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I’ll pose a question: If you can’t identify how you feel or what you need, how can you expect others to meet those needs? You, yourself have to feel your feelings to even get to a place of knowing what you need to comfort those emotions. Once you are able to identify your emotions, you can begin to verbalize your needs to others.
How often do we hear, “You should have known I needed that!” We can’t expect our partners to show up for us if we don’t give them the directions or map. Something as simple as explaining how you like to be comforted or learning your own and your partner’s love language can lead to a stronger connection, and greater ability to meet each other’s needs.
It can be tough to get our needs met if we ourselves don’t know what we are feeling. One tool I like to use is the “ouch and uh-oh,” technique which one of my mentors taught me. This simplifies a bunch of different emotions into two core emotions: hurt and fear. In moments when you feel distressed by what your partner has said or done, ask yourself if you are feeling hurt or fear. If you can pin point which one you are feeling, you will be able to help your partner understand your experience. Expressing our feelings is scary because it is vulnerable, and although it is difficult, vulnerability is what allows us to find that deeper connection with others and ourselves. If you need comfort, you must learn to recognize that need and ask for it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get the support you need. Our partners are not psychic.
But how do we show up vulnerably, and talk about our emotional experiences without blaming the other person in the process? It is important to focus on our own emotional experiences rather than the actions of another. If you start blaming or shaming your partner for hurting you, it risks shutting them down. Instead, if you focus and speak about your own emotional experiences there is less space for miscommunication and misattunement.
Leaving your partner in the dark regarding your internal struggles leads your partner to create stories and scenarios about what is wrong. Your partner will pick up on your changes in demeanor, mood and body language and have no explanation for it. Seeing that each person is unique, your needs may vary from the needs of your partner. This highlights the importance of verbalizing emotions in the moment, which is challenging, however, avoids creating additional fear or pain for your partner. Brené Brown talks about how we create stories when we see disturbances in our partners, but these stories can be layered with distortions. When we show up vulnerably with our partners it gives them insight and creates the space to ask for what we need and want. When we don’t show up, we don’t get what we need, and in the process we withhold crucial “puzzles pieces” that would allow our partner to see the full picture. So we have to share the pieces to allow them to understand our perspective, wants, and needs.
If your partner seems emotionally dysregulated ask “how can I be there for you? What do you need to feel supported?” Asking these questions means more than trying to find a solution. If your partner has had a rough day at work and they are telling you about their frustrations, it is more beneficial to pause and ask how to be a support to them, instead of simply trying to fix their problem. Sometimes listening can give you more answers then trying to fix something.
What does taking the risk to be vulnerable get you? It gives you the ability to be seen, heard and comforted in the moments when hurt and fear become too big. Always remember, if you don’t show up vulnerably, honestly, and authentically, it is hard for others to meet you there. Even though it may be scary, and the risks may feel overwhelming, it is always worth it at the end of the day if it means your needs get met and you feel loved.