Do you know how to offer support when a loved one is stressed out? Do you feel supported when you’re distressed?
This week, we share an exercise to help you talk about; your specific needs to deepen understanding and get more of what you want (and less of what you don’t want) in your relationships.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
How to be more understanding & supportive (and get more of what you need)
You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and Relationship advice you can use tonight. Welcome to the sex with Dr. Jess Podcast. I’m your cohost, Brandon. We are here with my always lovely other half, Dr. Jess. Hey. So today we are talking about understanding your partner, how to really understand your partner’s feelings and needs and how to support them when they’re maybe not feeling as good as they’d like to be feeling. I think today might be case in point for me. One of those days I want to understand. Well, let me start there. Do you feel you understand me? Well, yes, I think that I understand you. Well, you’re smiling. It makes me wonder. Maybe I don’t, but I think I do. How do you know either how I’m feeling or what I need? Through your words, you’re very clear and literal communicator. No, you really are. And I think people interpret that as being very what’s the word? Atype dominant. But I think that you’re a very literal communicator. So that’s one way. And the second way is your body language and another way yeah, well, I was going to say the noises that you make. Do you make a lot of noises? You make a lot of noises. Yeah, and I usually can infer from the noises what it is. Actually, if you ever see Jess and you see her working on a computer, you know who she’s talking to, you know, if it’s a funny email, she’ll be sitting on her computer and drafting an email. And it’s like watching someone practicing facial expressions. It’s like the big smile. I’m like, I’m actually waiting for you to bust out in a laughter, and then you’d be typing another email, and then all of a sudden, you actually frown. Like you full on frown. And I looked at you one time, I’m like, Are you okay? Are you reading something? And you’re like, I’m reading this email, I’m so upset right now. And I’m just like, well, I could tell because your face was crunched up. And that face that you make when you’re disappointed when I’m typing my emails, and I guess when I read my emails, I don’t even realize it, but there’s like a whole dramatic play going on that plays out on my face.
People wear their emotions on their sleeve. Mine is totally on my forehead, my nose, my mouth, my eyes. Those are three ways that I feel like I understand you. Your literal words, your body language, and then your sounds and your facial expressions. It’s interesting that you say that I’m literal, and I noticed that with you. I’m very clear about how I’m feeling, what I want. But with other people in my life, I’m not. I really struggle to, I think, honestly show anything but, like, excitement and happiness and always be up. And I think it’s this role that I’ve gotten into. And so it’s interesting how you can have these skills that we’re going to kind of go through right now in one particular relationship. But for me at least, it doesn’t transfer to other relationships and I need to work on that. Like I’ve talked about this before, I’ve got a real fear of conflict, not as much with you, but with almost everyone in my life. I am unclear with people and it’s not a lack of communication skills. It’s a debilitating fear of saying no or disappointing or thinking that I can control other people’s reactions. So we’re going to talk about this exercise. We’re going to go through the exercise now that I think is really useful, but it’s not the exercise on its own. I think you have to cultivate the trust and the connection with each individual in your life in order to communicate this way. It’s actually just kind of coming to me now that sometimes there’s a gap between your skills and knowledge and what you’re able to implement because of your own hang ups, your own triggers, your own past traumas. I should really just speak for myself like I’m an absolute people pleaser. I hate saying no. I don’t make most of my decisions in life based on what I want. I do stuff because I’m avoiding saying no all the time. And it’s a bit different with you. Like, I have a few relationships in my life where I feel I can be kind of more honest and more authentic. And actually that’s why I love doing this podcast because I do feel like I’m kind of just talking to you and it kind of calms me right down. And today, you know, I’m feeling a little anxious today because of some stuff that’s going on and I don’t know, just even sitting down with you and looking you in the eye feels a bit calming even though we’re about to, I guess, put ourselves out there. This all started because I received an email asking about how to get men to respond to their partner’s concerns or complaints with empathy and not just going straight to solving the issue, right? So we hear this all the time that it’s a matter of gender that men are trying to problemsolve and women just want to be heard. And I think that well, first of all, I think all humans, regardless of gender, want to be heard. I think sometimes people want assistance with problem solving, but sometimes we just want to either commiserate or we want to feel understood or we want to feel validated. And so this exercise which I call Do This Not, that is designed to help people better understand not only what their partner is feeling, which involves actually naming an emotion or naming something that you’re concerned about, but also what you can do to support them and what actions, behaviors or words might feel not so supportive to them. Because I think we have definitely this tendency to assume that what we need in a given moment or in a specific situation is what others want. So, for example, we might generalize our needs to others. So if I’m stressed about something at work and I go to Brandon, maybe I’m going to make this up because we’re going to get into in a moment. Maybe I want you to just kind of hold me and be with me and calm me down.
