Do You Provide a Safe Platform for Your Partner?

1085009350

Once upon a time, there were two couples. Let’s refer to them as Couple A and Couple B. In “Couple A”, she’s open, easygoing … an open book. That carries over into all relationships, besides her mate. Then there’s her boyfriend. He’s a private person and it’s hard for him to open up and express his feelings, even to her. He’s accepting when she opens up and she has encouraged him to do likewise, but he has some work to do on himself before she feels he is being completely transparent.

“Couple B”: She’s critical, opinionated, sees things in black and white. She has trouble expressing affection and being intimate. She says whatever she’s thinking but what she’s thinking is often judging someone, commenting on someone’s deficiencies. She believes there is a clear distinction between right and wrong. He wants to share what’s on his mind, his affection for her, but he’s afraid she will be critical not only of WHAT he has to say but that he’s saying it at all.

The “she” in “Couple A” feels emotionally safe to say what’s on her mind; he’s less emotionally safe than her but she sees positive movement.  Emotional safety is low for the “he” in “Couple B.” He wants to be open with her but doesn’t feel safe doing so. What’s the difference between these two relationships, other than there’s diminished comfort level of one or the other partner? I call it the difference between having a safe and unsafe platform.

Do you identify with either of the individuals in Couple A or Couple B? What happens when a platform (environment) of openness and honesty is missing between you and your mate?  

 

How an Unsafe Platform Damages a Relationship

If a relationship is new and growing, feeling emotionally unsafe can sabotage the relationship, keep it from moving forward, and can ultimately cause the relationship to fail. In emotionally unsafe relationships, one or both partners can feel guarded, isolated, fearful, or all of the above.

If you have doubts about how your partner will handle certain pieces of information or discussions and will not take kindly to your expressions of concern, you might tend to keep many things to yourself. Your mate might even consider your tight lips a form of dishonesty – by omission. A relationship is on a rocky road if you’re continuing to keep secrets.

The unknown can make you feel anxious. Holding back because of how you think your partner will react, may be based on previous encounters with your mate. Holding back may be a presumption that you know how he or she will react, without giving them the benefit of the doubt this time.

Not being open and honest may be due to unhealed wounds from previous relationships or even from parental upbringing. Maybe you’ve been conditioned to be “gun-shy.”

If you’re excitable by nature and get upset over trivial matters, think how your partner may feel if he wants to talk about something more important?  He doesn’t want to upset you or cause an argument and so he may not be as honest and forthright. He keeps his mouth shut to keep the peace.

Over time, you or your partner (or both) may feel that the relationship is on shaky ground, that it doesn’t feel permanent. Insecurity can set in. You may develop a shyness with your mate, or even paranoia, hoping that you’re not going to do or say something that will cause your mate to emotionally or physically withdraw from you.

You may start doubting yourself, your abilities as a person and as a partner … even your relationships with other people. You may feel unaccepted, powerless, and emotionally muzzled. Or maybe you feel stupid talking about something.

How can you as an individual or you as a couple thrive under these conditions? You can’t – not for long anyway.

 

What a Safe Platform Looks Like

A safe platform is a mutual give and take, sharing and listening, understanding and forgiving. Nurturing a safe platform means being honest with yourself and your partner, even if it’s not convenient, even if it’s not “pretty.” You both feel relaxed. You have closeness and intimacy. Kindness and caring characterize your interactions with one another.

You allow yourselves to be vulnerable. You let down your defenses. This may not come naturally to you.  Each partner has to foster this. That means neither you or your partner criticize, blame, demean, bully, nor reject the other.

You’re mindful of how you respond so that he feels safe about being honest with you. If he expresses his true feelings and you happen to dislike what he’s saying, you don’t judge. You make neutral comments and ask neutral questions. No loaded questions or grilling. You respond calmly and rationally.

You’re honest. This is a biggie. Because you feel you can be yourselves and trust your partner implicitly, you feel you share anything with them – and that includes being honest when you mess up.

You open yourselves up to each other. You both are willing to break through emotional barriers and conduct dialogues free of defensiveness and accusations.

