There are the things we know, things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t know we don’t know. A conversation with my husband was of the last variety. It was so murky and hidden, I didn’t even realize it existed or what a high stakes conversation it was until the elephant in the room revealed itself.
Philippe and I were talking about dance—though really we were also talking about sex. I should clarify. I was talking about sex, and I didn’t know it. He was purely talking about dance. The event was a contact improv dance—where dancers maintain some moving point of physical contact with one another while dance moves are improvised—we had shared two years ago. Two years ago. The dance hadn’t gone well. Technically, almost anything goes in contact improv. In reality, attuning to your partner while dance moves are unfolding spontaneously can be a real challenge. Dances can be smooth and harmonious, jagged and cacophonous, but always connected. In this dance of connection, I had never felt so disconnected afterward.
The elephant in the room wasn’t just the dance, it was what it represented to me—all of the possibilities of our sensual relationship. Even in writing about it, it seems almost ludicrous that something this big was so invisible to me. I had no idea I had coded it as such.
Have you ever not known how high stakes something is until it does or doesn’t come to fruition? This was my case. I knew I carried the wounds of that poor dance and my husband’s feedback, but I didn’t know why I was still carrying such sorrow around two years later.
It had me realize: What are the conversations we’re not having, and we’re not even aware are lurking below the surface?
What are the painful experiences that seem to linger?
This should have been the first clue to me. After two years, it was a bell ringing loudly and clearly. I was stuck on the dance and the awkward feedback my husband had given me afterwards. I was stuck on the failure of it, and how it represented all of the things that were not working in our sensual and sexual relationship. We had talked about it. I had cried about it, yet it was still clogging the an artery of our relationship. It had me wonder: what other painful experiences are still lingering? What are the sore spots we still carry years later?
We carry residual feelings when issues aren’t resolved.
I’ve seen it with my son. He asks a question. I answer. He asks the same question again. I answer again. The third time, I know something didn’t get. Instead of repeating the same question, I begin to ask him about what he did and didn’t understand. Where did he get lost along the way? Where did my explanation fail, and where did I get lost in answering?
It is the same with these hidden conversations. The dance popped up again and again because I didn’t realize how deeply devastated I was. Instead, I got caught in the groove of what Philippe had said, and not how much meaning I had devoted to the dance. Once I realized it was unresolved and so much had not been spoken, I was able to finally speak that piece.
When those feelings are intense, it’s often because something high stakes exists.</h4.
I strongly believe powerful feelings are pointing to something more. Perhaps a core value has been crossed or a deep wound has been touched. Perhaps there were unspoken expectations. Perhaps we didn’t realize we had expectations until they were unmet. Whatever the case, the feelings are messengers to us. We just need to pay attention.
There is a haziness to the experience. Something seems out of focus.
This was also a clue that something was off. I realized that there was a deep tenderness and fear around the unspoken conversation. Something was out there, but it was so murky, I could barely sense its existence.
In my case, once I had actually articulated my expectation and devastation, we were able to walk back the conversation, and Philippe could really hear me. Instead of thinking, I’ll never dance with him again! I began to think there are possibilities. Low stakes possibilities in this dance. Stakes of playfulness and connection, swirling moves and maybe a dip or two. Or perhaps even a slow sway held with the weight of our many years together.
Photo credit: Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels