Updated: Jul 11
It was my birthday this week!
I got flowers and I’ll be having a night away in a hotel with my husband next month. All organised and planned for by my husband.
Last year I turned 40 and got…nothing. No gift, no time dedicated to celebrating my birthday. Not even a card from him.
My inner-child felt rejected, unloved, forgotten, abandoned.
The stories of self-worth that I had been working on so much had resurfaced.
I unleashed my anger - which was directed verbally at my husband (not recommended).
Then a few days later once I’d calmed down and could approach the subject from a grounded place, we had a chat (recommended).
I had always expected people to know what I want. Friends, family and partners. They should just know what it is I need from them. If they loved me, they would know and do.
It’s the inner-child that longs to be seen in a relationship, that longs to be rescued. I used to dream and fantasise about love that would get through struggles because the man would come to the rescue. We are taught that this is the way it works by Hollywood. Our own experiences in childhood also create this idea of searching for unconditional love. That romantic idea of being saved.
My husband would repeatedly not do things that I wanted him to do. I refused to communicate with him exactly what those things were that I desperately wanted, because he should just know. Then I would get angry and upset with him for not seeing me. He would experience guilt and shame and go into his own childhood patterns of when being pushed, wanting to retreat.
We’ve been together 15 years. Married for 10. And only last year, did I figure it out. What needed to change was a full disclosure.
So I sat down with him at a time when we wouldn’t be disturbed. When I knew he would be able to focus and not be distracted. When we could look at each other and read each other’s body language. I knew I had to go in there seeing him for his vulnerabilities and wounding, that I had to accept that he would need to talk and explain. That there could come up things about the situation which also made him feel uncomfortable and be in a place where I could hold space for that too.
I explained about my inner-child, that I knew it wasn’t his responsibility to meet those needs, but that in a relationship I would like some more attention. I explained very clearly what that meant. I like surprises. I like the spontaneity of receiving little gifts or cards (my 7 year old is amazing at this!). I explained that from now on, for birthdays I expect to receive a gift. It doesn’t need to be anything big, but something with a little thought. I gave him names of friends he could go to for suggestions on what I might want. I also said that it was the element of surprise and not knowing what I was going to receive was as important.
He listened. He talked about feeling the pressure to do things and be a certain way. It was tempting to ‘yes, but’, however, tuning in to what he was saying and really working on understanding his point of view meant he felt heard too. My reaction to his feelings meant that there was no shame on his part and therefore no defensiveness.
The conversation went well and I was surprised with flowers for Valentine’s day. For our anniversary he got me something made of tin and took me away for the evening.
About 3 weeks ago while we were travelling I mentioned that if he hadn’t already booked something for my birthday, that he could take me to a place we had seen on the internet. I know he hadn’t thought to book something yet. But that gentle reminder came from a part of me that wasn’t wounded. Rather than waiting and expecting him to fail, I gave him the opportunity to ‘win’ so that he could feel good about himself. He isn’t perfect (disclaimer, neither am I) so it is also my responsibility to communicate consistently, to check in, to ensure that we are expressing our needs because they can change. And if he feels like he’s doing well in our relationship, then it is easier for us to talk and for me to bring up and discuss the more uncomfortable parts that we encounter.
We are definitely in a better place.
The great thing about it all is that I am getting what I am asking for and he feels good doing it too.
What conversations with your partner on repeat frustrate you? Where do you not feel ‘seen’ in your relationship? Where would you like to see changes in your relationship? When was the last time you stated your expectations in your relationship? Let me know in the comments.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.