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A View From the Other Side of the Couch: Coupledom, Interdependence and Risk

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure… Loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed. Yes, it’s scary, and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved?”

(Brené Brown)

A-Ha!

I’ve been talking a lot about my personal work toward my transformation. I’m trying to look deeper into who I am and make changes that take me on the path of growth. I’ve had several “A-ha!” moments along the way, and this is another one I wanted to share.

My husband and I have a monthly couples’ session with Tiffany, as we are both working on ourselves independently and together toward a better and more “intimate” relationship. As we learn independently how to be better versions of ourselves, there is both challenge and growth in our relationship.

The “moment” I want to talk about happened as an off-shoot of a conversation that we had during a joint session.

Vives les différences

In the past, I have tried to make changes so that I better show my affection for my husband. I love him-that is not in question-but he is more outwardly affectionate than I am. I am a bit more subtle and quiet and understated in my affection. He is the exact opposite. I am more likely to do things that show my love and affection and appreciation for him, he is more likely to use touch or verbal affection.

We are different, and we are working on understanding each other’s needs and each other’s preferences for receiving from the other.

No redundancy here

For a long while, I was attempting to show my affection the way he did, as his actions showed his preferences for how he wanted to receive affection from me. It took me some time to understand that, shockingly, I am not him.

I am not him and I do not need to act exactly the way he does. The way I am, the way I act, is equally as acceptable as the way he is and the way he acts.

Strike one!

Initially, I was trying to change to be more like him, and during a session I asked if he had seen how I was attempting to act more like him when it comes to affection. I felt I had been working hard at it, and he basically had to be forced into saying that maybe he had seen the change “once or twice.”

I was heartbroken…and angry.

Self coaching

In my individual sessions, I’ve been working at listening to my emotions as important information that I need in order to make sense of things. So I applied my skills.

I was angry that he wasn’t seeing all the efforts I had been making. I was heartbroken because I felt I had been trying very hard, and even that wasn’t good enough for him.

Subsequently, I came to understand that I don’t need to act like him, I need to act like me.

My being, my choices

I need to be comfortable with how I was showing my love and affection for him. Yes, he should have the affection he wants in the way he wants it, but he also has to decide if he can be happy or satisfied with what I am offering him. And then there can be negotiation. And vice versa.

Back to the ballpark

This past joint session, there I was again, asking Hub if he was seeing the changes I was trying to make. I was working hard-I thought-to share how I am feeling physically, mentally, emotionally with Hub. He shouldn’t need to ask me to know, and I should be able to share when I am ready.

He is working on learning to let me share, and that he doesn’t need to ask to find out. I asked him during the session if he had seen how hard I was working to do that…so that he knows without asking. And trusts that I will tell him what I need him to know.

Strike two!!

Once again, disappointment ran through me when he said, “Sure, once or twice you’ve come out and told me…” Not only was I now wondering if he was just not seeing it or recognizing it, now I was wondering if I wasn’t doing as much as I thought I was.

I questioned myself for the next day…thinking about whether I was fooling myself or lying to myself. How was it possible that I felt I was working hard and making progress, and yet Hub wasn’t seeing it??

HOMERUN!!!

I was literally in the shower when the “A-ha!” struck. Dammit, I was not making these changes for Hub, I was making them for me!

I didn’t need to look for validation from him; I needed to find the validation in myself. And in the end, the “number” of times I did these things was irrelevant. There was no reason for me to ask Hub how many times he saw me do something.

I sat down and told him as much, in a nice, loving manner. I told him:

  • I was making these changes for me, and
  • I was no longer going to ask him if he saw the changes, or how many times he might have seen the changes.
  • I was making these changes for me…and that I was hopeful that these changes would help us grow our relationship.
  • I told him that I was going to work very hard to respond to him in loving and kind ways when we touched on any of these changes but that I didn’t need his approval or his validation. And…
  • I asked him to let me know if he felt I was being rude or hurtful in the way I responded to him. I asked him to call me out, so that I could learn from it and do better the next time.

It’s me. I’m the person who needs to see my changes. Because I’m the person who wants the changes.

We see what we want to see

I also had a sidebar “A-ha!” moment. The reason Hub wasn’t seeing the changes I was making was because he didn’t want to. The old me is the person he knows inside and out. The old me is the person he’s comfortable with, because he knows how she is going to behave and react in almost any situation.

He’s literally answering questions that refer back to the “me” of 10 years ago. He’s clinging to a version of me that keeps him stagnant as well: Homeostasis.

The homeostatic dancefloor

When you change, the people around you will try to pull you back into the behaviors they know and are comfortable with. I’m well aware of this phenomenon from other family members, but I didn’t expect it from Hub. Though, I now understand why he’s doing it.

But this is his issue to deal with, not mine. I can’t go back to the person I was to make things easier for him. In fact, I won’t. I choose not to. He’s going to have to learn to see who I am now and respond accordingly.

The gift of health

I am incredibly grateful to feel confident that my husband will come with me on this journey. I do not worry that he will leave, only that he will feel left behind. It’s up to him to meet me where I am today, as I have promised I will do for him as well.


if you’d like help finding your voice in your relationships, contact Tiffany today! Let’s figure out your next steps.

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