Do you bowl forward and demand what you want, citing all the things you have done for them? Do you tip toe around them, worrying they will get triggered, upset with you, or that your desire will scare them? Do you brush off your desire, telling yourself it's too much to ask and not worth rocking the boat?
Oftentimes it can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are wanting something more or different from our partner, and even scarier to tell them. We don't want it to come out as blame and we want our partner to feel loved and seen, and we don't know how to tell them all this while letting them into our hunger for what we are longing for. We might react to this fear of our desire in any of the ways above, but there is a better way.
In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) we talk about a Two-part communication. In Two-part communication you identify and speak to both parts of yourself:
For example: "There's a part of me that really wants to have more passion in our sex AND there's another part of me that is afraid to tell you that, because I'm worried you will get upset"
You share the part that is wanting something and the part that is having a feeling about telling your partner that you want this. Usually that second part is some flavor of fear, including feeling self-conscious, worried, uncertain, ashamed, uncomfortable, etc.
Desire Part + Fear Part = Two-Part communication.
In using Two-Part communication we are expressing ourselves more fully, with more awareness and vulnerability, and allow our partner to see all of us.
By expressing both what we want AND our fear of saying what we want, we let our partner into the whole of what we are experiencing. We are leading the conversation with vulnerability, which often will evoke the same open-hearted vulnerability from our partner.
In using parts language, we are giving a little space between our emotional reaction and our choices. We are inviting in awareness and non-reactivity. When we NOTICE an experience we are having (rather than just being in the experience) we actually use a different part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, which is involved in regulating arousal (fight/flight) and facilitating conscious perception of sensory stimuli (Source Here).
Our emotional reactions happen in the Limbic System, which simply reacts when we feel a perceived threat (like our partner not meeting our needs). But our Reticular Activating System allows us consciously perceive the racing heart, the clenched stomach, the anger, so that we can respond with choice.
When we use parts language, we are using our Reticular Activating System to help us regulate all this body arousal so we can calmly express our feelings and needs in a way that our partner can more easily respond to.
So next time you are talking with your partner about something you are wanting, whether it's more variety in the bedroom or the dishes to be done, try expressing both the part of you that is wanting that thing and the part of you that is afraid of expressing it. We learn only through trial and error, so be kind to yourself and your partner as you hobble through this complicated thing we call relationship.
Karen Wolfe, MFT offers depth therapy with practices to deepen your connection to your Self and to others for individuals and couples in the Bay Area and via video conference across California