“My partner is not ‘opening up’ to me. I don’t know what they feel. I don’t know what to do. He/She had a difficult childhood. I love him/her but it is hard”. This is a question I heard so many times…and while nobody may have a ‘correct’ answer to this question I do have some observations based on my work with people who had difficult childhood of their own – and people who have long term partners who had difficult childhood; so I heard both sides of the story. Here are some suggestions that work.
You may find yourself in a facilitating role and feel that this is ‘wrong’ because there supposed to be a natural, automatic and magical romantic attraction containing some mystery; or feel that you are supposed to experience a natural, automatic and unconditional love towards your family member to a point of self-sacrifice just because ‘everybody love their family members, right?’. When we talk about both parties who had good chances to grow and develop in a supportive or at least not in a hostile environment, then usually, yes. But….
- What if for the other person there is simply no such a reference point as ‘supportive relationship’?
- What if there was a trauma – physical or emotional – which stunted their emotional development?
- What if they just grew up in a grey and loveless home?
- What if there is/was something else which one way or another compromised the ability for human connection, romantic or not?
Here is the video transcript 🙂
“Using questions about the other person to understand who they are and connect with them better: imagine somebody had a challenging childhood. What happens – apart from trauma; apart from the freezing stage in emotions; apart from stunted emotional development – what also happens here is: they don’t understand themselves. So not only they are not able to really open up to another person in relationships. They’ve been busy in childhood trying to deal with a trauma; to survive; to adapt; to function; to grow up somehow – having this ‘frozen’ part and maybe not just one. So they didn’t have playful, happy, plentiful time to find out who they are; they didn’t have supportive parents who helped them. And so when they are not opening up to you in relationship it might mean that it’s not a problem with them opening up to you: maybe they trust you; maybe they love you; maybe they’re happy to give you your preferred style of communication – visual to visual, kinaesthetic to kinaesthetic. Because they are not quite clear on who they are and what they want, this can create a massive, massive thing in communication: you suggest something; they agree -because they have no idea if this is good for them or this is not good for them. And then it turns out that they’re not happy. So they need to go really for self-discovery regardless of their age. And the best way you can help them with – if they’re willing to do that – is asking them questions. So, you ask them a lot of questions. Not necessarily you talk about yourself, your needs – there is a time and space for it obviously in relationship – but you need to start with helping them to connect to themselves. And when they are more or less connected to themselves – so their Body, Soul and Spirit are all ‘together’; they are integrated – from this space they can really relate better. So you can ask them a lot: how do you feel? how was your day? Simple questions – do you like tea or coffee? – can open up something because these people normally are very very ‘lost’ – they don’t know what they prefer. You give them plenty of choice; you talk to them; you try by asking questions and not suggesting anything, not imposing your will or your agenda, to help them to open up to themselves. And so then they can open up to you. Get really interested in this person who’s next to you. It could be your partner; it could be your child; it could be your family member. Drop your own preconceptions; drop the belief that you’re always right because you ‘feel this way’. When we feel something very strongly – especially when we are very emotionally inclined – we feel like we are right just because we are suffering. And of course they are wrong – because we are suffering… right? Your suffering could have nothing to do with them because you have your own set of problems. This is the key. You help them to connect with themselves and from this place communication is possible. So you ask them a lot of questions – and actually the interesting thing happens. Because it seems like this is just one-way road – it is not! Every time the question is asked – and there are two people – two people are listening…. they are listening, but you’re listening too. So the magic happens: you are asking them but then your subconscious always hears a question *also* sorry hears the question. And you automatically see: okay, do I like tea or coffee? Do I like my morning walk or evening walk? If they are really really frozen, rigid – start with simple choices. Because very often people say: oh, I don’t mind… I will have tea or coffee… I would have like a spicy curry or I would have a plain potato… Of course they have their preferences; it’s just they never let themselves to tap into that. So you help them to do it and by letting them do it, you also give yourself permission to do the same…. if you need that permission – because very often if you attract this sort of person, there is also a part of us which is on the same wavelength – even if we are more in a ‘facilitating’ role in a relationship, because of our personal development; because of our professional skills; because of our desire. Nobody is perfect. There is still something in ourselves that also responds to this – and this could be beautiful. So remember – every time you ask somebody a question to help them to get in touch with themselves, you are also listening. It’s a totally totally two-ways road.”
This is a fragment from our October 2022 Cafe Self Q&A – thank you for your great questions! Please feel free to connect if you have further questions using the form below, I’m happy to help 🙂