July 3, 2020

In honor of this holiday weekend, I want to talk about an essential American value: freedom of speech. I’m guessing that topic has been on a lot of our minds recently. We’ve seen a lot of people exercise their First-Amendment rights—and a lot of people explore the limits of those rights as riots spread across the country. When it comes to marriage, free speech is essential. You should be able to be honest with your spouse, to express your opinions without constantly filtering them. That freedom allows us to really connect with one another. It’s part of the trust that we need to feel safe and secure in our relationships.

We only get into trouble when we start thinking that “free speech” means that there are no consequences. Because in that sense, sorry, but there’s no such thing as free speech in marriage. It’s important to feel our feelings, but we can’t just unload on our partners and expect things to be fine. When we fail to be thoughtful as well as honest, we risk damaging our relationships, losing trust, respect, or connection—vital components of a healthy marriage. And it can be hard! We get emotional, and it’s so tempting to vent. But we need to share even our problems in ways that respect our partners and allow them to hear us. No one responds well to aggressive language. People shut down or return fire rather than process the other person’s point. So this fourth of July, let’s try to avoid that kind of fireworks display.

We can all work on treating each other with love and dignity, so I want you to think about speaking to your partner with respect—even if they forget to buy beer, burn the hot dogs, and cause you to miss the festivities. If you don’t feel free, to be honest, or if you struggle with expressing yourself, let’s talk. At The Marriage Place, we can help couples improve their communication at any stage of the journey.

Feel your feelings workbook

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KIM BOWEN is a licensed professional counselor who offers relationship therapy through her company, The Marriage Place. Her blogs and newsletters have been featured in various publications

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