Telling the truth may be just what you need to strengthen your relationship.
When I was younger, my mom would take me shopping, but we would leave the bags in the car til my dad wasn’t around. She didn’t want him to know. If I got a C on my report card, she advised me not to show him. She didn’t want him to get upset. Heaven forbid if I shared the news or feelings of one family member to another. Everything was a secret. My parents weren’t overtly deceiving, they just preferred to hide anything that had the potential to ruffle feathers. If the truth could cause conflict, avoid it.
I first started thinking about this topic when I noticed my tendency to avoid the whole truth was negatively affecting my marriage. It was little things- like telling my husband I was running to the drug store and withholding that I intended to stop in ULTA, too. He didn’t care- he just wanted to know, and didn’t understand why I didn’t paint the whole picture. Why did I hide my true plans and wants? Sometimes I did things that he never even knew about- like apply to graduate school programs. Why didn’t I share the yearnings of my heart? If I doubted something wouldn’t be met with enthusiasm and 100% support, I’d just avoid the topic. My husband has always been an open book- sharing the details of his dreams and plans, and I always reacted amiably. When he talked about wanting to live in Costa Rica for half the year, he wanted to know how I really felt. Was I telling the truth or telling him what I thought he wanted to hear? Complete honesty was hard for me because I had been programmed differently.
Below are 11 things I’ve learned about honesty:
1.) Honesty is more than fidelity. I’ve always been a committed wife with loving intentions, but it doesn’t take extreme betrayal to make someone feel in the dark.
2.) Honesty is the moment-to-moment truth. It’s authenticity in expressing emotions, plans, wants, needs, and opinions. For someone who was raised to not rock the boat, this was uncomfortable at first. But, ultimately it felt good and helped me thrive as an individual.
3.) Expressing truth is empowering. To practice moment-to-moment truth I constantly asked myself, “How do I really feel?” “What do I really want? “What are my true plans?” and then I said it. Sometimes that sounded like, “I want you to watch the baby while I run to Walgreens. The bank is right next to the store so I’m going to cash a check while I’m there and stop at a yard sale to buy a crock pot. It’s $5.00 and no, that doesn’t really mean $5.50.”
4.) Being honest gets your needs met. Sometimes my honesty sounded like, “I want you to help me put the kids to bed. I don’t want to give you extra work. I just want you to be with me.”
5.) Being honest means not self-sacrificing, but being willing to compromise. There was the time my truth came out and sounded like, “No, I don’t actually want to live in Costa Rica for half the year, but maybe 3 months.”
6.) Being honest allows you to be understood as a whole person. By being radically honest, I realized I was lovable even when my truth caused friction. Exposing myself- imperfections, mistakes and all, made me feel more deeply loved and connected.
7.) All aspects of yourself are worthy of sharing. Our journeys should be respected. Our minds should be appreciated, and our nuances should be tolerated. Only shame or fear of rejection keeps us from revealing our whole truth, but if someone can’t accept it, don’t both parties have the right to know?
8.) If your truth is hurtful, change it or address it. Let’s say your spouse doesn’t like you stopping for happy hour with your colleagues on your way home, so you hide it. You’re not only deceiving your partner on your whereabouts, but also of your true wants and social needs. It’s better to openly communicate so you can come to agreements that work for both parties, without one partner having to sacrifice their needs or dignity.
9.) Being dishonest for the sake of avoiding conflict makes the situation look worse than it is. Let’s take the above example- lying about meeting with friends makes something benign look malignant. If you believe you are doing nothing wrong, why lie about it?
10.) If you’re having a hard time being honest because you’re partner isn’t supportive, then you are enabling that trait rather than challenging it. If your spouse doesn’t want you to go to happy hour or buy a new pair of shoes or go to graduate school, then maybe it’s something you need to tell him to get over, rather than hide. Your honesty helps others grow, too.
11.) You’ll realize honesty is pretty easy, or at least freeing. You don’t need to worry about explaining yourself, or rushing around trying to do a million things while pretending you’re only doing one. You will realize sometimes the reasons you avoided the truth weren’t even valid, for instance, my husband totally supports me going back to school if I want to. A lot of my fears of conflict were merely projections. Regardless of the presence of conflict, people always handle truth better than deception.
Being honest isn’t just for others- it’s for ourselves. We speak our truth because we are worthy of deep love and understanding for exactly who we are. When we are courageous enough to do this, we find ourselves in intimate and fulfilling relationships.
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