Your Proficiencies are the Enemy of Intimacy....

Your Proficiencies are the Enemy of Intimacy.

Relationship Tip #9

Here’s the thing about relationships (I mean the long-term committed kind, not the two-hour flirtations): they’re friggin’ HARD.
Committed intimate relationships are guaranteed to make us feel vulnerable in ways that nothing else ever will. And to make matters even more complicated? All the skills that might make you a superstar in your everyday life are probably creating problems and pain in your love life.

Which brings us to the ninth relationship truth.

Relationship Tip #9: Your proficiencies are the enemy of intimacy.

So you need to develop some new skills.

*POOF* you’re a fish…

Stick with me here…

We all grew up in our own unique family culture… our family fishbowl.

In order to function, you developed a set of skills to compensate for the idiosyncrasies in your fishbowl, good, bad, and neutral. Maybe your bowl was always getting new features so you became proficient at managing change, or maybe an elder fish monitored the well-being of the bowl so you became proficient at vocalizing your discomfort.
These proficiencies have probably served you well in the rough and tumble world; maybe they are even the very characteristics that make you a great boss, friend, employee, or parent. And since you’re so proficient, you probably don’t even recognize your behavior since it’s become second nature. You think it’s just the way life is.
Then you meet your significant other, who’s developed their own proficiencies from growing up in their family fishbowl. Maybe their family fishbowl water was crystal clear so they became proficient in moving through a world with no personal space, or maybe the rocks in their bowl were jagged so their family prided themselves on the thick skin they developed.

These are great skills to have. But listen up! You both need to develop new skills in order to feel connected to each other.

Because now you’re sharing a brand new fishbowl.

Your partner probably thinks the jagged rocks are still there and you might think your partner needs ongoing status updates. You’re leaning on your proficiencies and your partner is leaning on theirs. But when you vocalize your discomfort, that may poke your partner like a jagged rock so they employ their thick skin to minimize the situation.

“That’s strange,” you think. “Why are they cracking jokes instead of comforting me?” So you get upset and criticize.

“That’s strange,” your partner thinks. “Why are they mad at me when I’m doing my best to lighten the mood?” So they disappear only to return once the dust has settled.
Not. A. Good. Plan.

It’s time that you both developed new proficiencies that are tailored to each other.

If you want a successful relationship, you’ve gotta embrace new ways of meeting your tough interpersonal moments.
• Where you are proficient at fixing problems, maybe you need to learn to listen with compassion instead.
• Where you are proficient at keeping the peace, maybe you need to learn how to soften into your vulnerability and engage in conflict.
• Where you are proficient at identifying others’ shortcomings, maybe you need to learn how to look deep inside at your own pain.
• Where you are proficient at lightening the mood with jokes or silver linings, maybe you need to learn to tolerate difficult feelings.

*POOF* you’re both human again.

If you continue to address your relationship woes by leaning on your proficiencies, you are guaranteed to suffer.

It doesn’t matter that these are the same skills that have lined your mantle with all of your golden Life Achievement trophies. What’s worked for you in the big wide world is not serving your intimate relationship.

Step outside the comfort of your proficiencies to access your vulnerability and connect with your partner from there.

Take two minutes to read your Self-Discovery Report once you have taken the Empathi Quiz— knowing and accepting your vulnerability in love is an essential step toward having a successful relationship!

Be kind to yourself and each other,

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Figs is the creator of the Empathi method and the certification process for Empathi coaches. He’s also Chief Empathi Officer, husband, dad, wounded-healer and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered as a champion for healthy relationships. Figs’ life’s mission is to help couples feel more connected.

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