Physically, I might assume that you want the same thing, but maybe when you’re stressed about that same thing, you want physical space. So I might do this thing that is well intended and feels really good for me, but in fact, it could feel kind of overwhelming for you. So in this exercise, do this, not that essentially, it’s identifying what you’re feeling in the moment and sharing that with your partner, telling them what you’re hoping to get from them. And just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. And just because your partner doesn’t do what you want doesn’t make them a bad partner. They can’t do everything for you all the time. It’s not our partner’s job to validate every single one of our feelings. Of course, we hope we feel overall that our partners and people in our lives are validating, but it’s actually not someone else’s job. But they can support you. And sorry, I went on a tangent there. So what you’re feeling, what you want from them and what you don’t want from them, because sometimes the way we respond to one another, as well intended as it is, can be the opposite of what we were aiming for. Sometimes I might think something soothes you, but it actually causes you more stress or distress. So this started from this conversation around how do I kind of get them to stop trying to solve my problems and just listen? And again, I don’t think this is just about gender. I do think folks who consider themselves more atype personalities kind of lean into this problem solving role and oftentimes take pride in our own sense of urgency and kind of this perceived control of every situation. And I know that I’m kind of like that I definitely want to just kind of solve problems. I’m like, oh, well, I got this, and we need to kind of take a step back and think about our partners needs. And in terms of gender, I do think socially prescribed gender roles can play a role, but I think we’re kind of beyond that, right? Like, we’re complex human beings regardless of our gender. And so, yeah, we’re going to try this exercise now. I think sometimes it’s about taking a beat before responding to a partner. Like, sometimes I’ll just say, okay, if you feel your partner is just jumping in there when you really want to be heard, we’ll encourage them to maybe count to three or repeat what they’ve said. But specifically, I think this exercise can help, and I’m going to go ahead and put it in the show notes if you want to print it out. It’s not perfectly formulaic. You can change it up however you want. It’s just kind of intended to get the conversation started so that we take turns listening and kind of trying to understand. We learn how our partners will feel most validated. There’s a language that I think goes along with this conversation. When someone opens up to you, hopefully you have the language of, you know, for example, I hear you. I see how you feel that way. It’s okay to feel that way. How can I support you? Or, I know this is tough. Do you want to take a few deep breaths together, or do you want to hug or do you want space? And I think this will help to kind of elucidate your partner’s needs in advance. I do find it myself being the problem solver. I know that that’s something that I’ve always been quick to do, and I’ve definitely had to already employ some of those techniques, and I found them very helpful, like something as simple as what you just said, yeah, you’re better at, I think, implementing these things than me because I am impulsive. Like, it’s part of my brain chemistry. I’m impulsive and I’m hyperactive and I’m all of those things. And also I’m anxious about filling the air sometimes. And I’ve gotten maybe in the habit of feeling like if we’re not talking, that something is up. So slowing down is harder for me. So even just talking about this helps me to identify the things I’m working on. And speaking of kind of working on things and self development, I do think that kind of that self development industry suggests that we always have to be growing. We always have to be getting better, and we always have to be improving and evolving. I think in some ways that can hold us back, because sometimes we just have to stop and be okay kind of with where we’re at and imperfect. And I know that’s something we’ve been talking a lot about lately is the perfectionism around wanting to, for example, in this exercise, understand your partner, but also accept that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t always have to understand. You don’t always have to communicate effectively. I mean, I wish we could, but we’re human and we just freak out sometimes. I also think about it from the perspective of sports and training, and I’m going to go there just because it’s like if you’re trying to improve, you do practice and then you take a break and you allow all those skills that you develop to kind of when you’re taking a break, it’s time to rest. It doesn’t mean that you’re reverting back to how I was before, but it means that I’m maybe not focused on every day making sure I read something to improve who I am and it’s not that I don’t want to, but it’s just that sometimes, for instance, right now in my life, I have a lot going on right now. It’s been a couple of days where I got a lot going on and I still feel pressure to improve every single day on a personal level. But sometimes, like you just said, it’s okay to just take that rest, which I hadn’t thought about before, but