Maxine introduced Women in Relationships with some thought-provoking questions, highlighting that initiating these types of discussions is the power of Well-being for Women, and indeed the power of women when we get together to bring issues to the fore that may constrain, condense and contract us. “We all learn from each other’s experiences and each other’s wisdom.” Maxine Szramka. And so we had a unifying and embracing start to what is set to be an outstanding presentation and discussion about where we are at collectively and within ourselves as women in relationships.
Maxine and Annette started the day with a confirmation most of us know deep in our hearts. There is no doubt that women have been celebrated (and sometimes brutalised) for the power of what they hold within, a sacred connection to self and all-embracing to the all that it can be challenging to put into words, especially if we are not living it as often as we could.
Yes, straight into it we went. We all have an innate wisdom and we’re not living it as we could. That’s hard to deny as we’ve all felt it at some point or another. So, what’s getting in the way?
The first part of the workshop was about understanding why we’re not living what we know to be true – our amazingness. The second part of the workshop was about supporting us to connect back to what we know is true about ourselves (and others) and the benefits of doing so.
“So often when we hear the word ‘well-being’ the things that we automatically go to are all the external things – fitness, beauty regimes, nutrition, juicing . . . and that’s all great and lovely, and it’s important, but it’s not taking care of ‘the being’.” Annette Baker quoting Natalie Benhayon (Founder of Esoteric Women’s Health).
“Well-being for women is about taking care of the body and the being but never taking care of the body in lieu of the being . . . the two are totally connected.” Annette Baker
“What we see a lot of with women is a lot of protection and control and it does interrupt and disturb the potential of the relationships we can be having, and how far that can reach in terms of where you can go in a relationship and what it can expand to.” Annette Baker
The first relationship we need to nurture is the one we have with ourselves.” Annette Baker
As relationship councillors Gabe and Annette have supported thousands of people, and as Maxine so lovingly highlighted in her intro – they really know their stuff. ‘The stuff’ that the pair felt to really “put a microscope on”, as Gabe said, was the themes of ‘protection and control’ within Women in Relationships. “We can see how much it’s disturbing the unfolding in women and the ability to surrender in relationships. It’s really getting in the way . . . there are so many behaviours that are tied up with protection and control. If we want to have relationships that are very healthy and can actually be very healing for us we have to look at the things that get in the way.” Gabrielle Caplice.
All the pictures that women have identified with – especially around what a relationship should be and look like – including those with partners, friends, colleagues etc. – are stopping women from “being at ease and settled in themselves” as Gabe pointed out. Those pictures, along with the myriad of ideals and beliefs are all preventing us from living a full and loving life.
Before we explored the ‘what we don’t like’ aspects, Gabe eased us in with the question . . .
What values does a woman hold, what quality is she moving in, what’s happening in her body and how is she with herself – what does it really look like – a woman loving herself and another in any healthy relationship?
Gabe, Annette and the group shared the following on the truth of a woman’s essence:
| || |
“If you look at this list, and you feel it, you’re going to feel the times when you haven’t been living that . . . if I can take away one thing from today and I go home to live in my relationships is to consider to be more like this because we all know this. That’s why I asked you to help describe what it looks like to be in [a loving and healthy] relationship. But on a day-to-day basis a lot of us aren’t living it.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“These aren’t just words, these are qualities of expressing who we are. The purpose of looking at when we’re not and why we’re not, is not to give ourselves a bad rap by any means, it’s just to support us to re-connect back with it because when we don’t we suffer, as does everybody else we are in relationship with, because they’re not getting all of who we are and we’re not getting all of who we are.” Annette Baker.
Annette continued to say that if any of the above qualities are not active or are shut down in our being then it can be felt in our body, which can then be felt as a tension in our relationships.
“I notice with women that when we first come into a room when we meet each other, the question is: ‘how open are you in your body to those scenarios?’ It’s something to consider because you can get very locked up. What we’ve noticed in our healing sessions with women is that a lot of them have got very tense in the jaw . . . have you felt locked up in your body? Even though you’re trying your best to be open and available in your conversations there’s still a tension that’s happening in your body . . . Even when you bring attention to it can you really unlock it? Are you really letting it go?” Gabrielle Caplice.