You work out the issue in your head first, especially when the issue is not clear and you are confused. After giving it some thought, you voice your concerns to your partner.

You ask for what you need. Your mate may have no idea that some of your needs are not being met.

You work at avoiding unhealthy patterns and backsliding. You commit to always be honest with each other. Consider the slate wiped clean. Tomorrow is another day to practice.

 

A safe platform involves some risk-taking. Speaking out may ruffle some feathers at first, but you forgive and work at changing anything that needs to be changed. This is a healing process. When you do it regularly as issues come up, your relationship deepens. Intimacy deepens. You feel emotionally connected.

How to Tell Those Lying Eyes

916862254

Is your sweetie hiding something from you? Do you feel like you’re not getting a straight answer to a question? Maybe you’ve point-blank asked if she’s telling you the truth and you’re not buying it. You’ve got a sixth sense that he’s keeping a secret. You can’t put your finger on it, but something seems off in your heart-to-heart discussions. Want to know how to get better at spotting a lie?

 

Telltale Signs

If questions don’t get you answers, look at body behavior. You probably know those little quirks your mate has when they’re uncomfortable. Some obvious ones come to mind, but some are more subtle.

Go ahead, ask the question and observe. But be neutral. Don’t be confrontational. Do it when there are no distractions. And by all means, do it privately. Now watch and listen:

·         Is he looking at you directly in the eyes?

·         Is she exhibiting some nervous behaviors like excessive blinking, head-scratching, swallowing, fidgeting, a nervous laugh, a twitch, talking faster than usual, talking at a high pitch, biting lips? Does she seem uneasy?

·         Does he change the subject or distract you with questions of his own?                   

·         Ask probing questions. Are there inconsistencies in her story?

·         Does he get angry at your questions? Do you detect something behind the anger?

·         Is she gaslighting you? (Gaslighting is turning around your questions to make you question yourself and your mental health).

 

 Why We Lie

We all lie. Even to our long-time mates. Even when we feel there’s nothing wrong with the relationship. Maybe we don’t tell big fat lies. Have you ever told your partner a little white lie occasionally? “Sweetie, do I look like I’m gaining weight?” You reply, “Not at all, honey.” Or when asked if you would like to visit her parents, you say, “Of course. I’d love to spend the weekend with you and your parents,” you respond, as you silently groan.

Little white lies. Yep, we’re all guilty of that. Did he say he was going to do something and didn’t? “Did you research destinations for an upcoming trip like you promised you would or did you tell her you did but you really didn’t and just don’t want to fess up? Did you agree to stop at the dry cleaners on the way home but you forgot but told him instead that the store was closed?

Are those scenarios being deceitful or are they more of a way to not offend or not confess a broken promise?

 

What Should You Do About It?

Okay. Let’s say the jig is up and you caught your partner in a lie and they confessed. And let’s say it’s more serious than a little white lie. Maybe this is one out of many times they’ve lied to you. Now it’s up to you to decide if you can live with the lie. In other words, can you get over it? Should you try to get over it?

Before you decide your relationship is in trouble and go off the deep end, consider that their lie may not be because he’s trying to hide something major. Could you be assuming those lying eyes mean betrayal, such as cheating on you? Maybe he’s fibbing over something that embarrasses him or makes him feel guilty. Maybe she’s keeping something from you to save you from being upset … something that has nothing to do with her actions or behavior.

If you’ve caught them in the lie, ask them why they lied. Their response may very well give you a sense of their true intentions. The explanation could reveal something about them that needs to be a larger separate discussion? The lie could give you clues about an aspect of their personality of which you weren’t aware? It could say something about their integrity or how much they value the relationship. Their rationale can give you a better sense of their true intentions. Do they feel remorse? Do they really intend to stop lying to you?

A few words about a discussion post-confession. Provide a safe platform for your partner to be honest. What I mean by “safe platform” is, be mindful about how you respond so that he feels safe about being honest with you. If he expresses his true feelings and you happen to disagree, refrain from getting upset. Respond calmly and rationally. If you’re prone to “flying off the handle,” it could be a reason he hasn’t been honest with you. (Read more about safe platforms in the next post.)

