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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Afraid of Hurting My Partner’s Feelings

Uploaded: Mar 4, 2016
Do you avoid talking about certain topics because you are afraid it will cause hurt feelings? Many couples do. The proverbial pile under the rug gets so big that it’s a circuitous route around it.

Unfortunately there are consequences well beyond hurt feelings when you leave things unaddressed in your relationship.

As time passes, issues tend to grow and fester, rather than be forgotten or forgiven. This means that as they get bigger, they are more difficult to deal with than would have been the case when an issue was small.

The results may be loss of connection, loss of shared dreams and destinations, an inability to be authentic, loss of intimacy, lack of conversation and sex. And once this point has been reached, who is showing up to be loved? What face or mask is being shown to your partner?

It’s possible that as the pressure builds it needs an outlet, and people do often “blow.” This may take the form of flight, fight, or affair.

What are the origins of your fear of hurting your partner’s feelings to the detriment of your marriage? I know this sounds cliché, yet often the family of origin is the source. How did/does your family handle conflict? Were people heard and cared for as they shared differing perspectives? Or were they shut down, or in some way punished? Did you see your parents disagree? How did they resolve it?

What are your concerns about bringing up a difficult topic with your partner? Is it that you don’t know how to begin? Is it that you don’t know how to deal with feelings (and many don’t unless they’ve learned)? Is it because it’s not “logical”? Have you had previous poor results when trying to have these types of conversations, and fear a repeat? Or is it some other reason?

Does the fear of hurting your partner’s feelings come from being conflict-avoidant? From over-pleasing behavior because it feels safer? Needing approval? Not believing you deserve to be heard with an open mind and a willingness to have both people feel safe and have their needs addressed? Not sure if you’re worthy of happiness?

When you avoid difficult topics you may end up with a loss of desire for your partner. You may end up with loss of agency – the ability to drive your life, to act in any given environment. You may end up with poor boundaries, and say “Yes” either verbally, or by not saying “No,” to things we do not actually want.

Then you end up not trusting your partner, and being angry with yourself for letting things get to this point.

Relationships are about give and take. But it needs to be done consciously and verbally. Your intention in discussing important issues is not to hurt your partner’s feelings, but to be authentic in your marriage. And it is critical to do so.

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