I think it’s really a great point. Yeah, that’s an interesting analogy. I’m bringing this up before we dive into the exercise because I don’t want you to feel you have to do this right every time I give you a tool. Like if you were to do every tool that use every exercise that’s on this podcast and every other podcast you listen to and everything that you read in the paper in the morning, you’d be exhausted and it can feel like, well, I’m not doing enough. Everyone around me is doing so much. So as we delve into this, I just want to say no pressure. Like, keep it in the back of your mind. Maybe it’ll be helpful some day. Even just one line. You don’t have to sit down and make it an exercise, so do this. Not. That is really a fill in the blank exercise that you can use with a partner, with friends, with family, even with, I think, children. And so I’ll just kind of go through what it looks like. So, for example, we begin with, when I’m upset about work, I want to feel bling. Ideally, you can support me by bling, and I don’t want you to bling. When I’m upset about kids or family, I want to feel bling. Ideally, you can support me by doing this, and I don’t want you to do that. When I’m upset with myself and I’m being hard on myself, I want to feel blank. You can support me by doing this and not that. And it kind of goes through when we’re fighting. Here’s how I want to feel when I’m upset about global and political issues, here’s how I want to feel when I’m feeling anxious, this is what I’m looking for. When I’m feeling stressed out. When I’m feeling depressed. When I’m feeling upset about a different topic. So you can kind of insert your own. And I think that you can kind of think about, how am I communicating this to my partner? Is it in a way that is accusing them of some sort of deficit in behavior? Is it in a way where I’m prescribing how things ought to be? Or am I just saying, you know what, this may not make sense to anyone else, but this is what I’m looking for. Are you able to do that? And if they’re not, we also have to make space and give them grace and say, okay, well, then I’m going to have to look at how I can self suit which you probably want to do anyways. I’m going to look for other sources of support. Like if I say, oh, when I’m anxious, I want you to physically hold me, because that’s very common for me. That doesn’t mean that that’s the only tool in my toolbox. Like, when I’m anxious, I change my breath patterns. When I’m anxious, I close out my apps. When I’m anxious, I try and move. When there’s all these other I’d have a glass of water, all of these other things. So I’m thinking we can go through these now, if that’s cool with you. Sure. And we have done this before. We did this for a course we were teaching, but it’s a long time ago. Yeah, it’s been a while. It’s been a while, I think. So these are just in the order that they kind of come to me because I work with entrepreneurs. We begin with work, and we also have data showing that it’s a big source of distress for folks.
And again, you can insert your own kind of top issues, and you don’t have to all of these at once. So I’ll let you go first. When you’re upset about work, how do you want to feel? When I’m upset about work, I want to feel hurt. I want to feel like you’re paying attention and listening to what I have to say. I want you to listen. How can I show you that I’m listening? By engaging with by not focusing on something else that you’re doing, like using your phone or using your phone, but not just paying attention to me when I’m expressing something that’s distressful that has to do with work. Okay. How can I support you when you’re stressed about work? I think once I’ve communicated to you what that is, perhaps helping me brainstorm solutions. Yeah, maybe not right away, because I feel like if somebody were to fire back right away, I wonder, did you listen to what I had to say? So I do feel a little not cold out, but also guilty because I’m like, oh, I got this for you. I’ve got this great idea for you. So I do need to take a breath and slow down, and sometimes that works like it does, but there are a lot of times where getting that fired right back to me almost makes me think, like, the significance of the problem was somewhat downplayed because of the quick response. And even if the quick response is a valid response, that’s why I’m saying it kind of just depends on the circumstance. But I feel like that’s how I feel about those three things. Okay, and what do you not want me to do? You mentioned not fire back right away. Yeah, I’m sorry. I guess I kind of should have inserted that line, but I think that it would be not firing away, maybe not suggesting things that seem I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Here that kind of downplayed the significance of it. Just do this or just do that, right? Kind of oversimplifying the problem, being like, Nah, you know, big deal. So if you’re feeling like you’re in crisis or it’s very distressful or it’s a huge deal, if I come in and say, oh, all you got to do is this, right? Think happy thoughts. Okay, so I should do this one, too. When I’m upset about work, I just want to feel validated. I want to feel like, okay, this is a legitimate concern and that you get it, that I’m not overreacting, because I do overreact. Ideally, unlike you, I don’t want to brainstorm solutions. I think I just want you to listen. And I definitely don’t as I said, I don’t