If you want Fulfilling Intimacy try Subtext-Free Relationships

It's hard to enjoy love when you're continually guessing what the other person is thinking ... and getting it wrong.

Couple lying down, gazing vulnerably into each other's eyes.Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What are Subtext-Free Relationships?

Imagine this. An intimate relationship where both people shared how they really felt, moment to moment. Where they shared what was coming up for them, intellectually and emotionally. Where they told it like it was, but delivered each message with tender care. Truth + Love wedded together, the two polarities home at last in an unbroken circle. The values of Truth and Love revealed to be twins, that only work when they’re welded together.

I have a relationship like this (I’m polyamorous so the possibility exists for me to enjoy multiple relationships like this. Indeed I’m bringing this style into all my relating, not just with intimates).

We made a choice early on to be 100% of ourselves, and welcome 100% of the other.

I’m not saying it’s not challenging at times (it is). I am saying it’s bliss. Because:

  • I no longer have to hold back me
  • I no longer have to shut down the other
  • Differences are not threats but gifts
  • We are learning and growing very fast, supporting growth in each other

What does it take to go Subtext-Free?

Warning: I’ll be honest, I couldn’t have done this at earlier stages of my relational journey. So don’t move toward this unless it resonates with your deepest heart (and that means you need to be able to sense your deepest heart, which can be an epic journey in itself). I now know that advice is never a one-size-fits-all paradigm, and that timing matters. Each person and context is unique, and there are stages of development which can look quite different for us all.

I started my romantic adventures extremely passive aggressive. I had no idea I was passive aggressive – it felt normal to me. It was the relating style taught by my family, and it was the way I survived in a traumatic world. I hated and feared people, didn’t trust life, and was eaten up by self-hatred. And there was nothing wrong with me … being that way made perfect sense for all the factors creating ‘me’.

What that looked like was that I feared conflict, and never voiced disagreement with partners. My partnerships were short and dramatic, and I was achingly heartbroken for stretches that were about three times the length of my actual relationships.

As the voiceless partner, I often fell for people that had ‘too much voice’. They were blunt to the point of being cruel. They held nothing back, and projected their failings outward.

I was no different, I was just oppositely wired. I had ‘too little voice’. I was silent to the point of being cruel (to myself and to them). I held everything back, and projected my failings inward.

It was so painful. The suffering is what motivated me, over time, toward relating subtext-free. I didn’t know that’s where I was going. I followed one faltering step at a time, in the direction Life seemed to be leading me. What did that look like?

Following my interests (researching communication, love, the point of life). Reading books that ‘sparkled’ at me. Having conversations that resonated. Listening to angsty pop songs that illustrated my romantic troubles. Doing workshops on relating. Getting into relationships with people that lived out my hidden shadows, and learning from them. Taking on feedback. Resisting feedback.

It looked like a million and one steps that nobody could predict or chart, but that led me exactly where I needed to go. It looked like that even though I didn’t believe in synchronicity, or Life as benevolent, or that everything would be okay in the end. This will be the case for you too, whether you believe it or not, whether you resist it or flow with it, whether you die tragically young or live to a ripe old age.

What’s the Subtext-Free Skillset?

To go subtext-free you need to develop the capacity for it, which is no small ask in this emotionally stunted society. My family was on the emotionally stunted end of the societal spectrum (worse off than most), so that perhaps made the journey longer for me. But it also gave me unique privileges – strong motivation due to suffering. Strong longing for love due to a history of unlove.

Life gives us exactly what we need.

Subtext-free is only possible on the current configuration of my brain, and it’s cutting edge for me. It also helps me rewire my brain, real time, as relationship challenges arise.

