Why holding your feelings in to “protect” your partner is a bad idea

Should I keep my feelings to myself so I don’t hurt my partner’s feelings?

I see this question a lot and after recently giving my advice to a friend whom I care very much about, I decided to write a blog post that I could reference in the future for others who may be struggling with the same issue. So, here’s why I think it’s a bad idea to hold your feelings in to “protect” your partner from being hurt.

Hurt feelings are a part of life. It will happen in every kind of relationship and sometimes there is just no way to avoid it if you’re committed to being honest. When it comes to intimate adult relationships we sometimes feel that withholding the truth or telling a white lie is better than saying something that will hurt our partner’s feelings. No one wants to hurt the person they love so this kind of thinking is understandable, but it is flawed and here’s why.

There is a deep reason that you want to get your feelings out (or they are being requested from your partner). Clearly, it is important to one or both of you. Even if the one who wants to hear the truth isn’t ready for it, there’s nothing worse than being lied to by the one person you’re supposed to be able to trust. That’s not how drama-free, long-lasting relationships are built. It’s also a recipe for having to talk about the same problem over and over again without coming to a resolution—because all the facts aren’t being disclosed!

Holding in feelings causes stress, anxiety, anger and resentment. It causes unnecessary guessing games for both parties involved not to mention uncertainty, which often leads to drama.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

If held in for too long, bottled up feelings will cause depression, which can take months (or longer) to recover from. The problem with depression is there is often a lag between the cause and the effect so by the time one realizes she is depressed she might not even know the root cause. The next thing you know you’re arguing over stupid stuff because one of you has a constant attitude built on pent up resentment. Or worse, one of you has stopped caring about the things you once loved because you figured “there’s no point” and “she’ll never understand how it feels to be in my shoes” so you just give up on everything. Your relationship is beginning to rip at the seams and you can’t figure out why. It’s because you lied–either to your partner or yourself (by remaining silent and convincing yourself that was the right thing to do) and the effect has finally caught up to you.

Don’t let this be you.

As I mentioned before, hurt feelings are inevitable and if you want a healthy, lasting relationship you’re both going to have to commit to emotional maturity and having tough talks as needed. Monica and I have discussed all kinds of uncomfortable topics over the last twelve years. We had to because we want to grow together and be able to tackle life’s curveballs as we get older and things change. We are not the same people we were in our early 20s. And as we inch toward our late 30s/early 40s, some topics have had to be revisited to ensure we are on the same page when it comes to handling certain areas of our relationship.

Compassion and compromise are a must. Maturity and logical, not just emotional decision making is paramount. If you need help with this step do yourself a favor and research how to use logic to influence your emotions. That’s a lengthy topic in itself and I don’t want to go too far off track from this post but I want to note that emotions and logic don’t operate separately. I honestly believe we cannot help how we FEEL but we can help how we react to those feelings.

So if you’re feeling hurt, angry, depressed, enraged or afraid, those feelings are valid and that’s just the way it is so say something. Keep in mind that timing and tone matters so try and choose the appropriate time to have tough conversation. What I mean is you might not want to bring up a sensitive topic after your partner has had a rough day or week. And you might want to give yourself time to calm down and go over in your head how you’re going to say what you need to say. The truth is the truth whether it hurts or not but it’s when and how a person says it that matters more. Keep your promise to be honest.

Sometimes the thought of these discussions really scares us because there are some things about ourselves that WE don’t even want to say out loud to ourselves much less admit to another person. So we bury them instead. Or we become defensive and deflective and blurt out “I don’t want to talk about it!” or “I’m fine, can we talk about something else?” Lies. The truth is often that we are not fine. We’re embarrassed or ashamed. We might even be afraid and it’s easier to pretend we’re okay even though we’re crumbling inside from trying to manage our feelings all alone. Don’t fall into this cycle, please. If you’re serious about making it last with your partner be a mature person and dig in to make sense of your feelings.

If your partner needs help being more receptive then you need to figure out a delicate way to suggest he or she improve on hearing and handling hard truths. We are not children. This isn’t the time for temper tantrums and tearing up good furniture because someone asked for (but can’t handle) the truth. Either you want to live in harmony or you don’t. Either you want to get rid of dysfunction or you don’t. Take the steps to build the kind of relationship you want.

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The alternative is not good for either of your long term health. Stress will manifest physically if you hold your feelings in. You will get random pains and headaches and they might not start until a year later when it’s almost impossible for you to connect it an initial cause. And at that point figuring it out takes deep analysis of the past and present and a willingness to bare all in order to move into the future.

Do you want to make your relationship work? Do you know why you want to make it work? Do you spend adequate time discussing each other’s feelings before the fester and boil over?

I know a lot of folks struggle with communication and that’s why I wrote this blog. I usually only respond to the question about holding feelings in to protect a partner when its presented to me privately but after my last discussion with a friend I realized that it could be a good thing to share my thoughts publicly. In this day of social media, oversharing or selective sharing, people see other couples in long term relationships and assume that it’s all rainbows, unicorns and glitter and that they never have any issues. That’s not true. No one is immune to these feelings but you can get your relationship to a point where “issues” come up very infrequently and when they do arise, they are nothing more than another conversation to be had. No fuss. No chaos. Just problem solving. This is how Monica and I have lived since the very beginning of our relationship and it works perfectly.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share and leave comments below. I’d love to know your thoughts!

All the best,

Cheril

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Why holding your feelings in to “protect” your partner is a bad idea

  1. Pingback: Why Holding in Your Feelings to “Protect” Your Partner is a bad Idea - Black Lesbian Love Lab

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