A Tender ‘Because’

In Couple Enrichment workshops, we focus on a dialogue technique that includes the speaker using a three-part sentence, usually described as “I feel … [fill in an emotion]… when I see/hear/experience … [fill in an event or thought] … because ….[fill in the details].

The structure may feel stilted, but it can lead to deep revelations about our inner lives; and learning and sharing about inner lives is one part of intimacy. Even if your partner isn’t around to listen, framing your thoughts within this structure can increase your own self-awareness.

Don’t believe me?  Try this exercise.   Think of the word “tender”, which has at least two meanings. One is a feeling of love – for example, the tenderness of a parent for a child.  One is a feeling of hurt or vulnerability – for example, the tenderness of a bruise, or a seedling exposed to cold weather.

Now, alternating these two different meanings of “tender”, complete the three-part sentence at least 6 times (3 times using the ‘loving’ meaning, 3 times using the ‘hurt’ meaning).  

Whenever I do this, I’m surprised at how commonplace the sentence seems until I get to the third part; the ‘because’.  THAT is where the sentence becomes truly mine. It requires me to be honest, to dig down to what is really going on inside, waiting to be brought forward to the light. Two people may start the sentence the same and even describe the event the same, but their 'because' will be unique. 

Here’s two examples from real life:

I feel tender (loving) when you ask for my help on a project because I enjoy the creativity of working with you.

I feel tender (vulnerable/hurt) when I ask you to repeat something and you repeat it very slowly, because that’s the way I would expect you to talk to someone who doesn’t understand English, and that isn’t the problem. All I want is for you to speak more loudly so I can hear.

Go ahead – try it. One loving tender followed by another vulnerable tender. Just follow your heart. And once you’ve finished, you may want to share some of your discoveries with your partner.   “I feel tender when . . . because . . .”