I just want clarity on my relationship because I’m having trouble being vulnerable in my connection. I feel like there’s a disconnect every time things don’t go a certain way and I’m working on not taking things so personally even though he’s my first real connection.
Thank you for writing in and thank you for asking for some help. I’ve recorded a coaching video for you (linked below) that I hope will be helpful to you. I also wanted to call out a few things so that there’s some clarity you can walk away with and some actionable steps you can take to help yourself and perhaps your relationship.
First, let me say that it is hard to stay vulnerable in our romantic relationships when there’s a disconnect that happens every time there’s conflict. Being vulnerable and staying vulnerable requires an emotionally safe place to open up in and stay open in. The connection, the bond, will remain between you and your partner if you both can learn how to stay open to one another, even in the face of conflict. An emotionally safe space — one that allows for both parties to feel safe to stay open to one another and be vulnerable — is a space where each person owns their own feelings, neither person projects their pain or insecurities onto the other person, and both parties are able to respect the feelings of their partner even if they don’t have the same feelings themselves.
An emotionally safe relationship is one where you can say to your partner something like I’ve italicized below and it becomes a part of a loving, explorative, curious conversation/journey you lovingly do together: Babe, I feel like every time there’s conflict between us, we disconnect from each other. I don’t know if it’s real or if I’m just perceiving this because of my fears, but I do know I feel it and it feels like it’s real. I don’t know if I’m feeling this because you really are creating space between us — running away, pushing me out, or not communicating as openly or often as normal OR maybe I’m feeling this because I’m the one shutting down and I don’t know how to stay open when there’s conflict OR maybe I’m just projecting my fears from the past into our current relationship because I am afraid of being left by people who love me or afraid of not being good enough. I’m not sure, but I’d love for us to figure it out and I’d love to know what your thoughts are. Do you experience a sense of disconnection in our connection as well? Is there something I do that makes you feel like it’s either not safe to stay or like you just can’t deal? Are there patterns or actions you see me take that contribute to a disconnect between us? Do you feel like you sometimes need to disengage from me or take space? If so, what sparks that feeling in you and does it have anything to do with me, or is it a natural way you’ve learned to disengage/self-protect when you’re feeling overwhelmed? I’d love to know your thoughts and feelings. I am genuinely curious about this and I want to figure out whether the feeling I feel is real or whether it’s old pain that I need to work through and heal.
This is an example of an emotionally open person who’s trying to learn more about themselves and their partner so that they can learn more about if/why this pattern of disconnection exists in the relationship. This level of self-awareness (you don’t need to know what the problem is to be self-aware, you just need to know that there is a problem, you’re a part of it, and you’re committed to being a part of learning about it and fixing it) coupled with a desire to learn and grow as a unit is the recipe for creating vulnerability and true intimacy in the face of adversity; it’s the recipe for great communication and a deep connection that transcends conflict (the conflict can actually create a stronger bond). This type of conversation — if met with self-awareness, compassion, and honesty from both sides — brings down walls and barriers and it makes it safe to be and feel as you feel. It also lends itself to discovering the solutions to the relationship problem(s) IF and only IF, the pattern is a pattern NEITHER person wants to have any longer.
You see, it takes two to tango. If you’re the only one who wants to stay vulnerable and connected and your partner is not ready for that level of intimacy and connection yet, then it will be next to impossible for you to feel emotionally safe enough to open up and stay open. So if an emotionally secure relationship is what you’re looking for, he may not be able to provide that for you at this time. And as I mention in the video, that does not make him a bad dude. It just means that he’s in a different place than you right now and the disconnection happens because you’re not aligned.
Additionally, you need to check in with yourself as well to see if you are also willing to do the emotional and mental work required to stay vulnerable — even when it’s hard to. To ask the hard questions I italicized above, to share from this deep place in you, and to open up to hearing his thoughts and feelings without an agenda, without ultimatums, and without expectations for him to be or act as you need him to be/act for you to feel safe and connected. You see, most people don’t ask these direct questions and open up to being vulnerable with their partners because subconsciously they really don’t want to hear the answer. They’d rather stay in the fantasy of the future they’d like to have with this person than deal with the reality. They’d rather stay in the dysfunction of trying to get this person to change to fit their fantasy rather than have to make the decision all by themselves that they deserve better, want better, and may need to leave in order to have better.
(Lucky for you, I can call out this subconscious pattern so boldly and unapologetically because I lived it for so much of my life — and then I changed it, healed it, grew from it. And now teach it. If you want to know more about the pattern of fantasy, write in to me here and ask.)
I also always tell people that whenever we are triggered by a person or an experience, it’s always an opportunity for us to go inward to try to learn what we are being invited to heal about ourselves. For example, in your submission you said that you’re trying not to take things so personally, which leads me to think that you have been interpreting your partner’s actions as being something that he’s doing TO you — when in fact, if he’s disconnecting, it may be that he’s trying to protect HIMSELF in the only way he knows how to and it has nothing to do with you — except for the fact that it triggers within you a set of feelings and defense mechanisms that don’t feel good to you.
