I was nursing my daughter last night and she was tightly gripping my hand, which she sometimes does.
I tried to take my hand out of hers and she wouldn’t let me. I tried again. She held on tighter. I tried again. Still couldn’t get my hand back.
And then, like any one of us who overthinks things, especially if you’re the combo of being a psychologist AND a parent, I thought to myself,
“Wow, I wonder if I just kept my hand here for her, if she’d get a better sense that I’m here for her and that she can depend on me?”
Mind you, she had another part of me in her mouth, and kinda does, almost whenever she wants. She’s clearly got more than my HAND wrapped around her little finger.
But this experience got me thinking more…
If my husband grabbed my hand, and I tried to take it back, he’d let go.
(And if he didn’t, I might be able to get him arrested!)
But what if he really wanted to hold my hand like she did?
How much would he persist?
Probably a bit, but if I started pulling away, he might give up.
He definitely would not persist like her.
This girl is relentless.
And I get it, she’s a baby, she is pure NEED, and she doesn’t really consider my needs much, because she’s a baby! But, in some ways, what she’s doing is what more of us need to do:
Putting our needs front and center, or at the very least, clearly let them be known.
And love unconditionally.
In distressed couples, there is even less persistence, or when there is, it is masked as cruelty, hostility and even sometimes disgust (go figure).
And when there is no persistence and just neutrality, a blank gaze from one partner is mistaken as an evil glare by the other.
The person giving the blank stare who might have been simply lost in thoughts can do nothing to convince his or her partner that it simply that and not a look of scorn.
Then that becomes something to be scornful of in itself.
Who “wins” for feeling worse, the person getting the so-called scornful look, or the other so deeply misunderstood?
The vicious cycle goes around and around.
But if you’re a baby, you see love from whatever glance you get as long as someone’s looking at you, and when you’re misunderstood (which you undoubtedly often are), you keep trying to make your point until you do.
You don’t let go if you don’t want to, and you’ll grab wherever you want.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Of course I’m not advocating the lack of respect for each other and appreciate the fact that there is *some* protection for intimate partner violence even though it’s not nearly talked about enough.
As adults, we build walls, we get hurt, we learn to protect ourselves, and we learn to take care of others before ourselves, even as a way of protecting ourselves.
The message we’re always given is to put others first.
While some people definitely need to learn how to start considering others in the first place, others need to simply stop putting others first and learn how to love like a baby again.
Here are a few steps to start practing:
1. Choose love over fear.
Take risks when you’re afraid with love as your guide.
Babies only know how to work with love.
When afraid, they cry, and choose love (you).
When you’re afraid, move forward anyway, reaching out for your partner, telling them something difficult, speaking your truth and owning your needs.
Once you let fear get in the way, wash it over with love.
2. Stop misinterpreting your partner’s signals.
You’re not a mind reader.
You can’t even read reality right when you’re in a distressed relationship.
That look of scorn may have been a blank stare after all.
Give your partner a chance.
Ask them what they really mean. It may *feel* easier to “dress rehearse tragedy” in your mind, as Brene Brown calls it, and imagine the worst, but that only sets you up for failure.
Babies don’t know how to “dress rehearse tragedy,” and are only present. They will give you as many chances as it takes for you to get it right. Give your partner a few more.
3. Act as if your partner were the best thing going.
If you’re a parent of an infant (or if you ever were, remember when), you know you’re the best thing going for that baby. That helps you be a better parent because it feels good. This whole set up is part of our engineering, so let’s enjoy it and let it run optimally.
When you act that way in love, your partner might start to shape up to be the best thing going, and will start treating you that way as well.
That’s how it should be.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Do you have what it takes to love like a baby?
I know you do, because you once were one.
Cheers to thriving in business & love,
P.S. If you are in an abusive relationship, this advice is NOT for you. I do not advocate being vulnerable with your partner or giving your partner more chances. Instead, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or find local services at www.domesticshelters.org.