How do you respond when you get asked questions like these:
- Have I gained weight?
- Am I the best sex you’ve ever had – do I bring you the most pleasure?
- How many people have you had sex with?
- Do you like the gift I got you?
- Did you ever date that person?
Most of us take the easy route, and give a “safe” answer even though it may not be wise for the relationship in the long-term.
The first thing to do when asked an emotionally charged question from your partner is to find out where it’s coming from in them. What part of them is asking the question and what purpose does the answer serve for them and for the relationship?
If you sense that they are only looking for a particular answer, and that answer isn’t your honest response, first ask them what answer they think that you will give to get clues.
For example, if someone asks you, “am I the best-looking partner you have ever had?” you can ask, “what answer do you imagine I’m going to give?” They might say, “I don’t know, just tell me!” or “I’m curious to know where I stand.”
You might respond with, “I’m happy to tell you. I just want to know where this question is coming from or what part of you is asking this question.” By doing so, you are inviting the adult part of them to be a witness to the possible insecure child part of them who is asking the question.
We suggest answering honestly, because people always know, consciously or unconsciously, whether or not the other person is telling the truth. It is even more important to answer honestly if they are coming from an insecure place, because the insecure part of them is trying to build trust.
Yet it is also important to be tactful and compassionate when speaking your truth, knowing that it will be difficult for them to hear. Everyone wants to know that they are the best-looking or the best lover their partner has ever been with, because we all have egos and egos don’t like being second best.
So how do you proceed? A gentle tone of voice that delivers a response that is not any longer than it needs to be. There’s no need to drag on or explain yourself. Don’t put yourself on the witness stand to answer a bunch of questions – especially if the child is asking – because you are setting yourself up to open Pandora’s box. You want to take the adult role.
So, for the question, “am I the best-looking partner you have ever had?” Once you have the context of knowing why they asked, you give your honest response, whether it’s, “you are the best-looking,” or “no, you’re not the best looking, but I still think you are very beautiful/ handsome.” You might add, “there are a lot of other reasons why I’m with you,” even if they are the best-looking.
They might not respond well if you don’t give the “right” answer. But you don’t need to apologize. They are the one who asked the question. You might remind them, “remember, you asked me this question and I checked in with you to see if you wanted the answer. It seems like you might be struggling with something around this since you asked the question but are having a hard time with the answer.”
People don’t ask emotionally charged questions out of the blue, and the person asking the question knows this. Don’t be afraid of where the conversation might go. What the person asking the question probably wants is your validation, support or guidance on an underlying issue. They might be wondering if it bothers you that they are not at what they consider to be their best, because when people feel that they are at their own personal best they usually don’t care where they stand compared to others. They might be asking if they are the best because they don’t feel sexy or desirable to you.
Maybe the conversation needs to be steered towards reflecting on their expectations around being desired, why being second or third best in one area somehow negates all the other positives, what they perceive their value to be, or what the most fulfilling thing about the relationship is.
On the other side of the equation, when you receive confirmation – intentional or not – that you are not someone’s best, you might wonder why they are with you at all. No one wants to feel like someone “settled” for them. Why would your partner be with you if they didn’t think you were the best? Are they just biding their time until someone better comes along?
The hard truth is, sometimes people do bide their time with a Mr. or Ms. Right Now. And that is ok, as long as both people are ok with that. It’s all about being on the same page. For many of us, all the people we date except for one are a Mr. or Ms. Right Now, and often people break up as soon as they realize that the person they are seeing is not “the one.”
Other times, qualities you think are paramount to your partner might not be, and that can even be a pleasant surprise. Perhaps what they are truly seeking is someone who they feel like they can really be themselves around. The qualities of openness and warmth don’t make you the “best” in any category but could still make you the best person to be in a relationship with.
As someone asking emotionally charged questions, we must face the reality that maybe we would look and feel a lot better if we lost weight, took better care of our appearance, or were more creative in bed. These conversations don’t need to ruin the relationship. They can be opportunities to deepen intimacy and grow personally.
Every relationship has different strengths, and it would be childish to believe that you have to be the best in all categories for someone to truly want to be with you. It would be nice to be able to recognize that our partners still love us as works-in-progress, believe we are strong enough to handle their honesty and will not shy away from helping us improve.
As someone answering these questions, we would like to suggest that the truth is preferable in the long-run. The good news is, the more capacity you build in the relationship for honesty, the deeper your relationship gets.
– Keeley & Nikita
Featured image via WeHeartIt