want solutions right away because I think I’m a little bit more controlling with my work. I definitely take my work more personally because my work is my name in the public eye a lot more. Yeah. And I feel pressure for everything to kind of be good. I think we’re sort of on the same we kind of have some of the same needs, but you’re a little bit more open to my input than I am to yours. In that moment, I will come to you and ask if I have a specific problem, but if I just I’m talking about my feelings around work, I think I just want you to be quiet and listen. So then we can do that one for kids and family when we’re upset with ourselves. But I want to skip to another one because we’re not going to do the whole thing here. When we’re fighting about something, this is how I want to feel. This is how you can support me, and this is what I don’t want from you. So do you mind going first again? So when we’re fighting, how do you want to feel? When we’re fighting, I want to feel I don’t know how this feeling really? I’m going to express it, but I don’t know. I want to feel that you’re invested into the relationship, and I don’t feel this way, but I think this is more fear. I want to feel like you’re committed, and I want to feel like you’re going to work through the challenge or the problem and not throw your hands up in the air. I was going to say that because I have a tendency to throw my hands up in the air and be like I do have that we call them cognitive distortions, where I can go to all or nothing thinking. So when there’s a moment where we’re feeling tense or I’m frustrated or I’m mad at you or I feel disappointed, I can discount the 90% of the time when I feel the opposite of those things. And I can say things that I have a tendency that I can I do. I have a tendency to sometimes say things that do I let me add, I must say things that maybe make you feel like I’m not as committed. I think it must have come up. I mean, I have other deep root issues there that I’m working through. It’s not just as a result of this relationship, but I definitely do think that there have been circumstances in the past where, yeah, that’s something that’s come up. And again, that’s not just from this relationship. That’s also just from previous relationships that I’ve had, whether it’s friends and family or somebody pretty much friends or family, to be honest. So you want to feel that I’m committed and invested in solving the issue. What is it you want me to do to make you feel supported or to show you that? I think it goes back to the first point. Just want you to listen. I want you to show me that you’re listening. What I’m saying is important to you, and the way that it’s communicated is by paying attention. Does that involve because sometimes you’ll say, look at me. You’ll be like, can you look at me? Is that important to you? Yes, it is important that you’re paying attention. Because, again, I think it’s so easy for me to be distracted by my phone or by something else. And I know that when I’ve done that to you, I know that feeling. You’ve said, it’s important to me, and then I’m bringing it back to myself here and just saying yes. When you don’t show me that you’re paying attention to me, then I feel like it’s not maybe as important to you as it is to me. But you definitely do that sometimes. I know I look away like there’s a withdrawal piece of me when I’m mad at you, where even though I’m listening, I’m like, I’m not looking at you like a child. But there’s a difference with that, because when you’re looking away, you’re not looking away trying to focus your attention on something else. It’s not like you’re trying to look at your phone or trying to, I don’t know, pay attention to something else. I know understand that that might be looking away for a minute just because you might be uncomfortable, but you do bring it back to me or to whatever it is that I’m discussing at the point. So it is in that sense, you show me that you’re interested, but when the times have been where you’ve flinched off to something else, I’m just like, Come on, man, we’re talking right now. I feel like it’s important. Well, it’s interesting you say all of that, because I think the piece that’s missing from the simple do this, not that exercise is the why. Like, why is it important to you? Right? Why is this something that makes you feel like I’m being attentive or makes you feel safe, ultimately? Because I think when we’re fighting, we all want to feel safe. Most of us want to feel safe and loved. So you told me that you want me to look at you or not be distracted. Is there anything else? Those are the first couple of things that come to mind. I mean, the circumstances when we get into an argument change, and I think so right now, those are the ones that can stick out for me, I think, without sharing too much, because this is a conversation between us. But also, I know you don’t want to share everything, obviously. I think there’s something else I’m curious about, and that’s being aware of your kind of hot trigger buttons. I don’t know if you want to share what those are or just say more generally. I don’t mind disclosing what my hot button some of my hot button issues are, but I found that just because I’ve been the last couple of years have been stressful for, I think, a lot of people, so I’ll speak about myself. It’s been really stressful for me. There’s been a lot going on, even in the world, personally, everything.
