Ordinary hugs can be nice, warm, comforting or even arousing. But did you know that hugging can also teach you about your level of emotional maturity and ability for healthy interdependence in relationships? Try these 10 steps with your partner, and see for yourself!
The goal of this exercise is to practice holding unto yourself while holding onto your partner. This means staying connected with yourself, being aware of your thoughts and feelings, quieting and calming yourself while also being connected to your partner. This exercise shows how well you can relax and keep your balance even if your partner isn't as connected.
1. Face your partner and stand on your own two feet
2. Put your arms around your partner and embrace each other
3. Hold the hug longer than normal, as long as you both want to, and until you feel relaxed
4. Focus on yourself and notice what you feel
5. Use your reactions to hugging to work on yourself rather than each other
6. Quiet yourself down
7. Scan your body for tension and relax it
8. Talk to yourself mentally in a calm and soothing way
9. Deepen and slow your breathing
10. Be aware of self and other
Discussion questions and thoughts This exercise can help you see your level of differentiation. Differentiation refers to your level of emotional maturity and ability for interdependence. It is your ability to stand on your own two feet, physically and emotionally, when you are close to others. It allows you to stay close while your partner is bouncing off the wall.
• Share with each other what your experience was during this exercise
• On a scale from 1-10, how difficult was it to feel completely relaxed? Why?
When you draw your sense of stability from your partner, you have to try to control him or her at all times. In short, you can never relax. In contrast, when your sense of stability comes from yourself, you can just let your partner go, focus on yourself, calm yourself down and then reach out from a place of stability. It's not about becoming more heartless or hard-hearted, but it's taking better care of your own heart.
Well-differentiated couples hold onto each other and try to make one another feel good. The difference in the outreach is a choice rather than a necessity. It is done for the other person rather than one's own needs. If you want to help your partner, hold onto yourself and quiet yourself down. If you want to soothe your partner, give him or her someone to hold who's already quiet. Practice this skill often, for yourself and for your partner.
Additional information about this exercise can be found in chapter five of my book, Date Night Conversations.
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