Unsticking polarising positions (and conversations) that block intimacy

Most of the time, when emotions aren't running too high, and where we feel good about where our relationship is at, we do a fairly good job of hearing our partner's different points of view. We may even do well at accepting where they are at, even if we don't understand it very well. However, when we don't feel as secure in our relationship, too often this very important skill fails us. Our need to BE understood and have our partner respond to us in a way that makes us feel secure may overtake our capacity to be the understanding and responsive one. Again - not necessarily the end of the world, if we can recognise that this has happened and then repair it. But if we start to make sense of difficulties we may be having in our relationship by wanting our partner to think the same as we do, to respond to things in the same way as we do (or the way we think they SHOULD do) then we are in real trouble. It is this type of thinking that sets the scene for each partner taking a position, arguing passionately for the value of that position, and not being willing to admit there is any value to the opposing view. At their extreme, conversations based on this dynamic become polarised - I am in my corner, you are in yours, and the fight begins. There can be only one outcome - one winner, one loser. This is truly the death of intimacy! While the winner may momentarily feel good, there is a high price to pay, of true connection with their partner - connection that can only come from understanding and truly appreciating how things are from another point of view, The loser may either feel terrible - like their point of view is 'bad' and 'wrong', that their perspective is not important to their partner - or perhaps even more concerning, they may convince themselves they are fine. Where this happens, they have not only lost connection with their partner, but with themselves - with their own needs, longings, beliefs and values. There is NO room for intimacy where this occurs. To create a relationship beyond the paradigm of 'winners and losers' requires appreciating and accepting the valuable and unique perspective that each partner brings to the table, and creating a space together where both views are respected and taken into consideration when thinking about how to create intimacy. Intimacy is most powerful when we are known and accepted for who we are, even while we may be asked to modify or change behaviour that may cause distress. While it may not be easy, we are usually willing to change our behaviour once this is uncoupled from any expectation that we change who we are. It's a tricky balance to strike - but when we get it right, a deeper kind of knowing each other (and perhaps ourselves too) becomes possible. After all, in seeing ourselves through a different lens we have the opportunity to know parts of ourselves. In accepting the impact of these parts of ourselves on someone we care about, we have the opportunity to bring those parts of ourselves into the relationship, and therefore into further possibilities for intimacy. In this way, a process quite opposite to that driven by polarising positions may become activated and maintained - where our courage to accept our partner's perspective enlarges our awareness of ourselves, which in turn allows us to notice and attend to more subtle levels of connecting that build further intimacy in an environment free of fear that parts of ourselves will be seen as something to be judged negatively or invalidated.

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