So when we get into these arguments. There’s this boiling point that I find I reach. And in the past. I know that I reached that boiling point. And that’s when I would I’m not telling you what my triggers are. But I’m like. I’d reach that boiling point. And I’d want to just swear or yell or walk away or do something that Brandon today would think is immature. Like I would I’d be like. This is not a productive way for me to try and find resolution. I think through some of these skills that I’ve been practicing or better understanding of myself, I feel like my boiling point is a lot higher. So I do still find myself getting there. But as I’m getting closer to that boiling point where I’m like, I know I feel like I’m going to just get really frustrated and do something silly or stupid or hurtful. That’s where I might say, I need to take a minute. I need 30 seconds. I need a minute. I want to communicate to you that I care about you, but I’m getting upset, and I’m not going to be able to communicate properly. So when I walk away for a minute, number one, I’m going to come back. And number two, it’s just so that I can calm myself down, so that I can rationally think about this. Yeah, and sometimes it’s more than a minute you need. Yeah, definitely. I might go for a walk for ten minutes, but I’ll say to you, because again, I’ve done this in the past where I’m like, I storm out, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done something like that, but I storm out and I leave, and what am I doing? I’m going to leave for an hour, half an hour. I’m not going to tell you. You don’t know where I am. I mean, I got to find my friends. You got to find my friends now, but back in the day when I had my flip phone. But in all seriousness, it’s like, what am I trying to accomplish by doing that? Am I trying to make you feel like I’m going to leave you? So when I started reflecting on some of those things, I’m like, okay, I care about this relationship. This is important to me. So when I feel like I’m getting close to that, hey, I need a minute, or, I need ten minutes, I’m going to go for a walk. I love you. I care about you. I’m coming back. But I need to find that rational thought ground, and this walk will help me do that. So when I come back, can we continue in ten minutes? Yeah, we’ve talked about that before that if you need a break, you’re entitled to a break. Like, ten minutes, 20 minutes, an hour. Some people need it overnight. I think that just in that space between when the conflict or the tension erupts and hopefully you resolve it or come to some sort of maybe you don’t resolve it, but some sort of understanding. I think we just need to be really clear about our commitments, and that’s something that I think we’ve learned over time, is to communicate in really, I guess, concise or clear language that I’m pissed at you. I’m super worked up. I’m committed to working through this. I love you, and I need space and to give some sort of a timeline, not that you have to stick to it. Like, I think in a couple of hours, I’ll be able to come back and have this conversation, or I think tomorrow morning I’ll feel better, and we can have this conversation because so many of us struggle with fear of abandonment. We’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it. And so I just think there’s huge value in being able to say those words. And I know we’ve moved slightly away from this model of do this, not that. And I think that’s really just an example of where these conversations can go. It’s not going to be like, just filling in the blank and not saying anything else. And you asked me a great question that I didn’t answer. You said, what are your triggers? And again, like you just said, now I’m telling you something that this maybe didn’t outline at first, but the trigger for me is you telling me that I’m acting or speaking like somebody else and somebody that if I don’t like them, like comparing you to somebody in our lives, you’re talking like this person or you’re acting like that person. Even if I am in that moment, that is not what I want to hear, and it’s probably not going to move the conversation a lot. It’s going to take me closer to that boiling point where now I’m sitting here thinking, okay, you know what? Take a minute. Maybe think about how you’re. Acting, but it’s like in the heat of the moment when I hear that, I’m just like, oh, that was a button. Yeah. So I think that’s a good piece of this conversation, which is like when I’m feeling this certain language or certain topics or certain comparisons or behaviors can really round me up again, it doesn’t mean your partner is going to promise to never do that again, but it can make them mindful of whether doing that or saying that thing moves the conversation forward or holds us back. So I think that’s a piece that maybe is left out of the handout that I’m going to post but is important and will likely come up. Okay. So for me, when we’re fighting, okay, there’s two things. First and foremost, I need to feel safe and loved. And I think that we have a foundation where I really mostly feel that. And so I may not need any specific actions on your part, and if I do, I’m pretty literal where I’ll say, tell