It’s Hard to Hug a Porcupine or a Lioness

You want me to hug you?

Why is it that it is so hard to ask for what we want? Allen was feeling pressured. The boss had him working two jobs after Jim left and his position was not refilled. Of course yesterday the car started sounding like a washing machine and losing power on acceleration: that can’t be good. The kids, God bless them, Allen loved them but they seem to be fighting more these days over important issues like “Dad Alisa touched me”, “and “Kelsey stop looking at me”, you know the important stuff the 2nd grade twins found to be life threatening. Oh, then there was Allen’s annual physical his wife had been nagging him about. “Yea, Sandra, I really look forward to my visits with Dr. Big Hands”. Sandra responded, “Oh come on Allen, you should try delivering twins, then we can have a conversation about your physical!”

Allen finally make it home after another accident filled, rainy, gridlocked commute and promptly expressed his frustrations and stresses in classic form: No he did not say he was stressed, tired and feeling overwhelmed, no, he morphed into a porcupine: all prickly and grumpy. Allen learned from his father that men  let their partner know they need something by becoming porcupine-ish. Somehow, Sandra kept missing the cues, “Or maybe she doesn’t care?” thought Allen.

Sandra responded with a few attempts at asking if Allen had a bad day, but when he responded sarcastically with “What do you think?” Sandra morphed into “Chucha, lioness who can not be tamed”. With her own version of survival in motion Chucha prowled the rooms carefully avoiding the prickly porcupine, after all, she had cubs to tend to and a list of chores on her to do list.

Both Sandra and Allen were able to make it through the evening. Allen got the kids ready for bed while Sandra spent some time on the phone coordinating play dates and getting ready for her day at the office. Finally, the kids went down, after three repetitions of “The Runaway Bunny”. Sandra heard Allen read the story from the other room, with not just a little irony, both she and Allen thinking “Yea, running away sounds pretty good to me too”. When Sandra finished her calls and getting things ready for the next day, she found Allen slumped on the couch looking like an extra in the movie Day of the Dead. She sat next to him after he saw her and patted the seat next to him. They both realized that each had been under the gun, but somehow they couldn’t figure out how to deal with what seemed like an endless stream of responsibilities that was impacting their relationship.

Sandra recalled that she desperately wanted Allan to hold her last night. why couldn’t he see how exhausted she was? She was practically in tears when she looked at the laundry, why didn’t he offer to at least help? Both Allen and Sandra have a hard time asking for what they need. Sometimes they need help with stuff, mostly they seem to  need understanding, or a listening ear. That night Sandra didn’t morph into a lioness, she morphed into a fragile kitten.

Inside every porcupine and lioness is something else  that simply wants to be held, understood, validated, helped, or some other need. What is underneath that morphed animal? Here’s a starter list below. Find a picture from a magazine or the internet that might show your partner how you are feeling. Who knows, you may work up to actually putting words to the picture.

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