I recently had a conversation with a couple about some of the dynamics that caused a relationship crisis. One that popped up was the idea of playing cool. One partner, trying to be open and cool, didn't express feelings of hurt and fear when their partner was spending a lot of time with an attractive coworker. She didn't want conflict or to feel like a nag. But the result was her partner felt confused (his gut was already conflicted on how kosher these hangouts were but her "coolness" read as indifference and permission and actually hurt him as he wondered why she didn't care about what he was doing and didn't fight to spend more time with him). Her "coolness" didn't impress him or draw him closer but instead bred distance and resentment.
There are so many mixed messages out there for relationships. One big one that lands people in my office for couples counseling is trying to play it cool. People have learned, or been outright told, to not be needy or jealous or clingy or emotional or...(fill in the blank with your favorite judgy word).
What's really cool in important relationships is being honest. Being honest is vulnerable and brings intimacy. It also brings an opportunity to express to your partner that they matter (our feelings about people show us and them that they matter). It also offers an opportunity to be soothed and reassured.
To clarify, I’m not advocating for being demanding, bossing or parenting your partner...gross! Don't tell your partner what they should do (or worse, that they are bad or wrong). Instead, tell them how you feel and let them help soothe you and problem solve the situation together.
If you are struggling with this, reach out! I'd love to help!