me you love me, or something like that. But the other piece that I really want when we’re arguing is and it may be not a feeling, I want explanations. I want to understand if you did something that really bothered me or that I feel hurt by. I want to understand why you did it. And I want the why so badly. It’s the way my brain works. And it’s not necessarily a fair demand because we can’t always explain our own behavior or why we said something, but I’m just going to say it’s what I want. I’m not saying I can have it. But yeah, I want to understand why. I want explanations and I want you to clearly just draw a picture for me or paint a picture of why a specific behavior occurred. How can you do that? Well, yeah, basically, I don’t know what the word for I want to feel is for that, but that’s what I want you to do. What I don’t want you to do is just apologize. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Because it’s the reasoning behind it that I’m looking for. Again, I want to be clear, babe, that I don’t know if I can even ask this of you all the time. Sometimes you get into a loop. You’re fighting about nothing, right? We’re just tired. We’re tensed with and slept. We’ve eaten. You get upset when you don’t eat. I’m totally angry. I think that’s that and I think we could continue to hash this out more, but I want to move on to the next one. Yes, I was just going to say, but you want explanations, not excuses. Yeah, because I think I am quick to make excuses as opposed to explaining maybe are you saying explaining my thought process or explaining why I said is that what you’re looking for? Yeah, I guess I’ve said that before because I do feel like sometimes in the heat of the moment. You don’t like to be wrong. Not because of ego, I don’t think, but because of a fear and because you struggle with perfectionism as well, and because of your own background and your own experiences, there’s a real fear in doing any harm or being wrong for someone you love. Oh, man, that’s my go to a quick firing off of 18 excuses. Yeah, you’ve got, like, a hat you pick, and then I just pick a bunch. And if one of those sticks, great, and if they don’t, I just keep coming up with them. But, yeah, I’ve had to learn again. And that’s where taking a minute and thinking anyway and that’s one of our problems, I think, one of our patterns in our relationship where you’ll give me an excuse and then I shoot down the excuse, and then you’ve got another excuse, and I shoot down that excuse. Get to what number four. And it’s finally like, four is usually four or five is when it starts making sense. And the way I respond isn’t always constructive either. And that’s a dynamic that I think we’ve talked about and we work on. And I do think that this exercise of understanding needs and what’s the opposite of needs? Things we don’t want.
Boundaries can be really helpful. Okay, let’s switch to specific feelings. So when you’re feeling anxious, how do you want to feel? I’m immediately relaxed. That’s the exact opposite. How can I support you in feeling relaxed? I think touch is important. Like, if you just hand on my shoulder, hold my hand on your crotch. Hand on my crotch. Little butt slap. That certainly helps. And also your calmness helps with my calmness. Like, I find when you are exhibiting that, it’s like, let’s take a minute and you have that calm vibe. I pick up on that. Well, and that brings up this issue of emotional differentiation, the capacity to not take on all of your partners or all of your friends or anybody in your lives. Emotions. Right. So if you come to me anxious, if I just respond by being equally anxious, it can be more difficult for me to support you. And sometimes you’re going to be emotionally enmeshed. Sometimes, of course, I’m affected by how you feel. Of course, if you’re upset about something, it’s hard for me not to think, oh, yeah, that is really upsetting, and take it on. But I do think that’s important to be able to differentiate. And that’s why we aren’t one. We’re not one person. We’re not one heart. We’re not one soul. We’re one brain, but together like a third of a brain, almost one. Okay, so you want touch. What do you not want when you’re feeling anxious? Again, I think quick solutions to the problem for me, sometimes I need to let the problem sit. I need to think rationally about it. So firing out quick solutions and downplaying them, you can probably pick up on a lot of similarities between what I want, what I don’t want, and how you can support, but that’s what immediately comes to mind. Okay, I hear you. That makes sense. Okay. So when I’m feeling anxious, obviously, I want to feel soothed. Not obviously, but that’s what I want to feel. Ideally, I want words from you more than anything. More than a hand on the crotch? Yes, more than a hand on the crotch. I do like a hug from behind, but I want words. I want soothing words that it’s going to be okay, that you’ve got me, that I can count on you. Funny words or just words? No, not sometimes funny words. I do like when you joke around. Champagne, mountain range, lamb hugs, sexy word. Sexy words. So, yeah, I think I’m soothed with words and what I don’t want. I don’t want you to tell me things