Living from the Inside

Posted

Living from the Inside

What is happening?

I can literally feel the world inhaling. Taking in a deep breath. Savouring the quiet.

When I feel this in my body, my body relaxes.

I can also feel our collective anxiety. Have I felt anxious? Yes. Have I thought “You have got to be f*cking kidding me?” Yep.

And yet, I feel the safety of the familiar. I know how to manage my relationships while everyone else is also house-bound or working from home.

I know how what I need to feel stable. I know that the unknown can be both frightening and magical. I know how to nourish myself here. Why?

This is my third time in a decade being confined to my house for months on end. 

I know what I need.

I need journals. As someone who writes everyday, who wakes up and first reaches for blank pages and a pen before I even look at my phone – journals are self-care.

When you are living in the cocoon where you feel you have limited choices – burrow into your psyche. Catch the glimpses of your dreams, write down the fragments. Your intuition is speaking to you.

I need socks! It may sound glib, but as soon as I realised that we were all going to be house-bound, I gathered beautiful, colourful socks. Socks are the new shoes. And everyday they make me smile. This is the way I nourish myself with playfulness.

I need connection and creative work. I need to see my soul expressed, even if it is just for me.

I need to tap into the vastness of my strength and my vulnerability. I need somewhere to cry and let the grief pour through me.

I know the very real fears of running out of money can freak me out to the point of paralysis. And I know for me, Buddhist compassion practices can keep me sane.

I need all of me.

I need the messy parts. I need the brave and tenacious parts. I need the parts that long for the sun (hey we can’t all live in Queensland). And I need the deeply wise parts of me that know this too shall pass. It always has. That is the nature of living as well as the nature of meeting our own infallibility and mortality.

What do you need?

Take a moment to breathe.

🦋 What do you need for daily nourishment?
🦋 Do you need to learn to meditate? 
🦋 Do you need a strong spiritual practice?
🦋 What do you need practically to work from home?
🦋 Who do you need to call, to share with and connect?
🦋 What does your creative heart need?

Whatever life throws at you, remember when you feel like you are breaking down and crashing, you are probably breaking through into a deeper level of strength and spirit.

I remember my father saying to me when I was a teen “This is all character building”. And my reply in the midst of my parent’s chaotic lives “I have enough character now”. And in many ways that is true, the foundations of my tenacity, my strength and the trust in my own wisdom was forged then

Moving on from Unrequited Love

Posted

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.

SHARE, LIKE, REPEAT

Get Connected

Sign up to our mailing list and receive $25 off your first event.
P.S. we are minimalists when it comes to emails.

Treats and Tantrums: Is your inner child running your life?

Posted

I like to think of myself as a mature adult. However, I know I make decisions and have reactions that are shall we say, are not the most mature option available.

I have come to understand how all too frequently it is either my inner child or inner teenager actually ‘running’ parts of my life like my dating and relating, or my finances. 

Play and fun

Of course the smaller voices, the vulnerable as well as joyous, playful parts of the child are present within all of us. There is great beauty in the innocence and even some of the scheming of the inner teenager who really just wants to have fun!

I don’t want to stifle these parts of myself, but I do want to know they are not making critical decisions in my life. Therefore, it is useful to have some awareness and discernment of when they have the ‘wheel’ steering my life at any moment. Otherwise, a crash is usually just around the corner no matter how much hooning along my child or teenage parts think the rules don’t apply to them and they can ‘get away with it’.

Treats, tantrums & relationships 

Any time I catch myself deciding I need ‘treats’ or deserve a reward, I am guaranteed that my inner child is all up in it.

In dating and relating you may find yourself throwing a ‘tantrum’ (inner child), being sulky (inner child),  storming off (inner teenager) or feeling and more likely saying it is all so ‘unfair’ (inner teenager) when you don’t get your way.