“What we’re seeing (hearing) more of, because of this tension that women are living with, when they are in their moments of intimacy and sexual expression they are not able to have an orgasm . . . it’s happening more and more for women of all ages. There’s an outplay and effect that is happening for women in their bodies that doesn’t let them release tension, and it’s not something you can just go and exercise to get rid of. It actually has to be identified, nominated and brought awareness to, to say ‘hey, what am I doing? This is my best friend or my partner and I’m totally in protection.” Gabrielle Caplice.
Gabe was bringing to light the fact that even though we may love our partners or friends very dearly we are still holding ourselves in protection. She pointed out that in their sessions – the theme with couples, colleagues or friends is that men are often more relaxed than the women: “they’re more capable of surrendering and letting go”, said Gabe.
Gabe posed a question that was like the hand reaching out, inviting us to let go of all this tension and protection we hold . . . encouraging us that it is safe to leave the water’s edge and admit there is more going on than meets the eye: “Do you sometimes feel like it all gets too much in your body and you have no idea how to let it all go?” A big breath out from everyone and a resounding yes from this writer, and many more women no doubt as well.
“Does it get released in spurts of getting reactionary or suddenly finding yourself getting emotional and just having to have a cry . . . just to let go the tension of what’s happening to you in your life? As women we’re living with a lot of this.” Gabe went on to implore that we need to do something about this and talking intimately as a group of women is a great start.
“One of the things that comes from that tension is a suspicion because when you’re so protective you’re always trying to second guess what’s going on around you. You’re wondering what that next person is thinking about you. You’re just checking to see if everything’s ok in the relationship and you’re looking for signs, signals and markers that you’re going to be safe so that you can relax and let go. That’s not ok. And we know this. We’ve got to be able to speak about it and have some inner reflection and be able to bring some self-awareness to these moments and say: ‘why the hell am I so locked up. What is going on? This is someone that I really love and I’m not ok.’ “Gabrielle Caplice.
“If we want to have a really loving relationship it’s got to go deeper than trust. It’s got to go to knowing . . . if we want to have relationships like this, then protection is the absolute bastardisation of being in a [loving] relationship.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“When we’re living with that protection we do become suspicious, it’s like ‘is she saying that about me’ and all that sort of stuff, and that starts in kindergarten . . . so we’re brought up not trusting each other. So, it could be our best friend but we’re not 100% sure.” Annette Baker.
Gabe went on to ask how many people in the room have ‘a healthy, loving woman’ within them but hold back because of a fear that they would be attacked – someone gets jealous etc. Virtually everyone put their hand up. “So that makes sense for why we live in the protection we live in. This goes back to the pictures Maxine was presenting at the first Well-being for Women – we love this and we know this (the essence of women) yet somehow we lose the ability to express this way and yet this is the absolute antidote to actually flowing and being in your relationship, and working through all the things that we actually find difficult with and struggle within relationships. If you’re in protection and your body isn’t open then the other person near you is sensing exactly all of that and is going to cover [their essence] up to. It doesn’t matter what gender they are, or how old they are.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“So, if you’re both shut down in whatever you’re in, who is meeting who? It hurts when you feel like you’re not bringing all of you and the other person isn’t bringing all of them. If we commit to that (being in our essence) in ourselves, even if we feel that person is shut down to some extent – we don’t shut down, we stay open in the body and the being.” Annette Baker.
Gabe added: “There’s many reasons why this is happening, but the protection and the control go a long way to not having the fulfilling relationships that you want to have because we’re not all in [there], we’re not totally committed.”
We may love the other person so much but because of our past hurts we question whether we can really let ourselves go, be super vulnerable and show all of us to another. “Give it everything and express my love in full,” as Gabe said describing how difficult it was at first to let Annette in. “You could tell [the protection] was all based on security: ‘are you going to be ok with me. We had to just drop it in the end and absolutely commit a billion percent to each other because the caution (which is protection), the looking for security, was killing the relationship. It was killing the ability to be in the relationship and move forward.”
