“I know you say that frustration and challenges are an invitation to intimacy. But I don’t get that. And it doesn’t work in our relationship. So what am I supposed to do next?” my client asked in total exasperation.
“It takes a lot of courage to come and ask what you’re supposed to do,” I commented, validating his query.
He appeared relieved that I was tracking with him.
He responded: “Actually, it’s interesting that you say that. Because as tough as I like to appear, I don’t think I have a lot of courage. Maybe that’s the problem…”
I shared with him: “I really love what Brené Brown says about this:
‘Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.’
“But what makes you believe that you lack courage?” I inquired.
“Because …” It appeared he was contemplating the rest of his response.
“Because the stuff you are teaching us isn’t really all that difficult to do. I think it’s just foreign to me, and I don’t have the courage, or maybe even the strength of character… To just accept that I have no idea how to love, or how to have a good relationship… And to just listen and do it!”
I admired his honesty.
I responded gently, “Well, it is true that it requires courage to create a rich and fulfilling relationship. And far too many people are more willing to just ‘settle’ and complain. Rather than gathering the courage or strength of character to do what needs to be done!”
He nodded, but I noted the bit of a painful wistfulness.
After a pause for him to take in whatever was affecting him in, I added: “But again, you are here. So you are clearly not held captive by ‘settling’, or just complaining.”
All great relationships require courage. Although William Faulkner was not speaking about marriage with this quote, it definitely applies to making any challenged relationship good, or any good relationship great!
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
I asked my client if he would be willing to look at the courage that he needed to not only do the things that would make his relationship great, but to actually enjoy the rich, fulfilling relationship it would create.
Although I could see a bit of discomfort as he squirmed in his chair, with a half smile, he said: “Well, a yes to that question is going to require some courage, but I’m pretty sure you would tell me that that’s a great place to start!”
And I hope you, my friend, will also garner the courage to learn how using that same courage in your marriage or relationship can turn it to something great.
Here are the courage truths I shared with him.
1. It takes courage to tell and hear the truth.
Truth. Truth requires courage.
It requires courage to tell it, and it requires courage to hear it.
“What kind of truth are you suggesting that I tell her? Are you saying I’m a liar?” my client asked almost indignantly.
I chuckled a bit as I responded: “It’s interesting to me how many people respond by defending themselves of lying when we’re talking about the truth.”
I shared with him, as I often say in my office, “There’s a reason, when in court, we are invited to tell: ‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’.”
The reason for that? Because truth is hard. We will dance to avoid truth, we will tell half of the truth, or we will give a non-answer.
(Or as one of my clients recently said to his wife: “You know, you can tell the truth in 10 different ways!”)
Yet we all know that the truth makes us free.
“So, can you give me an idea of something about the truth that I need to tell her? I mean I don’t hide money, or cheat on her …” he asked with confusion.
I nodded. Because many people find themselves in this dilemma.
“Does she know that you avoid doing the exercises I assign you because there’s a part of you that thinks you know better than a marriage therapist what’s good for your marriage?” I asked with a grin.
“Oh my God! So you mean, I have to really be honest?” He demanded.
“That’s what the truth is,” I stated … and then continued.
“It’s when you answer questions honestly, without withholding truth.”
“When you share what’s really going on inside of you when it pertains to her or your marriage.”
“When you take the time to examine what you think and what you believe when it comes to things that pertain to her or your marriage.”
“So I guess I’m in trouble already!” he has stated, and half asked.
We both laughed.
“If you are in trouble, let’s get you out of trouble, and step up into the courage that it takes to tell the truth,” I retorted.
“But that’s only half of it. You have to have the courage to hear the truth.”
He responded: “Sounds like I need to be wearing a bulletproof vest?“
After another good laugh, I shared: “Actually, it’s just being open and willing to hear your partner. To hear what they need. To hear how what you do affects them.”
“That’s truth you need to know … but it takes courage to hear it.” I shared.
“So I’m pretty sure you mean that I have to really listen, not roll my eyes or he heave a sigh?” he asked earnestly.
“Yes, all of that. But more importantly, to hear it and to invite her to share more so you can truly understand it, and how it affects her. Then to do something about it. That’s courage to live in truth.”
I also shared with him something that I read in a daily reading, written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick:
“Give your spouse permission to point out the first hint of harshness or ill will in your behavior and attitudes. It will keep anger from infecting your relationship.”