I know my inner child is always looking for the unconditional love of a parent, which is great if I can offer that to myself and very problematic if I expect my lover, friends or colleagues to always provide it.  If your inner teenager is doing your dating and relating then you may find you have very unrealistic and often unspoken expectations about how your lover should treat you like a ‘princess’, and instead complain about how they are failing to meet your needs.

Does your inner teenager have your credit card?

If my inner child or inner teenager is managing my budget, then I am guaranteed to be spending big, overspending and not putting things away for that ‘rainy’ day’. After all to my inner child a rainy day sounds like play!

If any part of you looks at your credit capacity or thinks credit is ‘free money’, then it’s probably your inner child managing it. If your relationship with credit is that you know you will have to pay later (awareness of how credit cards work), but really want that dress now because you deserve it, then it is highly likely your inner teenager is feeling very entitled to a spending spree.

When you make decisions from these younger parts within, you may find yourself avoiding your adult responsibilities, or become overwhelmed feeling life is too hard! And for these younger parts of you it is too hard.

So what does a mature adult look like?

The great thing about operating from your mature adult is that she/he has the power to make responsible decisions and has a lot more options. The mature adult knows when to ask for help, who can help or at least how to find someone to help. Life can in fact become a lot less stressful because you are no longer ‘hiding out’ or using old coping mechanisms to manage your relationships and indeed your life.

Here are some quick tips to identify who is driving and at the ‘wheel’ of your decision making.

Firstly, in any moment it is good to simply pause and ask “How old do I feel?”. 

The inner child:

  • looks to negotiate treats for any task
  • is often looking for and expecting unconditional love
  • worries about being abandoned or feeling neglected in relationships
  • worries about getting in trouble.

  The inner teenager 

  • feels ‘entitled’ to things or having their way and often schemes about how to get their way
  • blames others for ‘how they make you feel’
  • wants to win the argument, rather than accept we all have different views
  • puts up a wall (i.e. withdraws, punishes or argues vehemently) rather than negotiating a boundary in relationships

  The mature adult 

  • has robust and healthy boundaries with others which are not overcome by other people’s tantrums
  • can handle other people having different views without needing to be right and arguing to ‘win’
  • can set a boundary and be considerate of others but not make decisions based on whether they will be liked or not
  • can hold someone accountable for their actions and be responsive to others but not try to ‘manage’ them, or dominate them

What to do?

Pay attention when you find yourself in any of these loops and ask:

  • Do I need to take better care of myself?
  • Am I over-working, over-eating, not getting enough sleep, not enjoying enough play in my life?
  • Do I need to be a bit more mature and just do the things that need to be done?

The mature adult within might be the least the familiar to you because your inner child and teenager have been making all your decisions. You initially find it difficult to identify your inner adult. Like real children, your inner child and teenager can be very noisy, boisterous and demanding of your attention. Your mature adult can often be the quiet still voice of reason. You will be able to talk to these smaller parts within, with care, attention and reason. The mature adult within can make the big decisions and reassure our smaller selves that they will be safe, loved and cared for.

SHARE, LIKE, REPEAT

Get Connected

Sign up to our mailing list and receive $25 off your first event.
P.S. we are minimalists when it comes to emails.

Mastering Maturity: 6 Keys to finding your inner adult

Posted

As women we are not encouraged to be in our authentic, mature feminine self. Most of us don’t even know what that would feel like. Yet it is possible stand in our natural power, and be the adult in our own life.

Being a mature feminine woman is heady stuff, and not for the faint-hearted. It takes some growing up, and being accountable. The upside is, it brings you more freedom in your relationships, more choices, and the capacity to feel a lot more joy. So how do you get there?

1. Admit you shut down and lose your voice.

The first thing you need to do is admit you do shut down and lose your voice. It’s hard to admit this, and much more difficult to accept. And yet, when you take this step, you are on the way back to your natural power. This is the first thread you start to pull and follow, and it will lead you back to when your voice shut down, and ultimately how to speak up for yourself.

