This weekend I will go on a cooking spree in the Netherlands. I wrote before I am fading out the cooking, but I still have three very big cooking jobs I will keep doing for now, and two of them are in the coming three weeks. I will come back on the 4th of August, and I plan to spend that weekend with my partner.
She was supposed to go on a reunion coming weekend with members of a retreat she went to. She called me yesterday to say that it was postponed to the 5th of August and asked about my thoughts on her going.
A train of thoughts started to cross my mind. “I kept the weekend free, so why would she go away?”, “ I know how much she wanted this! Of course, she can go.”, “Am I not important enough for her?”, “I shouldn’t be so selfish and needy.”, “If I say I don’t want her to go, I am taking away her freedom.”, etc.
My first inclination was to mask my train of thoughts and say: “Yes, go. It’s all ok.”, but then I noticed that all my thoughts and feelings were about her, and I got disconnected from what I actually wanted. I even judged myself for wanting to be with her.
For me, this is a polarity in a relationship. My partner and I are different; we have different longings and needs, so that polarities will be there. Sometimes I want something, and my partner wants something opposite.
It’s not a question of how to have no polarities but how to deal with them.
When I do couples therapy, one of the things to explore is if the relationship has space for this kind of polarity. Is there space to want something else than your partner and stay connected in this situation?
“I want connection!” versus “I want space!”
“I want to eat out!” versus “I want to stay at home!”
“I want sex!” versus “I only want to cuddle!”
“I want to talk!” versus “I want to watch football!”
“I want to go to California beach!” versus “I want to go to Kenya on safari!”
How to deal with a polarity like this?
Three options are possible here. See which resonates the most for you.
Option 1 is to go with the need of your partner.
The reason can be that there is no energy for conflict, so I will do what my partner wants to keep the peace. I disconnect from what I actually need, and therefore the need of my partner suddenly seems more relevant.
Option 2 is to push my needs.
I know what’s best for me, and it doesn’t serve anybody if my needs are not met. I need to fight for my right. A relationship is not about giving up on my needs, right? Or what about sending my partner on a guild trip and making her do what I need? I disconnect from my partner and her needs and longings and make mine more important for us.
Option 3 is hearing my partner's needs and staying with my own.
“I can hear your needs, but I really need…”. I can feel my partner, I stay connected to her, but at the same time, I am also connected to myself and to what is significant to me. This option does not provide a fast solution but honors both's needs and longings and the relationship.
The third option may feel like an impasse. There is no solution; we may be stuck here for a while. I stay with my needs, and she will stay with hers. But there is a connection; there is empathy and connection. Depending on the situation, this might require a lot of space in your relationship to stay in.
This situation also creates a space between us where something else can emerge. Something that might cover both needs. This is what I call a we-space. This we-space is a space of common care where we create something that’s good for both of us and for our relationship. Something we will both enjoy.
To create this we-space, both in the relationship need to feel committed to the connection, need to be curious about themselves and the other, and have empathy and compassion. All lovely and crucial things for having a healthy relationship.
So when I come back from the Netherlands, we will go on a camping trip in the forest, where my partner will enjoy her retreat reunion, and I can recuperate while walking in beautiful nature! Isn't that a triple win?
Do you see yourself in a situation where this polarity is strong? What do you do to get out of the impasse?