Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Last year was quite an intense time. I was spending A LOT of time on growth. On observing patterns. Of attending different online groups. Of really getting to grips with making concrete differences to my life.
On the run up to my 40th birthday, I had been doing lots of inner-child work. Exploring what my inner-child craved. What she needed. How she reacted and behaved externally to have those needs met. I had uncovered that there was a deep sense of not being seen. Not being considered important to anyone. Not being thought about. I had recently removed friends from my life who had contributed to those feelings. My anxious attachment style I was aware had been drawn to those relationships. The constant seeking. Now I knew and recognised the pattern, I was trying to figure out how to meet my inner-child’s needs herself.
So while all this was happening the news was that we still wouldn’t be able to meet in large groups, so my plan of a big party was out of the window. A few days before my birthday our car window had been smashed so we couldn’t risk travelling away as we had planned. I had asked my parents to babysit the boys so we could go away for a night or two but they wanted to go on holiday round the UK and would drop by to see us for my birthday but that it wouldn’t be convenient for them to stay with them overnight (my parents at the time lived five hours away). Throughout all of this I voiced my disappointment to my husband. How all my plans kept falling to pieces. How my parents didn’t seem to value the importance of my birthday and they had stayed overnight before, but I didn’t push it with them. I WANTED them to want to do it for me. For my birthday. For my big birthday.
So the day arrived. My beautiful boys had made me cards. I hoped that at some point my husband would produce something. So I waited for later. He kept talking about having to go into town so I had a feeling whatever it was that he was getting me, I would get from town. I asked to go with him as I needed to go to the jewellers to get my engagement ring sorted as the diamond had fallen out a few days before (I should have taken this as a sign!).
When we came home, my son came bounding over to me with some flowers he had chosen from the supermarket. I looked at my husband and could see that was it.
I thanked my boys and gave them a hug. The tears gradually began to fall as I excused myself and said I needed to go back into town as I had run out of vases.
And the thoughts came. The serial down. I questioned whether it was ‘right’ to expect something. I doubted whether I should have expected to receive something. Because I need to be the one who meets the needs of my inner-child. Not my husband. But I was devastated. I called a couple of friends, to make sure it wasn’t my anxious attachment and to ensure that my feelings were valid. And that at least a gift from my husband I should have expected.
At home my husband had organised a Zoom call with my parents, his parents and my brother. My inner-child couldn’t take it so I let rip. Exactly how I felt about the whole situation. The disappointment. And instead of following the steps of explaining how I felt, I let my nervous system kick in and gave him the full force of all my insecurities - at a high decibel level. My neighbour Caroline rescued me and took me out for afternoon tea. I was mortified and extremely embarrassed that not even my own husband loved me enough to remember to buy me anything.
In the days that followed I calmed myself.
I sat down with my husband for a chat.
I took responsibility for my actions. I talked about how I felt, this time coming from a place of calm and not blame. I told him that I understood I should not assume what he will do. I understood that it doesn’t come naturally for him to do those things. That when he feels under pressure to be a certain way that he tends to go into freeze and shut down (avoidant attachment response). So I changed from assuming - disappointment - anger. To explaining what was important to me.
I explained very clearly that I believe that Valentine’s Day is commercial but from now on I expect to receive something, even small. I explained that supermarket flowers are OK as a surprise, but not appropriate for special occasions. I told him that from now on I expected him to do surprises. That I like surprises. And that when he does a surprise he will be responsible for EVERY aspect of it. Being super organised, what would often happen is I would ask my husband to do something and he would ‘get stuck’ somewhere and I would end up rescuing him. I explained that I would prefer for him to have a go and get it ‘wrong’ than not try at all. And there was a search engine if he couldn’t think of anything. Or he could ask one of our friends for their ideas.
He talked to me about how he hated that pressure, how he struggled with expectations and how he had failed to ‘see’ the problem before it happened. But that he definitely got it now.
So as an initial step, he bought me an eternity ring, to apologies for having missed many opportunities.
This Valentine’s day I got flowers, delivered by a florist. This anniversary, our 10 years, we had planned to go to Italy to celebrate. It would have been me organising it due to my wedding contacts out there (I was a wedding planner out there). We couldn’t go because of travel restrictions. This time for our anniversary I organised nothing. I hinted at nothing. I didn’t ask what he fancied doing. And this year, he asked me to keep some dates free. He organised childcare for the boys, ensured they had nutritious food available but that wouldn’t inconvenience those caring for them. He organised all the meals and ensured they were booked (due to Covid if you don’t book at the moment there’s a risk you might not get a place). He organised a bottle of bubbly. Chose a room with a stand alone bath. Chose a beautiful hotel that was suitable for couples and not business. And bought me a gift made of tin (after I had casually dropped that tin is for 10 years).
So what had happened?
What had changed?
Some may think it was the outburst. But they had happened before and would result in me sulking for days. He would shut down and ignore the problem until I eventually came round and things went back to ‘normal’.
I had finally understood. It had finally clicked. No one was coming to meet my unmet needs that my inner-child was so desperately seeking. I was in fact 'alone'. I was the one who had to take responsibility for those needs. I couldn't expect or rely on others anymore. Especially not my partner. That was not his role.
This was the realisation that I had been coming to on the weeks running up to my birthday. I had already started the grieving process in letting that attachment go. And my birthday was the final release of that grieving. One last cry that no one could do it but me.
So I approached my husband from a different state of mind. As an adult. Not with my inner-child.
We had a chat and I was clear in my expectations of our relationship.
Although we like the idea of the fairytale of someone knowing what our needs are, we hope they meet them for us without needing to be asked, it isn’t realistic and isn’t going to happen. We have to be the ones who take responsibility for the needs of our own inner-child, we have to communicate, we have to heal, we have to give ourselves and others the opportunity to get it wrong and learn from mistakes.
My healing journey had led me to understand so much about myself, my own patterns and where we as a couple were getting ‘stuck’ in patterns. My changes were instigating changes in him. His nervous system, instead of being on red alert for an explosion and in ‘freeze’ was able to soften, to relax, to listen and hear the message that was being given.
Have we reached perfection?
Absolutely not, and I’m sure I’ll have other stories and struggles to share with you along the way... but life is definitely 'easier' now that my inner child is being cared for.
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.