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Recently a woman told me that she’s feeling disconnected from her husband in the bedroom because she’s having a hard time at work and he’s not there for her emotionally outside the bedroom when she needs a place to vent or cry or be held.
It’s so true! When we’re not getting what we need OUTSIDE the bedroom, it’s really hard to get in the mood INSIDE the bedroom!
But just like not asking for what we need inside the bedroom, many of us who were socialized as little girls aren’t great at advocating for our needs outside the bedroom either. We want our partner to intuit what we need and take care of it. (And, to be fair, people who were socialized as little boys were taught to be all-knowing and take care of everything without ever showing weakness, so it can be really hard for them to ask.)
So we look for the attention and affection we want, and when we don’t get it, we get disappointed and withdraw. Then they notice our withdrawal and get scared or upset or shut down. And then we withdraw more.
And then finally we blow up: “WHY DON’T YOU EVER LISTEN TO ME?!?!?” We say all the things we’ve been wanting to say for weeks or months or years, but we say it at 100 decibels – and there’s no way in hell anyone’s going to respond positively to that.
Sound familiar? Even if your specifics look a little different, I bet it follows a similar pattern.
BREAKING THE PATTERN
You know I’m all about communication, so of course this is going to start with asking for what you need! 🙂
But let’s tweak the scenario a little, in a way that sets your partner up for success.
Imagine that you’re having a hard day at work and you can hardly wait for the end of the day – all you want is to lay down on the couch in your partner’s arms with a glass of wine and watch a comedy. But you’re going to need to get this day out of your system first.
You pull out your phone and text your partner:
“Hey babe, I’m having a rough day. I may need to vent for a while when I get home. Would you pick up a bottle of wine and cue up The Good Place so we can cuddle on the couch after dinner?”
See how you’re allowing your partner to be part of the process while also telling them exactly what you need? They get to be the one supporting you in feeling better, rather than fumbling because they don’t know what you need and then feeling rejected because they can’t figure you out. You’re also giving them a little bit of time to adjust their energy and expectations so they can meet you where you are when you get home and need to blow off steam.
**If you’d like to have these words at-the-ready download the Conversation Guide below
Another way to set your partner up for success is to have a conversation at a time when both of you are calm – say over Sunday brunch.
While things are relaxed and mellow, you say, “I’ve been reading this woman’s stuff online [I give you complete permission to blame me!! ?] and she suggested having a conversation about the ways that we feel loved and cared for. So here’s what I was thinking – when I have a hard day at work, it makes me feel really loved and cared for when you hold me and stroke my hair while I vent. I don’t need you to try to make me feel better, I just need to get the feelings out so they don’t follow me around for the rest of the night or the weekend. It’s enough for you to just listen and hold me.
What are some ways that make you feel really loved and cared for?”
Opening the conversation this way means that you’re not accusing each other of past misdeeds, you’re offering each other ways to be really supportive moving into the future.
You are setting each other up for success! And that closeness outside the bedroom can pay GREAT dividends inside the bedroom, too.