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Today I had an experience that I had long forgotten about. Years ago, my private practice was primarily with individual patients but on occasion I would work with couples at their request. Today brought back so many memories when I saw a couple in my office. I repeated in the beginning, as I always did, “I don’t see good guys or bad guys, I see folks who are learning to dance to the same rhythm and at times folks needing to learn new steps since one partner is changing.”      

When you can approach things without needing to find who is right and who is wrong, it is amazing that what you find are simply two people who are learning the ropes of relationships, no matter how long they have been together. This could be a work relationship, a friendship, or even being parents. Relationships are relationships. Some, where we have fears of inadequacy, are more difficult than others. At those times, we approach the whole relationship feeling a need to defend ourselves before any conversation even starts. 

When we feel inadequate, we feel threatened, wrong, (or wronged), and see the potential enemy/rejector coming at us. What if, in interpersonal relationships, there are no enemies, only people wanting to be loved, or appreciated, to be good enough, and to be understood? It’s not always easy since as usually happens, one partner is saying what they need while simultaneously contradicting themselves. “I need more alone time with you.” the wife says. The partner responds then “Why are you always hooking us up with other couples everywhere we go then?” The response, “Because you like it.” When I say, “If you are the social director why are you not making time for just the two of you to fill your needs or wants also?” Dead silence. 

As I am sure you have seen, when we are in a conversation, and the topic gets too close to home or to needing us to own responsibility for our own actions, frequently silence, avoidance, and/or changing the subject takes place. Resolution never occurs and any one issue is never really looked at, just thrown out there. If we sat in silence for a moment, we could recognize that things or actions don’t make us “bad” ; they may just show us how unaware of ourselves we are. Welcome to humanity. Frequently, we don’t even hear ourselves much less our partners or associates. We are so busy defending ourselves or blaming the other we don’t see what is. 

Lots more took place, for each partner, but the main issue truly was not hearing, themselves or each other. They weren’t lying to me at times, they were lying to themselves. That leaves so much room for contradictions we don’t hear or see. It also leads to not asking the questions that need to be asked. Lots was said but when you need to defend yourself you can’t really focus on what the other is saying. Fear creates obstacles that don’t exist. Fear of stating your needs, your wants, your confusion, or even your feelings of not knowing the answer is the major issue in most relationships. Fear of hurting your partner as well as fear of seeing yourself in the mirror.  

If we are truly going to hear those in our lives we need to listen. Listen without the filter of fear, inadequacy, or defense. No one needs to be wrong. Each one needs to hear the truth of what is happening, what is being said, what is being experienced by the other, and what can be done to bring clarity and a solution. Never go for the win… When one wins, the relationship loses. Joy, laughter, and peace are what help us keep things in perspective, and they create an energy of safety and acceptance. We all deserve those. 

Emotional intelligence and mindfulness are tools to achieve the level of intimacy required if you are to be truly present with someone, even yourself and achieve that state of being. I’m here to help, just pick up the phone…


Dr. Dorothy’s life story of coming from an orphanage, being raised in the housing projects of South Boston, becoming a Catholic nun, an international airline stewardess, a wife, mother, graduate faculty member, Clinical Instructor at a Medical School, and so much more provides the perfect backdrop for her message of joy, humor, passion and faith as the necessary tools for life.