Disrupting relationship dysfunction through honest self-expression
Conflicts in our romantic relationships can be the source of unending frustration. Unfortunately, a lack of boundaries, enmeshment, codependency, and walking on eggshells are the dynamics du jour.
When it comes to partnership, many of us are taught we must “make it work,” riding out disagreements with gritted teeth and greater self-control. Yet despite our best efforts, the drama in our love lives continues. We have tried to make it work—yet nothing is working!
To resolve this frustration let’s explore how honest self-expression can quell dysfunction and create stronger relationships.
Stability through people-pleasing
A common form of “making it work” involves people-pleasing. We want stability in our lives, especially in our romantic connections. People-pleasing is when we believe we must maintain this stability by focusing on keeping our partner happy.
When something vulnerable comes up for us––a frustration, a need, a desire, a limit–we fear these parts of ourselves and push them down, believing they are at odds with our partner and the harmony of the relationship.
The cost of being nice
To avoid rocking the boat, we curb our authentic expression. Resting in the comfort of condemning our wants and desires as ridiculous, entitled, or unworthy offers a false sense of security that asking for more and risking judgment cannot provide. We play nice but at the cost of our voice and our sense of self.
Change is necessary for growth
The fact is stability is not always guaranteed in relationships. Change and growth deepen intimacy. When the status quo of our relationship is riddled with dysfunction and drama, we need a little disruption for growth to occur.
Our desires, limits, and feelings are not problems. They are a call to action—an invitation for change—so that the relationship can rebalance with our truth.
Identifying your feelings
Rather than taking the temperature of the relationship through our partner’s happiness, a more appropriate vantage point is how we are feeling in the connection. We can ask ourselves, Is this working for me? If not, what limits are important? What values are not being honored? Expressing ourselves means communicating these things directly to our partner.
Unearthing and putting language to our true feelings and desires requires reflection and self-understanding. Teasing apart contradictory aspects of our feelings is the inner work needed to unravel a clearer sense of self.
Growth requires honesty
At first blush, self-expression may seem like the enemy of intimacy. Not everyone is going to approve of our voice. But embracing disapproval and instability for the sake of honest communication is required to transform dysfunction into growth-oriented relationships.
Calling out what you feel to be in your greatest good sets a higher standard for the connection.
Only when we stop denying our desires and yielding our boundaries can we truly be open to receiving what is nourishing.
By honoring ourselves in this way forged attempts to “make it work” and people-please naturally fall away as authentic and resilient relationships start to take shape.
She writer Dionne Dettmer is an intimacy coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She helps people unlock their sensuality and reach their highest potential in sex and dating.