We left off last week exploring some very deep, personal, probably difficult questions about you. We probed into some of the deepest darkest emotional corners of our soul to take a peek behind the curtain of who you are as a person and a partner. We dipped our toes into the pool of vulnerability, which is probably the most foreign of territories.

And I continually ask myself, why is that?? Why are we SOOOOOO uncomfortable in dealing with our feelings and emotions? If we are hard-wired to need emotional security and connection with others, so why do we struggle so desperately to do so?

After all, we’ve been raised in a family, we’ve built life-long friendships, we’ve gone to school for most of our lives. We are a smart, equipped, capable community of human beings right? My short answer: sort of.

I’m saddened by the lack of attention and conversation about communication and connection. We spend a lot (and I mean A LOT) of time, money, energy, blood, sweat and tears attaining an education. But how many of those hours and assignments were designed to address how you’re doing? What you’re feeling? How you’re dealing with the loss of your beloved dog? Or how badly you fret over being able to pay next month’s mortgage since you took that risk to start your own business? Or when you found out your daughter was diagnosed with Autism? My bet is not many. We aren’t shown how to share these worries, struggles and tears with our closest loved ones. One step further, we’re often not taught how to receive and comfort our loved ones when they chance the risk to share. We feel vulnerable all over again. Uncomfortable.

From within we struggle to feel. We fight to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. If we don’t even admit its presence, how ON EARTH are we going to be able to create communication within our relationships? It seems totally insurmountable.

Let’s zoom out even further. Think about how very few opportunities we have in our lives to NOT answer the question, “How are you?” with, “Good, how are you?” Not many. And these are random people who we don’t even feel risky. Cashiers, neighbors, our children’s principal, or pastor. Our counselor. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve started off an appointment by asking how things have been going this week. I bet you can guess the answer! “Pretty good.” Then as we progress, our relationship provides the safety and comfort for the more honest experience to surface. Which is typically that things are not so fine. Sometimes not even close.

We’re just not good with not being fine. We’re not schooled and expert in how to notice when something is off, let alone what to do about it. We can’t communicate!

In our relationships this creates an all-too-easy path toward becoming so emotionally overwhelmed and frustrated that we lash out in anger. We demand that our partner tune in and respond. Or we choose the road of suppressing our needs beyond belief to the point we can fool ourselves into thinking we don’t feel because we’ve grown so numb. Sometimes we even do both. What a lonely, lonely dance.

To take the risk and talk about your feeling of loneliness is so drastically different than lashing out about something on the surface. About how the dishwasher was loaded wrong…..again. Or completely shutting down the idea of sex tonight because she drove to the Mexican restaurant when you had clearly mentioned trying out the new Thai place, oh I don’t know, only FOUR times earlier in the week. We can’t communicate!

This process of softening is the key to closer connection. Bringing about a warm and gentle way of being toward ourselves, and toward our partner allows the harsh world to become something that we face together “out there.” We begin to protect our own hearts and our relationships from the struggles we face, rather than placing the blame on one another. So while bills, deadlines and obligations will continue to flood our inbox. Soft, tender moments can begin to flood our hearts. And that makes for a much more sound place to tackle the hard stuff.

Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S