“I feel my heart closing to you by the second.”
“I don’t want it to, but I think this may end the relationship.”
“Thanks for naming that. I feel it too.”
“I feel a tight gripping on my heart.”
One of the last but most honest dialogues I had with my ex.
It was so painful and so hard to end that relationship. We both loved each other so much, and no matter how many things we tried—taking breaks, seeking counseling and advice, trying new tools—nothing seemed to help make the connection last. The form of our relationship needed to change, but our hearts and personalities weren’t ready for it. Deep down, our souls knew it was time to walk different paths, but we just couldn’t quit each other.
One of the last things we tried was experimenting with an open relationship. We thought maybe it would help keep the relationship alive by allowing us to get our needs met in a different way.
Ultimately, it ended up being the thing, the truth, that ended the relationship. It was my ex, in that dialogue exchange, saying he was going to start exploring relationships with other women while I was 3,000 miles away. He could no longer keep trying to make our relationship work, tirelessly with no reprieve, and it was something he knew he needed to start doing to get his sexual expression and intimacy needs met.
Deep down, I understood. I knew it was the right choice, but that didn’t make it any less painful. I wanted different things as well. I wanted to start building a new life in a new city and put my focus in other places.
The choice, choosing the truth, ended the relationship that was no longer serving either of us.
For so much of the relationship, we both chose our connection and the love we had for each other instead of our individual truths. In that process, we had been abandoning ourselves for the sake of comfort, love, and someone’s consistent presence in our lives. After enough time making choices for the other, there was too much built-up resentment, and we had no choice but to be brutally honest with each other.
One of my teachers once said, “If you really love someone, set them free.”
Be willing to say the thing that may end the relationship.
Everything else is self-abandonment.
No, it’s not easy. It’s not always pleasurable. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel possible, but there are some ways to more powerfully live in your truth.
Commit To Self-Honesty First
I’m a firm believer that we always know. We always know when something is right or wrong for us. We get hits or hear subtle voices—our intuition, our gut, our higher self is always guiding us. Always.
I knew that relationship was in trouble many months before we started to discuss that things were no longer working. I heard a voice pretty clearly: “What are you doing? Don’t ignore this.” Those intuitive hits never went away, they just popped up in other, more creative ways to remind me it was time to move on, no matter how painful it would end up being.
In those moments, I didn’t listen to myself. I just could not get honest. I didn’t want to face the truth.
Self-honesty is hard. I’d argue it’s one of the hardest practices you will commit to.
Admitting that people, no matter how well-meaning and loving they may be, no longer serve you.
Admitting a job that is stable and pays great benefits actually sucks your soul, no matter how convenient and safe the arrangement is.
Admitting to yourself that no, your needs aren’t getting all the way met, and trying to discern what communication or decision will be required of you.
Most people avoid self-honesty. Because, well, what are we without people to comfort us, fancy jobs to make us feel important, and relationships to distract us?
We’re left with ourselves, and that can be uncomfortable and confronting.
The truth, if we aren’t able to be honest with our very own selves on a micro level, there’s no way we can expect to have honest and healthy relationships with others.
You don’t need to rearrange your entire life at once. When I work with my clients as a now-Relationship Coach, I help them to do this in tiny steps. They may come to a session complaining about how awful a date went. I try to help them to take a step back. Did they actually want to go on the date in the first place? The answer is often no.
Or a client will tell me about an argument they got in with their partner after work. I have them retrace the day. They got a call from their partner and were asked to pick up something from the grocery store. They begrudgingly went after a long day at the office and then came home resentful, and that’s when the argument started. I stop them there. Did they actually want to run that errand or did they wish the partner picked up more slack and helped out, instead of being the one home earlier always making the requests? The answer is usually that they want a phone call asking how their day was and to be receiving more help in the relationship.
Start small. Start going through your life with a fine-tooth comb and commit to self-honesty. Where are all the little places you say yes, you acquiesce, or you skip over moments that are asking for your truth, for you to slow down, and for you to be more honest in your communications?
Learn To Communicate Clearly Without Residue
Another client came to me annoyed with a family member. There were some things she could no longer hold inside and as a result spending time with the family member became infuriating. I asked how long she’d been feeling these things, and she admitted a while.
When we withhold and stay quiet about our true thoughts and feelings, they fester and inevitably turn into resentments. Living in resentment becomes a dangerous place, because no communication from that place will be ‘clean’. Every communication drips in the residue of all the unspoken truths.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” — Nelson Mandela
I instruct my clients in order to keep their side of the street clean to immediately write out and journal when they’re annoyed with someone. Give voice to the grievances and let yourself be all the way annoyed. That alone often provides a lot of relief. When it feels like you’ve bottomed out on the resentment and annoyance, now look for your part.
How have you contributed to this growing list of frustration? Did you not set proper boundaries and now you feel violated? Did you not speak up when you needed or wanted something? Were you afraid of their reaction?
Did you keep your mouth shut when there was truth being called for?
Does this dynamic somehow serve you and you’re benefiting from the unconscious payoff you get?
Relationships are 50/50. We all have a part and are responsible for making them work. From a now more honestly-examined place, see what communication needs to be made so that you can feel freer and self-expressed in the relationship. Speak your truth from that place, not your resentful and bitter spiral.
This is why coaching is so valuable. Having the space to bring these patterns and noticings to a coach and coaching session allows you to receive reflection and help illuminate where and how you’re contributing to all the dynamics of your relationships.
It can be hard to develop confidence, use our voice, speak our truth, and walk away from situations that aren’t serving us if we’re living in fear. When we believe in ourselves, however, if we have faith and trust in those around us or the universe to support us, we’re able to feel more sure and grounded in our decisions.
I call this inner-resourcefulness and inner-safety.
The truth is, no one or no one thing outside of yourself can make you feel unconditionally safe.
Things, people, and places are all conditional and can change or disappear at a moment’s notice.
Someone you love and trust could leave in a moment’s notice and if all your safety and security are hinged on this person, you’re in trouble.
A teacher of mine referred to it as “freedom in all conditions,” and I work with my clients to help them to develop this felt sense for themselves—personal sovereignty.
When you can say without a doubt, “I will be okay with or without this relationship,” chances are you’ll feel a lot more motivated to speak your truth and be honest in the day to day. If your safety, financial security, or livelihood is solely dependent on someone else and you fear you won’t be okay without them, chances are you may withhold to not rock the boat or not threaten your survival. That’s a form of self-abandonment.
If you’re not there yet and don’t feel internally okay and confident with yourself and lack trust in your decisions, start to seek out support. Get a therapist, coach, or mentor that can serve as a secure attachment, who will provide you with the right tools until you feel more sure and steady within yourself. That person is trained to help you realize and leverage your inner intelligence and help you lead with and make choices from all the good and wisdom you have inside.
Telling the truth can be hard. Being honest isn’t always easy. Avoiding self-abandonment requires a commitment to listening to that inner wisdom moment to moment and following wherever it guides you.
Until you get to the place where it becomes second nature to redirect when you know you’re off course, to powerfully use your voice and speak up for what’s right, and to make choices that serve your highest good work on surrounding yourself with people who are further along than you. Seek out resources to supply yourself with tools that help you clear out the noise and decide that a free, honest life is worth what you may have to give up to get there.