He really may not be trying to do anything to you. He may just be trying to cope with his feelings in the best way he knows how: to run, escape, fight, hide. This doesn’t make him a bad person, it just makes him someone who could stand to grow out of this old pattern IF what he wants is to have a loving, close, intimate, vulnerable relationship with a partner (a partner who may or may not be you, btw).
Because of societal and generational programming that runs throughout all levels of society, most people are trained to pull away, shut down, disconnect at the first sign of conflict. As a result, most people make it incredibly difficult for vulnerability to endure in a relationship and, as I always say . . . without vulnerability, there can be no true intimacy. Without vulnerability, we only have walls and pretending, manipulating and separateness. We have patterns that create the opposite of closeness — and we have their corresponding defenses.
Now, as always, it’s important to try and diagnose why a disconnection occurs between you and your partner when there’s conflict. Is he pulling away (ghosting you or not being as communicative)? Are you chasing him and needing more from him because you’re feeling emotionally insecure (which may only make him need more space)? Below are some questions and activities I would recommend you do to probe yourself and any places you may be carrying pain and/or a wound from the past that’s showing up in the present moment.
Diagnosing this — and being really honest with yourself about yourself — is going to be the first step to healing the pattern of disconnection if both you and your partner want to. If your partner doesn’t want to heal the connection or heal the pattern of disconnection, then answering these questions will be really important for YOU to heal the places within you that allowed you to attract in (and let stay) a partner who isn’t able to hold the space of vulnerability, connection, and intimacy that you desire. In other words, answering these questions for yourself, to yourself, about yourself may help you to discover the places within you he was brought into your life to help you to heal.
Here’s another nugget of truth: this man may or may not be your forever person, but regardless of your destiny together, he can certainly be a person who inspires so much of the healing and growth you deserve to experience so that you can live the life of your dreams and have a mindblowingly amazing relationship with the person who is your partner, your lover, and your very best and most trusted friend — the person you can be your full and complete self with, be vulnerable with, be emotionally safe with, be intimate with, live your purpose with, grow with, and live your joint and mutual version of happily-ever-after with — celebrating life, love, and happiness.
Depending on how things shake out, it may simply be that your current partner may be a person who was brought forth to teach you more about yourself to prepare you for your forever partner. Accept the gift he’s bringing to you and do the work to learn how and why you got here so that the relationship and any pain it inspired is useful, purposeful, and not in vain. Because trust me, if you don’t do the work, the dynamic won’t change and if the current relationship doesn’t last, another man with similar characteristics will show up next. He has to. You haven’t changed so why would your experience? A changed experience only happens to a changed mind. But if you do the work to expand your thinking and change your patterns and programming, a changed experience HAS to happen for you. It has to — with your current partner or someone else.
At the very end of the video I recorded for you, I tell a story about how I changed my experience in a relationship pattern/dynamic simply because I’d grown, learned, and healed the places within me that used to need that old worn-out pattern to cope. And it’s all because I did the work I’m outlining for you below.
Write a letter (that you’ll never share)
Write a letter to your partner that you will NEVER send (or show him) and in the letter write out all of your feelings, all of your thoughts about the pattern of disconnection, and all the things you would like to be able to communicate to him if you could freely find your words and use your voice. It’s best to write this letter when you’re triggered, because that’s when all the really good nuggets of pain, blame, shame, etc come to the surface (that’s when your defenses come out). I want you to see these defenses clearly without projecting them onto your partner, hence the recommendation to write him a letter that you will never, ever, share with him. Note: You can (and should!) write a letter (that you’ll never send!) every time you’re triggered by a person or an experience. This technique/tool will work for all types of situations and triggering people/experiences; it helps us to get clear on our thoughts, feelings, and pain and brings us closer to ourselves (and others).
A few words of advice:
- Don’t judge yourself or try to manipulate what comes out of your head and onto the paper. If your truth is not pretty, write it anyway. It’s your pain trying to find expression outside of you. Honor it, even if you don’t like it. It will be so very helpful to you. This is Step #1 in learning how to comfort and soothe yourself; it’s giving your pain a voice without denying it, stuffing it down, escaping it, or throwing it at someone else — blaming them for it (i.e. trying to make them responsible for it).
- Don’t share the letter with your partner OR put it in a place where they could ever read it. You’re not writing it for anyone else’s consumption. You’re writing it for your own because of your very own personal desire to understand yourself and your pain more clearly.
- DO be honest with yourself
- DO allow yourself to fully feel whatever you need/want to feel — such as anger, sadness, shame, resentment, regret, loneliness, fear, betrayal, confusion, dependency, etc.
- IMPORTANT: DO read the letter again after 24-48 hours have passed (and the energy is less charged) and with a highlighter highlight all the places within the letter that you blamed him, judged him, shamed him, and tried to make him responsible for your feelings, your fears, and your pain. For these places are all the places that YOU are ready to heal. Of course, there really may be truth to the actions he takes that you blame him for (e.g. distancing himself), however, you’re the one who is having an experience you don’t want to have anymore so it’s a place you need to heal — not him. He only needs to heal it if he wants a different experience in his relationships and/or relationship with you.
