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This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

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You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…

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How to Stop Criticizing and Increase the Safety in Your Relationship

Safety breeds presence and presence breeds safety.

— Harville Hendrix author of Getting the Love You Want

I’ve come to realize, in my efforts to be helpful and efficient, I’ve put off my fiancé Mark a little. I’ve worked hard to build a repertoire of knowledge in several areas such as physical health, relationship dynamics, household maintenance, etc. In the past, I was rewarded for being proficient in those and other areas. I also hold a lot of responsibility in those areas, so if anything goes wrong, I am in charge of the cleanup. I have had many reasons to keep things running smoothly, including my need to feel in control.

The trouble is, now I like to nudge, or some might say, nag, my loved ones to improve in the areas I consider myself knowledgable. It is extremely difficult to ignore those urges to correct or advise.

Interestingly, I feel I have complained about these same traits in others. Good old projection, it is real.

Stop nitpicking and do this

Fortunately, Harville and Helen Hendrix (spouses and co-authors of the longtime classic, Getting the Love You Want) were on one of my favorite podcasts, The Smart Couple Podcast. It was a relief to hear Helen say she was once just like me. She had suggestions for her husband’s social etiquette, wardrobe and many other things.

How did she grow past the criticizing and nitpicking? She learned to stop condemning and shaming and simply ask for what she wants.

Goodbye safety

When we criticize, we take the safety out of the environment and our relationship. We make our partner feel inadequate. No safety means no freedom to fully be ourselves or express vulnerability. Partners tend to get defensive or shut down when they feel like they are under scrutiny. I know. I’ve been on the receiving end of the judging. We all have.

What’s good for the goose…

One crucial point Harville and Helen made is that what we do to our partners affects us as well. If our partner feels threatened or unsafe, we feel this too. If we judge our partner as inadequate, we feel their unease with that. We also feel uneasy because we are with a partner we don’t believe can meet our needs.

Most of the time, our partners want to please us and make us feel good. They are waiting to know how they can do that. We have to tell them what we want.

What do we really want?

What do we want? We want someone to be present with us. Someone to see us and witness experiences with us. The Hendrixes said this affirms our existence. When our partner works late, is always buried in their phone or makes little eye-contact with us, they are not present. This echoes the ache we felt when our parents were preoccupied and did not notice us. Everyone felt this at some time. It hurts.

Here are examples of how to ask for what we want: “I have a lot going on at work today and will be home a little late. Could you start dinner for me?” or “I would like to hold hands with you on the couch and watch one of our favorite shows tonight.”

Curiosity doesn’t just kill cats

If we truly have concerns about a partner (or child or friend’s) behavior, we can ask for what we want as mentioned above or we can ask questions born out of curiosity. If we use curiosity and not criticism to gain understanding, we have a lot higher chance of having our questions answered and concerns resolved.

Here are examples of curious versus confrontational questions: “What you are doing is new to me. Could you explain why you used that method?” or  “I am used to doing it this way. When I see you doing it differently, I don’t understand. Could you help me understand your choice?”


Ultimately, Harville said we want predictability. We want to know our loved one is there for us. They are going to have coffee with us in the morning. They are going to hold our hand at night. They are going to meet us at the hospital if we suddenly have to have an MRI. Our brain loves predictability. It feels safe. Safety breeds presence. The more safe any of us feel, the easier it is to be present with someone. The more presence we experience with someone, the safer we feel.

Asking for what we want instead of belittling our partner and coming from a place of curiosity versus superiority, both aid us in our quest for safety and presence.

Are you sabotaging the safety in your relationship? Could you be a little more forthright and a little less judgey? Do you ever let curiosity lead you in your relationships?


Click the image below to check out my online courses in connection, introversion and insecure attachment. Help you and your relationships grow. See you at!

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For all of my introverted readers, I have found a unique newsletter for you (and me). It is a printed (hardcopy!) newsletter just for introverts. If you go to this website, you will see how author Peter Vogt, illuminates introverts and enlightens extroverts. Sign up to receive the newsletter for free on the website. I recommend it!

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  1. Michael Buley February 7, 2019 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    I guess it’s a matter of what brings joy, happiness. i don’t understand why people are so serious so often. I mean, I see it. I’ve experienced people who are. I just don’t find any joy in it. I was going to say ‘fun’ … lol … but ‘fun’ can, I think, seem trite. Frivolous. Irresponsible. And I don’t advocate those things at all.

    Serious is everywhere. Guarded is everywhere. Fake, it seems, is everywhere. Not exactly fake always. But feigned. Or a mask. Which hides who we really are, what we really think, feel. Masks are everywhere — maybe that’s it. And I’ve had my masks, too. Though what might seem a mask to others — joy, positive, seeing beauty where others don’t — might seem like a mask. Like I’m not ‘dealing’ with my life … lol … but the beauty is, WE get to decide how we want to live this life, ‘deal’ with it. And joy is a choice, a practice, an art, a skill every bit as much as any skill.

    I think joy does come naturally to us. When we are young, are we serious about life? No. We learn to be serious.

    But we can do ‘serious’ things — our work, study, learning — yet not be down, or somber. We can be intensely into something — again, work, study, a conversation — and underlying it all, is a joy. An anticipation. A sense of wonder, excitement.

    I think it’s possible that ‘serious’ is head in the sand — literally not seeing the beauty all around us, within us, in others. We become absorbed with our problems, issues, lol … We all have them. I have them. You do.

