Your partner says they feel taken for granted by you.
A. Rush to apologize so they feel better
B. Tell them all the reasons why they shouldn’t feel that way?
C. Get curious about the reason why?
I used to select options A and B. I would rush to give my partner all the reasons why they shouldn’t feel taken for granted, all the things I do for them, for us, for the relationship.
That’s good, right? She’s upset, so I reassure her? Right?
But I’ve come to understand options A and B are about protecting my ego and my safety. It’s about protecting my ‘nice guy’ status that doesn’t want to upset someone, doesn’t want to get into trouble, doesn’t want to risk losing connection, and doesn’t want to be thought of as not-nice.
In short, it’s about me not her. I’m so uncomfortable with this knock to my sense of safety and sense of self I would rather prove her wrong than allow her to be right. Option A and B are about discrediting and diminishing the other person’s experience. It’s a form of #gaslighting. It’s cancelling their experience to make me feel better and safer.
The reason this is on my mind is because my partner came to me recently and explained that she was feeling taken for granted in a certain aspect of our relationship.
It hurt to hear it. It was directly counter to my understanding of the kind of partner I like to consider myself to be.
Option A rushed up really f*cking fast. Option B was hot on its heels.
These days, because of the work I’ve done, I’m good at identifying that whoosh in my system. The whoosh is that sudden, full body reaction in your nervous system that says fight flight freeze or fawn. You know the one, it comes up fast and hot and demands us to act RIGHT NOW.
It’s our primitive, childlike part. Most often in our relationships, reacting from this whoosh makes the situation worse. It’s when we shout, storm out, slam doors, try to convince our partners they are wrong, do nice shit that we actually don’t feel like doing just to make the peace.
These days, most of the time I can catch myself. These are the steps I follow to get out of my own way. They’re simple, you can do them too:
- Take a deep breath.
- Feel my feet on the floor
- Pause and listen
I could feel the part of me that wanted to contradict and minimize her experience. But I know this is an opportunity for me to understand her better, and learn about a place where she’s not feeling seen and supported.
This is actually an opportunity to deepen, expand our relationship. I listened and I got to understand something new about her, about where she wasn’t feeling considered by me. I got to see a space I could grow in my awareness and step into being more of the partner I want to be.
It’s inevitable that we fall out of alignment from time to time in our relationships. A good relationship isn’t one where we’re aligned all the time, it’s one where we recognise when we’re out of alignment and have the skills to communicate about it, and work through it and learn stuff about ourself and each other that makes it easier next time.
To do this, we need to be able to hold ourselves in our discomfort of our partner’s unhappiness, and stay curious.
When my partner told me she felt taken for granted, it was an opportunity to strengthen and deepen our relationship. There’s intimacy and connection that comes from staying curious in these moments.
This is warrior level stuff. If you are a man and you want to learn how to show up equipped and skilled and create a bulletproof relationship, click on the link below. I’d love to work with you. My new online group coaching course for men starts on October 19 https://relationshipsthatwork.coach/the-mans-path-group-coaching