“At some stage we had to open up no matter what. If we get hurt we get hurt. We’ll find a way to overcome those hurts but just let ourselves love each other in full. That’s how we have to be as women in relationships. We can’t stand here in protection and go maybe, because that’s what gives you the lack of clarity. There’s not going to be the commitment from the other person if you’re not allowing yourself full commitment – if you’re protecting yourself or guarding up against letting yourself express that.” Gabrielle Caplice
“Unfortunately we do hurt each other in relationships. It’s just what happens. So, to hold each other to ransom when someone does something that betrays us or hurts us or misunderstands us – whatever it is the thing that actually gets us - to hold that in our body and hold the other person to ransom really doesn’t serve any purpose, you just get further and further disconnected. This is friendships, partners, family, everything. The thing is it’s accepting the fact that when we’re disconnected we do hurt each other because we are already hurting ourselves.” Annette Baker.
“What we did was say yes, accept that fact that we are going to hurt each other, but if we commit to living more of (our essence) then we will start to hurt each other less and less . . . we don’t ever not hurt each other, with misunderstandings and things like that, we’re not perfect, but it’s true that it happens less and less.” Annette Baker.
“Ultimately what hurts at the end of the relationship, when it doesn’t work out, you know that you haven’t brought your all to it. That is devastating to go ‘wow, I actually haven’t brought all of me.” Alison Coleman.
“There is a palliative care physician that writes about the fact that at the end of people’s lives the only thing that disturbs them is their unhealed relationships . . . the ONLY thing that disrupts their process of letting go is if they have issues in relationships with people that were important to them that they haven’t healed.” Annette Baker.
“One of the things that happens with control and protection is that you’re already in judgement; you can’t not be. So already that’s the lack of clarity because you’re not going to be reading the situation correctly. You’re already in misunderstanding. Even if you think you’re a very aware person, the moment you are in protection and control in your body you’re already in judgement. So how are you receiving relationships when you’re like that? It’s very damaging. So, then the person will most probably give you evidence to support your judgement and more reason to stay in that cycle of not trusting, needing security, not valuing the person in front of you, not being open to receiving a fresh moment in relationship, and that’s the really important point. Whenever we’re in relationship with somebody, the minute you see that person, I don’t assume I know everything that’s going on for her in that moment. I have to be totally open in my body for whatever is there because she might come with a whole lot of learning, a whole lot of new experiences . . . I’ve changed too so we’re meeting together in a fresh moment.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“Don’t assume you know what’s going on. Every moment has to be fresh and new. Be open to that; don’t shut it down, protection shuts it all down. Protection makes it repetitive, makes the same things happen over and over again which we all get really frustrated by, so it’s a key thing.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“I read a quote recently that . . . when you’re in protection, every step after that, you’re in disregard . . . when you end up in disregard, the hurt is actually that, and you continue to go more and more away from all of those things (our essence) and then you go into a self-battering and that’s everything that’s hurting you, not actually anything to do with the other person.” Nadia Kudiarskyj.
“Specifically for me I had to work on my expression and communication because it was pretty poor . . . as I worked on my expression and communication which allowed me to express more of these qualities (our essence as a woman) of who I am, so these came to the fore more and I was stronger in them in the sense of ‘this is who I am’, the self-doubt thoughts started to go away. So what it highlighted was they were never true. They were only there because I wasn’t [connected]. The self-doubt isn’t even true. So, when we’re having self-doubt it’s worth going back to [asking] ‘what area have I not been fully committed to, where have I dropped the ball, where have I not been appreciating and valuing myself?’ Because self-doubt isn’t even true . . . If I’m not loving me, how can I look at my partner and love her? As I started to love myself more that just doesn’t even happen, it doesn’t even occur to have thoughts of ‘I’m not sure I want to be with you’.” Annette Baker.
“We’ve got to get comfortable with surrendering; all of us as women. We’ve got to find a way to surrender. We don’t have to get it right all the time; we don’t have to get it correct all the time. We are going to hurt each other. It is messy at times.” Annette Baker.
