They are important and necessary in a relationship but the emotional world is often an area that catches most of us by the toe. If you didn’t have an upbringing where emotions were viewed as good, were shared, and validated then the emotional world can be seen as a bad thing you want to avoid. If this is you then you weren’t shown or told how to effectively share and receive emotions so that leaves many of us lost. Here I want to help put you on the road of Intentional intimacy and provide some clarity and safety around sharing your emotions in a way that feels “doable”- no overwhelm here.
Types of Emotional Sharers:
First let’s take a quick look at two basic types of emotional sharers, although there are certainly many nuances.
The first are those that are “Pool-Swimmers” in the pool of emotions. (Or technically Anxious/Pursuer if we want to get snazzy"). If this is you then you are frequently swimming around in the pool of emotions, which means you are in with emotions a lot. Emotions are everywhere and even if you are in the pool this doesn’t mean you know how to swim effectively, so the surrounding emotions can be a bit overwhelming. There’s also so much to share because you are swimming around in all the emotions and you want to share it all, so it’s hard to condense it into just one thing. Instead, you often end up sharing all the things, wanting to pull your partner into the emotional pool with you and thinking “Come swim with me!”. But your partner resists because it feels overwhelming to go into the pool, which you don’t understand because it feels like your partner is resisting being with YOU.
The second type of emotional sharer is the “Pool-Sider” (Avoidant/Withdrawer). This is you if you stand at the edge of the pool of emotions because you have no idea how to swim in all those emotions. To you, you look at the pool and see it as 100 feet deep and drowning totally feels inevitable. So you may think “why on earth would I want to jump in?!”. You end up not going into the pool of emotions, even though your partner tries to pull you in, which you understandably resist because you are thinking- “I don’t know how to swim!”. So you pull back from the calls from your partner, the Pool-Swimmer, or you do go into the pool but you only dip a toe in. The result? You end up sharing nothing at all or only little tidbits from when you dipped your toe in. This leaves you feeling relieved that you didn’t drown or frustrated “why can’t we just stay up here and lounge in the chairs where it’s safe?!”, but your partner is left wanting more.
Learning to Swim Safely in the Pool of Emotions:
The Mad, Sad Glad exercise below will help you both to learn to swim together, without overwhelm or frustration on either side. The idea is to meet in the middle and then grow from there. I don’t want the Pool-Swimmer to pull the Pool-Sider into the deep end of the pool and I don’t want the Pool-Sider to not go into the pool at all. So instead we are headed first to the kiddie pool and then you can go deeper and deeper into the pool of emotions as confidence in swimming increases. So grab a floaty and goggles!
Set aside 3 minutes for this exercise and have one partner be the giver and the other the receiver. When you are the receiver you are asking about the emotions of the giver.
Receiver: “what are you mad about today?”
Giver: “I’m mad about….”
Receiver: “Thank you for sharing! What are you Sad about?
Giver: “I’m sad about…”
Receiver: “Thank you for sharing! What are you Glad about?
Giver: “I’m glad about…”
Receiver: “Thank you for sharing!”
After you reach glad, you’ll want to end with another “thank you for sharing!” and a hug is also nice, and then switch roles.
Importantly you are not asking further questions as the receiver. Also as the giver, you want to keep your response to 1-2 sentences. Any more and you’ve exited out of the kiddie pool and are starting to go into the adult pool, which you can do down the line but I want you to start where it’s more simple as this allows the best growth.
Also, when you start implementing this exercise on a daily (or at least 3-5 times a week) basis, make sure that the emotion you are sharing isn’t “too deep” and highly vulnerable. Think of it as a scale of 0 being neutral, like “I’m glad I got yummy Starbucks today” and a level 10 would look like, “I’m deeply mad about the fact that we haven’t had sex in forever”. You want to practice with the “easier” sharing of emotions before you start to climb down deeper into the deeper end of the pool.
You also have some options with this exercise. When sharing, both you and your partner can share one thing in each category daily. Some couples like to expand this and ask about 3-5 shares in each category. Even still, other couples like to ask until the giver reaches a point of “I think that’s all I’m mad about today”. If you aren’t sure what approach feels good for you, that’s ok! Pick one and then simply play around with different approaches and see what fits for you. You can also play around with the use of words around “Mad, Sad, Glad”. If mad doesn’t fit for you, use perhaps “frustrated” instead. If sad doesn’t fit for you change it to “bummed” instead. The idea is to play around with this exercise so it fits for you in your relationship so you both can be in that pool of emotions together. You’ll get better and better with practice and soon you’ll both be like the Michael Phelps of the emotional pool!
Need help learning how to “swim”? Click here to check out my online coaching options!