“Speak your truth gently. It’s possible to be both honest and kind.” – Mary Davis
“Speak your truth”. It sounds like such an easy concept, right? In theory, yes. In reality, though, it can be far more challenging, particularly if your truth entails doubts about your relationship or marriage.
Through working with clients over the years, I’ve witnessed this stay-or-go dilemma, the tug of war between the head and the heart, which begs the question, “Are you in or are you out?”. Clients have come to my office not knowing what to do about their relationship or their associated feelings. While in a session like this, I help the client explore what’s going on with them, what’s behind their doubt, and what has led them to ponder their level of commitment to the relationship. Oftentimes, their partner doesn’t attend counseling sessions because they simply don’t know what’s going on with their loved one or they don’t believe in therapy altogether.
People stay in unhealthy relationships for a litany of reasons, but the common culprit is fear – the fear of upsetting their partner, children, family, and friends; the fear of potential backlash; the fear of being alone; the fear of change; the fear of the unknown – all resulting in their happiness being relocated to the back burner. Over time, this pattern can crystallize, leaving a heavy, obligatory-like burden in its wake.
True to human nature, we often create stories in the absence of information to make sense of a situation, which is why communicating with your partner or therapist will help in returning clarity to the forefront. This means speaking your truth out loud, even if it involves expressing some hard-to-hear thoughts and emotions. You deserve to share your truth and your partner deserves to hear it.
There is, however, a rather emotional dance between speaking your truth and maintaining safety within a relationship. Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist, developed Nonviolent Communication, a powerful tool for peacefully resolving differences at personal, professional, and political levels. He dedicated his life to finding ways that allow people to be heard while inviting others towards them rather than pushing them away. As a therapist, this is also my goal and intention when working with couples: teaching them how to speak their truth in a safe, respectful, and loving manner.
TAKE-AWAY: Though learning to speak your truth can seem like a daunting, emotional, and/or unfamiliar concept, it is important that you share it with your partner. If you feel uneasy about this, explore it with a counselor first to gain clarity in relaying your feelings to your partner.