“Everyone hates confrontations. Confrontation is difficult. You have to dig deep sometimes within yourself, to deal with those moments of confrontation; they’re not easy to do. But we’ve got to find a way as women to let go and be at ease with these moments. They might be a little tricky, they might be a little messy but the good stuff, the ease, is on the other side of working through that.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“It’s in every woman in this room – we have amazing wisdom that we can bring to those moments – but if you’re in protection you’re not going to be able to bring that wisdom that needs to be there to support the confrontational moments.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“If one of us dropped into our body, and let ourselves just feel who we are and surrender and just be humble in the moment then you get to something wise. Then you say the thing that’s wise and the other person goes, ‘Oh my god, of course’. And it just dissipates everything; but to get to that you have to surrender. Without that you won’t get the clarity.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“We’re absolutely stuffed if that other person won’t surrender. If you’re in that Mexican stand-off with somebody and you’re playing that game (and it is a game, let’s face it, it’s a manipulation) we know why, we understand that we are hurt and we may be holding back, lack of confidence and self-worth, but if you’re in that Mexican stand off and you do that dance and that other person doesn’t give in - you’re stuffed. Then you’re walking around with that every day and that hurts.” Gabrielle Caplice.
We know by observing kids that when they act out that it isn’t really them – the essence of who they are, and the love that they thrive in when they are connected to. Annette used this to encourage greater understanding with the adults in our life, much like we would a child who’s playing up.
“If we can be bothered to consider all of this, then the next person who’s making our coffee or tea that is giving us attitude, actually allow yourself to see through it and realise that that behaviour is not them. There’s a beautiful, pure, authentic, real person underneath that behaviour.” Annette Baker.
Annette went on to describe the result of not connecting to the essence of the other person is that we react to everyone else’s reactions, which results in everyone walking around like a pin ball machine bouncing off one another’s reactions.
“You compartmentalise yourself and you compartmentalise them which shows how much control we are in because you’re controlling all of these things by saying “don’t give me all of that, don’t give me all of you because I’m not committed to giving you all of me. I’m just going to give you what I feel safe with . . . It’s not a great way to have relationships . . . it’s very reducing, it’s very limiting and so you have that limitation in your body when you’re expressing like that.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“[Protection] is something that you’ve got to keep examining, it’s something that you’ve got to keep working at . . . you have to bring awareness to it because you have to be able to identify the moments where you are [in protection] and they are going to change over a period of time.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“As you clock the more that you are loving yourself, when you feel protection you will feel it as a very subtle thing and you’ll go, ‘you know what, that behaviour was protective’”. Gabrielle Caplice.
Annette went on to add that everything we layer on top of the ‘truth of a woman’s essence’ list is essentially protection. “When we commit to this process we are peeling away the layers of protection,” added Annette.
“Although it’s killing us on the inside, we have normalised it which means we’ve become very comfortable with allowing it to be.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“We’ve got be very careful to not put some ideal on it and say we’ve got to do it perfectly before we jump.” Annette Baker.
Gabe, Annette and the group then addressed how challenging it can be to hold ourselves in the essence of the woman we know we are in the context of the intensity of the city and all that goes on in the world – the abuse, the bullying etc. Gabe said that it is possible, and reminded us that we’ve all had moments of it; it’s just about being consistent with connecting to ourselves.
“You feel like, ‘if I brought that to work (our essence), it would be smashed in the first second.’” Gabrielle Caplice.
Exploring what we don’t like in the world and accepting the fact that it is happening – i.e. the awareness of the way it really is – can help us to not harden, not protect ourselves.
Annette suggested that you could acknowledge that you’re very sensitive to it and ask yourself the question how you could not react to it? “Part of not reacting to it is to accept that it is harsh, it is hard, it is harmful, but you can take care of your being so that you don’t get affected by that as much.” Annette Baker.
“How beautiful is it when we come across someone in our day who isn’t in protection, is super sensitive and just open and they are there with you. How beautiful is that?” Gabrielle Caplice.
“You can’t wait for that golden moment – that once in six months when you get met in the shops by one person that’s decent with you – that’s ridiculous. So, we have to bring that to people, we have to be responsible to bring that to people.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“It’s a particular hurt that creates the protection that then creates the judgement that then creates the lack of clarity . . . it’s a vicious cycle and a slippery slope.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“The power of that [dropping the protection], even when someone is in all their stuff, it’s completely transformative.” Maxine Szramka.
