I recently wrote a blog about how to love yourself in any kind of company. The response I am receiving is enormous. In reading the responses however, it has become clear to me that I left out an important step in the process of loving yourself. I had mistakenly assumed that like my client Mary, by the time you were reading my article, you had tried everything else to get yourself heard properly, and thus were ready for the practice of fierce awareness. While vigilantly and lovingly staying with your own internal experience is always useful when in the company of others who are not supportive, there is also a relational strategy that may be useful and empowering in such situations.
The strategy is this: ask for what you need, specifically and clearly. When your partner dismisses your truth, argues against your experience, or consistently responds to you with the word “but,” ask him if he would be willing to simply listen to what you are saying without responding at all, to say nothing and just absorb what you are expressing. Or, ask him if he would be willing to repeat back to you what you had shared. Or, ask him if he would be willing to respond by rephrasing what you had said in his own words. Ask yourself what you would really need from your partner’s response and ask him, gently, if he would be willing to provide just that. You might also let him know, if it feels right, what the kind of response you are requesting would offer you, what it would provide in your own process. The key here is to ask your partner with kindness, a kindness that is for both you and him, with the words “Would you be willing…” leading the way.
This strategy can always be used, no matter where you are in the relationship. It can be used again and again, regardless of whether it has been successful in the past or not. It makes a perfect handshake with fierce self-awareness and in fact, the knowing and asking for what you need arises precisely out of fierce awareness.
Asking for what you need may in fact get you what you need from your partner, and make you feel more understood and loved. And, staying with your own experience with awareness and self-compassion, before, during and after you ask, will undoubtedly get you what you need from yourself.