In my last post, I wrote about the concept of the Bandwidth of Intimacy between two people in any kind of relationship. The greater your bandwidth for intimacy, the more capacity there is for you and your partner in relationship to convey back and forth with one another, and the more space there is to create art. You can read that first post here.
In this post, I’ll talk about what happens as our bandwidth closes off and shuts down, and what ends up manifesting in relationships as a result.
First, your bandwidth in any relationship is constantly growing and shrinking. That’s just a part of being a human in a relationship with another human. Sometimes you’ll feel great love and affinity for someone and open up with them, and other times you’ll feel like they’ve hurt you and you’ll close to them.
Humans, by default, tend towards a state of incompletion. Rather than doing the hard work to take responsibility for our resentments and the way we hold someone after they’ve hurt us, we keep holding onto resentful energy directed at them, and do our best to pave over it. We forgive, but we don’t forget.
As a result, in romantic relationships, the trend over time is towards layers of built up contempt and resentment. That’s just the natural result of the fact that we aren’t taught good tools for how to really take responsibility for our incompletions.
This is exacerbated by the fact that you’re right about all of the reasons you have for resenting your partner. That’s what makes it so challenging to let go of that energy — you’ve got righteousness about it, and we don’t like to let go of the places we’re right.
All that being right does, though, is keep us caught in the energetic loop of incompletion.
As contempt and resentment build up, you end up with less and less bandwidth available for intimacy. That resentment and contempt is like plaque building up on the walls of your arteries. Less and less can get through.
You have less spaciousness with which to receive your partner, and you are more and more likely to receive what they say, do, or be with you through the lens of that built up resentment and contempt.
This leaves you and your partner in that kind of experience where you never seem able to do anything right, and neither are they. As your bandwidth with each other closes down, there’s less of the actual signal (including your heart, your love, your warmth) that can come through, and so the lens of our resentment and contempt plays a larger role in colouring what we receive.
Most of us don’t want to admit to something as ugly sounding as contempt, which is part of what makes it so persistent — because we’re allergic to acknowledging its presence, we’re unable to do anything about it, aside from insisting we don’t have any. Like an invisible current in the ocean, we just seem to continually get pulled into the same arguments with each other.
When our capacity to stay open with each other is hampered in this way, our relationship can feel a bit like a car with a blockage in its gas line, staggering forward, stalling, staggering forward again, etc.
We try to force something that we need to have heard through our minimal bandwidth, it gets received hurtfully, and then we shut back down from each other again. When the lines of communication finally do open up, we have so much expression built up, we clog the line by trying to push all of it through at once.
We end up tired, frustrated and exhausted.
It doesn’t have to be like this, but we aren’t taught any differently, and to learn something new requires a willingness to step beyond our intuition. (When you’re hurt, your intuition is to close and remain closed to the person that hurt you).
As a starting point, beginning with a willingness to notice your own contempt can go a long way. Set aside your story about why that contempt is justified — that just perpetuates it. Instead, notice where and how this shows up for you, and notice what it costs you to keep holding it. Things can begin to grow from there.