She told me something that I've hung onto all these millennia: nothing kills intimacy faster than secrecy. And the things you're keeping secret don't have to be big, guilt-inducing, gut-wrenching secrets. They can simply be things like not telling someone your feelings were hurt by the way he assumed you would do the dishes, or that you were furious at how he left his shoes in the middle of the floor even though you asked him not to a billion times because you trip on them on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
The more of these unvoiced issues I sat on, the further and further away my boyfriend drifted. But it was hard to feel like my concerns were valid in the moment. Did he mean to leave his shoes there? And did I really have a right to be angry about him being forgetful? It took a lot of courage for me to start to see that what I wanted mattered as much as what he wanted, and that if I mentioned my concerns at the moment they happened I was only annoyed, not angry. Luckily, he was receptive to my efforts to get things off my chest before they festered, and things improved.
In the long run, the relationship didn't last, but I was reminded of this lesson earlier this month when I went to visit a friend across the country. My friend is in her first trimester (read: barfy) and a mom to a toddler (read: exhausted) and trying to buy a home (read: overwhelmed). When I booked my ticket she wasn't pregnant yet, so we thought it would be a fun-filled, sunshiney visit. But as my departure date approached, she was sounding more and more worn out, and I was beginning to worry that instead of being a fun addition to her house for the weekend, I would be yet another thing she would have to take care of.
But I sat on that. She wanted to see me, right? She was the one who was exhausted and overwhelmed, why should I worry that she didn't want to see me when everything she said made it sound like she did? I wouldn't be more exhausting, would I? I vowed to myself that I would not be a hassle... and then worried silently that I would.
The day before my flight I had worked myself into such a tizzy of non-communication that I finally had to call her and get it off my chest. "I'm worried that I'll be a burden, that you won't have any fun with me, and that you'll barf on me!"
"Well, I'm worried that you won't have any fun with me, I won't feel well enough to play with you, and that I'll barf on you!"
As soon as the words were out of our mouths, we were laughing again, saying that we would be fine. Prior to connecting, though, there was tension. We were both fearful that we would be the cause of pain to the other. And the more we over-thought it without reaching out to one another, the more secrecy we had, and the less close we felt.
Did she barf on me? No. Did she feel well enough to play with me the whole time? No. But I was prepared for that, and connected to her, so it all worked out just fine. It's amazing what obstacles intimacy can overcome.