In my own family I felt like the only people who were allowed to express emotions were my parents. My father had a hair-trigger temper and a very frightening six-foot presence that actually paralysed little me with fear sometimes. This is when my voice learned to shut down.

I was 14 when my mother had a nervous breakdown. I spent a lot of time being the care-taker for her emotional ups and downs. This is when I learned to shut down my feelings and prioritise her emotional needs.

It was hard to acknowledge that my own needs, wants and desires got buried beneath all this family dynamic. It took a lot of courage, but it was critical to reclaiming my capacity to speak up for myself.

2. Acknowledge your reactions are wreaking havoc.

My family patterns were wreaking havoc in my life. In my thirties I felt I was constantly chasing ‘love’, trying to work out what I had to do to be accepted and experience the smallest piece of affection. I was used to living in high anxiety, constantly monitoring other people’s emotions and responses to me. When you bury your emotional truth time after time, you start to lose connection to what you really feel. You also lose trust and confidence in yourself.

I had to get honest with myself. I had to face my passive-aggressiveness. I had to admit I hid away from the world when I felt emotionally overwhelmed. I was stuffing things down and being perky when I felt like rubbish. So, yes all of these were up for review.

3. Notice when it happens in the moment.

The next step is noticing when your shut down and don’t say what you feel or ask for what you really want. As you start to practise ‘noticing’, gradually over time you will be able to feel the shut down at the moment it begins. You may feel your chest tighten, and like your throat is constricting. You will probably become aware of the strong tension in your shoulders and maybe a headache. Feelings of emotional overwhelm may follow.

Once you get real with yourself, while you may not know what to do, you will be motivated to try and find a new way. It’s important to be gentle with yourself. Wouldn’t you do things differently if you knew how, and felt you had other choices? Would you love to calmly say what you need and feel, without being terrified of the other person’s response? What would it be like if you stopped asking other people if what you want is OK with them?

4. Find someone (a friend or professional) who can hold space for you.

I didn’t discover the mature adult power within myself through an easy, fluffy, ‘be your best self’ toolkit. An elder, a wise woman guided me into the heart of my own power.

You will need support to look at these places inside that are still very young and frightened. This is where you buried your real feelings, hopes and dreams. These places are desperate to speak: pain, grief, longing and desires. Often when you start to listen all of these feelings burst out in one ferocious package. Sometimes you need help untangling them to be able to connect with what you really want.

5. Start telling the truth and being accountable for your actions.

When I started sharing my raw truth, I had to bypass my tendency to either tell my story through hyperbolic enthusiasm or through the wailing of my inner victim. I wondered if the world was going to fall apart.

I took small steps to see if sharing my feelings, my boundaries and my desires made close friends recoil in horror. Shockingly, No. Did everyone like it? No. But the majority of people started to trust me more, and trust me with their feelings because they knew I was consistent, present and safe.

I remember doing this at work. A colleague was upset that I shared the news of her new job with another colleague before she had the chance. I had robbed her of the joy of the moment and she was rightly upset and angry about it. Instead of hiding out, or defending myself or collapsing into worry, I simply said “You are absolutely right, I did do that and I am sorry.” I was accountable for my actions and genuinely apologised. I thanked her for coming directly to me and letting me know how she felt.

Your mature feminine adult creates the safety and motivation for others to be honest with you. When you trust yourself more, you can handle other people’s reactions, both positive and negative. Courage and confidence are the natural by-products of your capacity to trust yourself. This totally cuts down on your ‘wondering and worrying what other people think’ time. It makes for a lot better communication and respectful professional relationships.

6. Be kind to yourself.

You don’t need to change overnight and have it all together. Frankly that sort of perfectionism is just another way to paralyse and shame yourself. Be gentle with yourself when you experience anxiety (at work, socially, in your relationships). Even if the best you have on any given day is “I would like to be gentle with myself when I feel this pernicious anxiety at this soul crushing job.” Hey ­– you have to start somewhere. When you have space to be kind to the parts of you that feel shamed, unloved and unlovable, then a lot less of you feels shamed, unloved and unlovable.

