Do you remember the last time you sat on a beach and scooped up some sand, noticing how fine, cool and smooth it feels? Did you notice that the more you tighten your grip around it, the more the sand starts to slip through your fingers? But that if you relax your grip, the sand stays there?
When I was young I used to pick flowers when I was out on my walks in Nature (I still do). I used to be worried about dropping the flowers and losing them on my walk, so I would grip them tightly, just to be sure. The heat from my hand and my tight grip around the stems would often mean that these flowers would wilt very quickly. I would ruin them. Now when I pick flowers, I hold them loosely, or put them in a basket, to let them breathe a little, which preserves their beauty more.
When we love someone, it’s natural to want to keep them by our side, and not want to let them go.
Sometimes we tighten our grip on them – particularly when we feel less secure in the relationship. We fear losing them.
This fear can take many forms. It can mean that when our partner develops a new interest, hobby or career, we fear they will lose interest in us. It can mean that we feel jealous when our partner is around members of the opposite sex.
It can also mean that we feel threatened when our partner has an opposing viewpoint about something that means a lot to us. On some level we can feel we have lost them in part, because we realise that they are not the same as us.
We tighten our grip on our partner in lots of different ways; trying to prevent them from having their individual interests, directly confronting them about these, acting out our jealousy with anger, trying to make ourselves indispensable to them so that they cannot manage without us, trying to be the “perfect partner” so they will never leave, and so on.
The problem with this is that our partner will pick up on this anxiety, and will feel suffocated. Which leads to them withdrawing further – which validates our anxiety. Which makes us try to grip more tightly. And just like the sand, the tighter we grasp, the more we lose.
Susan* would try to do everything to be the perfect partner for Steve* – make him meals, dress immaculately, worry if she put on a couple of pounds, iron his clothes, help him to manage his bills. The problem was she felt exhausted with it all, and Steve felt suffocated. It had caused so many arguments in the relationship, because whenever Steve wanted to play golf on the weekend, Susan would become very upset, feeling that he should want to spend all his spare time with her because she did so much for him. Nothing really changed for them until they came to see me for Relationship Coaching. Susan learned to look inwards at why she was feeling so anxious (low self esteem linked to childhood issues of never feeling “good enough”). Steve learned to be more empathetic with Susan and to start to understand her anxiety, giving her the reassurance she needed to relax more in the relationship. It took effort from both of them to turn things around.
The beauty of relationships is that we are all different and unique. When we feel secure in our relationships, that affords us the ability to have individual interests, opinions, feelings, without feeling threatened or worrying that our partner might leave us. Because we know that at the end of the day, our partner will be there for us.
Next time you feel angry, jealous or threatened by something your partner is doing, rather than anxiously tightening your grip on your partner, try looking inwards.
- Are you feeling less than secure in your relationship?
- What are you afraid of?
- Is your partner being less attentive than you would like?
If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, have you spoken about your fears with your partner? This can be so helpful, because if we don’t do this, we are left with our own imagination of what might be going on. And left to our own devices, we imagine the worst. And we project our own worst fears on to the relationship. And when we are frightened, we grip for dear life.
Perhaps you are the one feeling suffocated or trapped by your partner’s anxiety?
- If so, try to respond with compassion.
- Ask your partner about their fears.
- Listen attentively and try to empathise with them.
- Even if you feel they are being irrational, their feelings are still valid. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them to understand the situation from their perspective a little more.
Relationships are like a handful of sand – it is better to hold each other than to grasp each other.
And remember, just as you would a beautiful garden, always tend to and maintain your relationship to feel it thrive!
Your Nature-Inspired Relationship Coach,
P.S. Do you have any thoughts or feelings about this that you would like to share, or are there any issues that you are struggling with in your relationship that you would like me to cover in my blog posts or Facebook Livestreams? If so I would love to hear from you! Just contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through my Facebook Page, Krystal Woodbridge Relationship Coach.
*Client confidentiality is always protected. Case studies are therefore fictional and for illustrative purposes only.