Whether you are single in the city, dating, partnered, married, or divorced, you most likely are an expert storyteller about your relationship(s)or lack their of. With friends, some family members, and even choice colleagues, your relationship stories may be sprinkled with a mix of humor, sarcasm, and disbelief. While the laughter or shock factor keeps things light, this level of storytelling doesn’t reveal any fears about relationships, intimacy or you. Part of us holds onto the idea that “this (experience) will make a good story.” This notion protects one from feeling or thinking about why your relationship isn’t working or why you’ve been on endless OKCupid,match.com, Tinder, JDate.com, eHarmony, or speed dates without finding any lasting connections.
At some point during the ups and downs of being single, dating, or partnered, most of us will have had our fears about life, others, or ourselves exposed. Our inner dialogues, banter and stories about our relationships are most likely too painful to share.
Many people tell the story that all of the data points in their life reveal a singular – capitol “T” – TRUTH. The data points show that they are (the only one) not worthy of a being in or having a real relationship. Our inner stories are often not shared because we believe that everyone else around us has it figured out or is doing it better than we are.
When we want to reach out for real support, sometimes we are at a loss. What we are wanting is be met with empathy to be seen for our humanness. However sometimes, we are judged, blamed or shamed for our struggle or story.
Learning who has the right to hear our story is an invaluable skill. Below, I share a few tips of when to share or not share your story.
When Should I Share My Story?
Consider friends or family in your life. Out of this group, who takes you as you are, accepting or loving you for all of your strengths or struggles. Often, there may be 1-2 people in our lives, who fit this description. You trust them. These are the people, who are able to hear your story or your struggle and respond with empathy. When you do choose to reach out to them to check in about the inner story you are telling, you feel more connected because they meet you where you are. They may not know your specific relationship struggle, but they connect with you from a deeper place of knowing a painful struggle in their own life but they don’t make the conversation about themselves. The offer feedback when you request it. Their feedback is nonjudgmental. They are willing to sit with you in your struggle knowing they can’t take the pain away, but they share that they will there for you. Practicing reaching out to this type of person can be helpful to manage the pain and disappointment that comes with relationships. This takes both vulnerability and courage.
When Shouldn’t I Share My Story?
Think about the people in your life you have been sharing either the internal version or external version of your story. If after sharing either version of your story, you were met with unsolicited: feedback, solutions, advice, sympathy, sarcasm, judgement, blame, or shame, you may want to consider not sharing with them in the future. Those responses are disconnecting on many levels. We feel disconnected from the responder, from ourselves and even at times from our sense of worthiness. It often time unsolicited feedback and responses further fuels the data points that detail our inner story, tapping into our worst fears around feeling unlovable or that we will never belong. Learning to set clear and healthy boundaries is essential. This will support you in not sharing your story or struggle with people who judge, blame or shame you.
Between the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others, navigating relationships can be challenging. I highly recommend the following books to support you on your relationship journey.
Beattie, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.
Chödrön, P. (2000). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Boston: Shambhala.
Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown & Co.
If you are ready to create a new story around relationships or need help navigating them, call Amy at 202.540.076 or email her at email@example.com for a psychotherapy free 20 minute consultation today.