I have been coaching as they prepare for marriage, Thinking about my final session with them, it’s clear that they’ve been holding feelings of resentment toward each other.
The following is a portion of my follow-up email with them just after their final session with me.
(I’ve used only the first letter of their first names here, to protect their anonymity.):
Resentment is a feeling we get when we believe we are being treated unfairly. Fairness is important to both of you, (and FYI, the primate brain is wired to value and desire fairness)
In addition, I understood that you, J have been feeling ‘controlled or restricted’ which means that you're wanting to feel more freedom, independence and autonomy. This is not something that C can give you. It is something that you must find a way claim for yourself. How can you feel free, and still make choices that support your relationship with C, and the projects and life that you wish create together?
C, I understand you are primarily wanting/needing collaboration, help, support, mutuality, reciprocity, and a sense of working as a team. How can you make it easier for J to say, “yes” to teaming with you? How can you enroll him in a way that works for him? For you both?
J, considering your high value of autonomy, freedom and independence, what might you request of C that could make it easier for you to want to work together with her as a team? Can you let her know In what ways she could better honor and respect your need for autonomy, while still requesting and receiving your participation and collaboration? How can you pro-actively care for your own needs for autonomy, so you aren’t feeling pushed into reactivity?
As we saw in the session, recognition, appreciation, acknowledgement, and softening into our caring about the other’s feelings, are powerful bridges for re-establishing a feeling of mutual connection. When we feel seen, respected and appreciated, we are so much more willing to listen to each other, and find the willingness to work together to resolve problems.
It’s easier for someone to hear and care about our feelings and needs, when we ourselves clearly understand what they are and communicate them. This is the inner work. A partner can help by empathic listening. But it’s difficult when both partners need empathy at the same time.
So do take some quiet time, daily, if possible, each of you, to feel your feelings (without judging them…they are there to give you information and insight into what needs are not being met). Our needs surface on their own when we care about our own feelings and embrace them, even when they are uncomfortable. But we have to invite this process by taking time to become quiet and self-reflective. Time to feel ourselves. Time to hear ourselves.
I hope both of you are feeling a little more ease in finding your way. Emotionally intimate relationship is probably the biggest challenge in life. To maintain our personal autonomy, while sharing intimacy with another… is a giant challenge. But it is so worth the work to keep opening our hearts, owning responsibility for our experiences, refining our communication skills, and learning to trust, and bond with another. Learning to navigate conflict healthily and to repair emotional ruptures, is a crucial key for establishing and nurturing long-term deep caring, loving relationships.
It has been my pleasure to provide some help and guidance for you in this process. I hope this email is helpful to both of you as you continue to prepare for your wedding, and for your years beyond. --Harmony