How Does Being Lied To Make You Feel?

Being lied to can elicit strong emotional responses. It hurts. You might feel a trust has been broken or a moral code ignored. You may see their actions as an integrity issue or an insensitivity to you and your feelings.

Do the lies create a shift in how you feel about your mate? Are you willing to forgive the lie in exchange for putting it behind you and making a fresh start? Are you agreeing to get past the lie simply to create harmony?

Do you question your partner’s emotional stability or do you think their lies are a subconscious way of saying that something isn’t working in the relationship and they’re having trouble talking about it?

Whatever the reason, a lie is a good reason to talk more with one another about your feelings –your true feelings.

Are You Masquerading as a Happy Couple to the Outside World?

901980514

Are you presenting yourselves to others as a happy couple when you’re really not? Are you living in a pretend relationship? Are there sunny pictures of the two of you throughout your house showing how happy you and your mate are when nothing could be further from the truth? Do you kiss, hold hands, and project loving looks at one another in the company of others and immediately disengage when it’s just the two of you?

Your relationship looks like the perfect match – emphasis on “looks.” You look like you’re living a charmed life. Who are you fooling, masquerading as the couple everyone wants to emulate? Others, maybe. Maybe even yourselves. Are you and your mate living a lie?

 

Why the façade?

Sometimes couples pretend that their union is strong and things are ok. Sometimes it’s hard to admit they’re on shaky ground. Are you that couple?

·         Maybe you’re afraid to admit to yourselves that you have a problem.

·         Are you waiting and watching without doing anything about the situation?

·         Do you fear what will happen if you were to end the relationship?

·         Are you immobilized by a sense of failure?

·         Maybe you’re concerned with what others might think or say about you.

·         Maybe you feel ashamed of revealing your problem to your family and friends.

·          Are you holding back for the sake of your children?

You may long to be that idyllic couple, like those friends of yours. Have you ever considered that their relationship isn’t the bed of roses you think it is? They could be putting on a show for others too, when behind closed doors the mask comes off.

 

Relationship Limbo

Watching and waiting can lead to actually believing the lie. And so you go through the motions, continue the deception.

Not admitting that something’s wrong can be so emotionally draining to the relationship and your psyches as individuals. Life loses its zest. Depression can set in.

Relationship limbo keeps you from moving on with your life – whatever that turns into. You’re missing out of what could be.

 

Where to Go From Here

Decide as a couple to acknowledge you’re living this double life, discuss what you both want to do about it, and get relationship help if your efforts fail to resolve the rift.

Don’t be so hard on yourself that you feel your inner life has to perfectly match your outer life when you present yourselves as a couple to others.

It’s ok, for the sake of social harmony, to make the best of the situation and put on a happy face when you’re socializing. But to make a habit of propping up this image can be exhausting and you’re not being true to yourself and others you care about.

You might quietly share the truth with those closest to you, those you trust and love. Getting it off your chest can do wonders for your peace of mind.

You don’t have to share your relationship problems with anyone you don’t want to, especially those who might not be so understanding, who may like to gossip, who are nosy and like to give advice you might not want or advice that’s not in your best interest.  Remember, the whole world doesn’t have to know what’s going on in your personal life.

Limit engaging socially as a couple until you feel comfortable being yourselves; this includes family get-togethers and being with people with whom you regularly socially engage. But don’t isolate yourself just because you’re having relationship problems. Welcome the support and love of friends. You might want to meet separately with them, without your mate.

If you’re separated or divorced and have to attend certain functions or social activities for the kids, make the best of the situation. Sure, put on a happy face. You don’t have to exaggerate or overdo it, or say things are great when they’re not. Be you as much as you can be, as much as you’re comfortable being. Remember, it’s only for a couple of hours.

Discuss how to handle various scenarios with your mate so you can be prepared and don’t have to fumble and feel cornered, or caught by surprise when you are in social situations.