A common complaint from women is they can’t get their guy to open up — to share his innermost thoughts, fears, and dreams. This is difficult to do for many people, women as well as men.
During my marriage, I learned a technique that made it easier to be vulnerable and talk about things that you might not normally discuss. We learned it from our relationship counselor, a gifted woman named Sonika Tinker, MSW.
Before I share the technique, let me tell you why we went to Sonika. When we were first married, we’d plan quarterly relationship retreats for ourselves. Since we were both seminar leaders, it was fun sharing the design of a special workshop just for us. After a while, we realized it was hard to be designer, facilitator and participant, so we sought someone else to lead us. That’s when we found Sonika. We set up quarterly meetings with her to work on deepening our relationship and work out any kinks that we weren’t comfortable bringing up on our own. I likened our relationship to a high performing car needing frequent tune ups to continue to run well. (As you know, I was delusional about lots of things in my marriage!)
Sonika suggested we do what she dubbed “heart shares” at least once a week, right before lights out when we were still lucid enough to be fully present. So not lying in bed before drifting to sleep. But going to bed half-hour early, lighting some candles and snuggling. A heart share isn’t reporting what happened during the day, or what you have coming up tomorrow. It has nothing to do with tasks.
Instead, it is being vulnerable to your partner, sharing concerns you have about your life, health, or loved one(s). Or it could be sharing a dream for the future in a way that in another setting you may withhold because you’re concerned your partner may think it’s silly or be threatened (if it’s a direction different than you know s/he wants to go).
The key when you are listening to a heart share is to really work at active listening. You’re saying, “Shouldn’t you do that all the time?” But we don’t when we’re talking about the mundane logistics of life. So when you’re listening to your partner, work to listen without interrupting, breathe in tandem, show you’re listening, not redirect the conversation to what you want, or object to what’s being said. If he raises a doubt or concern, you can say, “I can understand how you might feel that way,” but you aren’t — at that moment — to tell him why his perception is wrong.
Each person gets 10-15 minutes. When it feels one is winding up, the listener says, “Is there anything else?” You want the other to feel complete. Then you switch.
When both of you are done, you may want to go back and say, “Wow. I never realized you had a dream of being a citizen of the world. Have you thought of how we could make that happen, even on a small scale at first?” Or, “I understand your feelings of inadequacy about creating a loving committed relationship since your ex cheated on you.” You’re not problem solving here. You’re just showing you listened, and wanting more information if needed.
Heart shares don’t have to wait until a couple is in a committed relationship. They can happen when you feel safe and connected enough to allow yourself to be vulnerable without fear of being chastised or ridiculed. At first they may seem awkward. But if both of you want to have a deeper emotional connection, you can introduce this topic and approach the first few as practice, knowing that you will have some kinks to work out.
If you’re willing to try a heart share, tell us what happened afterward.
Technorati Tags: dating Internet, dating online, senior dating, bbw dating, mature dating, dating over 50, dating over 40, online dating advice, dating after 40, dating after 50, over 40 dating, 40+ dating, dating after forty