Have you ever had a situation where you were telling someone something about your day or life and they just weren’t seeming to listen? Maybe they were interrupting, jumping in to share their own experiences, or were telling you what you should do... Maybe they got all emotional about what you were saying, or they just weren’t listening, or even looked at their phone?
Imagine if you had someone you could go to who you knew would truly listen. If there was a person in your life that you knew you could share anything with, without judgement or advice, and you could talk things through after but only if you asked for that?
This is called holding space, and while it sounds simple, it’s a game changer in relationships that few know and even fewer actually do.
The most important thing about this is that nothing that comes up is taken personally. So if you are holding space for your partner and they say they don’t feel appreciated. You allow them to express, and after you might ask them if they want to explore that more, but you wouldn’t pick a fight about it or take it as an attack. If you do this the whole process breaks down and it’s a heavy violation of trust.
When I first met my boyfriend, in our early dating days (maybe 3 dates in) I was still, let’s call it recovering, from my previous marriage. We were driving home from a movie, when he asked me what I wanted in life. He didn’t ask it like a particularly heavy question but I felt triggered so badly I started crying. And once I started, I couldn’t stop. I felt like a complete broken mess. But he just pulled the car over, sat with me and held my hands while I cried. Which I did for maybe 30-40 minutes. At the end I managed to splutter a thank you and he just hugged me, asked if I needed anything and we went home. He didn’t ask me what it was all about or try and fix it. He didn’t judge me. Neither of us knew what that was at the time, but now I know it’s holding space. It’s one of the kindest, most compassionate things we can do for another person.
This is something I use constantly and teach every client - I use it when I am coaching and when I coach couples or work with mentees they get to learn and practice doing it live in our sessions.
Recently one of my male clients told me that practice alone has completely shifted the communication in his marriage to feeling more free and relaxed.
For several years, especially around sex, he and his wife had been treading carefully around each other, every so often one of them saying or doing something that would upset the other, making it feel impossible to feel relaxed and sex feel like something that needed to ‘work’, because if it got weird it would be terrible.
We did an exercise called Desires, Fears, Loves on our call together where they each got to practice taking turns sharing and holding space. And it had a profound effect on their communication and intimacy.
The goal here is not to try and constantly hold space. It is to recognise when it’s the right time for it, and it’s a skill that makes you an imminently better friend, lover, partner, parent, human in any relationship.
I’ll be demonstrating some of my favourite holding space practices in my FB group over the next couple of weeks... so if you want to learn more please do join us, send me any questions you have and watch your relationships transform!
Lots of love