“The dreams that you have while you are asleep can provide a fascinating, revealing, and interesting window into your unconscious mind. How much do you share and talk about your dreams with your partner? How much do you know about your own and your partner’s inner world? How much does each one of you know about the unconscious images, stories, and hidden memories, wishes, fears, and fantasies contained in your dream life? How much are you motivated to know about these things?”
How well do you (want to) know your partner?
The amount of information you share about your inner world may be informed by:
Upbringing and family of origin.
This could include the way you heard your parents share or not share with one another, whether emotions, vulnerability, or transparency were valued, reinforced, or discouraged in your childhood home life. Were your private thoughts welcome in the open? Did you feel heard? Did you feel safe sharing them? Did you feel understood or validated? How much did your parents share their true identity with you – were their weaknesses and sensitivities utilized as teaching, normalizing moments for you, or were you discouraged from participating in “grown-up” conversations, or banished from the scene to be “seen and not heard”?
History of Trauma
Emotional openness about your own inner life, the ability to comfortably hear about someone else’s internal experiences, or even the motivation to sense when someone has something private to share, requires a perceived environment of safety and trust. If your view of the world and relationships as a safe place has been compromised by past hurts or even trauma, and those hurts are yet unresolved, you may still find it difficult to cope with (or talk about) the present and raw emotions of someone’s inner world, including your own.
Perhaps you think some tendencies, behaviors, desires, or indulgences are off-limits or taboo. Perhaps it is hard for you to think of your partner wanting, fantasizing about, or doing certain things. Perhaps you assume the things you secretly dream of would be offensive or insulting to your partner or others. Perhaps you think they are contradictory to the person you believe or want yourself to be.
If you can relate to the reasons above, you may want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Are there unspoken themes, topics, places, in your relationship?
- Are there areas of your life or lives that you have made an “unspoken agreement” not to bring up? (i.e., that lockbox he keeps in the back of his closet, why she sometimes cries when she doesn’t think you’re listening, the errands he runs late at night, why she doesn’t talk to her brother, his drinking, her temper…, etc.)
- Does your partner know and understand your personal stories so well, that he or she could tell them the way you would, and as if they had actually visited, even frequented, your internal world?
- Are you curious about the inner life of your partner, perhaps about the fuzzy details of a certain experience or story in their lives, or where they “go” when they daydream or quietly smile to themselves?
- Or are you convinced that you must already know everything there is to know about him/her?
How do you feel about your own answers to these questions?
If you are unsure, perhaps you are wondering why you might want to know more about your partner? Or what might be the benefits of more in-depth knowledge and understanding of your partner’s inner life? You and your partner could become more intimate, and this could result in more satisfaction with the bond you have together. An Imago Therapist can help you and your partner cross the bridge safely into one another’s inner worlds. Contact us today.
*This question is adapted from Lawrence Kaufman, LMFT’s article Important Topics and Issues to Talk About in Couple Therapy: