I'm reporting from Los Angeles, where looking out the window feels like you're gazing through a permanent Sepia filter. Two major fires are blazing in Southern California, and it's created an apocalyptic overcast for the past four days.
The fires— on top of the pandemic, protests, social distancing, and unyielding news of inspiring people passing— have been a lot to handle emotionally. This week, I want to talk about having conversations with your partner about how you're feeling.
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Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
I've been feeling down lately. With everything going on in the world and the fact I worry about my future in writing, it's been hard to write, which is my job. It's been hard to get through some days. Everything is hard.
To give you a little background: I've struggled with depression from a young age. Being incredibly self-aware and always looking inward doesn't help either.
But I've been down this road enough times to know that my happiness is my own. If I sit in my room and bottle up what's going on, that's a sure-fire way to let the sadness consume me. And as much as I sometimes want to give-in, I can't let that happen.
Since getting together with my new boyfriend, Nish, I've fared pretty well on the emotional front. But I guess that can only last for so long because I've been feeling far from my optimal self for the past month, and my bf has noticed.
I don't fault myself. My feelings are my feelings. I know they'll fluctuate throughout my life.
But the big Q was: how do I talk to my boyfriend about my emotional struggles?
I've been stung in the past over this exact situation: talking about my feelings with my friends or past lovers ended in them exiting my life. It sucked. It hurt. I still feel that emotional sting.
I knew Nish wouldn't react that way, though. I had full faith that he would handle it relatively calmly. But that wasn't the only worry I had.
Some of my friends aren't very good at talking about feelings. I love them to death, but they default to trying to give advice and quickly become overwhelmed. That's perfectly OK. They have many other redeeming qualities.
But a relationship is different. To have a thriving love life, you need open communication and to feel safe talking about how you feel. While your partner shouldn't replace a therapist, it's important to have them at least understand where your head is at.
That's why I sat Nish down for a talk two days.
Talking about your struggles with your partner takes a few things:
I majored in Communication in college. I've seen two different therapists, spanning three years of my life. I've learned about relationships through trial and error. And through all of those life experiences, I realized there are certain ways to handle a conversation about emotions to ensure it goes well. While we'd hope it would be as straight forward as stating how we feel, it's more complicated than that.
Setting the right tone.
When I sat Nish down and started talking with him about my struggles, I let him know we were about to talk about a serious subject. I wanted Nish to prepare, mentally, and not hurt my feelings by checking his phone mid-one-of-my-sentences. Better to have the emotional bases covered.
You're already making a vulnerable choice to talk about what's hurting you most. Don't let that kind of effort be squashed by bringing up the conversation while you're watching a movie or blind-siding your partner when they're casually hanging out.
The courage to speak your truth
Once I set the tone for the conversation, I told Nish about how I'd been feeling. That I thought my emotional state would get better, but I was worried things were only getting worse. I told him my fears about my writing and how it felt like a vicious cycle of anxiety-overwhelm-sadness-more anxiety.
I didn't hold back, because these are my feelings. They deserve to be understood.
In the past, I would've been meek about the conversation. I would've skipped over some feelings and acted small, most likely because I didn't want to be hurt.
But this kind of conversation takes courage. If your partner loves and cares about you, they're not going to react badly. They'll want to hear everything you're experiencing. So have the courage to talk about everything that's going on.
Letting them know what you need
As sweet as Nish is, his first reaction to a problem I have is trying to fix it. But if you've ever felt crappy and then had someone say, "just do *this* to fix it," you know how that makes things feel worse. The moment Nish tried to give me advice, I let him know I just wanted him to understand me, support me emotionally, and let me vent.
I don't want Nish to be the one to fix things, because he can't.
Sometimes, you'll just want to talk about your feelings. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But that doesn't mean your partner will know, and if they try to figure out solutions to your issues, know that comes from a good place. Tell them that you appreciate how much you care, but you just want them to listen.
Now that the air cleared (within our relationship, but sadly not LA), we've adjusted. I'm focusing on things that make me feel better: walks, yoga, talking to friends. Nish helps more around the apartment when I feel too overwhelmed.
And things feel better. They might not be fixed, but feeling understood and accepted— no matter what emotional struggle I'm going through— created a calm environment for me to work on my happiness.
It will do you a whole lot of good to talk to your partner about how you're feeling, too. None of us are invincible; the world is a mess right now, and anyone would be affected by this turmoil.
If you're new to this kind of conversation or doing it for the first time with a new partner, remember three things: set the tone, be brave, and be clear about what you need.
Until next week my amazing readers.
All the love,
On Monday, I'll be taking a meeting with the Art Director for my publisher. We're going to brainstorm ideas for the book cover, and I am very excited about the meeting.
If you have any book cover inspo you like, feel free to send anything my way!
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