By Gay Patricia Matheson L.M.F.T. & Dean Del Guidice L.M.F.T.
Question: I have a hard time being direct with my partner because I’m afraid of hurting their feelings, what should I do?
The best way to get what you want is to ask for it. Conversely, the best way to avoid getting what you don’t want is to say “NO.” Then why are these two simple things so hard to do when you are in an intimate relationship? Honest communication can be difficult because we fear the pain of being rejected. You take a chance when asking for exactly what you want in a relationship because you run the risk of being refused, or even worse…judged! That can feel painful. For some, depending upon childhood experiences, you may feel as though you have done something wrong when your partner refuses your request. There can be a feeling that YOU, not you’ve asked for, have been rejected. Partners will always make requests of you, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, if you are not comfortable with the request, and you comply with it anyway, you will begin to resent the other person. You may even resent yourself for going along with something you don’t believe in. If you’re not getting what you want or if you’re giving what you don’t want, pressure will build up and there will be an explosion or an implosion.
If you find yourself thinking: “I can’t say that, it will hurt his/her feelings,” you are not only making a mistake, you are making an excuse. We see so many relationships suffer because one partner will not be honest about their feelings with the other. They use the excuse that asking for what they want, or saying no to what they don’t want, will hurt their partner. Your own fear of being negatively judged or losing the relationship will have a negative impact on the relationship sooner or later.
When you’re not honest about your feelings you may think that you have temporarily saved the situation, but eventually you will feel used by your partner and betrayed by yourself. What is happening is that you are settling for the immediate gratification of avoiding pain, instead of doing what is best for you in the long run. Why should there be pain at all when you state your preferences and desires to the one you love? Well, there need not be. Identifying and expressing your feelings honestly and openly accomplishes wonderful things, such as personal growth and deeper intimacy in the relationship.
When you take the time to identify what is behind your hesitation to express yourself, you get to know yourself better. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how to get to know your real self. By knowing yourself fully, you experience life in a richer and more satisfying way. You become better equipped to realize what you truly want from life and how to go about getting it. This is the essence of personal growth…simply becoming more of who you really are.
Just imagine how much more the real you will have to contribute towards your relationship. If you should discover that the person you are with doesn’t like the real you, you will soon see how much better off you are by realizing that now. Then, find someone who does like the real you!
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