    And we’re ‘serious.’ Responsible. See how serious I am? I am frowning now … I have a grimace as I deal with this serious issue!

    This life will be over so quickly. It’s hard to believe my dad died almost 3 years ago. I’ve had my mom in my care for two years now. I’m 63. I remember 30 years ago, and how it’s passed like a blink. And should I live another 30, it will be like a blink when I’m there and look back.

    What do I want my days to be? Joy. So that whenever my moment comes, and I am gone, I lived a life of joy, and laughter, and excitement — and hopefully I brought much of those things to others. Countless times, I bring laughter to people when I see them or talk to them. How can that not be anything but a gift of love? How can bringing laughter to someone, in sometimes the most difficult of times, not be love? “I love you, and I’m going to make you sad now” … lol … “I love you so much, and I’m going to be sad and depressed like you now” … lol … no! I won’t do it!

    God has blessed us with so much. Whatever our gifts in this life, our job, I believe, is to give to others, joyfully. To lift people up. And I cannot think of a better way than laughter — and I also send out LOTS of coffee cards all year round to customers, family, friends. that, too, is love and joy!

    Yes, we can discuss anything and everything! I can, with anyone, at any time — so long as it’s not denigrating, sarcastic, mean, attacking. We should have friends, a spouse, a lover — someone — that we can be that way with. ‘This is who I am, what I’ve done, what I think and feel’ … without it being ‘oh my god you’re kidding!’ lol …

    What’s funny is that we can often discuss ‘anything’ with friends, but not the one we are with. Fear of losing them. Fear of so much. Ain’t no fun. Not healthy. No laughter there, or it’s diminished.

    I have always, I think, seen the world a bit differently than most. I think about many things, and often differently than most. And so it is. That’s just me. I went through periods of ‘not being me’ because it made someone uncomfortable. Excuse my French, but f**k that any more! lol … Laugh with me if you want. Be excited about life with me if you want. Or not. It’s okay if you don’t want to be (whoever ‘you’ is). But serious people are not the ones I want around me. Why would we? Why would we want to be with someone, anyone, where there’s no joy and laughter and lifting up?

    I don’t know why. But it seems lots of people choose that, end up with that, settle for that. That’s okay. There’s a price in doing that. There’s also a price in being free to be who we are: we might not have much company!! lol … But we are free! We are who we are, really.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on, Brenda! You’re beautiful! You have such a beautiful mind and heart and spirit. So beautiful. I am grateful that you are in my life, that I ever found you, that I have this cool awesome privilege to share things with you.

    • Brenda Knowles February 12, 2019 at 10:51 am - Reply

      It’s true what you said, that we often have the hardest time discussing ‘anything’ with the ones we love. The deeper we love, the more it hurts if that love is retracted. We often are more careful with our wording so they keep on giving us love. I like hearing your 63 year old perspective. I currently have the 48 year old perspective. Still learning. 🙂 Yes, more joy and less seriousness. I find when I am trying to control or resist something I have a serious face and demeanor. I’m trying to control and resist less. Controlling feels safe but maybe not joyful. I appreciate you letting ME ramble. Thanks for listening and responding Michael.

  2. Michael Buley February 1, 2019 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    To feel safe … lol … that’s the thing, alright. We can create that for whoever is in our space, in our lives. Simply don’t criticize, don’t judge; compliment sincerely, act (be genuinely) glad to see whoever it is. Be soft in voice and in countenance.

    Avoid like a plague things like sarcasm toward anyone we are with. As you said, be curious. Be playful. Be supportive. Speak kind words. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And if you don’t have anything nice to say, FIND something nice to say! We can at any time, with any one, or darned near, I think. if it’s someone’s appearance, hair, glasses, boots, smile, anything — seek, and ye shall find something to compliment, and all kinds of them!

    But we have to feel secure enough in ourselves, that we don’t, as you said, Brenda, project our insecurities and fears and inadequacies, onto someone else.

    Now, whether the one we are with, creates that same space for us, is up to the one we are with. We can provide it, we can ask for it, be gently clear about it … and then we see!

    I’ve never been believer in, or practitioner of, criticizing. Just say something nice! Bring a smile to someone’s face! Be a little goofy if you can (which I can!) … lol … laughter greases the skids for many a serious thing in this life. And the absence of laughter makes for a very slow and rough go. And sometimes the going just stops when the laughter stops.

    To be with someone with whom we are safe — meaning absence of criticism and judgment and sarcasm. And ‘topics’ include our family, and the family of the one we love. Don’t go criticizing the kids of the one you’re with (assuming you’re with someone who had kids before you met). Don’t criticize the ex. just don’t criticize people. don’t gossip about others. Speak well of others. Speak well of yourself. Whatever our failures / inadequacies / etc … we can love ourselves and be excited about who we are and life and all of it. And we project THAT onto everyone we meet! we really do!

    At least it’s what I work to do! lol … I just don’t have much company in that approach, but it works for me — and I gotta have the safety, and I gotta have the laughter and kind words and all that! I give ’em, I need ’em. And until I find that woman, if I ever do … I am happy on my own!

    • Brenda Knowles February 7, 2019 at 3:21 pm - Reply

      I think I would feel safe with you Michael, and we’d have a lot of laughs! I still wonder if being positive all the time, leads to putting our heads in the sand. I think some issues have to be discussed. It’s a matter of discussing them without attacking each other, I guess.:) Thanks for sharing!

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