like, okay, we’re going to take a few deep breaths together. And I know that what’s interesting is that’s really helpful to other people. I literally just did that before this podcast you don’t want I’m like, I came up behind you. I gave you a hug. So the soothing part I had did not use my words. And when I did use my words, eventually they were exactly what you didn’t want. Because you’re giving me a tool that I know exists. And I’m like, I don’t want to breathe. I want a short breath. I want my short breath. So you want me to yeah. I’m not saying that that can’t be helpful at times, but the reason I don’t want that is it does feel like, oh, here’s a solution. When I think I just want to know that you’re there. So you want words, but you don’t want solutions. Is that what you’re saying? Because you said that’s kind of my theme. Just like, I’m here, don’t worry, I’ve got you. We’re going to be good. Something like that. Not like, let’s do some breathing. Yeah, because I find that it takes me a moment to get open to solutions. Like, I think you get there faster than I do. Okay. Do you want to talk about feeling down? I don’t mind doing this one first. Sure. So when I’m feeling depressed or down, I want to feel like there’s space for that. I don’t think I show up down in many spaces. No, you don’t. I think people kind of know what they’re going to get from me, and I think even you know that I’m probably not going to show up low energy or down. And it takes me a while to get there. And I think I really stifle negative feelings like that, especially feelings that maybe I associate with being weak. And I know that isn’t logical, but it is how I am, and I have to get away from that default set point for myself. So I think I just want to feel like there’s space for me to be down as opposed to being cheered up. It’s like, I just want to sit in this. And for me, I move quickly, so it’s not like I’m going to sorry for too long. Yeah, I want to feel supported in being down because I would say I experience very low depressive symptoms or feelings. I tend to be I mean, I feel very lucky in life, so it’s easy for me to feel up. But when I do feel down, like, this is actually a good example where we are right now. It’s honestly the three days of my period where I feel tired and weak, and I’ve got this medical issue I’m dealing with, and I want to just feel it. Okay, so what do I want you to do? What can you do to support me?
Well, because when I feel more down, it is when I’m on my period that’s when I want more physical affection, like your hands around my waist or your hands on my back or a rub or a kiss on the head. This is when I want physical closeness. Most of the other times, I want physical space. But when I’m feeling down and the way you’ll know, I actually think that’s an important part of the conversation here is how, you know, I’ll be feeling this way. Because some of us can maybe walk up and say, hey, I’m feeling low today. And for others, maybe we’re not able to access that language or recognize it ourselves. So you’ll know, it’s because when I’m on my period, pretty sure you track it. Look out. I don’t even track my period. So, yeah, I want physical affection. And as I said, I don’t want you to try and perk me up right away. I don’t want you to be like, come on, let’s get happy here’s. All the reasons to be happy when I’m like, no, I don’t want to be happy today. Cool end to me you. So if you’re feeling depressed or down, I want space. I want a little bit of space in terms of what you can do. I think just when you’re giving me space, you’re giving me a little bit of actual physical space to feel that way. I’m just on the spot here thinking how you can support me. I do love your positivity because it’s infectious. It doesn’t mean that you have to be positive. But I also like seeing you smile or laugh or some of those things. It does pick me up when I see somebody else laughing, I’m like, I want to laugh too. Right? Which I don’t think is a very good answer, but that’s just what comes to mind. No, I think that’s helpful. I actually don’t think I realized that you need space. And I imagine I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but when I’m, like, super up and you’re feeling down, can it be annoying, sort of, or feel like, actually, because what I just said, if I’m feeling down and then you come downstairs like your normal self, which is I love life. Today’s the best day ever. I have a hibiscus bloom today. I know. You come downstairs and you’re on my back porch. The happiest person ever. For me, it helps me pull myself out of how I’m feeling. It doesn’t mean that people can pull themselves out of that. But for me, I’m like, oh, my gosh, you’re so positive. And this is great. I love it. I get a dose of that positivity. It’s not pressure, though. No, I don’t feel like it’s pressure. I thought it might be. No, but having a little bit of space. So you’re not, like, forcing your positivity on me, but when you’re just being yourself, I find, or when I’m around other people that are just uplifting, it’s nice. I appreciate it. I feel like it rubs off on me. And I’m not forcing anyone to do it. It’s just that when I’m around them, it helps lift me