It is natural to experience a range of emotions when relating with our partner, good and bad, happy and difficult. However, when we get stock in negative cycles of misunderstandings that start affecting how close, safe, secure, intimate and respected we feel with each other, we need to start identifying “the unconscious dance” or the patterns that may be affecting our relationship.
This “unconscious dance” is created in order to cope in our relationship, especially when we are feeling threatened, hurt, stressed, or anxious. How we deal with our difficult emotions or when we feel vulnerable, in our relationship, are both a threat and a trigger for our partners.
When we catch ourselves protesting, criticising, attacking, judging, controlling, poking, accusing, blaming, demanding, and/or nagging, in the relationship, what we might be feeling underneath is something like: “Please don´t disappear, please don´t shut down; That makes me feel very lonely, I am feeling anxious and insecure. Stay with me! I need you, so I can feel safe! Respond to me!!, Please do not leave me alone!”.
Nevertheless, to say any of the above statements to our partners, could makes us feel vulnerable, because we may have ideas like: “it is not ok to feel needy”, “I should be self-sufficient”, “I do not like to show any weakness”, etc. It can feel too risky to open up and be vulnerable. Instead we complain, demand, or accuse. Instead of sounding “needy” with statements like: “I need to connect with you” , we say “how can you never listen!” or “you do not care about me!”.
For some of us, instead of accusing and protesting to our partners, we can become avoidant and we tend to withdraw and disappear, in order to avoid conflict, disappointment and disharmony. Even though we can appear cool, distant or unaffected during difficult times or arguments, inside our bodies we feel our hearts pounding or maybe our palms sweating or maybe numb and not in our bodies anymore. The physical discomfort and even psychological distress are occurring underneath an apparently cool, intelligent and detached behaviour.
Accommodating, using humour, avoiding, shutting down, deflecting or smoothing things over are a few strategies we learned maybe when we were very young in order to protect our vulnerability and do not upset the people that were important for us. It can also be related to when we do not know how to express our feelings or how to get in tune with ourselves or our partner without creating more disconnection. When we feel disengaged and avoiding conflict what we really would like to say is something similar to: “Please, I want to keep the peace. I am very unhappy when we are disconnected! I am nervous when I do not feel in harmony with you! I wish you could see that I am trying to show you that I care and I do not want to fight! I am trying to fix the problem by not getting upset!”
These are of course only some examples of some unconscious dances that can play out in our relating, when we feel scared to loose connection and experience frictions. It is important to become aware of these patterns, so we can take the risk to be open up to what is really happening underneath. Our vulnerability usually creates instant connection and establish the love and safety we are looking for.
See if you can identify the “unconscious dance” in your relationship. Try to remember how you or your partner described your behaviours when you had a conflict, or maybe it can help you recalling a recent disagreement or something that triggers you and how did you respond.