“I won’t confront you because I don’t want to hurt you.”
This and related statements — like “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to upset you” — may sound good on the surface, perhaps even nobly intentioned, but are usually little more than denial in caring’s clothing, whether consciously or unconsciously animated. They generally are not really intended to spare our partner pain, but rather to keep us as far as possible from our own pain or discomfort, including that of directly facing — that is, confronting — what we are actually doing.
How ironic it is that our supposed effort — however nicely dressed or apparently considerate — not to hurt our partner actually hurts them, sooner or later, more than direct disclosure. In our stated intention not to confront them because we don’t want to hurt them, we sound — or at least want to sound — as if we really are there for them and are being considerate, but in reality we likely are not.
If we are afraid to confront our intimate other — assuming of course that it is not dangerous to do so — then we need to confront and learn to make good use of that fear, through our own efforts and/or in caring conjunction with our partner, or through professional help.
Relationships devoid of confronting (and I mean healthy confronting, a challenging that’s free of blaming, shaming, and aggression) are relationships that are flat or stale, relationships that are more about surviving than thriving, caught up in a numbing by niceness, a deadening that rejects the depths and invests far too much in the shallows.
Just as avoiding death deadens us, so too does avoiding confrontation. Confrontation does not have to be hell! It can be life-enhancing challenge, compassionate combat, intimacy-deepening fieriness, as vulnerable as it is intense. Confrontation can be a kind of love, even when fiery. Bypassing it only deepens and reinforces our suffering, shrinking and weakening us.