Jordan Gray talks about why honesty is not always the best policy within your relationship.
Recently I was chatting with a friend who was on a “radical honesty” kick. The idea being that all of your life’s problems stem from your own dishonesty, and that, if you only voiced your full truth, then all of your problems would simply dissipate.
I found the idea unsettling but, regardless, I wanted to hear my friend out.
She told me about how she had told her employer that she actually didn’t want to take on the extra hours that she had previously agreed to (awesome… personal boundaries for the win!), and that she phoned up her mother-in-law and told her that she frequently felt shunned by her (um… wait… what?). To top it all off, when asked by her husband if she would mind if he went off on a boys weekend with some friends, she replied “I think you’ve outgrown all of your friends and I don’t understand why you hang out with any of them. They don’t contribute anything to your life and I think that you just hang out with them to feel better about yourself.”
Alright… full stop!
Yes, speaking the fullness of your true, honest thoughts can be a very liberating experience. But bluntness, directness, voicing your truth… whatever you want to call it… without balanced compassion can come across as cruel.
The problem is, many people see truth as a light switch – either on or off. We’re either speaking 100% of our honest thought and feelings to another, or we’re liars.
But truth has layers to it and I think it’s important that we name those layers.
Here are the three layers of truth, and the ways that you can incorporate them in the context of your intimate relationship.
1. Considerate Truth
Considerate truth is the layer of truth that is polite, and often helps others save face or keep their self-esteem in tact.
How To Use Considerate Truth In Your Relationship
If your partner has been stressed with work lately and it has negatively affected their sexual performance, considerate truth would dictate that you relax your standards for how many orgasms you need in a week (or take matters into your own hands on your own time) and be the loving, supportive partner that they need. When they ask you if you enjoyed yourself through their blissfully soft post-climax gaze, the only compassionate response is a resounding “Yes!”
If your partner nervously fumbles their way through a toast or wedding speech and asks you how you think they did afterwards, you praise their courage, show of affection, and expressiveness.
If your partner has put on a noticeable amount of weight and they ask you how they look in their outfit, tell them that they look beautiful/handsome/great/sexy as hell.
Because, honestly, in any of these scenarios, why would you say anything else? Do you gain anything by kicking your partner when they’re down? When your core values of honesty and compassion butt heads with each other, choose compassion.
2. Selective Truth
Selective truth is telling a version of reality that helps you to avoid unnecessary confrontation. As you’ll see in the coming examples, selective truth closely coincides with the expression “we lost the battle, but won the war”.
How To Use Selective Truth In Your Relationship
Selective truth is telling a partial truth to minimize potential damage to your partner’s self-esteem or your relationship. You could also see selective truth as “half-truths” (which, since every truth is told from a unique perspective, every truth technically is).
Would you disagree with a dinner party’s host in front of their guests just to make sure everyone knew that you were correct? Then this section is for you.
Selective truth is letting your partner say that they did the dishes last week more times than you know they did to avoid making them feel like they don’t contribute.
Selective truth is choosing to omit certain intimate details about your relationship when acquaintances ask you how things are with your partner.
It is knowing when to speak, and when to (not bite, but) rest your tongue.
It is choosing peace, harmony, and letting go of the constant need to be right, in favour of letting your relationship thrive.
As Dale Carnegie once famously said, “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”
3. Absolute Truth
Absolute truth is the most raw, vulnerable, and often scary version of truth to verbalize within your relationship. It doesn’t hold back. It is speaking from the depths of your gut and being 100% honest about something that you are feeling.
How To Use Absolute Truth In Your Relationship
Absolute truth in an intimate relationship is often one of the scariest things we can do. Letting people know about our deep internal world and voicing our fears and insecurities is simultaneously one of the most nerve-wracking things we can do and one of the most deeply healing things we can experience.
Absolute truth is generally best deployed in a context where it is just you and your partner (for example, lying on your sides in your bed with your phones off and children already asleep).
Examples of absolute truth:
“I’m afraid that I’m not smart enough.”
“My greatest fear is that I’ll never be good enough in my father’s eyes.”
“I haven’t been feeling as connected lately and I would love it if we could have an evening or two alone together this week.”
Absolute truth takes courage, there’s no doubt about that. But when you speak it from your heart and your true emotional experience, it will always be received well by a kind and loving partner.
The Problem With Unfiltered Truth
The people that I see most often gravitating towards radical honesty are often the kind of people who are radically passive in their daily lives. But the problem occurs when their internal pendulum swings from passive communication to aggressive communication, while socially calibrated assertiveness often gets left out in the cold.
As a social species, the constant presence of social tension keeps us safe in a lot of ways. And if it feels like you are being dishonest the next time you tell your 5-year-old niece or nephew that their school musical was brilliant and that their dance solo was “Amazing!”, then embrace it.
Because, if we’re being radically honest with ourselves, there are a lot of times when honesty is definitely not the best policy.
Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com