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The Healing Power of Acknowledgment
It always takes two to allow disconnection of intimacy. It’s important to know this. Even in cases of the deepest betrayals or infidelities—those cases where it’s ever so easy to assign a victim and a villain—even in those scenarios, the intimacy has always been lost due to a combination of factors that both partners brought to the table. It’s never completely the fault of one person.
I’ve noticed that one of the primary needs of women in relationships is to have their reality confirmed. Quite often men will listen to a woman’s observations about the partnership, but will refuse to own or confirm what she’s expressed. In many cases, women know the hearts and truth of their men more than the men even do. But it takes a lot of courage for a man to accept uncomfortable feedback and acknowledge where his partner may be right about him. More typically, the man wants to call her crazy for thinking or feeling those things, rather than looking inward to see if there might be any truth to it.
When a woman is continually made wrong in this way, she shuts down. Her intuition is invalidated; her truth is ignored and mocked. After a while, there’s no point in her trying to share her reality anymore. Her spark goes out. He remembers that she used to be so bright, full, energetic, and alive. But now she’s gone flat, and he doesn’t realize it’s from all the instances of him defending against her love, not hearing what she had to share.
There is a way back from a scenario such as this, and it is all about each partner taking responsibility for their part in areas of the relationship that aren’t presently working and being heard and reassured that their truth is appreciated and that deeper intimacy is the desired end goal.
The art of acknowledgment takes practice. You must build the muscle of stepping to the side of your defensive ego. You want to be strong within yourself when you state your acknowledgment. It’s a forthright, “Yes, I do that. You’re right. I don’t want to cause that kind of pain. Thank you for sharing your truth with me around this.” It’s not hanging your head in shame and acting like a self-pitying doormat. There’s nothing appealing about that for your partner. For it to be healing, acknowledgment needs to be done in your full power, with your full presence. It’s naming what you bring that doesn’t work, without getting into the drama and the disconnect and the whole pain of it.
The Acknowledgment Practice
In todays blog you’re going to see how to practice this verbal acknowledgement with an exercise that you can do with another person, or even a group of people, to increase your connection and intimacy.
In this powerful intimacy exercise, each partner is invited to take responsibility for whatever they may be bringing to the relationship that is detrimental to the partnership in some way. The beauty of this exercise is that it allows both partners to be seen and validated; it is incredibly heart-opening and powerful. It clears the air of all those unspoken issues that can easily accumulate and fester if we’re not mindful of staying open about them.
The basic premise of the exercise is to ask yourself, no matter what your partner shares - "Where are they right?"
Pay attention to how you feel as you watch the demos. Notice if you can relate to some of the acknowledgments shared by the group members. Even without participating, do you feel more connected with the people in the video simply by witnessing this interaction?
Sharing heart-felt acknowledgement tends to increase relaxation and compassion in those receiving the acknowledgment. Just like how in tracking we must FIRST know where we are before we can get to where we want to go, in our relationships we need to understand what’s NOT working before we can fully claim what we want to make our connection better.
The Basic Acknowledgement Practice
Here's the outline of the basic version of this practice. A full version can be found, along with other practices, in Christian's book "Insights To Intimacy" - How Relationships Fail and How To Make Them work. Click here to order your copy now.
If you would like to get trained in this practice, then consider joining us for an "Insights To Intimacy" live event. Click here for more information.
Try this Acknowledgment Process at home, with your partner or a close friend. This exercise can be used to focus on the relationship with your partner or friend -OR- you can also speak about your past relationships, if doing with a friend for example.
1) One person starts and shares, “One thing I bring to my relationship that doesn’t work is ________." (OR “One thing I’ve brought to my past relationships that doesn’t work is …”)
2) The other person uses the same statement to share one thing they bring or have brought that doesn’t work.
3) The two of you go back and forth, each sharing an example of what you bring that doesn’t work. Feel free to repeat what the other person shares if it’s also true for you. Keep your pacing and energy up and light, without pausing too long in between each sharing.
4) When it feels right after at least a few turns each, start to add the second part of what you want: “One thing I bring to my relationship that doesn’t work is ________ AND what I want is ___________.”
5) Go back and forth sharing both parts of what doesn’t work and what you want until you feel a natural stopping place. Share with each other about how you felt during this exchange, from both the sharing and receiving side. Did it feel safe? Enjoyable? Did you feel defensive? Do you feel closer and more connected to each other now?
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