The needed skills include:

  • clear communication. As in saying my truth clearly. And asking to hear theirs, clearly.
  • the ability to say my true yes and no, and to stand behind it. Aka good boundaries.
  • respecting consent and free will. For example, this means seeking consent to have hard conversations, and respecting the other’s timing and process.
  • a soft and tender heart. The same hard truth can be delivered like a bullet or like a kiss. If I am in a loving state with my heart filled with love, soft eyes, and a regulated nervous system, I’m subconsciously sending signals that calm and reassure a partner. I can’t control how they receive my messages, but I can influence and support them through the state of my heart.
  • empathy that isn’t sticky. This means feeling for another person’s pain (and joy), but not getting it confused with my own. True empathy is spacious – it looks like making space for another person to feel any feeling, without trying to shut it down because I’m uncomfortable with that feeling expression (so I need to get in touch with all my feelings which is another epic journey).
  • the ability to show vulnerability in an owned way. This means I show my soft underbelly, and ask for support if I want that, but that I don’t push my vulnerability onto the other person. I don’t insist that they feel any particular way or do anything they don’t want to do. I don’t blame them for my vulnerability. I don’t blame myself for it.
  • self-awareness that I’m willing to apply. Seeing my own strengths and flaws with admiration and compassion, and owning them. This requires self-love. And a strong sense of a differentiated self (more epic journeys!).
  • openness to feedback. A willingness to look into feedback from my partners’ as well as my inner voice. To gaze into the mirror and admit to what I see. Then to use that knowledge to make transformations that open me to deeper intimacy.

The Results of Subtext-Free Relating

Subtext-Free relating results in a living and growing relationship. It could go anywhere and become anything. It’s fresh and breathing. Both people know where they stand, and know when this changes. Both people are being true to themselves. Both people are being loving to themselves. This results in being true and loving toward each other, and the state of the union.

Story told by space as stars become themselves.Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Relationships are often viewed and treated as though they are static. The truth is they are dynamic flow. The next time I see my partner she will be a different person. Am I open enough to change (and Change is the nature of Life) to open to the new her? To welcome change in, and love her as she truly is?

Or do I close to change (whatever it may be) because I want to keep myself safe? If that’s so, it’s a losing battle. I can never keep my heart safe, and safety is an illusion. What is true is love, and paradoxically if I open into love I am the safest I can possibly be.

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

~Hellen Keller

The result of subtext-free relating with someone with a similar skillset, who desires the same, has been increasing openness, depth, and connection. Simultaneously we each experience increasing personal growth, personal depth, and expansion.

However … this is NOT the case with people without enough of the skillset or who don’t desire transparency. In my experience I am naturally growing apart from such people through a few organic mechanisms:

  • they judge me, perhaps label me as dangerous in some way, and distance themselves.
  • they heartfully tell me they can’t relate in such a way even though they’re drawn to it – it’s too scary, for now.
  • they don’t understand me, and don’t get this style of relating. Maybe they're curious, but I'm considered an oddity.
  • they are offended by this style of relating, and think I should be either more loving while suppressing truth, or more truthful while dropping love (based on what they’ve been conditioned to be).

I’ve learned that subtext-free relating is something NOT to impose on others. I offer it to others when it flows, and I pay attention to their reactions and respect them. I want to lovingly + truthfully relate with others, and that means relationships made of the two of us, and what we both want or don’t want.

Sometimes it means relationships ending, or relationships-of-potential never taking off.

What it always means though is authenticity. I’m authentic. My close relationships are authentic. The relationships that don’t develop are authentic. The relationships that end are authentic. Nothing’s made up, and life is living-itself-organically.

The Biggest Benefit of Subtext-Free Relating

The biggest benefit of subtext-free relating is that it supports me being in harmony with Life. I practice this form of relating with myself … I’m honest with myself while being simultaneously lovingly gentle. Nobody needs my tenderness more than me, and the more tender I can be with me, the more tender I can be with you. Nobody needs my honest authenticity more than me, and the more I can front up with me (including the challenging hidden parts), the more authentic I can be with you.

Isn’t this what we are all longing for, on some level? To be real with each other? To be a real person, consequences be damned? To be loved, and to love? To know what a vitally alive love-filled life feels like, and be living it, each blessed moment?

To get there, if you resonate, grow your truth and love capacities. Grow your subtext-free relating with self and others. Drop the bullshit, and drop the defensive posturing. Open your heart, and open your mouth, and say your truth with feeling – without overstating or understating.

Say it, though it burns and takes every ounce of courage you possess (in the beginning, it felt almost impossible for me to speak my truth). Your courage will grow. It will get easier.

Say it, though it makes you feel weak and like you’re about to be attacked (in the beginning, I was shocked by a loving response). You will get many loving responses (not all, and you’ll learn to handle rejection). Love will strengthen you. It will get easier.

Say it, and experience yourself flowering.