How often do you use the word ‘No’ in your relationship with your partner?
Try this for exercise: Over one week, try and keep a count of the number of times any of you say ‘No’ to the other person. It could be for anything: Do you want to get an ice-cream? Shall we go to the terrace and sit down there with our cups of tea and plates of pakoras? Shall we take a walk with our masks on? Can I cut my hair short, or just trim it down till it is almost tonsured - this CoVid is driving me to bits? Shall we go to bed? Can I kiss you? Shall I invite my sister and family over for Onam lunch in two weeks?
There are dozens and dozens of interactions that we go through in a day with our partners, and if you can keep track of how you respond to all those, and think back as to how your responses affect each other, the flow of energy between the two of you and the feel of the space itself, you will start noticing one thing: Saying ‘No’ is a lot more than just saying no.
Often, these seemingly innocuous interactions are not just mundane transactions. Every transaction is a call for connection. Not necessarily for a connection in terms of needing attention or wanting to do something together, but a call for connection nevertheless. It is a sign of wanting some engagement, some flow of energy between you and a sense of feeling you are interested in each other and what you do. These calls for connection might easily be overlooked because you think you are only talking about dinner or the cat or the house maintenance - nothing very serious or important that is really about your relationship, but the fact is that the relationship is built on all these small interactions, and not just the big ones of money, love, sex, society, parenting and the such.
What happens when we repeatedly hear No from our partner is that we start to make assessments as to the degree of connection that our partner is ready for or willing to offer, and that assessment generalizes into decisions we make, even without really checking with the other, because we know what we have heard and believe that to be true. We tend to then gradually limit ourselves, drawing boundaries as to what is possible in the relationship and what could have been a free flowing river of joy and intimacy full of vibrant life and connection, becomes at best, a small little oasis with a large desert around it, and at worst a stagnant, septic and toxic little pool of resentment and hatred.
If you keep a track of the Nos you say and you find you say far too much of it, take a step back and consider what else you could do. Could you offer an alternative? Get a little time? Maybe even say ‘Yes’?
Doesn’t it already feel livelier?
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.