Hi, my name is Martha Kauppi. I’m an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor. I’m here answering a question from a vlog listener about jealousy. I’m going to do a little series here of me answering some questions from people. Let me read today’s question:
“Right now, something I’m struggling with is how to balance and integrate taking care of my own feelings with asking my partner for support and being able to receive that support. I seem to go to either extreme. Either I get into this needy, inconsolable place where I’m wanting reassurance or I kind of emotionally distance to try to take care of myself, but then I feel resentful because I feel like I’m doing it alone.”
I love this question because it’s very common. This is a really common question so I’m happy to talk about it. I hope it helps.
First of all, I want to really break it down because there are about six questions in here. I took a few notes, there are so many questions. First of all, there’s this question of how to figure out what it is that you want. What would you ask your partner for that would make a difference? Then, how do you let it in if your partner’s able to provide it.
That’s not that simple, actually. I think, sometimes, we ask for something that isn’t going to make that big of a difference or we’re not thinking about it as a question that is a little bit sacred. Like, “I’m asking you to help me with my emotional confusion, distress,” whatever it might feel like. “I’m asking you for help with something that’s distressing to me.”
Sometimes, we ask a “question” like that by saying, “I want you to,” blah, blah, blah. Or, “I want you to blah, blah, blah for me.” That is a little more like a demand and a little harder for a partner to hear, generally speaking.
First of all, I would spend a little time looking inside and figuring out what it is exactly that you’re wanting. Is it a deeper connection? What is it? If you have something that’s like, “I want to see you more often” ask yourself why. What is it that you think is going to happen if you see this person more often? There’s usually not just one way to get to any particular goal, so figuring out what you want to experience is the most important part.
Really spend some time figuring out what it is that you want. More stable connection over the course of a week or a month? How could you maintain that connection in a way that works for both of you? Or a deeper connection when you’re together: how could you, together, create a higher quality of attention and a higher quality of connection when you’re together?
Those are really different projects. The first step is getting really clear on what it is that you want. Not just a thing outside of yourself that you want your partner to do, but what is the experience that you want to have? What experience is it that I think if I had it, this would be easier for me? Then, ask your partner, “Can I share something about what’s going on for me emotionally and get some help from you about how we might do it together?” That’s how I would go about this. That’s the first part.
Then, the second part is that sometimes I emotionally disconnect so that I can take care of myself, but then that can lead to resentment: such a common question. It is actually possible to take care of yourself…and by that, I mean emotionally regulate, distract yourself by doing some fun things, or whatever other way this might look. Self-care. Management of your emotions. There are ways to take care of yourself without disconnecting from someone else.
If you imagine yourself as being on two feet: standing, balanced, and grounded. Feel that. You might even try standing up on your two feet and shift your weight back and forth and get your weight evenly on both feet. Then, really drill down and feel the earth under there. Now, shift your weight onto one foot, get super grounded in your core, and reach way over here. That groundedness in your core is what makes it so you can reach for someone else without tipping over.
What people sometimes do in a relationship is they reach way over here, all out of balance from their core, without a strong center of gravity in their own self. It’s very important to know where your center of gravity is and it’s important to have your center of gravity be you.
So, how do you get your center of gravity in you? Lots and lots of different ways. I always have a list of things that I think would be fun to do alone. It just helps me out if my partner is going to go on a trip, go travel, or do some other thing, if I feel a little wobbly, I can refer to my list of stuff that I like to do alone and I can remember, “Oh yeah. I could do this, I could do that, I could do this other thing. I could eat my favorite food, I could read uninterrupted, I could spend time in the garden….” Whatever it is that you particularly love to do when you’re alone, start making that list.
Also, start expanding that list and expand the stuff that you like to do alone. Get your center of gravity in your own happiness project. I’ll talk more about the happiness project in the next video.
I’m going to break down one more segment of this which is, “because I feel like I’m doing it alone.” Doing what alone, exactly? Managing my emotions alone? Creating a happy life for myself alone? Having a relationship with you alone? Those are all really different things. I would just reframe this whole business into the Happiness Project.
That leads me right into my next video where I will talk about what I mean by “The Happiness Project”, how it came to be, and why I think it’s a really important reframe about self-care. Thank you for listening. I hope this helps. Send me your questions and I will do my best to answer them. I hope you have a great day.