While this is helpful advice for a movie theater, we don’t think it works very well when it comes to communicating in relationships.The problem is that many people in relationships think that if they just keep silent and not say what they are thinking or feeling, their relationship will be better off than if they had said what was on their mind.While this sounds good in theory– it doesn’t work in reality. When we keep our feelings to ourselves, it may temporarily keep the peace and keep the relationship going smoothly but in the long run, this creates distance, separation, mistrust and dries up passion like a weed in the desert.
In our previous long-term relationships, both of us kept silent about our thoughts and feelings that were important to us because we didn’t want to make waves in the relationship. While this wasn’t the only contributing factor, both of our previous marriages ended in divorce.
In our relationship, we made an agreement early on to be honest about our thoughts and feelings with each other no matter how difficult or painful this might be.
One of the contributors to our Should You Stay or Should You Go? book told her story about how she didn’t keep silent in her relationship.
She told us that she was best friends and engaged to a man who lived in a city several states away from hers. Sometime after he had moved to her city and they had decided to get married, she began feeling that the relationship would not work. She agonized for weeks, and after much prayer, she told him her painful truth–that she felt in her heart that their relationship “wasn’t right” and there were too many differences between them.
She told us that once she was honest with herself (and with him), her pain disappeared. Now we’re not saying that everyone has to know every thought and feeling that you have.
We are saying that if you want to live an authentic, vibrant life and perhaps have a connected, passionate, alive relationship, silence is not golden.
We have found that the best way to tell your thoughts and feelings so that the other person can hear is to simply say what is true for you without pointing the finger at them (making them wrong.)
Sometimes this is easier said than done when the subject is a particularly thorny one between the two of you. But what we have found is that if you both can listen to each other until there is some sense of understanding, without emotionally or physically running away, you can work through almost any communication issue or challenge.
Withholding your thoughts or feelings–hoping that it will all be O.K. if you just keep silent– is rarely a strategy that works.
Making and keeping the agreement that you will both share your thoughts and feelings with each other and stay open to each other without becoming defensive helps to create more trust and intimacy in the relationship. We invite you to make this agreement or other agreements with the important people in your life.