Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing for a new workshop that I’m offering with two dear friends. Our workshop is all about relating courageously and compassionately, and so I’ve been thinking about what it means to be authentic in relationships, and how having compassion can make a difference to the quality of authenticity.
I was in a relationship many years ago where neither myself, nor my partner, knew how to talk about the difficult things without upsetting each other. Trying to give feedback about something that happened in bed, asking for something we wanted from the other person, or even trying to plan our future together- it would often end in one of us having a melt down, crying, angry, slamming doors. And then I would do the worst thing possible- I would blame my partner for how I was feeling, and decide to avoid the conversations all together.
I think of how many times I’ve stumbled in having those difficult conversations with someone I care about, and feeling that there had to be a way to find clarity and compassion in communication- it’s one of the things that inspired my journey as a relationship coach!
Having courageous conversations in our relationships is one of the most challenging pieces, and I have a lot of compassion for that.
I’ve learned a lot since that relationship where I was blaming my partner for our communication challenges. I discovered that when we play a blame game we are negating our own capacity for compassion. It was years before I realised how challenging I must have been for that partner, and how the reactions we were both stuck in took away from the space of authenticity we were desire to feel.
We had been expressing things that were what I call ‘surface level’ truths. And, authenticity isn’t about expressing what’s surface level, it’s about expressing what’s deep.
Think of the ocean- the ripples on the surface may conceal strong currents underneath. What we experience at the surface level of our lives can serve as clues, but those clues aren’t enough to navigate by; we need to have an understanding of the deeper tides, the core needs and wounds we each carry. We need to know these for ourselves, and have compassion for them- whether known or unknown- in others.
Next time you find yourself challenged by, or holding back from a conversation with a loved one, you can ask yourself:
- What’s really going on for me here? What is the thing that I am asking for?
- What might be the core need for me here?
Identifying that core need can be such a crucial epiphany, because there is always more than one way to address those core parts of ourselves.
So much of a healthy relationship boils down to this- our mutual ability to dig down to the deeper truths we all carry, and learning how to relate from those spaces. Learning these skills can be a life long process, but even realising that there’s more to learn- that’s a great place to start!