I was talking with someone about her relationship with her partner and she shared with me that they believe in brutal honesty.

I smiled and nodded knowingly. Because I remember when I used to believe in that too. I remember thinking how great it was back in college that my boyfriend and I would argue so much because I took that to mean that we felt comfortable enough to say anything to each other. (Lord, have mercy.)

Well, twenty odd years and one failed marriage later, I look at how I use my words and the importance of “brutal” honesty so much differently.

Should we be able to share our hearts with our partners? Yes.

Should every topic be fair game? (This is a tough one but my gut instinct is…) Yes.

Should we be able to say anything that we’re thinking to our partner about any topic, including about him? Hmm.

Here are 7 things that I know now at 45 that I didn’t know when I was 20:

  1. Not everything you feel needs to be said out loud. You won’t die. You won’t explode. Plus, this is what journals are for. And Jesus. (Some of you are probably thinking, ‘Really, Beth? Have you read your own blog ever?’ To that I’d respond that y’all have no idea how little I actually share on here.)
  2. Criticism that is important and/or constructive can be shared. Gently. Once. Don’t be a nag. (Would you want your flaws brought up to you over and over again? No, you wouldn’t.)
  3. Any other kind of criticism that is small or a matter of personal preference? About 90% of that can fall to the ground.  Again, journal, people.
  4. Your partner shouldn’t have to wade through what you’ve said in anger versus something you really mean.  And he shouldn’t have to wonder for the rest of his life if you truly do hate the way he chews (or whatever). Words are rarely forgotten.
  5. You don’t have to apologize for things you never said. Funny how that works.
  6. One person cannot meet all your needs. If all you have is a boyfriend or a husband and nobody else, that poor man! Your heart is big and our girlie emotions are huge and hard to contain and difficult to explain and we need other girls. Start talking to your friends. If you don’t have any girlfriends, start making some.
  7. I want my husband to know me for saying “I love you” and “thank you” more than anything else.

Yes, you want a partner whom you can talk to and say the hard things to (and the fun things and the good things and the secrets, et cetera). But you also want a partner who considers you to be his safe place, his confidante, the one who sees it all and accepts with gratitude just who he is today.

If this is something you struggle with, ask the Spirit to begin making you more aware of your words and their effect on others. And ask him to place a guard over your mouth and to help you speak words that are life-giving and affirming and kind and tender and filled with grace and love.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. –Proverbs 16:24

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