It’s a paradox that your messiness is actually where your power resides. So any effort you make to hear it, feel it and be with it is actually going to bring you the trust, freedom and love you have been chasing all this time. Welcome to maturity!

Connect.

If you want to learn more, get in touch for a private session here.

If you can’t say No, you can’t say YES!

Posted Leave a comment

If you can't say No, you can't say Yes!

Do you sometimes find yourself saying Yes when your body, emotions and mind are saying No?

After saying Yes, suddenly things seem inconvenient or the other person is not as grateful as you think they should be.

Left unattended, the unsaid No congeals into resentment, or perhaps those cavernous feelings of overwhelm, “It’s all too hard”.  If I leave it too long, I will find my migraine says No for me.

So why do we say Yes, when we mean No?

Usually we are trying to avoid the discomfort of saying No.  We want to be liked, we want to be seen to be accommodating, up for anything, collegial and have our ‘shit together’.

I find that is often my inner good girl who says Yes, when the rest of me wants to say No. But the good girl gets the upper hand in the moment because I don’t want to be seen as troublesome, or ‘difficult’.

If only I could say No, without anyone ever disapproving or being disappointed. Like you, I have been trained that being a woman, means never making anyone else uncomfortable, especially a man.

For every Yes when you honestly mean No another part of your heart and your power gets silenced.

However if you can’t say No, you can never truly say Yes!

We all know how it feels when someone said Yes to us, but their whole energy and complaints remind us that the Yes was never real.

There is vibrancy and joy in saying Yes to things you want to do. Even when you honestly say Yes to difficult things, you feel up to the challenge with a little bit of excitement. There is courage in authentically saying both yes and no.

Learn more practical ways to own your Yes!

The monthly Authentic Relationships workshop series offers you practical strategies so you can say what you really need to say and to stand your ground with courage and grace. These workshops  are a place where you can build your confidence to more honestly say No, and withstand the discomfort and enjoy the power of a genuine YES! 

The Labour of Love

Posted

The Labour of Love

It has taken me years to come to terms with one of the most obvious truths about intimate relationships: that there is labour in love.

We have all heard that you can’t change a person, and that loving someone is accepting them as they are. These ideals sound great in theory, but let’s face it, none of us actually practices this with others or even ourselves.

Perhaps like me, you added some fine print:

I accept you wholeheartedly, except when you do precisely the thing that annoys me the most, after I have very patiently explained a hundred times how you should do it differently”.

And therein lies the rub: it’s easy to love others when your loved one is being adorable and reasonable, tenderly loving you back. But there is grit to intimacy, the constant dance of ease and challenge, of opening and closing your heart, of feeling generous of spirit sometimes and at others downright miserly towards them.

Despite the idealism of romantic love, this is exactly the way it is suppose to be. Whaaa? You mean all this conflict, negotiation and the ways in which we rub each other the wrong way, is right? Well that’s not what I want!

Hey, I’m with you. I have bought those books, those shoes, that perfume, had my hair coloured one way and changed it back the following month, wined, dined and been to ten day mediation boot camp, twice. I have done the research and sadly it’s true, you can’t shortcut deep connection. Intimacy requires your courage, compassion, curiosity and openness. It rewards you with the confidence of knowing you can be trusted, you can trust, you can laugh at yourself and with your loved ones, and you can enjoy your own strength.

Luckily there are some very practical tools to help you with the heavy lifting of intimacy, all the negotiating, strong emotions and messy humanness. You can find a way back to connection following the outburst of anger or the violence of withdrawal and silence.

The art of intimacy is not learning how to never have conflict, but rather how to get better at it, and mend the love connection in the places where the fabric tears.

