Sometimes it’s not the things that are said that hurt our relationships the most, but rather the silence. It can be difficult to articulate our hurt or needs to friends, family, and spouses. We shy away from communicating because we’re scared of what honesty might do to the relationship. That it’ll be easier just to hold it in until we get over it. That we’re making too big of a deal of how we feel. Or, that they simply won’t understand. But how often does this help us?
Avoiding conflict can leave us feeling jaded and frustrated and make it difficult to relate to our loved ones. It compounds our hurt and eats us up. It also leaves our loved ones feeling confused and rejected, the very thing our silence is trying to prevent.
There is much more we could say on conflict and expressing hurt to others. There will be relationships that are toxic or unrepairable, where expressing hurt or even communicating at all might be harmful or unhelpful. If this is your experience, I want to say that this is ok. Some relationships need to be let go. Speaking with a trusted friend or professional can be a really helpful way to identify these. There will be times when your safety and flourishing are much more important than re-starting a dialogue.
But what about those relationships that are healthy and safe? Within these relationships, it can be helpful to think about our hurt or conflict as falling into two categories; something we can let go of or something that needs to be addressed.
As a general rule, we should only let things go when we’re able to move on with that person, rather than move on without them. Meaning, we feel we can continue to relate to them without bitterness or reservation because we have internally resolved the issue. When this isn’t possible, that’s when we need to speak up, regardless of how obvious you feel their offense to be. This allows them to know they’ve hurt you and opens up a dialogue towards reconciliation. After all, only through awareness can they pursue forgiveness.
Perhaps the key to a flourishing relationship lies in the sound of gentle honesty rather than the sound of silence?
Do you need support?
The following Domestic and Family Violence support services are available:
1800 RESPECT National Helpline: 1800 737 732
Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24 hour crisis line: 131 114)
Wesley Macintyre (M Prof Psych, Adv Grad Dip Psych, BA Psych) is in the final year of his internship as a provisional psychologist. During his Masters, Wesley completed a placement in a private practice, providing psychotherapy to adults and young people experiencing wide ranging challenges and hurdles in seeking to live a fulfilled life. Wesley is passionate about providing evidence-based practises to help clients overcome these obstacles and restore their hope of living a healthier and happier life. Wesley has experience working with individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, social issues, and autism.