This blog is the transcript of Episode #65 of “Under 10: A Mini Podcast on Intimacy”. Listen along here.
It’s been a month since my last episode. I have returned from travels ready to launch the next season of Under 10. One thing you should know is that, after almost a year and a half of producing this show, I am changing things up. Starting in May 2022, once a month I will still release a podcast that will stay free and my gift to you. This is that episode. But the rest of the month, I will be sharing my episodes exclusively with subscribers to my new patreon page, basically people who have committed to pay a small monthly fee – as low as $10 a month – to support this work. On that page, we are going to be creating a unique community of people who are interested in everything from getting podcasts that are a little more raw and catered to the members to getting access to my ongoing events plus being able to interact over all this content. I hope you will subscribe to join us there! I will be so grateful if you do! Just go to Patreon.com/DrTartaroIntimacyCoaching to sign up.
Now, on to this week’s episode. This week I’m going to explore the experience of relationships getting “stuck” and how to come back to flow. This can be with an intimate partner, someone you are casually dating or with a friend or family member.
By “getting stuck”, what I’m referring to is when you have things unsaid from a moment in time that came before and you can’t fully move on from that previous moment. That’s the sticking agent – the unsaid thing. The highly common occurrence of not saying something when you have it to say can cause stuckness in your relationship. Things unsaid can diminish your present moment availability because some part of you is hanging out in that past moment where you would have said the thing but didn’t.
You know you’ve gotten stuck because the quality of the air between you feels thick. You may find yourself having a conversation with this person in your head but not out loud. And then what can happen is that more disconnected exchanges pile on and the space between you can grow. And now you’re not looking one another in the eyes. You’re in the same room but you’re feeling lonely. And you’re not sure how to get what is clogged in the pipes of your relationship unclogged. Does this sound familiar?
I often work with couples who are in the stuck zone. And I find myself comparing stuckness in connection to a form of relationship constipation. Not everyone is cool with poop references, so you may want to speed ahead here about 20 seconds if that’s you. But when your relationship is stuck, it’s totally the equivalent of food that didn’t get digested and instead is sitting out in your gut causing everything to cramp and blocking your internal pipes. If it happens a lot, it can be a real health hazard. In the same way that our physical digestion can get obstructed, when you have things unsaid with someone, there is a blockage in your relationship. And no matter what you add in after the material that didn’t get originally processed, until you get that original blockage removed, very little is going to flow out. I know you’ve been there. Constipation of any form is not fun.
So what unclogs the pipes, so to speak?
You’ve heard this from me before and it may be obvious but it’s far from easy. You gotta go back to the moment where you had something to say but didn’t, and say it. I know, that may not be consoling news, because it’s likely that it was hard to say to begin with and that’s why you skipped it. You were avoiding the vulnerability and that’s why you lost the connection! Yet it’s the vulnerability that creates the flow. When we want closeness with people, there’s this accounting that happens. The unsaid things take a toll. It’s okay not to say everything to acquaintances and people you have more distance with. But when you want that feeling of closeness, you gotta lean into the awkward, uncomfortable, and even seemingly impolite moment and say the thing.
Let me give an example.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend who had just gotten back from a first date with a guy she liked. She felt mixed about the experience. I asked her why. She told me about how the two of them had planned their long awaited date to begin at a certain time. But then when the day arrived, the guy had shifted the time to later. And when she knocked on the door of his place at that updated time, he still hadn’t showered from his work day. He greeted her kinda stinky and unready to begin their date. She said from this point forward, she felt mildly uncomfortable and couldn’t shake her discomfort for the rest of the date.
What we realized together is that she got stuck at the front door, so to speak. That was the “thing unsaid” moment. It dawned on her as we spoke that what she needed to say but didn’t was that she was disappointed that he had shifted the time of the date and that he still wasn’t ready when she arrived. And that when she blew off her disappointment rather than voicing it, she got stuck. She resolved to let him know her feelings the next time they got together, in the hopes of unsticking her energy so she could relate to him in more present time flow. She shared that she was hopeful about their potential connection and felt excited about leaning into vulnerability and authenticity from the start.
Saying the thing you missed saying is very likely going to ask you to get vulnerable, to take a risk in some way and to step outside of your comfort zone. And the more hurt or stressed out you feel, the harder this is to do. The bad news is that the more time that passes since the thing unsaid, the harder it’s going to be, because now you may have more unsaid that got compacted in the channels of your relating. The good news is that it’s never too late. If you can rewind in time and go back to the first moment you got disconnected, you have a chance at restoring that connection, no matter how much time has passed. Coming back to flow is liberating. You’re going to feel lighter, back in love and so much more at ease in your own skin. It’s important to remember what’s on the other side in order to help you to have courage to plunge out and through the stuckness.
This week for homework, look at where in your relationships you might have clogged pipes with things unsaid. Don’t start with the biggest things at first. Pick a smaller one to begin with. Set aside time when ideally you can meet face to face or if not, over the phone. And begin by saying, “I need to admit something to you that’s going to be hard for me to say and may even be hard to hear. Are you open to hearing it?” If they say yes, then say the thing. For example, “When you didn’t call me back last week, I felt irritated and wondered if I mattered to you. And I didn’t tell you because I was afraid of upsetting you”. When you take responsibility for why you withheld your truth – rather than putting any blame on the other person – it becomes a lot easier for the other person to hear you without getting defensive. Then make space to hear whatever they need to share. It may take some uncomfortable rounds of going back and forth, but this kind of relationship unclogging can be exhilarating when you realize you are back again in current time with one another by the end.
Remember, this will be my last, free episode until June. If you want to keep following my upcoming episodes plus get access to more experimental content on how to deepen your intimacy, make sure you head over to my patreon page, pick a membership level and then get ready to dive deeper with me into the practice of growing and tending genuine and fulfilling closeness with others. In keeping with this episode theme, don’t get “stuck” in Episode #65 but be sure to keep flowing with me into the coming season. Ha! I couldn’t resist. Sign up to become a patron at Patreon.com/DrTartaroIntimacyCoaching. Until then, I wish you strong suction for your unclogging of all forms!