What comes first, truth or loyalty? This choice is at the very heart of conflicts that we’re experiencing on a societal level, in our work life, and even in our home life. On one hand, a sense of mutual loyalty is necessary to have any trusting relationship. This means that both people watch each other’s back equally. Trust is there because neither person try to take advantage of the other.
But what happens when forms of abuse or heavy secrets are happening within the relationship? There’s a pressure inside that builds when we must hold secrets. That pressure grows when we avoid speaking our truth out of a sense of loyalty to our long-term relationships, especially if that honesty will embarrass or expose someone we care about. But what happens when we reach a place where we must make a choice to either bury the truth deep inside or tell the truth at the risk of our loved ones feeling betrayed?
Genuine Loyalty is a two-way street. When loyalty and truth align together, that is a sign of a very healthy relationship. In genuine loyalty, the dedication to protecting each other must be mutual to be sustainable and real. In my book Healing our Bloodlines, I describe false loyalty as being a one sided exchange. In other words, the controlling member of the relationship demands the loyalty of the subordinate member, but that same level of consideration is not shown in return. The controlling member is usually older or has some kind of advantage over the other person. Even though loyalty is not shown to the subordinate member, the controlling member will still accuse the other person of being disloyal. This often comes accompanied with threats and shaming to maintain control of the relationship. These manipulations can be damaging and abusive. To suffer these abuses in silence is a betrayal of yourself and a form of false loyalty to an abuser.
I see common examples of this among my clients. For instance, when a relationship is separating and they have a child. The parent that is considering the impact on the child will often hesitate to speak up or break free I see you come in examples of this among my clients. For instance, when a relationship is separating and they have a child. The parent that is considering the impact on the child will often hesitate to speak up or break free from an emotionally abusive relationship because they are concerned that their child wonʻt get the upbringing that they hoped. So they stay Loyal to the family structure even though separation would help address the emotional abuse. But emotional abuse, I mean name-calling, threats such as going to court or loyal to the family structure even though separation would help address the emotional abuse. By emotional abuse, I mean name-calling, threats of going to court, or public shaming. The abused partner follows the rules of loyalty set by the abuser, which requires lying to themselves that enduring the abuse is the best way to proceed. But the loyalty comes from fear of the consequences if the truth is spoken. “ What will people say? Will they believe me if I tell the truth? Will this somehow hurt my child if I stand up for myself?”
False loyalty will rarely be resolved on its own. Without speaking up, without speaking your truth, false loyalty situations will remain in place because there’s not enough awareness for the abuser(s) to choose anything else. Nor is there an incentive for the abuser to change if they remain in control. Every human being has a right to be respected and everyone is entitled to be heard. Speaking the truth is often uncomfortable in the short term, but leads to establishing healthy relationships in the long-term, because it clears the space for relationships to founded upon mutual loyalty.
Ask yourself, am I experiencing false loyalty in any of my relationships now? If a relationship does not feel entirely mutual, this question can help reveal why you are stuck in a compromising position, and what truth needs to be spoken in order to break free.