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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Holding Two Truths

Holding conflicting feelings can be a balancing act

I was talking to a friend this week who was having some issues with her partner and feeling conflicted about it. She felt guilty for 'complaining' or asserting her needs when there was so much good he brought to their relationship. She felt like asking for something more was to be ungrateful. I know this conflict well. When someone I love does something nice, I feel guilty for wanting more.

You can both have a lot of love for someone but still hold resentment or hurt or need something different. It's a conflict I often come across with my mother, who is generous and kind and supportive in so many ways, but less so in others. I can both love and appreciate her, while also wanting more from her, like emotional support. I can talk to her occasionally and have everything be fine, but still feel resentment for the ways she wasn't there, the things she can't offer, the ways her drinking and emotional limitations have hurt me and the people she cares about. You can hold two truths; one feeling doesn't necessarily cancel out the other.

I felt this way for a long time in my marriage, too. My husband does so much for me/us, contributes in so many tangible ways, that I felt like I couldn't expect more, like asking for more emotional support, listening, or affection was ungrateful, like I couldn't have both. "I realized I've been tending to the garden more than our relationship," he once told me when we were going through a tough time; he was right. I'd felt like, because he did so much around the house, that I couldn't ask for more emotional support, like I could only have one or the other. Over the years, I've discovered this isn't true (though I still sometimes struggle with it). It's a natural tendency for many people, a gut reaction to wanting something else: oh, I can't ask for that, because this person already gives me so much. But, you can hold both feelings equally, gratitude and need. Learning to ask for your needs isn't ungrateful and doesn't mean you love the other person less.

You can hold conflicting feelings and have both be important. You can have both.

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