This blog is for my husband Seth on his birthday today. This will show him how much self reflection I do and that I am always striving to be a better wife for him. I fall more in love with Seth every day. He is my love, my best friend, my biggest supporter, the father of our children, my Renaissance man, a successful entrepreneur a kick ass Krav Maga master and my rock to name a few. This is for you honey. Happy Birthday to my love.
Handling our Intensity in our Relationships
I love taking walks with my husband. It usually leads to really good conversations. He tells me about his work day and I tell him about my day that consists of work, child care, cleaning, errands, PTSA, (you get the drift). Sometimes we get into a really good conversation and Seth tells me, “Blog alert.” A lot of my blogs come from conversations on our walks. One of our favorite topics is marriage.
During this particular walk with Seth and our dog Tanner, I started telling Seth about a marital pattern that I see occurring in many homes including ours. Let me know if this sounds familiar to you. I was explaining to Seth that I frequently see women (including myself) getting very intensely emotional and sending our men into a shell. Our men may clam up and run away or just shut down and not say anything. I will often say to Seth, “Say something!” How is that helpful? He is being quietly overwhelmed and then I am annoyed that he isn’t talking. If he isn’t talking, I should take a look at why that is. I don’t want to assume that it is only women getting intense. I know men who get too intense for their wives too.
If we are upset about a pattern in our relationship, let’s not shine the light on our partner and what they are doing wrong. Let’s turn the light on ourselves and do some self reflection. I may be feeling very strongly about something and not be upset at Seth. I may even just be venting to Seth. However, if I am coming on intensely emotional, he is going to become overwhelmed. If he becomes overwhelmed, his brain isn’t computing what he wants to say next. His brain is saying, “Danger, run away,” even if I’m not upset with him. If I am upset with him then of course he feels worse, but he shuts down even if it has nothing to do with him because of how I am communicating.
You may be saying, “Tough, learn to deal with it,” but how is that helpful? Has Seth gotten more comfortable with my strong emotions? Absolutely. Was he attracted to that? Absolutely. Will toning it down lead to better communication? Absolutely.
If your wife or husband seems to not react well to your intensity, let me help. As an intense person, I get it. I feel things strongly. When my 9 year old feels things strongly, I get it. When my dad feels things strongly, I get it. I know what it feels like to feel it and I know how it feels to deal with it. My 9 year old may not be able to bring down her intensity yet, but I can.
I want my 9 year old to feel safe having her big emotions with me. I want my husband to feel safe when I’m having big emotions. He has dealt with anxious feelings, sad feelings, happy feelings and excited feelings all in the last 24 hours. I texted him this morning that he is my rock, and he texted me back a picture of him holding the rock I gave him that says just that.
Here’s what I don’t want you to say, “Deal with it.” Here’s what we can do:
- Clarifying to Seth when I’m not upset with him really helps the situation. He instantly calms down and is able to communicate better when he knows that I am not upset with him but am communicating feelings that I am having towards someone else. He may still not like my intensity, but it helps to know that I am not upset with him.
- Take a time out. If you’re having intensely negative feelings towards your spouse and are trying to communicate, that is a bad idea. Put yourself in check and communicate that you need a time out. Is your heart racing? Are your palms sweaty? Is your face red? Step away and take some deep breaths before you say something that you will regret. If you’re feeling intense feelings and it’s not about your spouse, you could still take a time out and take some deep breaths and space before you try to communicate again.
- I know that your partner/your best friend/your spouse is the person that you want to vent out all your stress to. I get it. I know that is one way to manage your stress but get your feelings out in other ways too so that it isn’t all on your spouse. Vent it out on paper. Vent to a friend. Get your feelings out! Go run it out.
- The more that you do things to take care of yourself the less intense you will be. Meditating, yoga, walks, journaling, exercising, friend time, are all ways to take careof yourself and put yourself in a better state.
- Productive intensity is a good thing. Use your intensity. My intensity the other day led to a deep cleaned shower. Use it for good! My intensity can pay off in many ways.
- Stay in the moment. Are you off to the races? Are you thinking about your whole day? Yesterday? Tomorrow? Stay present. Stay mindful. Realize that all you have to do is manage what is going on right now. That will reduce your intense feelings.
Take it down a notch and see how much better your conversation goes. Take some deep breaths and set yourself up for a productive conversation. I reset myself many times throughout my day and I find that to be very helpful.
I am not saying that you will never be intense. I am not saying that it’s all bad. I’m just telling you to look in the mirror and ask if something is working and how you can do better. I can tell you that calm communication with my husband takes me a lot further than coming at him with big intense feelings. I love that you are in touch with your feelings. I love how excited you get. I love how caring you are. I love how much you love. I love how sensitive you are. I also know that it doesn’t always work in your favor, and I hope I have helped.
If you are the partner to a highly intensely person and their communication style can be too much for you – let them know. I would wait until they are calm to talk to them. In the heat of the moment is probably not the best time to let them know that they are being super intense. In a calm moment let them know that when they talk to you passionately that it can feel scary to your brain. Your brain is signaling to you to run away, and you don’t want to feel that way with your spouse. Let them know that if they could try to communicate a little calmer that you would appreciate it and that you could then hear them better. Then ask what you can do for them. Marriage is a give and take. Communication is the key. However, we want to communicate in a manner that works for both people in the relationship.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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