by Dr. Briana Schiff
If you have ever found yourself uncomfortable with a loved one’s actions and unsure of what to
do, you’re in good company. Perhaps the possibility of conflict with a loved one is terrifying, or
you’re questioning the rationality of your own pain. Walking the line between being
understanding of a partner, a friend, a parent, and holding them accountable for ways they’ve
hurt you is one of the most common internal conflicts I come across as a therapist.
First, I’d like to share three gentle reminders for those difficult moments in which this issue
1. You are worthy of love and respect.
2. It’s okay to feel hurt or angry toward someone you love or someone who loves you. Emotions
are information that help us identify what is important to us. Remember that you are not weak
for experiencing emotion, but that bravery is within reach when you make a choice about what
to do with those feelings.
3. Empathy and accountability are not mutually exclusive. You can see that your partner had an
absolutely awful day–their computer was stolen, they’ve had a headache all day, or maybe
they’re in dire straits worried about losing a job or a family member. Simultaneously, you can be
frustrated when they take it out on you and say something cutting to you, or forget to pick up the
kids after you made an agreement.
Still, maybe you’ve spent most of your life standing up for others and find yourself frozen and
petrified when your own boundaries are violated. Or maybe you tend to drift much more towards
the accountability side and find yourself in constant conflict with others, yet persistently unable
to get your needs met.
Here are my suggestions to consider before deciding whether or not to speak up:
1. Attend to yourself. We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves, so if you’re lacking
compassion for your own emotional reactions, you may be more likely to be more reactive in
2. Think long-term. Do you tend to hold on to frustration or resentment? If you don’t speak up,
will the pain grow until it blows up? Sometimes speaking up is the kindest thing you can do for
3. On a scale of 1-10, how heightened are you? Can you wait until that number is low enough
for you to bring up the issue gently, without blaming language?
Only you know the entire context of your life and whether or not it’s safe or worth it to confront a
loved one. Good luck, and if you need further support, please contact any of our therapists at