My friend Paul is a wise man. He has a great deal of wisdom that I have come to rely upon in my life. We have a lot of very interesting conversations, as he too, is somewhat fascinated by the final frontier of life: relationships.
He came up with the following questions to be used on a nightly basis for any intimate pairing. I have begun to utilize them in all of my relationships. They are not hard questions in and of themselves. But they are questions designed to give you immediate feedback on where you and the other person are within your relationship...
1. Do you feel heard?
2. Do you feel cared for?
3. Do you feel safe?
Do you feel heard?
I think we repeat ourselves in our most intimate relationships a great deal because we do not feel heard. We are attempting to communicate with the most important people in our lives but we fail to adequately assess and care about whether or not what we are saying and what they are saying is actually landing. How do we ever think that we are going to have any kind of loving, lasting relationship with others if we do not first find out if they are hearing us and we are hearing them? Communication occurs only with connection and must always be bi-directional.
Do you feel cared for?
Love is a hard thing to define. Which is why I like cared for better. Love has a lot of baggage but cared for is much lighter and simpler...it is a tenderness that accompanies the day, the hour and the minute. It is a loving embrace or playful slap on the ass. It is folding the laundry because your mother, sister, brother, partner, child whose job it normally is, has had a hard day or is tired or has too much on their plate to fulfill their normal responsibilities. It can be tickling your partners head until they fall asleep. It can be making your child’s favorite dinner. There are a million ways to show care and concern for your loved one...are you doing it? Are you ensuring that the people you love, feel it? And are you showing them in a way that they need to feel it? Not just in the way you care to express it?
Do you feel safe?
We don’t talk much about this in any of our relationships (well, at least I haven't), which is a shame because it is super important and the real cause for upheaval if you ask me. I will speak for myself but very few people that I have been in relationship with have ever asked me if I felt safe. And if others had, the answer would have been a resounding NO a great deal of the time...provided I could have honestly said that I didn’t.
If I am honest now, there are many of my relationships that I do not feel safe within...not all the time. Which is why this is such an important and fundamental question to ask and be asked daily. I have done a good job of allowing the most unsafe ones to fall away. Friendships where I could not be honest and keep the friendship going, dating partners that I just didn’t feel the way that I should to move forward. But if you scare me badly enough, I will do some pretty fucked up shit. I will hurt you before you can hurt me. I will leave you and provide you no reason why. I will keep you at a distance while allowing you to remain in my life. I know you all do it too...
Safety in any intimate relationship should be something that we are all seeking to achieve for ourselves as well as for our partners whomever they might be: parent, child, lover, friend, co-worker. While this might seem like an awkward question to ask in any intimacy, it seems to me to be fundamental and relationship altering if it can be incorporated into the relationship dialogue.
Safety is such a needed and fundamental thing, yet if you ask most people about their most intimate partnerships, they do not feel safe: emotionally, sexually or sometimes physically. I think we have to start talking about this and finding a way to bring it to the forefront of daily living. An honest and sincere desire to see if the people we love more than anything, feel safe in their relationship with us. And if we can honestly say that we feel safe with them.
It seems to me that these three questions are revolutionary in their effect and consequence. Our willingness to inquire so basic yet so often forgotten or dismissed or neglected. What would happen if we all started a conversation on a daily basis about whether or not we felt heard, we felt cared for, we felt safe? I do not think that if we did this on a daily basis, that it would be a long conversation. It could be quick and lighthearted most of the time if we stayed current. The heaviness would only really come if we allowed the passage of time to build these most basic needs into something far greater and harder to swallow than the more bite sized morsels contained in a day...
Today I can say that I feel heard, I feel cared for and I feel safe in all my relationships...but it is only 8:36 am...which is why I will need to ask myself this again come bedtime, and remember to make it a priority to inquire the same for all those I love.