Loving Fearlessly in 2019
What does it mean to love fearlessly?
In every close relationship there is vulnerability. Creating a deep bond with friend, family member or partner means sharing more of who we authentically are. With that level of openness also comes greater fears of being criticized, judged or rejected. These fears are often not in the forefront of our minds, they often come out sideways in our choices, actions and behaviors. It is these unacknowledged vulnerabilities and fears that cause us to shut down, pull away, agitate each other, and even say terribly hurtful things to those we love the most.
Loving fearlessly is learning to recognize and acknowledge our vulnerabilities and fears. When we bring awareness to them, we can make the conscious choice to take them out of the driver’s seat. We can say, “I feel fear, but I choose to love anyway.” The strongest relationship bonds are not those without conflict, but rather those in which both partners continue to lean back into the relationship after periods of tension, stress and hurt; the ones where both partners choose to love fearlessly.
In our recent workshop, we explored three keys to loving more fearlessly. Here are few of the highlights :
Three keys to loving fearlessly
Understand our Expectations
The first is to understand our expectations. We start relationships editing ourselves to be more attractive, and our lives to seem more appealing. It’s a natural process of putting our best selves forward that occurs when we really want to connect with someone. And our partners are doing the same. The challenge arises when we expect our partner to always be that best self. We create rigid parameters around who we want and think they should be, and feel disappointment, frustration and resentment when they share more of their authenticity (and imperfections) with us. This creates enormous pressure for our partners and brings vulnerability and fear to the surface. Take a moment to reflect on what expectations you have of your partner. Do your expectations allow space for them to be authentic?
2. Understand your (and your partner’s attachment style)
The second key is to understand your (and your partner’s) attachment style. There are 3 main styles of attachment in relationships: Secure, anxious and avoidant. Many people are in the secure realm when the relationship is going well. This means they trust in the overall strength of the connection and can weather the small conflicts and periods of disconnect without much stress. But increased conflict brings out our vulnerabilities and fears, and we tend to react in conflict out of a drive to self-protect. This pushes us out of or place of feeling secure and more into patterns of anxious or avoidant attachment. Anxious attachers will seek reassurance that the connection is still there, and will want resolution of the conflict in order to feel safe. Sometimes they’ll even instigate or “poke at” their partners to get a reaction. Avoidant attachers, on the other hand with withdraw, emotionally shut down, or even physically leave. Neither is better or worse than the other, and the key to both is learning to self soothe — recognizing the discomfort, and practicing staying present with your partner. What do your think your attachment tendency under stress might be: fight or flight?
3. Mindful CommunicatioN
The third key we explored is practicing Mindful Communication. Our definition of mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness. The first part of mindful communication is taking ownership of what you are feeling, wanting, and asking for, and then expressing yourself with intention, clarity and respect. It can be hard to ask for what we really want and need, so we drop hints passively, or expect that, if our partner really knows us, they will know what we’re thinking. But this just leads to unmet needs, and mutual frustration and resentment. The second component to mindful communication is becoming aware of the stories we create about what our partner is doing or why they’re doing it. We constantly make interpretations about other’s behaviors and then attach to those stories as if they are absolute truths. To love, and more accurately, to love fearlessly is to “be generous in the interpretation of someone else’s behaviors” (Alain de Botton). What stories do you hold about your partner’s choices or behaviors?
About The Authors
Lori Kret LCSW, BCC and Jeffrey Cole LPC, BCC are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Learn more about their services or read their blog at www.AspenRelationshipCoaching.com.
About The Illustrator
Sarah Uhl is in love with the world and can barely contain it! Art has allowed her to channel that infatuation and share it with others in a bigger way that also provokes curiosity, experience and action. She helps brands and organizations amplify their messaging through art, visual storytelling and Live Art performances at festivals and events.