Learning how to be honest in close relationships is an art that takes a great deal of focused attention. We’ve often thought how strange it is that so few of us get any training in communication during our school years. Compared to the amount of time we spend learning addition, multiplication, grammar and such, most of us get no training in the crucial aspects of relationship communication. Even though Kathlyn and I have spent thirty years learning and teaching how to speak honestly in close relationships, we still learn something new every week. Here’s a recent learning from Kathlyn:
“My experience in ‘telling the truth’ as a child and young adult was associated with trying to find ‘The Truth,’ or gathering up an event and presenting it as a tidy verbal package. It’s only been in the years of living with a commitment to ‘revealing rather than concealing’ that I’ve come to deeply appreciate the moving dynamic of speaking the truth.
Here’s what really happens. I don’t know all of what is going on. I only know what I know in the moment, and that’s what I say. In speaking out loud, especially to another interested person, more truth emerges. For example, the other day I was telling Gay about an experience of pressure on my chest I’d been noticing off and on over the last several days. When I began speaking about it, I had not made the connection between the pressure in my chest and my feeling about my father’s declining health. As I spoke the words, my actual experience of the pressure expanded like a balloon, my breath deepened, and I recognized and shared the sadness I was feeling about my father’s recent injury from a fall and several emerging thoughts: ‘I’m wondering if he is going to die soon…’ ‘I wonder if he’ll want to be here now that my mother is gone…’ (my mother had a massive stroke and was bedridden for years before dying). Gay’s deep presence in his listening blended with my curiosity in this swirling dance of energy, as by now I was feeling warmth coursing up my middle and tingling sensations along my arms. I continued to wonder out loud about the message in the pressure, and Gay wondered out loud about what would happen if I put my attention on feeling my own feelings rather than try to carry the feelings of my whole family. That simple, powerful suggestion reverberated in my chest really pleasantly, and the heaviness lifted as I willed my body to let go of trying to control everyone else’s feelings. I let myself feel my own sadness about my father’s decline, and suddenly there was a lightness and open feeling in my chest where the pressure had been only minutes before. All this movement came from stepping into the unknown and simply speaking about what’s so right now.”