Updated: Oct 29, 2019
“My man isn’t showing up for me powerfully. How can I get him to step up?”
I hear this statement made so often from women who are not feeling supported or getting their needs met in the relationship. For some relationships, resentment builds and for others this is the reason they end.
Yet what does it mean to ‘show up powerfully’ and is it something that can be effectively fixed?
To show up in a relationship means to be present, attentive, and participating in the co-creation and maintenance of the relationship, self, and partner. A relationship does not run on the activity of one single person, but the inter-influence of two or more people’s input. We can further identify various qualities that encapsulate showing up including: appreciation, attention, cooperation, empathy, generosity, and support. The trouble here is that many times we assume the other person should know how to show up in the exact ways that we need them to, only to be disappointed when they don’t. To powerfully show up means that we do these acts willingly and wholeheartedly.
If we want our partner, man or woman, to show up more than they are presently, then how could we navigate this in a way that fosters willingness rather than resentment or halfhearted responses?
What does it mean to ‘show up powerfully’ and is it something that can be effectively fixed?
Know exactly what it is that you are looking for from them.
Maybe we want our partner to listen and empathize with us rather than jump into problem-solving mode. Giving them specific examples as to how they can do this for us empowers both people. Suggesting that they hold us, or make eye contact, or ask clarifying questions are all tangible ways that our partner can implement without uncertainty. Think of it as us helping them help us.
Sometimes what we seek isn’t so much about the form we are asking but the essence of the form. In this case, coming up with different ideas as to what else could fulfill the essence of what we are looking for can give our partner better ideas of how they could be there for us. For instance, if we are wanting the essence of security, we could let our partner know that sweet or funny texts throughout the day, or inclusion on bigger decisions contribute to this feeling.
Vocalize how it’s impacting you and your felt sensation.
If we are unhappy, let them know. Our partner does not know our internal experience unless we tell them. Even if it seems that it’s not a big deal or that we can get over it for ourselves and it still bothers us, speaking up about our experience gives opportunity for intimacy. It’s important that we own our own experience and feelings rather than place blame on the other person. We may not fully know the intention or story behind another person’s actions, so to blame will only cause the other person to want to protect themselves through distancing or defensiveness.
Be serious about the ramifications on you and the relationship and where you draw the line.
“I don’t want to have sex with you. I don’t want to open up and tell you. I don’t want to go out to social events with you. I don’t want to let go around you..when I’m not receiving ___.” If we are not feeling open and close with our partner as a result of their behavior or lack thereof, then continuing actions that are not in congruence with you are only going to make you feel worse. It’s important to set and maintain boundaries that are important for us. Continuing to allow the issue to slide only perpetuates that relationship which we don’t actually want. In return, this builds resentment and does not foster closeness or trust or even the desire to want to show up in the future. Let them know where the line is and be firm about it. What happens when these behaviors are continued and how do they affect you and the relationship? If we want someone else to show up powerfully for us, we first must show up powerfully for ourselves.
Change the image you are holding of him.
If we consciously or unconsciously hold the image of our partner negatively or how they used to act in the past, then we are sabotaging their potential because we are not allowing them space to show up differently and prove us wrong. Or maybe we get into the habit of pointing out all the ways he is not doing something well or she failed as a partner, again. Being on the receiving end of comments or images being projected onto does not foster one to step up, but rather contributes to wanting to pull away, protect, and not desiring to be there for you.
Appreciate your partner.
Give them acknowledgement and appreciation for their efforts as they are progressing and not wait until they are perfect. When they are stepping up an extra 20%, let them know you see it and what it means for you to see it. At the same time, be mindful that we do not thwart their efforts because they are ‘too little too late’. So often we can struggle with receiving someone doing something for us and end up sabotaging exactly that which we were wanting in the first place. “You’re only doing that because I asked you to,” is a common statement we say to protect our seemingly fragile selves and completely takes the wind out of the sails of the partner who is offering. I can promise this type of talking is not going to support future spontaneous efforts from your partner again. Whether they did it because you informed them of how they could be there for you, or they did it spontaneously does not matter. Both require energy and effort to complete and both are avenues for getting what you need and creating the relationship you desire.
Identify any ways you may be blocking intimacy.
Many of us unconsciously miss or prevent opportunities for intimacy or our partner to be there for us. Maybe we grew up prizing independence, self-sufficiency, or avoidance of emotional expression and as a result operate in this way in our romantic relationships as a valuable trait to have. The problem here is that we are expecting our partner to be close and supportive, yet we are not providing them with any opportunity to do that for us, and then get mad when they are not there. Taking a look at ourselves, our actions, and our words that might be at play here can be an empowering strategy for getting out of this pattern and move forward with what we are wanting to create. It can be difficult to accept that we have a role in it, yet a necessary point of insight if you want something different.
They have to want to.
Finally and probably the most crucial factor in contributing to someone showing up stronger in the relationship would be because the partner wants to put effort into the wellbeing of the relationship. If there isn’t desire for this from the partner then any of the above efforts to get him or her to be there or be there powerfully will be futile. And we cannot blame anyone for having non-desire. Ultimately, all we can do is ensure that we are showing up to the best of our ability for ourselves. Even if that means we make the decision to move on.
While we cannot force a person to show up for us in a relationship, there are many strategies we can implement that will foster healthier interactions, opportunities for intimacy, and characteristics of the partner that you have been wanting to be there all along. It takes effort on our part to create the life we want, and it is worth it.