up. That brings up another piece when I’m feeling down. I do think I need to be around other people because I’m social and I’ve noticed since the onset of the pandemic, we have been together constantly, and I haven’t been up for one on one interactions with many people. This is something that I’ve been kind of just noticing, present company included. No, that’s not true, actually, because there’s a safe space and I want to be around a lot of people. I want social interaction, but I want it in groups. You want to ping pong around? Yeah, right. I keep having people over for dinner. My house is basically an open door. It brings me so much joy to just my door is actually open and people just walk in and I love it’s funny because the neighbors are like, oh, my friend accidentally walked into your house because they saw all these people. And so I need this. I like a lot of people around as opposed to just one, because I think I feel pressure in a one on one conversation. And I know that I think everybody’s still struggling, life mental health stuff, and sometimes I feel like they’re putting it on me, like they want to tell me all their problems. Everybody tells you their problems. Yeah. And in a group, I don’t feel that people aren’t going to come and tell me what’s going on individually when we’re in a whole group. So when I’m feeling down, I need to make space for social interactions, and I do most of the inviting, so it might really feel I basically just go on our chat and I’m like, doors open. Fried rice. Doors open. Come on over. I think maybe I’d love for you to sometimes invite people over. Really? Yes. I don’t know.
Maybe if you did it, I’d be like, not now. So we need to further explore that. One thing I want to note because of the language of these conversations is that when I talk about anxiety or feeling down, we’re not talking about clinical depression or clinical generalized anxiety disorder. This is more about moving and temporary feelings in terms of this. Glad that you said that, because I don’t think that when I’m feeling down and I want somebody positive to rub off on me, somebody should interpret that. Someone who has depression. Right, exactly. So these are just descriptive terms as opposed to clinical ones. So we didn’t work through the whole exercise. But I’ll tell you honestly, it’s been helpful for me. Absolutely. I need to take note because I sometimes forget things. I see you are actually taking I actually took notes, yeah. Are those for you personally? They’re for me. This is my personal scrapbook. No, I was curious if you’re taking them for the podcast or for yourself. No, I mean for both. But yeah, I definitely will take a quick peek at this. And I took no notes, so hopefully I can copy yours and encourage people to kind of try out this language. Again. I’m going to post it on the site, but it’s as simple as when I’m feeling bling, I want to feel bling. You can support me by doing this and not that and being open to the reality that again, your partner may not do all the things you ask, they may still do some of the things that bother you. And that’s just the nature of human behavior and imperfect relationships, and they can still be loving and amazing and super fulfilling. But hopefully you’ll use this language and insert your own. Right? So I put work in there because that’s something that I see in my clients. But maybe you tend to get upset about a kid or a friend in your life or something to do with health or anything that’s going on in your community. Parents, siblings. Yeah, exactly. Anything. The reason I structure it this way is I just think that sometimes different issues and different feelings can elicit different needs. And so I try and break it down. So I’m hoping that folks will give this a try. Hopefully it’s useful. Hopefully we revealed enough that it’s helpful, but not too much. I don’t know. It is interesting and unique and in some ways calming, but it can also be a nerve racking experience for us to have these more personal conversations because I don’t know, we don’t discuss before we want to share. So there’s a lot of like I’m looking in your eyes and saying, hey, how far am I responding? Yeah, I think that’s the thing is that people these are not scripted. Oftentimes you’re asking me these questions and you haven’t always posed them to me before this we’ve done before, but it also changes over time. The last time we did this, I remember my answers were different. I was just thinking that because we have a video of it. I’m going to go look for it. All right. We’re going to leave it at that. Thank you so much for joining us as a personal conversation. So I always feel a little bit vulnerable, but hopefully it’s been helpful for you and you can give it a try. I have to do a big shout out to Adam and Eve.com. Still supporting our podcast. With the 50% off almost any item, plus free shipping, plus a bunch of free goodies promo, adam and Eve.com code to save is Dr jess. D-R-J-E-S-S. Thanks so much for chatting with me, babe. Thank you. I feel good. I feel good. And thank you for listening. Wherever you’re at, we hope you are having the best you’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life. Improve your life.