end up in these states.

What complaints do you have about your life, relationships or career?

Take the time to make a short list of any complaints you currently have. If you start to fill in two pages worth, looks like you have some things that need attending.

Look at your first complaint. Think about what you actually need, what you really want. How could you ask for what you want? For example, when I notice myself bitching about work and a new manager, I take a breath. What do I need and want at work? I want to be able to give my best. So if meetings are scheduled on days I don’t work, then I ask if the meeting can be scheduled on a Tuesday instead? This may seem like a simple solution, however, as you look over your list of wants and needs, there are often simple requests you can make that start to release some of the pressure. So start there.

If you notice that you want other people to value you, listen to you, or take your needs seriously, then pay very close attention. Are there places where you are prioritising other people’s feelings and needs above your own? Are you compromising yourself? Are you suppressing your genuine feelings and saying Yes when you want to say No? If so, then the person you need to have the first conversation with, is you.

When I notice myself complaining to my beloved that I feel overwhelmed, tired and I have all these things to do, then I know the person I first need to speak to is myself! So I breathe and realise what I need is some quiet time to myself. And that is what I say. “I need some time to myself. I know we had plans but I really need a day to rest and not run to a schedule.” At other times, I really need a hug and so I ask for that. Or I don’t feel like cooking, and ask if he feels able to make dinner or get take-away. Then it is up to him how he responds, and he can state what he needs.

Sometimes one of us feels energised and generous, sometimes we both feel worn out, and sometimes the other person just can’t meet the need or desire in that moment. And all of that is OK. There are two critical parts to this discussion. The first is having the courage to share what you feel and ask for what you need. The second is being open to the other person sharing their thoughts and feelings about your requests. Are there deeper issues at stake? Sure, there often are. But it is good to make a start on what you need right now.

As you honour yourself, you give the other person permission to also be honest about what they want and need. As you get more practiced, you can start to intervene earlier, and ask for what you want long before it becomes a complaint about the other person not doing what you want. As you build trust, you can go deeper together and talk about more sensitive issues. And that is good news for any relationship.

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If you would like to learn how ask for what you need, join our monthly Authentic Relationship workshops, or get in contact for a private session.

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Don’t make a man feel uncomfortable and other useless advice

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Don't make a man feel uncomfortable and other useless advice

Over the last month, power dynamics in relationships has been a hot topic for my clients. In particular, women have been describing what I call ‘the command’, where a man instructs a woman about what she should be doing. I know for myself, this immediately shuts down my body and my heart. And it is difficult to transition from these interactions into more sensual and sexual spaces. So, what is going on here between men and women in romantic relationships?

Let’s talk about The Command

Often the command is not so much about the words but the tone. “Could you move please” is not a polite request, but instead has an insistent and aggressive tone. In my own relationship, I find this dynamic can come up around a physical task.

Recently my beloved and I hired bicycles. As we started to mount up, I felt he was instructing me about what I should be doing, rather than sharing helpful information. He was definitely in his command tone. Let’s talk about my reaction first. When these dynamics are in full force, I can get triggered and my instinctive reaction is to apologise. Somehow I have gotten in his way without realising it or intending to.

Now pay very careful attention here – my default is to think that I am in his way. My physical body becomes tense, my throat gets a bit of a catch in it, and I feel flustered in the moment. In essence my reaction is some form of fear. I feel I am being reprimanded, I am in trouble. As a long-term meditator, I have built the capacity to notice these states without always automatically reacting to these feelings.

What is happening here?

Often we have these responses because parents, teachers and other people in ‘authority’ commanded us when we were young. This why it can become a power struggle, and it feels difficult to voice our feelings, needs and thoughts.

How do you react when a man raises his voice, or drops it down until it feels like cold steel going into your ears? Or when the silence has the edges of emotional violence, when you can hear the pumping of emotions? You might have one or more of the following reactions.

  1. Do you freeze?
  2.  Do you immediately and habitually apologise?
  3. Do you heckle and feel your own anger waves rising?
  4. Do you mock or tease him, or use sarcasm as a response?
  5. Do you go ‘invisible’ by trying to be the good girl
  6. Do you mother him; trying to calm him down, much as you would a two year old having a tantrum?

Now think about these reactions, where do you yield and why? Do you yield because it seems easier to submit than work with the backlog of feelings and despair and confront his behaviour?

If you look deeper at these patterns, when you feel a man is commanding you, there is real loss of equality. You feel disrespected, but you also lose respect for him. And that is a critical tear in the fabric of loving relationships.

Never make a man feel uncomfortable

As women we have been trained from an early age to never make a man feel uncomfortable. So, we often have long held patterns of trying to placate men; soothe or gloss over any discomfort.

These dynamics underpin a lot of romantic relationships, and the ways in which women yield to try and keep things OK. We all try to hide from being difficult, high maintenance, too demanding, too much, too overbearing, too needy or too insecure.

However, at social events the rumblings can reveal themselves if we mock, tease and joke about our partner’s poor behaviour. And everyone else feels the discomfort. Or worse, sadly, other women chime in about how bad their own partners are. And somehow, there is tacit agreement that this is what it is to be married, or partnered with men.

What happens for him?

It’s important to know, when a man is using his voice, actions and energy to command or dominate you – this is a habit. It has been learned. And it has probably been effective, either up until now with you, or in his history of relationships. In some cases he may not realise in the moment he has started issuing commands.

These patterns can be deep, long held and entrenched. But that is no reason for you to accept them in your relationship. This is not the purpose or price of romantic relationship and love. In fact these very edges are the place where you and your partner can grow.

What you can do?

In my relationship with my beloved, power dynamics are everywhere, and a lot of our relationship processes are about navigating and at times mitigating the need for power grabs between us.

One of our earliest conflicts was actually in the kitchen cutting carrots. He started commenting on how I wasn’t doing it correctly, or exactly following the recipe. And there was certainly an air of superiority: what I was doing was wrong and what he thought was factual and right. I noticed myself feeling reprimanded. I also had enough awareness to call it out immediately. I told him that this level of controlling behaviour would be the death of a relationship before we even got started. Harsh? Did he escalate and backlash? No, he was savvy in the moment too. He realised and said that some of these patterns had been exactly the type of behaviour that plagued his previous relationships and he was committed to not ‘stuffing it up’ again.

In the bicycle incident, I said his energy felt very charged. I was experiencing him commanding me. And then I left it with him for a while. I didn’t try to soothe it, or argue and escalate with him. I let him know that my body and heart felt shut down when I experienced his words as aggressive. I didn’t shame him or get righteous myself (well at least that time!).

I said what I needed to say, and then I let go of expecting him to respond fully in the moment. When these incidents arise, I know that he will be available to talk it through, especially once he has had time to think about his own feelings and what has been going on for him.

Does that mean he never defaults back into the command habit? Does that mean we have perfect communication and no one ever gets righteous, hurt, or feels aggressive? No, not at all. What it does mean however is that for us, everything is on the table. We agree to talk about the difficult things and own up to our poor behaviour with each other. When we recognise these patterns, we aim to call it out and give each other time to come back to the centre.

Healthy Relationships

Intimacy is a dance and none of us is perfect. In the face of triggers and fears, our reactive habits can take over. Every situation is different, so follow you own intuition. Here are some of my tips:

  1. Call it out and name it in the moment.
  2. Share what you are feeling: that you are feeling commanded, hurt, shut down in your body and your heart.
  3. Leave it with him; let him process it in his own time. Don’t try and control his response to your truth.
  4. Leave the space open to talk about it when everyone has calmed down.
  5. Continue with the activities you were doing.

Your power, passion and healthy boundaries are critical to your capacity to flourish in relationships. So we need to let go of never making a man feel uncomfortable. We need to sit with our own edginess, and compulsion to make it all better.

A mature man will thank you for calling out his behaviour. He wants to treat you well and be accountable for his actions. And most of all, he wants to know what you are feeling and where it hurts.

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