“Are you okay?”

Three simple words that often contain the demise of a strong relationship foundation.

Most of us are trained to keep our guards up- even around our significant others and trusted loved ones. Instead of opening up about what we’re feeling, we shut ourselves down. “I’m fine,” or “Oh, it’s nothing,” are words I can almost guarantee you’ve uttered in response to this question, at some point.

Why do we do this? Because we fear rejection, ridicule, and of course, radical honesty. Having to tell the whole truth about our emotions means we no longer have any safeguard against the possible consequences- then, they’ll know how we really feel!

What if they laugh at us? Ignore us? Try to justify our experience? Ridicule us? Or worst of all- break up with us?

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The real truth is, we would often rather hide behind an emotional mask than to risk getting to the truth behind our own BS. We’d rather stuff it deep down inside, than to face our fears head-on.

It’s easier to act like things are perfect, than to address the reasons why they aren’t. It’s easier to play pretend than to have to take real action to make a change.

But the easy road never leads to prosperity. 

It just leads to more hurt.

Instead of trying to talk away your emotions, play it cool, or deflect your own internal discomfort onto your partner- start to own it. When someone checks in with you about how you are doing, give an honest answer. No more “Oh, I’m fine’s” on my watch!

Here are a few ways you can practice owning your truth, in these moments:

  1. Identify the emotion: Tell them what emotions) you’re experiencing and start from there. Instead of pointing to external actions, ideas, or behaviors, keep the focus on your feelings.
  2. Explain the feeling: Now, elaborate on what experiencing that emotion is like for you. “I felt hurt by what you said about my brother, at lunch. When you said it, it made me feel judged.” See how not placing blame keeps you honest about your experience?
  3. Talk it out: Once you’ve identified your emotions, talk through them. Don’t be afraid to really open up and explain what this emotion looks like, festering inside of you. This vulnerability will also bring you and your partner closer together.
  4. Talk prevention: To avoid falling into this same trap in the future, talk about how you can both do better in looking out for this trigger. Going back to the earlier example, you could say something like “Perhaps we stick to talking about family matters in private?” or “I would really appreciate if you could check in with me before we talk about our families, in public.”

By owning the truth of how you’re feeling, and not running away from your fear of expressing it, you will strengthen your relationships from the very heart of the matter.

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