What is True Honesty in Your Relationship?
Phil loves reading advice columns and sharing whether or not he thinks they have offered insights. In a recent column, a woman described a situation where her husband had asked her a question casually in the course of another discussion. She avoided the issue. She wrote that although she didn’t know why, she didn’t want to discuss this with her husband and was asking if this was okay, or was it somehow being dishonest. The question was about honesty and whether full disclosure is necessary in a relationship.
We are both of the opinion that white lies are still lies. They’re usually made to save someone’s feelings, but they have the effect of destroying trust. If I can’t trust whether you like me in this hat, how can I trust what movie you want to watch, or where you would like to eat, or if you find them attractive, or why you didn’t pick up the phone? It is as if you are slightly out of focus; a little fuzz of uncertainty surrounds every detail. Don’t do it. If the truth will make me uncomfortable, then so be it. It may be my sensitivity or your pickiness or whatever, but it’s the truth for you at this moment. When you offer it, I should be honored to accept it.
Worse than white lies designed to protect my feelings are outright lies designed to conceal some part of yourself: you only had two beers; you did go to the store, but they were out of milk. Don’t do this. You know why.
Honesty illuminates and enriches your connection, leaving no barriers to intimacy #relationships #quote Click To TweetHowever, we both agree that not everything has to be shared. Honesty does not mean that you have to spew forth the total contents of your mind. You’ve probably had the experience of feeling drowned in a fire-hose of opinion from someone whose speech center is wired directly to their mouth. Often, thoughts that come up are things you should be dealing with by yourself, at least at first, like your own private dream world or an idea that is not yet thought through.
The letter writer was in that stage of not being ready to share because she had feelings that were not sorted out yet. She wrote: “I’m neither ashamed of nor regretful about my decisions. I’m not sure why, but I just really don’t want my husband to know.”
The woman would have to first find out why she didn’t feel like sharing about this issue: was it something she needed to work on about herself, did it impinge upon the relationship in any way, was she actually withholding something from her husband, or did her reticence reflect distrust? These are the kinds of questions she would need to evaluate for herself before deciding whether or not being honest would require discussing this with her husband.
Honesty illuminates and enriches our connection. We want to make sure there are no barriers to intimacy and that we can completely relax and be open and undefended with each other. At the same time, even when deeply connected and in union, there are still areas where we exist as a totally separate and unique individual. To have a merged existence requires we also have a separate one. This is the central paradox of being a couple, and honesty is an essential part of how we can experience both. Being honest is something that starts with yourself, and from there, carries over into how you are with your partner.
Photo credit: Ben White