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Friday, February 27, 2015

Comfort zone and communication

When we think of the term "comfort zone", we may think of a place in which we are lacking courage.  In other words, a place in which we would rather stay than take a chance--a safe space of sorts.  For me, last fall (Fall of 2014), stepping out of my comfort zone was skydiving.

When I think of comfort zone (zone of comfort) in a relationship, I often think of it as a place or a space we provide a loved one to be his or herself.  In a way, we are giving them permission to be themselves or to figure things out without pressure, fear of recrimination, ridicule, or shame.


Gabriel García Márquez "Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life"


Our public life is self-explanatory.  Our private life is things we share only with family or friends close to us.  In a way our "secret life" is our super private life.  In our 'secret life', we have thoughts, feelings, that we 'dare not share' with anyone out of shame or fear of consequences.  This is what I see as our "secret life".  It can be thoughts that are too out there, embarrassing, or rude; feelings that we are uncomfortable sharing; bad choices or mistakes we want to just hide out of fear of humiliation/shame or things we are trying to figure out without undue pressure or fear.  In short, these are thing things that are just generally between us and God.


It's funny, we can do something embarrassing like lock our keys in our car or have a mild 'tragedy' like have a fender bender and we'll talk about it with others readily, but some thoughts/ideas/mistakes are so uncomfortable that we just really would rather trip and fall on our face, stub our toe or run into a wall rather than sharing them.


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Someone who truly loves you, be it a BFF or a significant other, will allow you a comfort zone (or zone of comfort) in which you can express your 'secret life' without fear of pressure, abandonment or recrimination.   Sometimes what you have to say might be difficult for the other person to hear.  It may be something they are uncomfortable thinking about or an thought, answer or non-answer that they aren't satisfied with.  You name it?  For example, you might need to admit a weakness, like an addiction to/or desire for booze, gambling, overeating, pain meds, porn, etc. or you may have thoughts that you think are out there.  The natural instinct is to avoid these subject matters rather than deal with consequences--real or perceived of expressing them.   Someone who truly loves you will make it clear that he or she will not pressure you, abandon you or leave you hanging when you express your 'secret thoughts'.  As a matter of fact, often time they, sensing you need to talk, will open up the dialog and give you a sign that it is safe for you to express yourself.


In my own failed marriage, I felt like my ex and I never really truly established this zone of comfort.  More often than not, when uncomfortable things came up, we ignored them.  When we didn't ignore them, it seemed like we ended up not giving each other enough space to be ourselves.  It is hard for a relationship to thrive, if even survive in such an environment.  From my perspective typically without a zone of comfort, resentment can build up and eventually something will give and it won't be small or pretty.  


In a way, the inability to provide a zone of comfort is a sign of codependency.  We either need our significant other to be someone who they aren't due to our own insecurities or we are so worried about 'saving the relationship' that we won't do anything that could 'jeopardize it'.  The irony of it is relationship dances like these really don't save a marriage, but instead tend to delay the inevitable while the relationship is hollowing out.


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But, I digress.  A zone of comfort is a special gift you give to someone you love.  It can mean putting aside your own insecurities to listen to them and/or help another with theirs.  It can mean doing serious listening when you want to speak instead.  Effectively it is allowing another to be vulnerable around you.   In a way, this is part of the hard work of a successful relationship.


HOWEVER, for those still not convinced that it is completely safe to put yourself out there with your significant other, I have a few tricks:

  • Blame it on the 'script'.  As we know, we are following an invisible script.  So, I just say, well I had to say it, it was in the script.  However, you must be prepared to show said script later.  ;-)
  • This is the more risky tact, but blame it on the 'insane' voice in your head.  Say, "I didn't want to say it, but the insane voice in my head kept telling me too."  This is the 'little devil on your shoulder'.  Granted this may scare the other person away, but at least you'll amuse yourself.  ;-)

Just my thoughts on providing a comfort zone for communication.