Archive for December, 2014


December 9, 2014

Receiving from our partners is a complicated business. Puzzling as the thought might be, it is difficult for many of us to receive even though we’re convinced we want it. What am I referring to when I say receive? It could be anything…. a spontaneous compliment, a gift, a surprise, a gesture, affection, anything! Receiving from a partner the things we want most from them is very tricky indeed.

It all starts with wanting to have our needs met. We want our partners to meet our needs. Yet this can lead to lots of trouble because we often have a hard time receiving what they are giving. I know this sounds crazy but we often reject the very things we say we want and that our partner may be trying to give us in order to meet our needs.

Why does this happen? Let me explain. For many of us, when our partner tries to meet our needs, their giving never feels quite right. It is as if WHAT we actually WANT, THEY never can get quite right! We then respond with disappointment and a cycle begins of us feeling let down, becoming critical and feeling annoyed. The next step in this out-of- sync dance is that we get mad at our partners for our unhappiness and that creates distance. This may be an over simplification but hopefully you get the picture and can relate to this.

This dynamic can become a perpetual theme in the life of a relationship and believe me, it is one of the best ways to build up resentment.

Imago founders Harville Hendrix and Helen La Kelly Hunt write about this phenomenon in their book, Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved. They suggest that the reason we cannot receive love in our adult intimate relationships is rooted in our childhood experience. They describe how we learn to dislike the parts of ourselves that our caretakers ignored or rejected in us. So, for example, if my family didn’t think I was very lovable, or even worse, told me I was unworthy, as a result of this childhood pain, I build up inner defenses . I learn to pretend that being seen as lovable isn’t very important. I disown that part of me.

This same sequence would apply to any personality trait or behaviour that children need to have validated in order to grow–it could be being sporty or social, attractive, smart, graceful, determined, hardworking, spiritual, artistic – you name it.

But, even though we are adults, a part of us still craves these needs to be met (and who better than by our partner! ). But because of our defences we are unable to receive what they give us and we often go one step further and blame our partner for not doing it right.

Here is an example to illustrate this complex dynamic.

Let’s say you want your partner to sometimes surprise you and demonstrate that they think about how special you are. First off, we often express this wish in a negative way, believing that being a being prickly porcupine will get us what we want (and where’s the logic in that!).

But we often believe we have a right to complain because our needs aren’t being met. So you complain to your Partner about how they don’t do this. Does this sound familiar at all – “How come you never surprise me with anything?” “don’t you care about me?” “aren’t I special to you ?” etc.)

Well, one day your partner shows up with a surprise bouquet of roses for you and gives them to you saying something like, “I saw these and thought of you because you’re so special to me”.

But our mind does weird things. We focus on the negative. You might become aware of noticing you are only half enthused because you hoped for something other than flowers, or you think your partner only did it because you complained in the first place. Or maybe you think your Partner spent too much money on the roses. Or you are disappointed because what you were really hoping for was a surprise dinner out not another night of cooking with roses on the counter!

So what is going on here? Why aren’t you receiving the surprise gift from your partner?

It could be….

As a child you did not feel special so now you want to feel that you are special and that you matter. Yet, when your partner does show you that you are special (by buying the flowers), you aren’t able to accept it due to your own defenses. It is very difficult to feel special in the here-and-now when there have been painful childhood experiences. You would rather reject your partner’s giving than have to feel the long- ago pain. For most of us, over the years we have built up defenses to protect ourselves from this pain so it becomes unconsciously automatic to reject instead of receive. Instead of being able to receive what they have to give us, we end up feeling continually annoyed and/let down by them.

A big part of being in an intentional relationship is to let go of our built up defenses and learn to receive what our partner has to give us – even if it isn’t exactly what we want. What we really want may not even exist anymore. We have to learn to recognize the childhood need that never got fulfilled and begin to stretch into a more conscious place.

Dare ya

Start by consciously examining if you have ANY trouble receiving what your partner has to give you. If so, read on…

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and accept that whatever they have to give is for you. Without judgment, be grateful for it. Be gracious and let it in.

Begin with the smallest things- a hug, a cup of coffee, a phone call, a smile . Work up to the big ones!

That’s it for now.