“I don’t want to hurt you…”

I’ve realized lately that part of my job is to help people become more hurtful.

In popular culture, the declaration comes at the beginning of a relationship, “I’ll never hurt you!” There’s a determination about this, an avowal that this time will be different, I won’t be like your parents or your last partner or the rest of the world. I’ll be your sanctuary, where all is safe.

Unfortunately, this noble commitment becomes the curse of relationship. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I don’t tell you anything that might “hurt” you. In other words, I leave out all of those truths that you might have a reaction to, that is, all of those parts of my inner world that are significant to me, but perhaps troubling to you. The big stuff.

Who wants to hear these words from their partner? “You are so hurtful.” Or the ultimate: “You have hurt me. Deeply.” People use this whole area of who is hurting whom as the measure of who is good and who is bad, a way of competing with each other for the moral high ground.

The long-term trajectory of the path of not being “hurtful” becomes what I hear in my office: “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” followed by “so I…” “Had an affair.” “Haven’t told you I’m not attracted to you, which is why I’ve been avoiding having sex.” And the ultimate: “have fallen out of love with you, and am now planning to leave you.”

In my 22 years of being in practice, I have never–ever!–met someone who didn’t prefer the truth over being “hurt.” Over and over and over people say “just tell me! I want to know! Tell me the truth, so I know what is going on.”

You are doing no one a favor by choosing to protect someone you love from the truth. Really, withholding information is just another way to control the relationship. As long as you don’t say what is true, you don’t have to face the reality of what is happening for you.

Telling the truth is the pathway to relationships that are endlessly interesting, alive, and creative. It allows you to be present with what really is going on, which means you can be available and responsive to contact and connection, both internally and externally.

Try it now. Let go of your commitment to not be “hurtful” and shift into one that requires true bravery: Speaking the truth. No matter what.

Mark your calendar! Join my free teleclass,”Introduction to Catalyzing Conscious Relationships” on Monday, January 31, at 6pm MST.

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