I want to thank you, for allowing me to meet myself

Team Ritual
Last Updated:
June 26, 2022

I’m letting you meet yourself:

One night I was lying in bed with my husband Assael and we were talking about our career paths, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and achievements. I had recently made a big career shift from the traditional 9-5 to being an independent coach, and I was pouring out my deepest insecurities. The ones that are hard to even admit to yourself in your internal voice, let alone out loud.

He listened, and when I got it all out, I turned to him expecting his usual ‘you’re great, don’t worry about it’ type of response, which often include details and evidence of why I’m great and why I have nothing to worry about. But he said nothing. He was silent.

I felt my insecure emotions rising to the brim of my throat, and I finally asked, “don’t you have anything to say?”

“I’m letting you meet yourself,” he answered.

What?? Really? He has nothing to say?

At first I was frustrated, and angry even. The silence continued, and I boiled until I began to simmer. Breathing deeply, I realized the following:

For the first time ever, my husband didn’t try to placate me or make me feel better. He just sat with me and my insecurities. And it was lifechanging.

So often our partners validate us, and so often, we want and expect them to. Yet there is something powerful about my husband stepping back from hiswitnessing me in this insecure moment, and creating space for me to…validate me.

When I was allowed to meet myself, and being witnessed through it, was one of the most powerful and intimate moments. That is precisely what couple & sex therapist Dr. David Schnarch calls self-validated intimacy:you validate yourself, as you show your partner who you really are”.

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I don’t need you to fix it, I need to fix it:

I’ll be honest. This was not an easy moment. I really wanted the quick-fix of encouragement, and for my partner to tell me that everything is okay. But the more I leaned in to the discomfort, the more I felt this as a moment of deep growth.

At the end of the day we, as individuals, are responsible for our reality. We are the masters of our destiny and only we are able to create the change we want in our life. By not going with the flow with his usual I’ll save you solution or encouragement, Assael was communicating something more profound… you’ve got this. I realized that was his vote of confidence in me. The validation here was twofold: he didn’t need to encourage me, because he had confidence that I had what it takes to figure it out. For myself.

The truth is that nothing he could have said would have eased away my insecurities, and he was wise enough to know that. Our insecurities are our own, and the only way through them is to confront them directly ourselves. The work is to deconstruct and reconstruct them into something that serves us, rather than limits us.

Getting curious will help us unpack these limiting beliefs that are holding us back. Questions like: Where did we learn this insecurity and how has it served us? What am I losing by holding on to it? What can I gain by letting it go?

One of the most frequent complaints we hear in our joint couples clinic is the frustration of sharing a challenge that is met with: have you tried this? We don’t want a solution. We want validation. But actually, what we need is self-validation.

Self validation is validating, affirming and accepting your own internal experience.

Learning to sit with emotions, together:

Part of the reason self-validation is so challenging is because we don’t like to sit with our emotions. Sometimes we may not even know how.

“Stop crying, don’t be sad, calm down, there’s no reason to be angry, shhh you’re shrieking with excitement.” This is the language we hear as kids, and unfortunately, what we even say to our own children (guilty as charged). What we are actually saying is: stop feeling the feeling you’re feeling.

Emotions, or energy in motion, have a cycle. If you disrupt it’s cycle, the energy is stuck within, building up with no outlet. However, if you allow the emotion to run its course and complete the cycle, it will pass, and a new emotion will emerge. Most often, so will a sense of clarity and calm. Imagine emotions as a wave - riding it is always better than fighting it.

Photo by S Migaj

I’m afraid I’ll get pulled under:

One of the many reasons it’s hard for us to sit with emotions is that we’re afraid they won’t pass, or we’ll get stuck. We feel the emotion arising, get anxious about feeling it, so we repress it. Because we don’t know how to sit with our own emotions, we’re even less equipped to sit with our partners’, in fear that not only will we need to pull ourselves out, but them too.

While emotional contagion is a real thing - where we are affected by the emotion of a person around us, once we learn how to be comfortable with our own emotions, we also become more comfortable with other peoples’ emotions.

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Riding the wave:

I’ve never surfed, but I hear it’s a lot like life. You start small, get knocked down inevitably, you build skills, gain confidence, and practice. A lot. Cultivating emotional stamina is similar. We recommend starting small. Which means noticing if there are certain emotions we tend to avoid, what triggers them, what we do when they surface, and what our core beliefs around them are.

For instance, I struggle with sadness. When sadness surfaces I attempt to stifle it. My throat and chest tighten, and my breath becomes restricted. My core belief is that crying is weak. Once I was able to observe this, I was able to work with it.

  • Where did this core belief come from? My mother, of course (Damn you, Freud).
  • What do you do when it surfaces? My body stiffens, jaw clenches. Nowadays, I actively remind myself to breathe, lean in, relax my face and allow myself to feel.
  • How did it feel when I have let myself cry in the past? Actually, pretty amazing. A huge sense of release.

What emotions do you avoid? Just a small exercise like that will allow you to externalize your automated inner process and give you the opportunity to reflect, dissect and challenge the way you relate and express emotions. The result is you being more aware, thoughtful and intentional about your emotions.

Surf’s up:

That somewhat awful and uncomfortable night (I literally felt like I was writhing from within) will be forever remembered as a turning point in our relationship. A night of uncomfortable growth, self confrontation and affirmation, as well as tremendous intimacy. The next time you turn to your partner for validation, remind yourself that actually, a held space where you can meet yourself, will take you further and deeper. If you need to, ask your partner if they can simply witness you, without feeling the need to validate you.

Because everything you need, is inside you. Allowing your partner to witness you meeting new parts of yourself, is one of the most intimate moments you can have.

Key terms:

  1. Self-validated intimacy - validating yourself in the presence of your partner.
  2. Emotional cycles - emotions have a cyclical process.
  3. Emotional contagion - being affected by the emotions around you.
  4. Flooding - feeling overwhelmed by emotion
  5. Emotional stamina - riding the wave of emotion

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