As Gabe pointed out you can go deep into loving yourself in a moment and then you express it to everyone without a feeling of ‘what’s going to happen here?’ Maxine shared, “There’s very easy protections that come up that allow us to walk away from relationships and potentials . . . everyone goes through stuff . . . so how can we expect anyone else to be in that all the time if we’re not actually open ourselves in order to give someone a chance and allow them the oscillation, then we’re just cutting people off without giving anyone a chance ever.” Maxine Szramka.
A level of maturity in the way that we are in the way that we are expressing and communicating in our relationships is needed.
“We know so much about what’s really going on in relationships but we’re not speaking up about it and we let it escalate to these points that are really, really uncomfortable . . . 9 times out of 10 it’s the woman in the relationship saying: ‘it’s not ok, it’s not ok, I want to get out, I don’t like what’s happening’. For the most part men don’t actually express like that, they are not the ones bringing up these issues in relationships.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“We can be mature and take the responsibility to express when we need to express in those moments with people.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“It doesn’t have to be with a partner, it can also be with kids. We can see things going on, and we clock it. If you’re not responsible enough to actually express and communicate in that moment, what’s going to happen in that moment? It’s going to escalate and then it’s way more confronting later on.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“There’s a lack of maturity we are witnessing in women, in the way we are expressing in relationships. It’s like there’s the little girl hurt inside us, we’re keeping ourselves small and we’re not being the full women we could be in the way that we express in our relationships. It’s super important because you’re going to have to go into protection and control if you’re not going to bring that maturity, if you’re not going to have those conversations and be responsible in the moment that you got the cue when you knew it.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“We say to the single women that see us who want a partner, ‘if you are being intimate and open with yourself then you can go out into the world and have that intimacy everywhere.’ It might not be sexual intimacy but when you start to build and develop those things in relationships, the relationship that is there for you that could be a deepening in that sexual intimacy, that will arrive, that will evolve.” Gabrielle Caplice.
Audience member Trish comically summed up how this lack of maturity played out for her: “If you know me and care, you’re going to want to read my signs and I don’t need to speak, you’ll just know.” Gabe responded to this by confirming just how much we know about what’s going on: “You know really really well that if you say those things then the guy is going to go into protection, so you’re protecting him from his own hurts so you don’t have to witness that and feel that.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“We have an expectation of the other person to get us but based on what? You’re imagining that they are everything, together, that they are whole and that they are behaving as a whole.” Gabrielle Caplice.
“Even though there’s no clarity because we’re disconnected, we do know; just like mothers know everything about their kids.” Annette Baker.
Gabe shared; we need to bring the value needed to our self first. Bring understanding to the fact that you can do what is needed in that moment to look after yourself in reaction. You don’t need someone else to support you to bring you out of reaction. You can love yourself enough to bring yourself out of that reaction. But whatever qualities you bring to yourself in that moment, be also aware that they also have to be brought and shared for that other person that you might be reacting to. Say there’s a situation that you might be impatient and lacking understanding, you have to bring patience and understanding to them, but first you have to bring these things to yourself. If I’m on this person and I want them to change in my time, I have to recognise that I’m lacking understanding and I want the change to happen immediately so that I get some relief from the moment, so then I don’t have to react. After you’ve taken care of yourself with understanding you can also have it for the other person, allowing them the space they may need too.
“Who knows what’s going to happen this time but I am prepared to be open and loving in relationship with you.” Gabrielle Caplice.
When we bring understanding to one another we don’t have to give up on relationships, they have the opportunity to continue to grow and further evolve.
- Partner A – Share some of your qualities – how you see yourself in these qualities. An exercise of appreciation.
- Partner B – It’s very important to stay open and allow Partner A to express openly about themselves, rather than meet your partner with resistance.
- Partner A – Be super understanding with yourself that this might feel uncomfortable because it’s something we don’t often do as women.
“If you really looked at it (the list of what a loving, healthy in relationships woman lives and communicates) you would say, I did joy and I did sexy when I got dressed this morning and I did this and I did that.”
“If you recognise that, if you feel that, it’s like a confirmation of yourself so it doesn’t feel so far away. The antidote or medicine to protection and control is appreciation . . . Confirmation of yourself . . . if you bring the awareness to that it changes every communication you will have in a relationship” Gabrielle Caplice.
By Nicki Ferguson
Sunday 5th of November 2017, 10.30am – 1pm