I promised at the end of my last article that I would discuss in far more detail the steps required to mitigate your fear of sharing who you are and what you believe with people important to you. Before I start, however, let me say it’s unlikely you will deal with this issue unless you recognize you possess this fear.
The reason being, people don’t fix things until they know they’re broke, or they adversely affect them. Well, let me state, “That it does!” Why? Because your fear of being exposed, insufficient and rejected is the primary reason you and everyone else experiences problems in their interpersonal relationships.
So, to the degree you have any problems in your intimate relations is the degree to which you have fear. Even more, I believe your fear increases the more you love someone. Consequently, the few instances when you allow yourself to be fully transparent and take the risk of being rejected are those times when anger, stress, alcohol or drugs override or numb your fear. This might explain the reason people open their heart – so to speak – to bartenders, beauticians, tennis coaches or topless dancers, none of whom they’re likely to interact with on a daily basis. It’s emotionally safer than opening yourself up to your spouse, because the risk isn’t as great.
I’d have you keep this in mind while we consider the steps you need to take to enhance your transparency or vulnerability without the benefit of anger, stress, alcohol or drugs, etc.
Ask yourself, “What do I want?” If your answer is, “I want a loving relationship,” you have to risk being rejected and ask for it in a healthy manner. You cannot feel sorry for yourself or play the victim, hoping someone will have pity for and nurture you on the basis of your victim status.
Be proactive. Not only by expressing your desires, but also by reaching out and initiating the same warm intimate relationship you desire. That means you must stop thinking in terms of who wins, or who gives in, or how weak asking for love makes you feel. It isn’t a sin to want love, so, go after it but be willing to pay the price, i.e. risk being hurt or rejected.
Discern what you have to do to get your partner’s love as opposed to what it takes to buy it. Note, “BUY” is the quintessential word. Going after love needs to be a positive action. One that stems from your having the courage and emotional strength to ask for it, solely because you love someone. Not because you’re emotionally dependent and willing to prostitute yourself to get it.
If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, that you want to improve, the odds are – no matter how positive your words and actions are – you will not be the immediate recipient of the love you desire. Despite that probability, you have to persist. You need to continue to behave in a manner that will eventually get you the relationship you want. It will also help if you exercise increased insight and sensitivity in order to determine what your spouse is most likely to respond to. For example, I have never given my wife a toaster or electric mixer to celebrate any occasion, because she very clearly indicated on our first anniversary, that anything with an electrical plug wasn’t a gift that would touch her heart.
Ask yourself, “If I constantly find fault, point out someone’s insufficiencies, ignore, reject, resent or demean my partner, will that elicit love?” The answer is obvious, but despite that fact, many of you do depreciate, punish and/or reject the very person whose affection you want. Sometimes, it’s because you’re angry but, for the most part, it’s because you’re hurting and feeling badly about yourself. However, rather than look at self, you do the very thing that will ensure the love you desire won’t be forthcoming. Then, when it isn’t, you interpret its absence as indicative of the fact your spouse is the problem. He/she is cold and nonsupportive. No wonder you don’t share your problems with them. They’re the victimizer and you’re the victim.
The solution: Develop a rational self-interest. Reach out to your partner no matter their behavior. Go after the love you want solely because you care. Not because you’re play-acting them or fearful of losing them, but because you’re willing to do whatever it takes, within normal limits, to get their love. Doing so will positively enhance how you feel about yourself, because your actions will stem from a sense of inner strength as opposed to feelings of fear and dependency. As a result, you will no longer resent them because you feel controlled by them, or punish yourself because you feel weak and subservient.
What I would have you be able to say is “Honey, let’s go out to dinner tonight. There’s no one in the world I’d rather be with, than you. How about X, Y or Z?” If their response is “no,” you have a choice. You can stay home or go out on your own, but either way, you eliminate your right to be angry. At the same time, they also have a choice. They don’t have to comply with everything you want or agree with your every thought.
Instead, your shared goal should be to create a relationship devoid of obligatory actions, hidden agendas and resentments; one in which facts aren’t important, but feelings are. Where you’re free to be you and don’t have to keep score, regarding who last took the dog to the vet or washed the dishes, because all that matters is you have one another, love each other and know that whatever problems occur, you will face them together.
This is truly possible if each of you takes responsibility for your own actions, recognizes the only person you can fix or control is you, and acts out of your desires, as opposed to your fears. The key step being that you accept you aren’t perfect and know it’s ok, because you don’t have to be.
Your sole job is to be yourself and to share yourself with everyone you encounter. The rule being: To get love, you don’t have to embellish, exaggerate or hide you because, in the end, others will always love you more when you’re real than when you’re right.