Hiding from Your Partner
Before I understood what I was allergic to and changed my diet, I had painful body symptoms of various sorts pretty consistently. At times I found myself in shame about this tried to hide my symptoms from my partner. I didn't want him to see me as a sickly person or think I was a burden. Of course, trying to hide my symptoms only created more difficulty for us.
There are lots of reasons you might hide from your partner. You may want him or her to see you a certain way. You may think that hiding will allow for more harmony or fun. You may worry that your partner will take on your difficulty and get overwhelmed and then resentful. You may have a belief that you can only be loved if you act a certain way.
Whatever the reason, hiding can only diminish your connection. It interrupts the flow between you and your partner. A connection based on pretense is fragile and unsatisfying.
Over and over I have witnessed that when something difficult is responsibly expressed the heaviness around it dissolves. What seems huge when held inside becomes smaller and less dramatic when expressed.
How to have a sense of responsibility in what you express is the key here. Part of cultivating a NVC consciousness is becoming aware of your motivations (that is, what need you are hoping to meet) in what you say and do. When it is difficult to share your experience with your partner you can make it easier on both of you by getting clear about your purpose for sharing.
For example, when I was sick I learned to share my symptoms by expressing my purpose like this, "I am not making any requests for you to do anything different or to change what's happening, I just want to let you know where I'm at. My head is hurting and my energy is low." Your partner can sense when you are struggling with something. Expressing your experience clearly allows your partner to have relief from the guessing game of "What's wrong? Did I do something to upset you?" You may also get some relief from shame jackals who say who shouldn't be experiencing what you're experiencing.
Noticing reactivity arising is a particularly useful arena in which to express clearly. Hiding reactivity tends to feed it. (Simply noticing reactivity and choosing not to express it because you are staying connected despite it is much different from hiding). Letting your partner know some reactivity has come as soon as you notice it helps in at least two important ways.
One, when you name a reactive pattern for what it is you stop identifying with it and are less likely to be swept away in it. Two, when your partner hears you name reactivity and express your purpose in doing so, s/he gets a greater sense of trust or safety seeing that you are consciously working to stay connected.
You might say something like this, "I want to hear you and I notice I am starting to react. Give me a moment to take a breath and get re-centered." In that moment you engage in the strategies you have to dis-identify from reactivity and connect with your heart (see archive articles on reactivity if you need some reminders here).
For now take a moment to reflect on the last few days and notice if there is something you have been hiding out of fear or shame. If you choose to express this to your partner, what is your request. Are asking for empathy? Are just offering an update about your world to help the two of you stay connected? Are you looking for perspective or clarity about a particular issue? For example, maybe you need some clarity about how your partner sees you, some reassurance that s/he knows that you are not your difficulties.
This week, challenge yourself to come forward when you have the impulse to hide. Express your experience and your intention for sharing it (i.e., your request).