After the Vows

Truthing in Marriage - Part 1

Recently, I could not put down a book called Caring Enough to Confront: How to understand and express your deepest feelings towards others by David Augsburger, one of my favorite authors. He is a professor of pastoral care and counseling at Fuller Theological Seminary and has authored over 20 books on topics such as forgiveness, discipleship, and counseling.

In this blog post, Part 1 of 2, I will relate portions of Augsburger's most intriguing chapter, "Turthing, A Simplified Speech Style," to encourage you within your marriage.

Please pay close attention to his words, warnings, and insight: 

A relationship is only as strong as its communication is clear. To love another is to invite, support, and protect that person’s equal right to hear and be heard. 

To love is to listen; to be loved is to be fully heard.

When I listen 

I want to hear you, to hear deeply, to hear openly. To attend to what is said, how it is said, what feeling is conveyed, and what is wanted. I want to hear you with the inner ear that is attuned to the feelings, the joys, the hurts, the angers, the demands of another. I want to hear you, by going beyond just hearing myself interpreting you.

I am aware of two strong tendencies:

(1) to 'read in' my interpretations as I listen and miss what you are wanting to tell me; and

(2) to 'read out' and totally miss what I don’t want to hear from you because it threatens, confronts, rejects, ignores me and my viewpoint.

I want to hear you accurately, so I’ll need to check out what I hear at crucial points to be as certain as possible that my meanings match your meanings. I must check it out at times by replaying what I heard for your approval, until you agree that you have been heard.

When I speak

I want to speak simply to say what I mean in the clearest, shortest, frankest words I know. 

I want to speak personally. Since I speak only from my experience, I want to say, 'I think…,' 'I feel…,' 'I want…,' instead of 'People think…' or 'You get the feeling…' To declare my personal feelings and convictions calls for courage.

I want to speak for myself, not for others. I will not say, 'We think…' 'they say…' 'people feel…' or 'it’s often said…' I have no right to use other voices instead of my own.

I will not try to speak for you. I will not say, 'I think you think I think…' I will not try to second-guess your feelings, thoughts, attitudes. I do not care for mind reading or readers. I want to listen as you speak to me, and respond. I want to speak honestly. 

Truthing is trusting others with my actual feelings and viewpoints.

Avoiding honest statements of real feelings and viewpoints is often considered kindness, thoughtfulness, or generosity. More often it is the most cruel thing I can do to others. It is benevolent lying.

Selective honesty is not honesty at all.

I find myself using it

(1) to avoid real relationships with others when I’m too rushed or bushed to give them my time;

(2) to avoid clear confrontation with others;

(3) to manipulate situations or facts to protect myself or others.

I want to speak directly. I do not want to talk about people when it is possible to talk to them. Whatever I have to say to you, I want you to hear first from me.

When we conflict 

I want conflict to call out the best in myself and others.

When situations of conflict become difficult, I want to first listen attentively, openly, respectful, and in a way that validates the other’s right to a different perspective, difference values, different interests, and goals.

When it is appropriate for me to speak, I want to do so clearly, honestly, personally, directly, and in simple statements.

I want to love truthfulness in our relationship because only then can I truly love you.

In speaking truthfully, I welcome you to the sacred room in my soul where the most important truths about my life are kept. Trusting another with the truth about me is the only authentic way of inviting the other to share the truth of his or her experience.

Trusting follows truthing; truthing increases trusting.


"'It’s okay, honey, no problem,' you say to your husband on the phone.

It’s the fourth night in a row he’s chosen to work late and called you with last-minute apologies. It’s not really okay with you, even though you keep saying it is. But that’s always been your style. Be agreeable, give in, say everything’s okay, bottle feelings until finally you explode over some stupidly simple thing and say things you regret as soon as you hear them.

'I’ve got to start dealing with things as they come up, not just postpone my feelings and let them simmer,' you say. 'Like that phone call right now. I could have said, ‘No, it’s not okay. I have special things planned. You’ve been out the last three nights. I want to be with you tonight.’ I could have said it with words that are straight and simple.'

What stops you from leveling? You stop yourself.

'It’s not too late,' you tell yourself. 'I can still ring him back.'

You pick up the phone and begin dialing, I’ll say, 'I want to be with you tonight. Try to change things. Come home on time.'

(Memo to self: To care-front, experiment in pairing what is felt and what is wanted. 'I do care about you and I want to be close. I am lonely and frustrated by our schedules and I want more time together.')"

David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Confront, p 29-33. 

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