In my life and my work I have learned that the best way to build and strengthen any relationship is by getting real and by expressing what’s real.
Yeah, I know, I talk about getting real all the time. I can’t help it – that is who I am and what I believe in. And it is what works.
But so many of us have the expectation that the person we are in a relationship with has superhero powers and is capable of reading our minds. And instead of expressing to them what it is that we REALLY want from them, or what we are REALLY feeling, we drop hints, or get angry, or tell our friends, or do not say anything and let our resentment fester.
What do we accomplish by doing that?
Well, if we’re lucky someone picks up on it and responds to our needs, even when we haven’t actually told them what they are (a miracle really.)
Most of the time, we get angry, become passive aggressive, feel resentment and tell our friends or sisters about it.
Where does that get us?
Much further away from where we want to be with that person.
So what can we do to get closer?
Well, a lot of what I learned about getting and saying what’s real came from books with those very same titles: Getting REAL and Saying What’s REAL by Susan Campbell. (I highly reccommend them!)
Some of things that Campbell recommends is to first get in touch with what you are really feeling; then to state that in a simple way, by filling in statements like: “When I hear you say that, I feel…” or “I want you to…”
Here is an example from my own life:
One day I was at home with the children. It was already 6p.m. and I was exhausted from the long day. I expected my husband to show up at 6:30 p.m. when I could finally turn the parenting reigns over to him. I was finishing up dinner with the kids when the phone rang. It was my husband who called to tell me that he would be coming home an hour and a half later than originally planned. I was not happy, to say the least.
The minute I heard those words – I won’t be home until much later – my instinct was to yell at him and then hang up the phone. But instead, I tapped into what Campbell suggests in her books, used all the willpower I had left in me and simply said:
“Robbie, when I hear you say that, I feel hurt and angry. I’m really exhausted and was really looking forward to you coming home so that I can take a break.”
What was his reaction?
“Oh Jenny, I am so sorry. That is really hard. When I get home, leave everything else for me…the laundry, the kids lunches. I’ll take care of it.”
Did his reaction take away what I was feeling? To be honest, no. I still felt exhausted and upset. I still wished he would magically appear in the doorway and that this was one big joke.
But even though I could not get what I wanted in that moment, we also avoided a fight over it. If instead of saying what was real, I yelled, like I had done in the past, all we would have gained was a fight and both of us getting really defensive and angry with one another; pushing us two or three steps away from each other.
However, choosing to say what was real for me kept our relationship in tact. Better than that; it brought us even closer to one another.
Getting real means making yourself vulnerable because your intention is to relate and get closer to that person. It means getting in touch with what you are really feeling and expressing that even though you have no idea, nor any control over how the person on the other end will react. It means not being afraid to be the real you, or to feel and express what you are really feeling.
How about you?
Do you express what you are really feeling to your spouse or friend?
If not, what is holding you back from expressing what you are really feeling?
This week, the next time you are feeling angry or hurt at something your loved one did or said, don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Tell your loved one how you really feel. Say it from a place of love and wanting to relate and get closer to that person. Make it easier for yourself by filling in the sentence: “When I hear you say that, I feel…”