Here are a few practical steps that weave intimacy:

1. Courage

Have the courage to learn about the ways your loved one likes to be loved, and also share how you like to be loved. Some of us like to be loved with words and praise. I like to be loved fiercely; I like to be loved in the raw truth of mine and another’s emotions. Sharing vulnerability is a big love ticket for me. You could buy me a ten day cruise around Europe, which would be exciting, but without the intimacy of sharing emotions, vulnerability and laughs – it just doesn’t feel like love to me. Other people enjoy the sense of physical adventure, and all those couples who hike, cycle, and run marathons together are getting their love needs met.

I learned early on that making my beloved a cup of tea first thing in the morning, especially before he gets out of bed, deeply moves him. I don’t drink tea, and am not that big on being in the kitchen first thing, but I know that this small gesture makes him feel loved and cared for. And I want him to feel that. I have also learned this is a way that many of my women friends feel loved and nurtured when they come to my house, and also that it is an important part of the therapeutic environment for my private clients.

So take the time, gently in all of your important relationships and notice the ways in which they like to be loved (praise, an act of service, gifts, quality time together, touch). Start to tell others what really makes you feel loved and connected with them.

2. Compassion and Curiosity

Imagine you are in the middle of some big reactive feelings – you know the ones where you don’t want to open, you don’t want to listen. You have tallied the ledger and it is clearly the other person’s fault. I know this is a real stretch for you to imagine!

How do you get out of the big bonanza of reactive feelings? Stifling them and thinking loving thoughts? Letting them loose all over the other person and getting it out of your system? OK, so the mature part of you knows the answer to both these questions but what is the alternative?

Become curious about why the person you love just did what they did.

Be curious about why you feel the way you feel.

I recently got very ticked off with my beloved while we were cooking together. So instead of subjecting him to the silent treatment (my favourite default response), I took myself into the bedroom and meditated. I let myself feel my feelings. I didn’t try to stifle myself or my feelings. I felt the big dragon fire within me, the heat of my rage killing off everything in its path. And then it subsided, and I became curious.

Why did I feel so upset? I was genuinely upset that I felt he was criticising the way I cut beans (it’s always about the beans right?)  But the deeper distress was my thoughts that it’s either my way or the highway. Then I get very upset about implementing the highway option. And that, right there is the most painful slippery slope into disillusionment and heartbreak. You see, I was thinking we would never find a way through, and immediately leaping into the heartache of feeling separated from connection and love with each. I believe the Buddhists call this catastrophising.

And then quite naturally I felt love for myself. I felt the love that I had taken care of myself and listened to myself. I began to feel softer. I opened my eyes and went back to the kitchen.

3. Connection

Meanwhile my beloved had been through his own loop, but my energy was gentle with him. I felt safe in my own heart. I opened just a fraction, I was kind with him, I touched him gently and then we had dinner and talked.

The great gift of relationship is that your default patterns for coping with intimacy, conflict and giving and receiving love often just don’t wash with your partner. And that is very good news – and yes downright annoying! You see it’s wonderful that your default patterns don’t work with your loved ones. Because then you get to mature, grow and evolve. Because you want intimacy, love and desire, you are more motivated to find a way to truly communicate. A way to continue to open and be with the other person rather than tallying the scorecard.

4. Confidence

All of these practices can build your relationship confidence. This is the art of intimacy – it’s finding the rough edges where you need to take some time for self care, and it also finding the very edge of your capacity to open your heart again.

There is a very bright part of you which longs to be loved and accepted so deeply it calls like a beacon to the hearts of others. Trust this part of you, and know that you can learn to love deeply, powerfully and appreciate the labour of love.

SHARE, LIKE, REPEAT

Get Connected

Sign up to our mailing list and receive $25 off your first event.
P.S. we are minimalists when it comes to emails.

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

Posted

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.

Connect 

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.

SHARE, LIKE, REPEAT

Get Connected

Sign up to our mailing list and receive $25 off your first event.
P.S. we are minimalists when it comes to emails.

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

Posted

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.

SHARE, LIKE, REPEAT

Get Connected

Sign up to our mailing list and receive $25 off your first event.
P.S. we are minimalists when it comes to emails.