Tweeted this question out the other day:
Some “got it,” others didn’t.
So let’s go over this… as it’s incredibly common in relationships on BOTH SIDES. And tends to lead to serious resentment and misunderstandings.
Within almost every relationship, there is at least one party that overtly wants more connection with the other. Usually, this sort of desire is expressed in phrases such as “I want you to open up to me,” “I feel like we’re getting distant,” or even “what’s wrong?” And comes as a result of shut down emotional / physical intimacy in the relationship.
In your standard dysfunctional relationship, the response is usually denial or avoidance. “Nothing is wrong,” or “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
However, sometimes — especially in relationships that are gradually improving in their communication — you get an honest answer.
The person is “shut down” because they are pissed at you. They don’t want to “connect” with you, because they feel invalidated every time they try to connect with you. They have been seething, but rather than start a fight, they simply distance themselves from you. You are manipulative as far as they are concerned. Why bother trying to get closer, when the result is being judged further?
Unfortunately, the person who broached this conversation because they wanted to connect isn’t usually ready for this kind of criticism. Indeed, their objective was to get validation. To feel love and affection. And so they tend to respond to these accusations with their own denial: “what do you mean, I don’t do that… or I only did because you *always* do [insert behavior that makes them feel unimportant]”
Most people at first glance see this response as justified. “See, I was trying to connect but she started a fight instead. As usual, I’m the bad guy in this relationship… she doesn’t even care whether we are close or not.”
The only problem?
This whole perspective is self-defeating. And frankly full of shit.
You see, connection isn’t just about “the good stuff.” If you believe this, you are fixated on the honeymoon period, where each party sees the other through rose colored glasses.
You need to drop this childish fairytale view of relationships. If a woman is shut down towards you, there is an extremely good change it is BECAUSE of you. You have probably tried to force her to conform to your fantasies… and punished her when she elected not to.
This is not connection, it is manipulation. Your definition of “connection” is limited to her doing things that make you feel good. This is superficial, and trying to force it artificial. Connection at its core means being able to say what you feel with someone, and them being able to hold it.
These opportunities with a woman where she tells you how much pain you have caused her are either moments of disintegration or transformation. Your ability to hold space for her when she reveals her resentment and frustration are when you offer her the chance to move past it.
Because when she says she feels invalidated, and you invalidate it — it doesn’t matter how good your “logic” is. This is her feeling and you have lost the bigger picture. You have invalidated her once again in your attempt to prove her wrong. And put yourself further from the connection you seek.
My point in all of this is not that you become a punching bag. And it’s not that you have a fluffy relationship where all you do is talk about feelings. No.
But as a man, you need to be non-reactive. And receive criticism without dismissing it out of hand.
This doesn’t mean all criticism leveled at you is necessarily accurate. But you will not be able to move past ego-battles unless you allow her the space to acknowledge how she feels. Indeed, it is after that when she is most receptive to the truth; when she knows she can express herself, even if said emotions are wrong. You show yourself to be a leader then, and she trusts you not only in mind, but in heart.
Inability to navigate this art and science of holding boundaries yet being emotionally open is why most men end up in tragic, unsatisfying relationships.
But you know what?
I have little sympathy.
Because there are people out there who know how to help them.
Do you think I figured out all of this on my own?
I’ve sought out mentors in every domain I’ve struggled with. And I still do. Well over six figures invested at this point.
Mediocrity is a choice. Pain is a choice.
When you have a disintegrating relationship, and you know someone has the answers, but you do nothing about it… you are too “proud” to seek his help…
You deserve the outcomes you get.
Divorce, loneliness, anxiety.
If you want to choose differently, apply here: www.patstedman.com/application
PS The dynamic I’ve described above is a sign of codependence. Is your relationship codependent?
Check out this video and let me know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD1QRFDSgcI