At one time or another, we all withhold from the people in our lives, especially in our communication with those we love.
We usually do it because we don’t want to hurt them–or so the story goes in our heads–and we do it because we think it’s “best” for them.The fact is–we withhold our truth at various times because we are afraid of the other person’s reaction and someplace inside us, we fear that the relationship will be changed if say what is real for us.
Here’s a great example of what we mean in a message that was sent to us this past week from a man in Zimbabwe…
In in his email to us, he was both excited and concerned.
He told us that he and his fiance are planning their wedding and he is concerned about financing the kind of celebration that his partner wants ( he isn’t the first person we’ve heard that from). The problem is that he doesn’t want to tell her lies about how he gets the money for the wedding and wants to keep promises to her but they really can’t afford what she wants.
He says that he really loves her and doesn’t want to disappoint her or “kill her spirit” and he realizes that if he continues with his behavior, he would create a “lifetime problem.”
While most of us maybe cannot relate to his specific situation, we can however relate to withholding a truth because we didn’t want to disappoint a loved one–and perhaps to keep a promise.
This man is so right to realize that his behavior is probably not healthy and will create problems in his relationship in the future–and we don’t think he’s just talking about his wedding debt. He’s probably talking about the destructive pattern he’s setting up between him and his bride to be that could last a lifetime if it isn’t squelched now.
It’s a common one and here’s how it usually goes…
“I will find a way to give you what you want, even if it means withholding my truth of the situation, because I want to please you so you’ll keep loving who you think I am.”
This pattern usually is confusing because both people are not coming to the relationship in the truth of who they are. In a sense, one or both people are wearing masks that hide what’s really inside.
What about the recipient of all of this pleasing?
When we’ve coached others in this type of situation, a part of the other person certainly loves being catered to and loved in this way. But another, deeper part feels that the truth is kept from him or her because of an inability to “handle” it.
In other words, they feel like they aren’t enough which is quite the opposite of what the pleaser intends!
If you can relate to any part of this pattern, here are some suggestions for getting out of it…
1. Look at your motivations and long-term effects
Before you act, stop yourself and think about the long-term effects of your actions. What is motivating you to withhold information? Is it to keep the peace? Is it to keep the love you are currently enjoying? What could be the long-term effects of what you are planning to do or not do? Look at the effects of holding your truth inside you and not expressing it.
2. Make your choice of action dependant on what values you want your relationship to be based on.
If you want your relationship to be based on honesty, you have to practice honesty.
3. Express your truth from what you value rather than from your head. In other words, express from your heart and not your head.
Here’s a head statement…
“I think we’re spending way too much money on this wedding although I know that you want a big wedding.”
Here’s a heart statement…
“I want our marriage to be strong and I want us to feel like we can be totally honest with one another. I would like for both of us to go over our finances together and how we can have the best wedding based on what makes sense for our situation.”
Is total honesty always necessary?
We say to first look at your motivation.
If your motivation is revenge or to hurt someone–and your connection is no longer important to you, find some other way to relieve the stress of withholding the information. You might writing a letter and then burning it if you need to get something off your chest but your motivation is revenge.
If you want to build or rebuild trust and connection in a relationship, be honest with who you are and what you want. Withholding builds walls; Honesty shared with conviction of the heart allows the space for true love to grow.