In last week’s blog, I discussed the difference between vulnerability and openness. By being open, rather than vulnerable, you can be honest, present, and authentic with your partner while still protecting your safety. First and foremost, you are responsible for yourself. But as with everything in your relationship, your partner has a role too. Where your partner does contribute to your safety is with their honesty. A lot of people think that acceptance, softness, and warmth are what make you feel safe, that you are safest when your partner receives what you have to say with a smile and a hug. But you are not safe if that isn’t how they actually feel. You are not safe if your partner can’t or won’t give you honest feedback. There is no safety if your partner turns a blind eye to your issues and their impact on your relationship. If your partner ignores his or her own frustrations and disappointments over time, you are not safe. Resentment will fester and grow, and it will come out eventually. At that point, you feel blindsided and your misplaced sense of safety comes crashing down.
Knowing that you will get the truth, no matter how painful it is to hear, creates a deep level of trust and safety. There is safety in being held accountable: hearing it straight from your partner about what they think, how they feel, and what they see in your behavior. In fact, this shows respect for you, demonstrating a belief in your ability to receive feedback and your interest in growth. And this way, you don’t get surprised years down the road that your partner is unhappy. You also get the chance to fix things as you go along, preventing resentments from building up and escalating over time. This means more happiness together. Encourage honesty from your partner, and be an honest partner yourself.
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