This is part 4 in the Bandwidth of Intimacy series. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 by clicking the linked titles in the comments.

As you spend longer in relationship, you will inevitably have the bandwidth of intimacy between you and your partner clogged up with resentment, and when that isn’t voiced, contempt.

This is a natural process, and will happen whether or not you like the idea that resentment and contempt happen naturally.

At the end of our last post, a reader asked “How do you keep shrinking contempt, and keep improving the relationship?”

This is an important question, and is ultimately at the heart of what has relationships thrive.

As time goes on, and its left unchecked, resentment will turn to contempt, and contempt will clog up the bandwidth between you and your partner (or indeed, any relationship). This is analogous to cholesterol clogging up our arteries.

Here are the simple steps to practise unclogging our intimacy.

1. Acknowledge Resentment and Contempt

  • The more you are unwilling to consider the idea that resentment and contempt build in relationship, the more likely you are to have them pile up.
  • Your inability to consider the possibility of them existing will make it impossible to turn towards them, distinguish their presence, and actually do something about them.
  • This took me a long time to come to an acceptance of, as I felt it meant I was a bad lover and a poor husband. In fact, all it meant was that I was a human, in a human relationship.
  • So, the first practise is really about an act of compassion and love for ourselves. Letting us off the hook and being willing to accept that we’re not perfect, and that we’re a human doing the best they can.
  • (The evidence of you trying your best is given by the fact that you are practising here).

2. Create a container in which it can be expressed, along with a commitment to practise with one another.

  • Most of the time, we try to express our resentments and withholdings ad hoc, in the moment, because we are nervous about it.
  • We throw them out, our partner is blindsided and understandably defensive, and we are left feeling unheard (because instead of hearing us, they are defending themselves).
  • Instead, we need to create a sacred container with our partner, in which we agree to share the truth of our hearts, and to give each other the gift of being seen in that expression, without judgment.
  • You can create this container by setting aside a time together, and agreeing to the above as your commitment to one another.

3. Have one partner express their heart, and the other partner see that expression

  • Choose a partner to share their heart. Then, set a timer for ten minutes.
  • The partner who is sharing their heart says “I feel…” and then expresses what they are feeling. It is important to practise expressing feeling as opposed to thoughts.
  • Eg, “I feel lonely and dropped” as opposed to “I feel like you don’t love me and don’t want to be with me”. The second is a thought attached to the feeling.
  • The partner who is seeing receives what is shared, and then responds with the statement “I see…” and then expresses what they see. Ideally, share what you can see in terms of how you may have contributed to this experience, or, share the beauty and light you can see in your partner.
  • Your job as the partner seeing is to receive your partner’s share without judgment, and then reflect back the beauty that they are.

4. Switch roles

  • When the timer goes off, pause, then switch roles.
  • The seeing partner is now the one sharing their heart, and the one who was sharing their heart is now the one seeing.
  • Repeat as before until the timer goes on.

5. Let things stay in the container.

  • Once you finish, trust that what needed to be said was shared, and honour your partner. You can bow, hug, or simply thank each other.
  • Often, in sharing our hearts with one another, we have a tendency to take it personally. Your job is to set this aside. Simply allow the truth of your partner’s heart to exist as it does, and be grateful they are willing to share it.
  • Most importantly, resist the urge to debrief or analyze what was shared. Let it simply stay within the container you created. This will ensure that you can each continue to feel safe sharing with one another, inside a container that can hold both of you.

Many couples resist this process, because it is not easy to hear the truth of your partner’s heart. But, you will discover, if you continue to practise this way, that it becomes easier and easier as time goes on, and there is less and less heaviness that needs to be shared.