Here are some guidelines for addressing incompletions that you may find useful.
- Acknowledge to your partner that you have an incompletion. This can take the form of a simple statement such as “There’s something that I feel unfinished about and I’d like to speak with you about it. Is this a good time?”
- If they say ‘no’, seek to create an agreement to a time that will be convenient for both of you. (Note: be specific and make sure that you both have an adequate amount of time available to do the matter justice. Assume that the conversation will take longer than you think it should)
- State your intention in having the conversation. It should be something that will ultimately benefit you both, such as “My hope in having us both address my concern is that we can both experience greater trust.”
- Provide your partner some guidance that will help him to know how he can best support you in this process, such as: “It would be helpful to me if you can just let me explain to you what I’m feeling and needing without interrupting me. I don’t feel that I’ve been successful at making my feelings and concerns clear and I’d like to try again. When I’m done, I’d like to hear your response and I’ll do my best to understand you. I really appreciate your willingness to have this conversation with me now.”
- Express your feelings, needs, and concerns and make any requests that you would like your partner to respond to. Try to speak in terms of your experience, as this will diminish the likelihood that your partner will feel blamed and will be less likely to become defensive. If he does become defensive or interrupts you, ask him if he can let you finish and that you’ll be able to be much more open to what he is saying after you feel that he’s heard you.
- Show him the same respect that you’ve asked him to give you by listening attentively, not just to his words, but also to the feelings that underlie them. Try to resist the temptation to “correct” him if he says anything that you disagree with. There will be time for this later. Keep in mind that not disagreeing with someone does not necessarily mean that you agree with him.
- Go back and forth until you reach a point at which it feels that the energy between the two of you has lightened up and you both feel understood and hopeful. An incompletion doesn’t have to be absolutely resolved in order to create a positive outcome. Some incompletions require many conversations before they become reconciled to the satisfaction of both partners. If you hit an impasse that despite your best efforts, rather than trying to push through it, agree to resume the dialogue at another time after you both have reset your intentions.
- Regardless of the outcome, thank your partner for joining you in your commitment to deepening the quality of trust.
This is admittedly an abbreviated version of the process of getting complete; you’ll learn a lot more in making the effort and by noticing the consequences of your interactive patterns. To the best of your ability try to be respectful and responsible in your words. Most of us are much more sensitive to blame, judgment, and criticism than we seem to others to be. The less defensive and reactive you can be, the more open your partner is likely to be.
Becoming more skilled in the process of getting complete is a great way to break the habit of avoidance and one of the best things that you can do for your relationship. There is a learning curve to the process, but it doesn’t take a genius to master it. You might as well go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose but your incompletions!