The Gift of Encouragement
Our mind is a private world. Thoughts and feelings that pleasure or plague us, inspire or intimidate us, both awake and in our dreams.
Healthy couples share this private world with one another.
It is how two people come to know one another deeply.
It is one of the most significant ways we experience love and sense that our partner is truly there for us.
Learning to share this inner world is important.
Learning to listen to our partner is important.
By celebrating their successes, acknowledging their experiences, supporting their interests we give them the gift of feeling understood, validated, and accepted as a unique individual.
I write about this theme often because it is important. In other posts, I’ve explained how vital it is to be able to communicate fears, insecurities, pain and sorrows to our partner and have them acknowledge and validate our experience. It draws us together and strengthens a sense of loving connection when we feel understood and accepted – even especially when our partner doesn’t agree or share the same experience.
The value and importance of this understanding and acceptance, however, is not limited to when we are hurt, sad, or scared. Equally important is feeling valued and celebrated when we are excited, inspired, and enthralled by something.
An interesting case I once had was with a couple who were fine as long as they were talking about difficult things. They communicated well as long as they were talking about pain, suffering, fears, and loss. Problems arose when he would get excited about something. We discovered that whenever he would share a triumph he had at work, a hobby he was enjoying, or a sexual fantasy he had – he was met with either indifference or criticism. In this particular case his partner was clinically depressed. Because her depression remained untreated, she found herself unable to acknowledge or validate his happiness or excitement. In the end, what started out as a healthy and solid relationship was brought to its knees.
Healthy relationships grow closer when faced with adversity or the changes of individual growth or life circumstances. People don’t grow apart just because there is stress or because they are different. People grow apart when they can’t talk openly about their experience (positive or negative) and feel the unconditional understanding and support of their partner.
Maybe you and your partner share some of the same hopes, dreams, fantasies, or interests: talk about them.
Maybe you and your partner are different in some significant ways: learn to talk about those areas too. To validate, acknowledge and support your partner you don’t have to give up who you are, be the same in every way, or like everything they like.
Here are some conversation starters that might help the two of you explore or expand on some of the more happy and positive sides of your psyche:
- What are some of the most blissful moments of your entire life?
- Describe some experiences you’ve had of totally losing yourself in a hobby or project.
- Talk about a time when you did a really great job at work or at school.
- What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done?
- What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
- What is a hobby or skill that you have never done that you would really like to learn?
- What are your three favorite books and movies – and why?
- What are the closest friends you’ve ever had and what made it so special?