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Private Journal – Keep Out.

Direct Communication Letter

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What I wanted to say is this.  I think when we have these conversations, I hear you express fear that saying things that you think will be difficult for me will lead me to be angry or sad and therefore you are scared to say them and that’s why you don’t.  I understand your perspective on this.

I think that we have to, HAVE to be okay with saying the things we are scared to, and learn how to say them to each other in a way that is compassionate, direct and kind. we are each responsible for our own emotions and also for being aware of each others triggers and deliver information in a useful way.  It seems like you feel (and correct me if i’m wrong) that there is no space to share information that you determine will cause emotional distress.  I do think that we have not yet done a great job of normalizing this.  I cannot overstate how important it is that we figure out a way to do this.

I think also that part of the problem is that this tends to be framed as “I have all this stuff to tell you that will hurt you so i don’t tell you” so I end up in a position where I’m arguing that you should hurt me, which is like… not a fair place for me to be.  What I actually want to say around this is that we both must be direct with each other about things we are thinking and feeling in as close to real time as possible and be clear on the ways both to hear and to say them so that the other person can hear and respond in a productive way, rather than feeling attacked or blamed.

Obviously this is not a thing with a  100% success rate, but if we keep talking about “i have all this shitty stuff that i can’t say to you because you are going to get really angry and i feel sad about it” then all it does is put me in a place where if i argue that you should say stuff more and then you say a thing and I react in an emotional way, or if I actually feel hurt by what you say, then it will be used as evidence that you should not have been direct with me in the first place, which is really shitty manipulation (and yes of course I realize that you are not consciously intending it to be this.  This is the effect it is having.)   I grant you permission and encourage you to be both kind and direct when sharing your feelings and thoughts about whatever you like.  I do not grant you permission to have that sharing be contingent on me only being able to respond in a certain way in order to not indirectly justify your lack of sharing.

I know you think you are sparing me emotional distress.  I want to dissuade you of this.  I do not want to have a no-conflict relationship.  I have felt off and on for a long time that there has been a tone and situation where a lot of day-to-day conflict was off limits or unsafe and to be avoided, and if I say a potentially conflict-y thing, I am accused of being mean to you or picking on you or hurtful.

Even typing this, I am anticipating that reaction and trying to figure out ways to soften what I am saying to make it more likely that you will take it in the spirit in which it is intended.  I am aware that some of this is my own stuff.

A no-conflict relationship is both impossible and creates its own silent resentment which is significantly more toxic than a relationship with uncomfortable conversations and sometime-hurt-feelings.  I don’t think either of us want this.  You said you don’t want a companionate relationship. I think “no-conflict” is another word for this, or at least that it is a symptom.

So, what I think needs to happen is that we need to have some serious talk about how to create a safe space for what we perceive to be difficult information. What words to use, the setting, the frequency.  We also need to talk about the assumptions that either of us make regarding how we think the other person will take information and how much weight we give that assumption when deciding whether to actually say the thing or not.  I think that we both use that process as a way to avoid conflict and it needs to stop.

I do think that these behaviors make it more difficult to share good things, or gratitude or appreciation or genuinely positive. When we both pull toward “Fine” or “conflict-free” in different amounts or in different ways, then it creates a shallowness to the relationship in all but the most vulnerable of situations (like right before bed or sometimes when driving).  It pulls everything toward the middle for the sake of not having things be ‘below the line’.  I do not want this to be what our relationship is. This does not feel safer to me or better to me.  This feels emptier and less fulfilling.

I appreciate so much when you are open and honest with me.  I appreciate so much when you share your thought process. I appreciate so much when you are able to give me feedback with the goal of improving your experience in the relationship.  I appreciate so much your continued willingness to come to couples therapy and sit in difficult conversations.  I appreciate so much your willingness to read what I have to say and really take it in.

My aim is not to place blame or threaten or even to encourage you to say things you feel will be hurtful to me in a hurtful way for the sake of having said them.  I don’t think that the only two options are to be hurtful or to say nothing. It is possible to be both direct and kind.  We can teach each other what that means for each of us. We are teaching each other.

All my love always

-momo

Written by admin

June 30th, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Kate

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