Tell me the truth but if you do I will kill you
I know, the heading is a bit bolt and may be also a bit confusing. So let me get to the point: Most couples who come in to relationship therapy have a self-diagnosis of ‘communication break-down’. Even though the problems can be manyfold and express themselves in anything from affairs to silent dinners, it is true, that communication has suffered severely somewhere along the way.
But it is not so much how we express what we would like from our partner, how nicely we ask or how eloquently we use language that makes the foundation of our relationships strong.
It is honesty!
What do I mean by that? Well, honesty is the capacity to be connected with your own internal experiences and to have the courage to continue to share them with your partner in the face of anticipated rejection or hurt. It is firstly a skill we need to have toward our selves: When your partner comes home later then promised, when they continue to do something you asked them to stop a zillion times, when they forget to say ‘good bye’ to you, what happens inside yourself? Yes, you might get angry and honestly tell them so. But underneath the anger you might fear that they don’t love you, and, ultimately, that you are unlovable. An existential fear many of us carry with us.
Now, if you would be honest with yourself you could think for yourself: ‘My partner has left without cleaning up again in spite of me telling her to do this almost every day. That is sooo annoying! I can feel the sense of being unimportant come up again. I know this goes straight into the place of being unlovable. We have to talk and I need to let her know.’ (Short version of a long internal process…)
Equipped with this insight, you may be able to talk honestly and let your partner know: ‘When you do this (x) I get angry because I feel threatened (honesty) as it brings me back to thinking I am not worth it (more honesty).’ You could then finish off the conversation with some gentle requests: ‘Could we agree for you to make an extra effort to remember, just because this is important to me?’ AND you can ask: ‘Can you just let me know that I am important to you? I looove hearing it, it makes me feel good.’
But wait there is more.
Well, there is the partner who forgot for the zillionth time. What about her/him? When you are being critizised or ‘told off’ by your partner, what comes up? Where do you go in your emotional world? Do you feel ridiculed, belittled, disrespected or ashamed, guilty, unworthy? Do you tap into your fear of being a failure? Do you find yourself in the realm of ‘loss of control’ and react angrily and dismissively?
Hmmm… So here too honesty is not easy. Firstly you have to admit to yourself that you struggle with the situation and then dig a little deeper to find the place where this hurt resonates. And then, you guessed it, it is time to share that honestly with your partner: ‘When you have a go at me like that, I feel ashamed, guilty, angry, dismissed, critizised, unfairly treated and it brings me back to my fear that I am not good enough, that I might lose control…’
I hope by now, you understand a little more about what ‘being honest’ actually means in a relationship? It is akin to being vulnerable!!! Because hey, if your partner tells you they feel like a failure and you are all fired up about the stupid thing they did, what is the likelyhood of you being open and empathic?
And this is the second part to this difficult but all so important skill to learn: When your partner tells you their vulnerable truth, you DON’T dismiss them, ridicule them or rip them apart for their struggle. It takes a lot of courage to be honest and that is why it is such a powerful connection builder! When we continue to give our own vulnerable truth to our partner, we continue to tell them that we trust them, thus building a lasting and strong foundation upon which the relationship can weather storms of day-to-day challenges much better.
To help you understand your own truth more deeply, ask yourself what it is that you fear most people might find out about you.
This is always intimately connected to the message we recieved overtly or covertly from our childhood. It often is one of ‘not being good enough.’
This message may sound like: ‘I am deeply afraid that people might find out that I truly am a failure; that I truly am worthless; that I truly am egoistic, lazy, dumb…’ Most of us carry our own version of this fear and we will do anything for itnot to be discovered.
This is the origin of our defence mechanisms and whenever you find yourself getting upset about something your partner does, you can rest assured, there is a high chance they just knocked on the door of you greatest fear!
Remember, our door is always open. If you need to check in or know of someone who does, give us a tingle on 1300 10 60 02 or go to our booking page to book in for a free check-in session with Michelle or Mattie.