You can’t have a truly fantastic relationship without some amount of self-reflection, personal inquiry, and willingness to consider truths about yourself–no matter how uncomfortable it becomes.
Most people live their lives with minimal inquiry into their inner world.
They pay little attention to what makes them tick, why they respond one way rather than another, why they feel relaxed in certain kinds of situations and not others, or even why they love reading one genre versus another. It means remaining unaware of motivations, intentions, protective mechanisms, or an understanding of why it’s easier to say some things and far more difficult to express others. This is especially true when it comes to romantic relationships and marriage.
Most people just are the way they are and leave it at that.
Obviously, you can have a great deal of material success in life without becoming attuned to your inner world. You can fulfill your parent’s dreams. You can advance in your career. You can make your mark in your industry, and you can be well loved by your children–all without exploring the contours of your own interior.
However, you can’t have a truly fantastic relationship without some amount of self-reflection, personal inquiry, and willingness to consider truths about yourself that are uncomfortable.
Why Do You Need To Put Attention On Your Inner World?
The answer to this question is quite complex, and there are many approaches one can take in answering it. One response concerns childhood experiences and conditioning. Whatever worked for you in your childhood context is how you likely to operate in adulthood. If you come from a very expressive family, you will be expressive (and be confused by your partner’s lack of sharing). If you come from a stoic family, you will be stoic and easily overwhelmed when your partner is emotional. If the adults around you were irresponsible, you may have become responsible to a fault and focused on making sure things turn out well for you and those you care about.
In considering childhood influences, the natural tendency is to either emulate how your parents were, or to reject it and therefore do the opposite. In both cases your behavoirs are the result of your uprbing. Largely unconscious and implemented without self-reflection. Neither approach is particularly evolved and neither one is contingent on getting to know your inner world. You can emulate your parents, or do the opposite, while largely unaware of what is happening inside you.
If you want growth and connection with another human being, including intimacy filled with nuance and intensity, deep conversations and erotic chemistry – alignment and heat – then exploring your inner world is a prerequisite. Finding a way to move away the cobwebs and see what is revealed becomes essential.
It’s necessary to know yourself well enough to allow you to objectively connect with another, without codependence or compulsion. Getting to know your inner world means getting to know all of yourself more clearly. It becomes an invitation to work through your triggers, become more generous, and also become more present and responsive in your relationship.
As you grow in the way I am describing, you’re likely to see assumptions you’ve been making about your partner’s motivations, and about your own capacities–assumptions that are wrong. You’ll see things in new ways, and it will set you free! You probably will see how you are blocking whatever you most want! This is humbling, and also makes possible feelings of connection far better than any you’ve accessed before.
When I Realized I Needed To Focus On My Inner World
I’m reminded of a time when my husband and I had a revelation about a dynamic in our relationship. We realized that every time we disagreed I knew I was right, and I knew he was wrong. He felt the same way. In other words, when we disagreed, I saw his limitations and where he needed to grow to make things better, and that’s what he saw too!
Keep in mind that my husband is an amazing, accomplished Harvard graduate who is now a doctor and Chief of his department. He is no slouch. But in our relationship (as far as I was concerned at the time) I was always right and he was always wrong.
Then one day, in a moment of frustration, when we both wanted to find a new way forward, (as if it were a flash of lightning) I realized I had a superiority complex and he had an inferiority complex – all within the context of our relationship.
I always thought I was right. He always thought he was wrong. We were a perfect match – except it was totally dysfunctional.
Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the marital dynamic either of us wanted!
Through personal inquiry and exploring my inner world, I had discovered my bias and then saw how his bias matched mine.
When I said it out loud – with great hesitation because I knew it was very vulnerable to have him see this – he became more empowered and also relieved.
It was a challenging, and glorious, journey to get to where I could catch myself in that dynamic. It was also essential to be able to shift and let go of my certainty and learn to listen for his wisdom. In time, I learned to recognize his incredible contribution, even if it came in a way that was different from what I had been looking for.
This experience righted the power dynamic in our relationship, and, in turn, made it possible for me to feel supported as never before. And he was able to feel seen and respected as never before, which gratified both of us!
I share this story with a lot of my private clients, because they experience their own version of this phenomenon. It’s quite common that one person tends to win arguments, or be the one to determine what happens (regardless of what they agree on verbally).
It took a moment for me to become aware of this pattern because it was the hardwon result of many moments of journaling, answering questions and considering observations posed to me by our coach, and being willing to get to know my inner world for the mysterious, fertile reservoir of wisdom it is.
Your inner world has as much to offer you, and so does your partner’s.If you’d like to learn more about having a growth oriented relationship, read my book Uncompromising Intimacy and check out my coaching programs here.