By Emmeline Bisiikwa, Uganda:
It bothers me that you don't like my writing. You are a chronic reader like myself but every time I show you something I wrote; you are lack luster about it, unexcited, uninspired, and bland. It kills me because you are my partner, a part of me wants you to be my biggest fan. But most times what I get instead, when I ask your opinion is a cold hard truth that often hurts. The one thing you keep saying that sticks in my head is that I want to be lied to. Otherwise why would I ask your honest opinion if am going to be upset by what you say?
At times I see the logic in your actions, like when you give me constructive criticism I need, in order to deal with difficult situations. But it is still hard to listen to you being honest because I like to think you are enamored with every part of me. Criticism feels like you don't believe in me and am not enough for you. Am learning not to take things too personally because I figure you say what you think I need to hear when no one else is brave enough to say to me.
Sometimes this criticism ends in fights, and I know you wonder why I asked if I didn't want to hear your option. The thing with criticism, it can break down a relationship almost as fast as it can build it.
Criticizing your partner is different from hearing a complaint from someone else because often we feel like it is our personal character being attacked. When he says I think that course you are taking is stupid Instead, I will hear it as you are so dumb, why would anyone even take that course?
The problem with criticism is that it can pave the way for resentment and contempt. I feel resentful and hurt that he dared to criticize something I am passionate about and have devoted time to. He feels resentful that I don't want an honest opinion because that is what it was to him. This does little to create a safe, secure and trusting bond in the relationship. It is easier to avoid conversations about important things when you think they will end in fights and no communication is a bad thing.
I keep telling him we are on the same side especially when we are at war, because sometimes we need to remember we both chose this because we feel something. I want him to know that I can be HIS go-to person under stress or duress, that I have his back. I want to know he cares about me and will protect me.
We have been apart now, seeing each other less than I would like due to obligations. I was trying to foster intimacy and told him how hard it is being without him. His response wasn't so shocking given how often we argue about stuff. It struck me how easily we forget what matters. He asked, harder than being WITH me? I thought about it. It is hard being with him. But it is harder being without him. It is why I choose him every day, because just being with him adds something to me. We work hard at a relationship because we want to be with someone, it is hard but the alternative is harder.
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