Has anyone ever given you a hard time because you didn’t want to spend as much time (or affection) as they wanted? Join Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com and Reid Mihalko from http://www.ReidAboutSex.com as they share ideas and insights from the beach (recorded from Fort Lauderdale Beach, our apologize for the wind noise on the recording).

Cathy: What do you do when someone shames you for wanting some space? I’m Cathy Vartuli from http://TheIntimacyDojo.com.

Reid: I’m Reid Mihalko from http://ReidAboutSex.com and I’m about to shame Cathy Vartuli.

Cathy: You are?

Reid: Why do you need space from me? I thought we were friends. Don’t you like doing these videos with me?

Cathy: I love doing the videos.

Reid: Then why aren’t we doing more? All you’re doing is avoiding me. That’s nervous laughter isn’t it?

Cathy: Yes.

Reid: How dare you!

Cathy: I’d really like to go to the restroom by myself.

Reid: No! We have … oh my goodness, always about what? You know what? If you really liked me, if you really cared about our friendship, you would be clingy in the same way I am. But they never say it like that!

Cathy: No, they don’t!

Reid: What do you do when you’re trying to be a good communicator and you let somebody know that I like you, but I don’t “like you” like you.

Cathy: Or I really enjoy spending time with you and I need some time alone.

Reid: Yeah, I need some me space and then people shame you, like have you ever been shamed like that before?

Cathy: Yes, I have.

Reid: What was that like?

Cathy: At the time I didn’t have the communication skills I had now, and I was befuddled. I was like, “Uh … uh … ” and I didn’t want to lose my friendship, so I ended up ignoring my needs and spending time with that person, but it didn’t feel good.

All of us had gone to the movies with someone who didn’t want to be there and it just feels awful. You can tell, you can tell energetically that they don’t want to be there. I think if I had just spoken up for myself and said, “Hey I need some time,” and I had gone off and done my thing and then come back, we would have had a really good time for maybe less time, but it would have been focused and good, rather than me sitting there and going, “How soon can I leave? I feel trapped. I want to gnaw off my arm.”

Reid: Yeah, when you’re watching the clock, that’s usually a sign that there’s stuff that you’re not talking about. While it can be jarring for some people, especially when you start learning better communication skills, and you start practicing them on people, they think, “Oh my God! You’re changing and we’re going to lose our friendship.”

The things I like to do is tell people, “Listen, I care about our friendship and I have some needs that if I don’t get them met, I’m going to get passive aggressive on your ass and that’s not going to be fun.” Because most of us have had those experiences when a friend or a family member went with us somewhere and they didn’t really want to be there. If you kind of invoke that, “Hey listen, I don’t want to be that person with you. I need X, Y, and Z and then let’s spend some time together.” Now you can only say these things if you actually want to spend time with them.

Cathy: Yes, if you don’t really want to, then you should not tell them that.

Reid: You owe them the common courtesy of being like, “Listen, just so you know, for whatever reason, it’s not working for me and I need to not be hanging out with you.” You need to be real with them because the shit storm is going to happen anyway. You lying to them is only going to delay it and then have them be more pissed at you.

Cathy: A lot of us have been taught that it’s kinder to gently hint and hope they go away, or string them along, but it really isn’t. Rip the band-aid off.

Reid: You can do that in a compassionate way and the way that I do it is I do the emotional math and I tell them, I’m like, “Listen, if I don’t speak up and I don’t do this, I’m going to get angry at you and I’m going to take it out on you. I can guarantee you that. You don’t deserve that.” Then you can start figuring out ways where you guys can, if you do want to hang out, hang out in a way that’s healthy for you, sometimes you just need some more autonomy and your alone time.

If they start shaming you, what I do is I call them out, and I’m like, “I feel like you’re shaming me. What is going on for you that you need to have this reaction?” I really just firmly hold my ground. Most people don’t want to admit that they’re being dicks, so when you call them on being a dick, they either have to completely deny it, and if they deny it, be like, “Well, OK, so maybe I’m wrong, but why are you raising your voice to me or giving me a guilt trip right now?”

Cathy: Well, a lot of people guilt because they don’t know any other to get their needs met. I love the book Five Love Languages, a lot of people that want to spend time with us, our quality time, the quality time is their way of feeling loved and loving the other person, so when you say, “I want to go off and spend some time alone,” to them it can feel like you’re rejecting their love or not loving them. Helping them identify that that’s not the case and maybe finding other love languages they have that can offer reassurance in the mean time. If they’re also an active service person, and they’re feeling like you’re rejecting their love, you’d say, “I really need some time alone, could you view this time alone as an act of service?”

Reid: Got it.

Cathy: You can offer them other ways to express their love or see love and also still get your time alone, like look for a way, another doorway for that.

Reid: The other thing you can do with people who are shaming you is sometimes, the idea is that guilt, that you did something wrong and shame is that something’s wrong about you. Sometimes we project our shame, our feelings of wrongness onto the other person, so you can be like, “Hey, I’m just curious, do you feel weird about needing a lot of time from me? Are you trying to shame me in just some weird way of maybe making yourself feel better or are you trying to make me wrong for taking care of myself? How can I support you in taking care of yourself?

That’s a question that works in so many situations. You might want to repeat it right now.


Cathy: How

Reid: Can I support you

Cathy: Can I support you

Reid: In taking care of yourself?

Cathy: In taking care of yourself?

Reid: How

Cathy: How

Reid: Can I support you

Cathy: Can I support you

Reid: In getting your needs met?

Cathy: In getting your needs met?

Reid: That way, when you support them that way, they’re like, “Well, my need is that you spend the entire weekend with me.”

You’re like, “Well, I can’t do that. Who else could you get to spend time with you this weekend?” It ends up shifting, it opens up, for some people, it won’t work on everybody, but it gives them a way to start brainstorming and feeling supported by you without you having to agree to something that’s totally just going to backfire anyway.

Cathy: Yeah, and try not to come down about yourself. There’s one person you do want to spend time with. Realize that getting those needs met means that when you’re with that person you’ll want to give and you’re not so starved that you’re clinging and pulling at them.

Reid: Leave some comments. Let us know your thoughts on this stuff.

Cathy: Yeah, thanks very much

Reid: I’m so disappointed. You won’t spend more time with me.

Cathy: Are you shaming me?

Reid: How dare you, bad person.

Cathy: Are you shaming me?

Reid: Yes, you should feel the shame.


More articles on improving your communication and relationship skills:

If You Want To Be More Powerful …How Can You Still Leave Space For Other People?

How Do I Hold Space For My Partner?