Annie’s Story

Relationship Discussion

Is it possible that you are looking for issues in your relationship to get your partner to open up and talk to you? There are times in every relationship when issues need to be discussed, but if you are constantly having one conversation after another with your partner about things that upset you, there’s something deeper going on.

Become closer to your partner, schedule an appointment with Lisa Shield today

This is exactly what was happening with my client, Annie. Annie’s a very sweet, soft-spoken, self-aware woman who is in a promising new relationship with, Greg, a man she met online. Early in the relationship, a few conflicts arose around how to deal with exes and how much alone time they each needed. When Annie raised these issues with Greg, he was not only receptive to what she said, but he actually thanked her for sharing her concerns right away. Greg said that his previous girlfriend had the terrible habit of harboring resentments and dumping them on him out of the blue, in the middle of an argument.

For the first few weeks of the relationship, I encouraged Annie to tell Greg what was on her mind and gave her a step-by-step process I developed for getting emotionally “naked” and asking for what she needed.

“I never realized how many subtle accusations I was making in the ways I communicated with men,” Annie reported one day. “But thanks to your coaching, I was able to tell Greg how I was feeling without throwing him on the defensive. It’s been eye-opening.”

I was pleased with her success, but I was also growing concerned. Every time we spoke, something else about Greg was bothering her. On that same day, she mentioned that she was upset about a certain tone Greg had used with her. The next time we spoke, she said that she was angry because he’d left her alone too long at a party without checking in with her. I pointed out to Annie that there seemed to be no end to her complaints. She admitted that she was worried about this, as well.

 “Lisa, it doesn’t make any sense,” she said, woefully. “Greg and I had a fabulous weekend. He took me away to Santa Barbara. We stayed at this cute B&B and spent the entire time hiking, wine tasting, and hanging out by the beach. He even packed a picnic with all my favorite foods. But then he was quiet in the car on the way home, and I started fixating on all the little things he’d done wrong over the course of the weekend—one time he gave his order to the waitress before me and another time he fell asleep without kissing me goodnight… stuff like that. It felt like I was looking for something to complain about.”

Annie was looking for something to complain about. She had been feeling disconnected from Greg, but instead of looking at herself and asking why she felt that way, she blamed Greg for the way she was feeling. If he “really cared” about her, he would have been more sensitive to her needs. He “should have” sensed that she was feeling disconnected. Maybe this wasn’t the right relationship after all.

“Annie,” I said, “if you were feeling disconnected from Greg, why didn’t you do something to connect with him? You could have reached over and massaged the back of his neck, or said, ‘A penny for your thoughts.’”

“I don’t know… I guess I didn’t do it because I was afraid that Greg would think I was being needy,” she replied, forlornly.

I knew that Annie had never been in a close, intimate relationship; at least, not one that she was proud of. Now I understood why. At 45 she was as confused as a teenager about how to act around her new boyfriend. She had told me that she wanted this relationship to work more than anything, but she wasn’t sure if Greg felt the same way. At times—like when they were sitting in the car in silence—the uncertainty of not knowing if she and Greg were on the same page overwhelmed her, and her mind went to dark places, making it almost impossible for her to reach out to him.

Become closer to your partner, schedule an appointment with Lisa Shield today

The only way Annie felt comfortable initiating a connection with Greg was by talking about the relationship. When they talked, it felt like Greg was opening up to her and sharing the inner workings of his heart. Talking made her safe and secure because then she knew for sure what Greg was thinking. Every time they worked through a problem together it seemed like they got a little closer…  or, at least temporarily it did. What Annie really needed to feel safe in the relationship was to know how Greg felt about her at all times, but this was impossible. Greg couldn’t constantly keep reassuring her. So, it wasn’t long before Greg did something that caused her to feel insecure again.

“Annie,” I said, choosing my words carefully, “People need to talk about issues in relationships, but you need to be careful. The conversations you’re having seem to be less about the two of you growing together as a couple and more about you trying to get Greg to constantly reassure you so that you can feel safe. If you keep talking about every little thing that bothers you, you’ll wear him out.”

“I see what you mean about how I am trying to get him to make me feel safe and secure,” she said, shaking her head. “I have to admit, I get an emotional fix when we have one of these conversations. I feel like I’m a relationship conversation junkie. I have to stop doing this before I push him away.”

Like Annie, you might be addicted to having “talks” with your partner so that you can feel safer in your relationship. If this is happening, you need to take a step back and consider some other things you can do to create a connection. Trust me, sitting around and processing the relationship gets old, fast. You will wear your partner out with your need for constant reassurance.

So what can you do to break this cycle? It really is quite simple. First, you can get emotionally naked and tell your partner what you’ve been doing. Yes, you heard me right. You need to go to your partner and say, “I want to apologize for something I’ve been doing in this relationship. I’ve been raising issues and having all these conversations with you because it’s my way of trying to feel safe. If I can get you to talk to me and tell me what’s on your mind, then you aren’t such a mystery anymore.” Why should you tell your partner what you’ve been doing? There are two reasons. The first is because on some level your partner already knows what you’ve been doing. By taking responsibility for your actions, you will gain back some credibility in your partner’s eyes. The second reason is that, when you admit to what you’ve been doing, it won’t be as easy for you to keep doing it because your partner is now fully aware of what you’ve been up to.

The second part of this equation is that you need to look at yourself and ask what you can do besides having conversations with your partner to feel safe in the relationship. Here are a few things:

  1. Work with a relationship coach to you strengthen your self-confidence
  2. Make sure that you have other interests and friends outside of the relationship so that you aren’t making your relationship the only focus in your life.
  3. When you start to go into a negative spiral, stop and write a gratitude list of all the things you’re grateful for about your partner and your life.
  4. When you start feeling disconnected from your partner, use actions rather than words to reconnect.

Annie realized that the emotional fix she got from talking with Greg about their relationship was only ever temporary.  She also realized that she loved Greg and the last thing that she wanted was to lean on him emotionally. Besides, she didn’t want to talk about how to have a great relationship; she wanted to have one. Annie followed my advice and told Greg that she had been feeling insecure and was constantly trying to get reassurance from him. She said that this was the “scariest and most naked conversation” she’d ever had with a man. At first, she was worried that if she told Greg what was going on it would hurt their relationship, but it had the opposite effect. Greg already knew what was going on. He admitted that he was starting to feel resentful towards her, so he was relieved when she brought up the subject and said that she was already working on it with her coach.

If you think you are a relationship conversation junkie, you need to tell your partner what you’re up to and find other ways to build your self-esteem. As a reformed relationship conversation junkie, I can promise you that breaking this pattern can lead you to a loving, lasting, naked relationship, one that can last a lifetime.

Become closer to your partner, schedule an appointment with Lisa Shield today