I'm not quite exactly sure of the origin of learning about this communication technique, but I know it must have morphed together from all of my training and experience as a therapist...so I'm sure it has it's roots in varying theorists, I just can't place it right now. But in my time as a therapist I was used to hearing couples talking about all the things that weren't working well in the relationship. And most often it would come across in the form of criticism. Some spouse would be sharing all the things that their partner wasn't doing. And you can imagine what that was doing to the relationship...you can imagine what kind of pain cycle that was creating.
So I started thinking about what it would look like to share with your spouse not all the things they were doing wrong, but rather, the things they desired and wanted and needed in the relationship. Why not focus on the positives (what you want and desire), rather than the negatives (all they weren't doing right). This subtle (maybe it's not so subtle) shift in language began to have a different affect on couples. Rather than creating situations of defensiveness, it created opportunities for openness and closeness.
But the key is, once you talk about what you want and desire, you have to let go of the outcome. You have to let go of the expectations in the relationship. Listen closely here...I'm not saying you can't, or shouldn't have expectations in a relationship...but what I'm saying you have to let go of that particular expectation you are requesting. You can't demand. You have to allow the other person in the relationship the freedom to decide to do what you are requesting, or to not do it. This is a request based out of freedom, not out of fear or demanding. Demanding relationships drain life out of the couple, whereas, ones based in freedom are life-giving.
I think I first learned of the "letting go of the outcome" step in Terence Real's book, The New Rules of Marriage. In his technique called The Feedback Wheel, the final step is "Let go of the outcome." There is a whole process to his feedback wheel, but I eventually took this idea of letting go of the outcome into other theories I was learning, and I began to apply it to couples and families that I was working with.
So in today's podcast I want to help you with this simple technique of being vulnerable (the hard part) in your relationship by shifting your focus on what your partner is not doing (that's a position of criticism), and focus on what you are desiring and wanting. It's vulnerable and risky to request though, because what if they say no. But this is about putting yourself out there. And so when you put yourself out there, you let go of the outcome. And as a therapist who highly believes in self-differentiation, and practices the Restoration Therapy model where one's identity is not based in the partner, but in one's own truth....I want to say, this is not about putting your identity in your partner or demanding from them. This is just simply about being honest about yourself and what you desire...but then letting go of it. It's in this freedom that we learn more about the needs, wants, desires of our partner, and it's helpful to know those things, so that in one's freedom, they can choose to, or choose not to respond.
Try this technique out at home and let me know what you think.
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Resources Mentioned in the Podcast
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Plano, Texas. I work with individuals, couples, and families regarding a number of issues from marriage therapy, anxiety, depression, infidelity, faith, relationship strengthening, and a whole lot more. If you are interested in scheduling a session with me, or having me out to speak, please contact us via email or phone (469-304-9022).