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#1. When You Get Home with Lots to Do:
- Don’t begin your time together by giving directions or checking to-do lists, because there’s so much going on.
- Do hug your loved ones. Look them in the eye and seek a moment of connection, such as sharing that you’re glad to see them.
Why this works…
Therapist Fiachra O’Sullivan reminds us that asking “for our needs to be met” is really bad relationship advice. That’s because there’s a problem in the way we tend to ask. Telling loved ones what to do or how to meet our expectations usually triggers a self-defensive response. There’s no way for the friendliness to get through.
The problem comes when we speak from our reactivity, not the deeper, more important reasons for the way we feel. Speaking from a harsh first reaction can threaten our partner’s sense of being okay with us. How can we expect loved ones to hear our message, pitch in with good cheer, or offer comfort, when they feel criticized, rejected or judged inadequate?
Putting the First Impulse on Pause
Take a moment to settle in first. Instead of: “Hi I’m home. Did you do the laundry so we can start packing for our trip?” Try this: “Hi, I’m home! What a busy day. I’m so glad to see you.”
What about later, if we find out our loved one has let us down about the laundry, by forgetting something, or in some other way? I agree with what O’Sullivan suggests instead: Allow yourself to react. Privately. It’s okay, and it’s only human to respond emotionally. Then be curious about why you feel as you do.
Try to see this as a chance to let your partner know your tender spots, vulnerably. Instead of pinning your disappointment on your loved one, as in, “Why didn’t you do the laundry like I asked?” try to think about why that hurts for you, without judging the other as a source of the pain.
“I see the laundry isn’t done, and I’m feeling so down because I was hoping to be finished packing soon, and relax together tonight. I didn’t want this evening to be rushed. Time out with you is so important to me, and it looks like it doesn’t matter — like I don’t matter. That makes me so sad.”
It’s not easy, sharing what is happening inside us without reactivity or blame!
Learning to Speak From the Heart
Our efforts might not go well at first, especially in the distracting hustle and bustle of the holidays. If it’s messy, that’s okay. It takes practice hearing what your heart is saying, and sharing it.
By learning to open up like this, you offer the gift of your deeper presence with your loved ones, in a safe, non-threatening way. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s about making space for emotional connection.
Tuning in fully to other’s living presence is a beautiful, restorative gift, no matter what else is swirling around you.