Truth requires courage.
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” W. Clement Stone
2. It takes courage to be vulnerable.
“That just sounds scary!” my client commented.
“Well, before you decide that, let’s look at what vulnerability is,” I suggested. Brene Brown says:
“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.
When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?’
When the barrier to vulnerability is about safety, the question becomes: ‘Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?””
“Now that’s just a lot for this man to swallow!” my client moaned.
“That’s going to take a whole lot of courage, like a huge upgrade in courage for me.”
I understood totally. The truth is it takes a lot of courage for all of us to be vulnerable.
But Dr. Brene Brown also says:
“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad.”
“My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty.”
“Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”
“Learning how to be vulnerable has been a street fight for me,
but it’s been worth it.”
I leaned toward my client and said, “She says that it was worth it. My question to you is… Is your marriage worth it?”
I honestly did not expect what I saw next.
With red eyes filled with tears, and a broken voice, he choked out: “She means the world to me. I don’t know what I would do if I lost her.”
I smiled and nodded, saying softly, “Then it’s time to become vulnerable with her. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone. And it’s time to stop leaving her empty and lonely!”
He got it.
Are you willing to be vulnerable?
It may be a street fight, but it is so worth it!
3. It takes courage to hold space for your spouse in order to hold their heart.
“Well, you’ve got me now, so just tell me how I do this,” my client said, while wiping away tears from point number two. “I don’t even know what that means!”
With compassion, I nodded. “Most people do not know. And perhaps they don’t want to know because it requires a tremendous amount of courage and strength of character.”
With sincerity, he asked sheepishly: “Like can you just describe what that means and what it would look like?” I was delighted to do so.
I would like to do it for you too my friend, because so many people do not know. Let me talk about it and describe it in short sentences.
It’s about taking time, hopefully on a daily basis, and being present with your parnter.
Taking your partner by the hand, making eye contact with them, and inviting them to tell you:
- How they really are.
- How and where they think the relationship is.
- What you could do to help and or make it better.
It’s about listening without judgment.
It’s about understanding their partner being more important than your response, or things you disagree with
It’s about offering your heart to them and expecting nothing back.
It’s about practicing empathy and doing your best to feel what they’re feeling.
It’s about having compassion for whatever it is they are sharing.
It’s about accepting their truth, even if it differs from yours, particularly about the relationship.
It’s about extending your hand instead of pointing a finger.
It’s about giving them a safe space to speak and to feel.
It’s about putting your opinions and needs aside for just a few moments.
It’s about maintaining a posture, tone, and facial expressions that pour warm love into them.
It’s about inviting them to thrive, knowing you’ve got their back, and you are holding their heart tenderly and gently.
“That’s a lot!” my client whispered.
“But to be honest with you, with less elegant words, that’s what she’s been begging for from me for years. And I guess I was too selfish to give it.”
I commended him: “It takes great courage to own that. And I admire you for that!”
“And I have this feeling that if you will have enough courage to share that truth with her, it will do incredible amounts of healing and refreshing to her heart!”
“Well, when you put it all like that after explaining it the way you did, it doesn’t sound so impossible after all,” he admitted.
What about you my friend. do you have the courage to be vulnerable and hold your partner’s heart?
Or do you turn it on your partner with comments like:
- You just expect too much
- You’re just needy
- It’s like I can never do enough
- Or if I did all these things I just wonder if they would ever be enough.
“Well I have to admit that I was thinking that exact same stuff, but I’ve already course corrected. That’s just my way of showing my cowardice.” He admitted.
“While putting it all off on her. That’s just wrong!” he said shaking his head at himself in his a-ha moment.
“I can do this, but it will take some work. I’m sure I’ve been your toughest case, but I promise I will make you proud. She deserves this!” he committed without reluctance.
Everyone who loves someone deserves this.
It takes courage!
“Vulnerability is the unsung hero of healthy relationships. Growth and change occurs in times when you are most vulnerable with each other!” Tammy Greene
It’s not just the lion on the wizard of Oz who needs courage by singing out:
Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave?
Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk?
Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot?
What have they got that I ain’t got?
We all need courage.
Particularly the courage to show up as our best selves in our relationships.
Particularly the courage to embrace our partner with all their imperfections in a relationship.
Particularly the courage to LOVE!
I wish you courage!
Courage to REALLY LOVE!
You have to have courage to love somebody. Because you risk everything. Everything.