Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Activity 4: Tender Points

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Copies of Handout 3: Tender Points (one per participant)
  • Leader Resource 2: Tender Points Guidelines
  • Newsprint sheet with circle diagram (see Preparation)
  • Newsprint sheet with list of guidelines (see Preparation)
  • Easel
  • Pens or pencils
  • Tables or hard surfaces for writing
  • Self-adhesive dots in at least three colors (at least one sheet of each color per participant)

Preparation for Activity

  • Using Handout 3, Tender Points, as a guide, draw three concentric circles on a newsprint sheet.
  • On a separate newsprint sheet, write the Tender Points Guidelines from Leader Resource 2.
  • Set up tables, or find books or other hard surfaces for writing.

Description of Activity

This exercise will help couples know, understand, and respect their partners' innermost dynamics and passions.

Share the following story from Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle:

There is a story of an elderly Hasidic rabbi, renowned for his piety. He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted, youthful disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, "My master, I love you." The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, "Do you know what hurts me, my son?" The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, "I don't understand your question, Rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions." "My question was neither confusing nor irrelevant," rejoined the rabbi, "for if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?"

Distribute Handout 3, Tender Points, which has three concentric circles on it. Pass out self-adhesive dots, one sheet of each color for each participant. Have extra dots on hand.

Provide this background information to help participants understand the activity:

We all have tender points - issues that are sensitive or important to us and that stem from our innermost identities. Loving relationships include an understanding and knowledge of these points.

These tender points often come from our passion or fears. They may also reflect ethical expectations, pet peeves, or past hurts. They make us vulnerable, because these are the spots where we can be most easily hurt.

Yet these tender points can also be a connection to a deep and loving relationship. How a partner responds to these tender points can influence the degree of emotional connection and trust between two people. Partners need to know where to tread lightly, when to support, when to protect, and most importantly, how to hold a loved one's innermost feelings sacred.

In this activity, you will map your own tender points by identifying what is most vital, most sensitive, and most important to you.

Display the newsprint diagram of concentric circles. Label the outer circle "Living in the world." Offer this explanation:

When it comes to living in this world, what are your sensitive points? Where do you frequently get hurt, or fear getting hurt? What passion do you have that would cause hurt to you if it were not respected? Perhaps it is extended family, a time-consuming hobby, or focus on career or work. Perhaps it is a fear or a commitment. What are your tender points when living in the world?

Choose one color of dot for your "world" circle. Take a dot of the color, label it with a word describing one of your worldly tender points, and place it in the outer circle of your handout. Repeat with as many dots as needed, in the same color.

Allow a few minutes for participants to complete this task.

Next, label the middle circle "Living in loving relationship." Offer the following explanation:

Each person has tender points when it comes to loving another. What are the tender points within your human relationships? Where are the places you can most easily be hurt? What is most important to you as you live day to day in a loving relationship? Examples might include use of time, kids, parents, partner's lifestyle, cooperation or competition, money, sex, and housework. What is important? What is sacred to you?

Choose a dot of a different color, label it with one of your relationship tender points, and place it in the middle circle of your handout. Repeat with as many dots as needed, in the same color.

Allow a few minutes for participants to complete this task.

Next, label the center circle "Self." Offer the following explanation:

Each of us has many personal tender points that shape and motivate us. What would you list as your personal tender points - the places where you need to learn to be gentle with yourself? Some examples might include insecurities, fears, dreams, needs, spiritual life, or whatever else is important to the makeup of your being. What does your partner need to know about you as an individual to truly understand who you are?

Using a third color, label a dot with one of your personal tender points and place it in the inner circle on your handout. Repeat with as many dots as needed, in the same color.

After allowing them a few minutes to complete this task, invite participants to pair up with their partners and share the most tender points they have identified. Allow up to ten minutes for sharing. If time runs out, either remind everyone that this conversation can be continued at home or simply allow for more conversation.

When the group finishes, display the newsprint sheet on which you wrote the guidelines from Leader Resource 2. Invite participants to read the points in unison. If time remains, invite comments and questions.