- DO forgive yourself if you find places in the letter that helped you to realize how much pressure you put on him to fill your cup, make you feel safe, be the source of your happiness. Forgive yourself if you find any places where you’re not proud of yourself or your actions or where you realize that you’ve stepped outside of the person you want to be. Forgive yourself if you find that you’re too dependent on him. Forgive yourself because you, too, are just doing the best you can with the knowledge and skills you have. You’re learning more now and in order to grow, we must forgive ourselves for our past actions that no longer align with where we’re going and who we’re becoming.
- DO seek licensed mental health support if you find that the pain is too deep or too raw to process on your own. If you need urgent mental health support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-8255.
- DO write in to me and ask questions if you find yourself lost with what to do with what comes out in your letter. You can create a submission for free coaching here.
Self-Discovery Questions and Prompts
If you feel guided, you can ask yourself the following questions and/or write out your answers to some/all the following prompts anytime there’s conflict in your life and/or relationships. Write your answers out on paper. Writing your answers out on paper (not on your phone!) is a really important step to taking this information out of your subconscious mind and getting it out into the open and into your conscious mind. In other words, writing pen to paper is how you can connect the dots between what you want to experience in your relationships/life and what you are actually experiencing in your relationships and life. Writing pen to paper will allow you to really see your thoughts as they come to you. And it is only by seeing your true thoughts that you have the power to change them. That is the power in making the subconscious conscious. By doing this exercise, you’re seeking to source and understand your current patterns and subconscious programming so that you can re-program yourself, your experiences, and how you feel living them. You have this power to re-program yourself and your life. You really do.
When triggered by an experience or a person, write out your answers to these questions:
- When _________ does _________ I feel . . . .
- When _________ does _________ it makes me feel like I . . .
- When __________ happens I feel like . . .
- Why does ________ make me feel so [fill in the blank — hurt/angry/scared/off-balance]
- Whenever there’s conflict in my relationship, I feel like I want to ________
- When my partner does [blank] I feel so _________
- If my partner stopped _____________, I wouldn’t feel so ______________
Now, this is just a starter list to get you to start thinking in terms of what you are feeling, what your programming is, and where you may be placing the blame for your feelings and/or experiences. If you want, after you write out the answer(s), you can send in a free coaching request or join us for one of our live free group coaching events so that I can direct you on what to do with the information you receive as a result of completing the exercise. (It’s one thing to now know how you’re feeling; it’s a whole other thing to know what to do about it.)
When I was first starting out on my journey of growth, I learned that anytime I wanted to blame someone else for how I was feeling, I needed to go inward and ask myself the questions above because there was usually a new way to comfort and soothe myself that I was in need of learning. For example, if I was angry at my ex and blaming him for something related to my son then after doing this work above what I really learned was that I was terrified that something would happen to my little baby boy and I wouldn’t be there to support him. I learned that the pain I wanted to project at my ex was really just the fear of not being able to keep my son safe by controlling his environment at all times. And in truth, it was my own lack of faith in God and in the path God has carved for my son. So I needed to learn how to face that fear, comfort myself through it, and learn to develop my faith in the knowing that my son’s life has a destiny attached to it and trying to control everything and everyone is not productive nor does it create a happy, joyful, peaceful life — for anyone — myself included. I had to learn more about surrender and I had to learn more about trust. That was the invitation my big, bold, angry feelings were producing and inspiring within me. And these feelings had very little to do with my ex. He was just the person bringing me the gift of exploring myself, my fears, my pain, and my programming at a deeper, more empowering level. He was bringing me a chance to grow and heal because his actions were inspiring pain and fear in me. That’s how I knew it was my opportunity to grow. These are the kinds of moments that helped me to learn how to not project my pain but instead to realize how purposeful it is and how powerful a tool pain is in healing us. Here’s a post I’d recommend you read on what I call “purposeful pain”. It is often emotional pain of some sort that is the indication that the gift of being able to heal and grow more is upon us — and thus the opportunity for more peace and happiness that follows the healing and growth.
Doing self-work to become more self-aware is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and your relationships. Some believe that it’s so hard to do and in some ways it is at first because it requires you take responsibility for yourself and your life — and hold yourself accountable for your life being/feeling the way it does. But, the counter argument I always give is that what’s even harder is spending each day of the rest of your life feeling unhappy, disconnected, lost, alone, and stuck in pain. That would TRULY suck and be wayyyy more difficult, in my humble opinion.
In any event, I know I wrote you a book in this response (lol) but this is a really important question you asked and a pattern that so many people go through in their relationships and in life. So thank you for writing in so that I could share some of the tools that helped me as I was journeying to a life way better than my dreams.
I should note that in the video below, I talk about this pattern from a more “spiritual” perspective, in that I talk about what’s happening on an energetic level when the “bond” is broken or the connection disconnects. I also tell you a powerful story about how I learned to stay connected to the bond with a man whom I loved even in the absence of his presence in my life and how doing so helped me to heal places within me that needed someone and needed the patterns of escape, addiction, and withdrawal in order to cope/survive.
Here’s your video:
Please feel free to send me another free coaching request if this response sparked something in you. If you’re reading this post as a reader, please feel free to write into me too. 🙂
With blessings, gratitude, and love,