Be what your partner needs.
Welcome back friends! Today I want to address something I hear all the time on social media and influencers here on YouTube. It sounds nice and flowery but it can actually destroy meaningful connection with the ones we love them most. One of my least favorite things I hear influencers say is: “SPEAK YOUR TRUTH” First of all, truth is truth, no one has a truth that someone else can disprove. The very definition of truth is “that is which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” Feelings are not facts and they can change with the blowing of the winds. So a more accurate thing to encourage would be to “SPEAK YOUR FEELINGS” Not quite as catchy, right? But here’s the thing. If we are all out there, speaking our feelings and dumping our grievances on anyone that will listen, we can damage otherwise healthy connections. I recently read the book “Dance of Connection” by Harriet Lerner and here on some thoughts I had after reading her work.
Being an expert communicator can’t change your loved one. Having the perfect way to express yourself or your feelings can’t make someone see things your way.
But we can stop non-productive conversational habits. We can learn to sit more comfortably with our own confusion and stand more solid in our sense of self even when the other person won’t.
Hard conversations aren’t about being your true self but rather choosing the self that you want to be and reacting like that.
Now, I haven’t always gotten this right but here’s an example of a situation several years ago that I got to practice this in my marriage. I got a phone call from Steve that rocked my world. I was out of town with my mom and sister, and while I was away, Steve got word that he had essentially lost his income completely and had some major fallout with the company he was working with. He called me totally panicked and I was terrified to hear him that scared. I had a choice to make. Do I sit with him in his shock and fear and be the solid ground he needs or do I SPEAK MY TRUTH and tell him how scared I am because I depend on him to provide for me and the kids? I will never forget hanging up with Steve and looking up to see my mom - who is a therapist - staring wide-eyed at me and saying that most people don’t have the ability to hold their fear back in a situation like that. I have thought about that ever since. I chose in that moment to react in a way that I would imagine he needed in that moment, not what I was actually feeling. Now, I’m not your demure and quiet subservient wife. I speak my mind most of the time. But I have learned by watching other’s relationships over the years that there are moments when keeping my mouth shut was the best thing I could offer. Speaking out or being real isn’t necessarily a virtue. “Speaking your truth“ can shut down lines of communication and hurt people. Saying your true feelings in the name of speaking your truth is not necessary for connection. Why do people feel like they have to share every reaction they have to annoying trait in their spouse? This is not intimacy. Sharing your innermost thoughts and opinions is actually cruel. Wisdom is knowing when to speak strategically and not spontaneously. Asking your loved one to change or modify an annoying habit is not the same as asking someone to change their nature. It is wisdom to know the difference. Here’s a story I read many years ago and it has always stuck with me. An older couple made it to their golden years despite having a hard marriage. All the children had left home and they were left with just each other for companionship. The wife was a bold and outspoken woman who had a bad habit of steamrolling her husband and criticizing him openly and frequently. He was a patient man but had his fair share of annoying habits, which his wife was all too happy to point out. One of these habits was that he would always get toothpaste all over the mirror when he brushed his teeth. It was her biggest pet peeve and despite her constant badgering, he just couldn’t kick this gross habit. Well, sadly, the husband passed away after the funeral was arranged and done, she finally wiped away the last splatters of her late husband's toothpaste off that mirror and went to bed. The next morning, she woke up, and brushed her teeth as she always did and tucked her toothbrush neatly away and looked in the mirror. To her surprise, she found the same splatters of toothpaste staring back at her. She realized that it was her making the mess all those years. How many times do we find ourselves in a similar position? How many times do we speak daggers to the ones who deserve the very best of us? So save “speaking your truth” for the influencers and know that you are armed with wisdom to do one better. Speak strategically and hold your “HONEST” comments to yourself. We are all human and we can all be annoying. Let’s give some grace to the ones we love, because you never know when those toothpaste splatters are actually yours! Thanks for being a part of my community. I’m so grateful for YOU. Please remember how incredible you are!