Dr. Phil uses the term “a soft place to fall” to express a safe space to be vulnerable. He frequently asks troubled couples if they each provide a soft place to fall for the other.
When you’ve dated a guy for a little while, do you feel you can be vulnerable with him, admitting your fears and doubts? Sharing your setbacks and disappointments in yourself, your job, your life?
Or do you feel you need to be guarded, never letting on that your life is anything less than optimal, lest he think you are a mess and dump you fearing he’ll have to straighten it out? While some men relish the opportunity to be the White Knight, even seeking out women who regularly need a lot of help, others bail at the first sign of anything amiss.
Nobody has a trouble-free life. No matter how rosy, I bet there are aspects of your life that aren’t perfect, or could at least be improved. Maybe it’s something closeted, that he’d never know about if you didn’t tell him. Perhaps it’s a strained relationship with a family member, or a financial setback, or a chronic minor health challenge.
I don’t recommend revealing these in the first few dates. But after you’ve been with the guy a few times and begun to trust him and get closer, are you comfortable disclosing these hitches? If not, ask yourself why. Is it that he gets upset hearing your challenges? Or he immediately tries to fix the problem, rather than just listening to you? Or he responds by telling you that you “shouldn’t feel that way,” or it was “stupid to get yourself in that situation,” or “Here’s what you should do….” This is not a soft place to fall.
Let him know what you need: “I want to share something I’m not proud of, but I think you should know. You may be tempted to try to help me brainstorm a solution, but right now I’d really like you to just listen and hold me. After I’ve shared my thoughts, I’ll tell you when — and if — I’m ready for us to go into problem-solving mode.” If he ignores you, remind him of your request. He may not have had anyone be this clear on what she wanted and he doesn’t have any muscle built up on how to just listen.
And ask yourself if you are a “soft place to fall” for him. Many men don’t like to be vulnerable, so if he shares something that he’s not proud of, be gentle with him. Acknowledge the courage it took to admit this to you and allow him to share without your problem solving or being judgmental. Ask him what he’d like from you right now to feel supported. If the wound is deep, he may start crying, which is very hard for many man to let a woman see. Especially a woman he’s interested in romantically.
So work on your “soft landing” skills, and allow him to work on his as well. These are muscles some of us don’t use a lot, so the first few landings may be a bit bumpy, but stick with it!
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