This past weekend I attended the Digital Entrepreneurship Summit and was blown away! There were hundreds of brilliant creative types finding new and clever ways to produce content and make it go viral! It was a bit intimidating to be with so many inspiring professionals with this much knowledge and expertise all in one place! The biggest take away was that as a culture we are turning in the direction of “quick content,” short bite sized, “consumable” amounts of information that are potent and convey a message. A statement my mindful brain did NOT want to hear! I feel myself wanting to resist, I can’t give in to this short attention span and impulsive, technology consuming culture.” I teach and coach on slowing down, being present, giving your full attention to the moment and cultivating discipline to stay engaged when something (or someone) is uncomfortable or unpleasant. I teach how to transition and move with intention, as well as other tools to get to the other side. On the other hand, I also teach and coach on how to make anything in your life a practice (especially relationships!). So here I am, swallowing my own words and taking on a new practice of writing, it may be just for this post! (We’ll see, you’ll have to keep checking back).
Here’s your quick and easy guide to have the best year of your relationship in 2020
(1) Express Instead of Withholding!
When I was a brand new coach I was really nervous! “Ahhh!!” A young woman had hired me to help improve her relationship. She was engaged and about to get married. Ultimately, I came back to trust – in my training, and in myself. I put myself in her shoes and used my experiences as a resource to draw from to help others. Early on I gave her an assignment. First, write down three things you are withholding from your partner (a “withhold” is something you’re bottling up, not sharing, not being honest about, or hiding). Second, express one of those withholds to your partner.
My partner and I had had our own form of this exercise. Every night we would get into bed, I’d nestle up next to him and he’d turn to me and say, “Molly, what are you withholding?” Then he’d lovingly encourage me to “give it up.” It was something I loved and hated about him. I’d groan, “I’m not withholding anything!” but he never bought it. Knowing I didn’t have an option, I would eventually tell him the truth. Things I would normally keep inside. I’d sometimes share my thoughts on topics I didn’t think he’d care very much about. Other times I’d share where I was scared or uncertain, or insecure, or jealous. I learned to become vulnerable in a way I had never been before. Eventually we developed an organically honest and open relationship where we could express things in real time. Our relationship eventually hit a “flow state” – a synergy that I had never experienced with anyone else. Even though the truth felt risky to express sometimes, I knew he wanted to hear it and I knew I was better off for sharing it. Ultimately, there would be more electricity as a result of carrying around less anger, fear, resentment, jealousy, or anything else. As it turned out, my client and I had a similar experience. The next time we spoke her voice was noticeably different. She said, “I had no idea how much I was withholding! All sorts of things!” It was really rewarding to see this new freedom in her! Ever since, this has become the first intervention I assign to couples. Stop withholding!
(2) Agree to Not “Check Out”
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and while they’re talking you suddenly realize you’ve been totally lost in thought, making your to-do list, lost in memory, or some future fantasy? It’s usually followed by a short wave of panic that you have no idea what the other person has been saying! If this is happening with you and your partner, you may be able to get away with it for a short time, but ultimately you will miss things. Later I discovered just how many couples check out on one another – even (and especially) during sex!
Your partner will give you all sorts of opportunities to prove to them that you’re with them. That you are paying attention. Validation is a critical part of any successful relationship, especially an intimate one. We want to be heard and truly appreciate when someone feeds back to us our own words. It’s an essential ingredient of any successful love relationship. They’ll give you endless opportunities to prove that you’re listening. Pay careful attention to details of work politics, little comments about what movie or concert they might want to see, a gift they may eventually like. Take note of anytime they give you a chance to follow-up on the detail they mentioned. You’re also looking for chances to ask thoughtful follow up questions about things that might be important to them. If you do this, you’ve passed the “Does this person really care?” test. And you’ll be rewarded with more trust and a stronger connection as a result. They’ll want to let you in more and, in most cases, physical intimacy then becomes more meaningful, deeper and more satisfying for all.
My partner had a funny way of handling this with me. I was often lost in thought or had ‘my head in the clouds’ and he didn’t shame or punish me for it. He actually seemed to like this part of me, that wonder-like, creative part, but he also knew the signs and followed the cue to help me stay in the present and be with him. It manifested most when we had sex. He would say, “Molly, you’re checked out – don’t check out, come back” and then I’d acknowledge he was right. I had been making a “to-do” list and not paying attention to the person I was literally having sex with in that moment. So, I’d come back to him. We’d laugh and have some play, and then actually have connected, physical intimacy, present in our bodies. We could really feel the range of sensations the experience offered – pleasure, connection, love. I enjoyed the fact that he was always willing to call me out and I started to see all the other places in my life where I had been “checked out,” allowing me to move more into the present.
(3) Always Lead with and Express Desire
Desire is the most important element of any and every relationship. To yourself and to others. You must know what you want, otherwise you’ll get what you don’t want, or potentially have a life of longing and wishing things were different. In relationship, desire is the spark of every connection that brings electricity and power. Have you ever had the experience of being in a dull, lifeless relationship? Well, it’s very likely that somewhere someone, or both partners, lost touch with or got away from their desires. Desire can be as simple as, I want you to prepare me a bath. I want you to plan a date night. I want a full body massage, followed by deep, connected sex.” Usually the more specific the better, but always lead with desire. Ask yourself, make lists, get in touch with what it is you really want. Otherwise what is the purpose of this whole thing called life? Do the work to spend time with yourself, to get in touch with what makes you happy, what fires you up, what sparks passion. You may genuinely not know and that’s ok. Start simple. What do you want to eat for lunch today? How do you want to spend your evening? How do you want to feel around this person? What experience are you craving? If you could have anything, what would it be? Asking yourself questions like those can be the start of turning back on in your body and life. In relationships, make an agreement to always come back to and express desire.
After learning that my desire generated so much electricity and passion in my relationship, I made a commitment to always be willing to express whatever popped up. Usually, “first thought, best thought” is a good rule of thumb. The first generation version is often the most honest and potent. Text something to your partner like, “Can I share a desire?” The recommended response is, “of course.” And then share your thought as simply and to the point as possible. “When you’re home from work, I want you to pick me up, bring me to the bedroom, and….” I can almost guarantee your partner on the receiving end will get a jolt of electricity and will be racing home from work. Give it a try. Be willing to get in touch with what you want for yourself, from others, and from the big wide universe.