By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
“I don’t like to rock the boat,” Gina said to me recently. She looked anxiously over at her husband who had come with her for a Marriage Intensive.
“I don’t like to upset Tim and always wonder if it’s worth it,” she continued, still looking over at her husband.
“You can’t really blame her for that,” he said, smiling, glancing over at me. “She’s always been one to keep the peace. I admire her for that.”
I paused and reflected on what they were both was saying. Were they right about what they said? Should we always avoid rocking the boat or are there times when setting boundaries and speaking truth are necessary?
I’m reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12: 8)
This appears clear. Gina was able to live at peace with her husband—or was she? Was she able to stifle her feelings and truly live at peace, or would her feelings gather steam below the surface?
“I don’t really agree,” Gina continued, clearly feeling uneasy. “When I compromise on my values or enable you to violate my boundaries, I’m not at peace,” she said. “I feel disrespected and teach you to disrespect me too.”
“Well, I don’t want you to feel disrespected,” Tim said. “I want you to tell me what you need to tell me.”
“Yes, but when I tell you something you don’t like, you get angry,” Gina said. “That makes me frightened to share my feelings with you. That’s when I choose peace at any price and I don’t want to keep stuffing my feelings.”
“My stuffed feelings become a barrier to you,” she said. “I don’t know if you know that. I push away from you.”
“No, I didn’t know that,” Tim said. “I don’t think I’m that hard to talk to,” he said defensively. “You can talk to me anytime.”
“No,” she said quickly. “Actually, I can’t. I’d like to, but at this time I can’t.”
Clearly “peace at any price” is far too expensive. There is a price we pay when we seek peace at the expense of true, healthy connection to another person.
I continued to work with Gina and Tim. I had them agree on common values that would drive their marital work, especially as it pertained to “keeping the peace.” What kind of connection to each other did they want? What were their values when it came to speaking truth to each other?
Here is what they agreed upon—it may help you in establishing guidelines for your marriage:
First, we need to keep the air clear between us. Tim and Gina agreed that they could never allow hard feelings to creep into their relationship. They discussed how resentment and bitterness had nearly destroyed their marriage and they were not going to allow that to continue to occur. Healthy relationships are built upon honesty, trust and resulting intimacy.
Second, we need to create safety to share our feelings. They agreed that honest sharing would only occur if both worked to create an environment of safety and receptivity. Both agreed to encourage the other to share, using principles of gentleness and truth spoken in love.
Third, we need to share anything that would later create resentment. They agreed to discern whether something needed to be shared, deciding to share if the feelings would later create resentment. They agreed to cultivate healthy boundaries, honoring who they were as individuals and who they were as a couple.
Fourth, we need to honor and reinforce boundaries that have been made. They agreed to monitor their agreements/boundaries made, discussing them as regularly as needed. They further agreed that “peace at any price” was not something they wanted in their marriage, preferring instead an authentic connection.
Finally, we need to hold each other accountable for maintaining healthy boundaries. They agreed that boundaries were sacred, to be honored with dignity. They finally agreed that there would need to be “acts of restoration” for times when either made it difficult to share openly or when boundaries were violated. They knew they would be prone to become lax and that this would hurt their relationship. Therefore they would hold each other accountable for keeping boundaries and speaking truth in love.
Do you struggle to speak truthfully to your mate? Are you guilty of ‘keeping the peace at any price?’ If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group for women struggling with emotional abuse.
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