I'm all for honesty in relationships. Without revealing what is true for us, including our feelings and views on life, how will the other ever truly know us? It is only when we are known and accepted for our real self that we feel truly loved.
So it pays to be honest, authentic and truthful in our communications with our partner.
But it’s equally important to know the difference between honesty and saying everything you think. They are not the same.
All the thoughts that go through your head, all the fleeting feelings that arise and fall away, those aren’t necessarily always the right things to voice. Especially when they are negative or judgmental or critical of your partner. He’ll react by getting argumentative, or, if this goes on over time, getting cold and losing interest in you. (This is the final key from 5 Ways To Improve Things When Your Partner's The Problem)
Sometimes, in a long-term committed relationship, what you don’t say keeps your love alive more than what you do say.
I used to be deeply confused about this. I thought honesty meant sharing whatever came into my head, the good, bad, the ugly. I thought that was being “me”. But over time, this beat my first husband down. He’d get defensive or withdraw into himself. He felt unreachable to me. This cycle ruined our marriage.
These days I know better. I bite my tongue regularly when I interact with my man, even though I’m often tempted to tell him how to do something, or correct something he said--especially when I'm overstimulated or angry. Because I understand that a lot of what comes into my mind is like garbage floating on the surface of the ocean (not representative of the rest of me, quick to float away).
When I choose intimacy over impulse, I always feel proud of myself and enjoy the affection and peace that’s the result of my self-control.
It’s so much better than arguing, which could easily happen since I live with a man who can take things pretty personally and get defensive quickly.
Of course, I must speak my truth, too, when it matters. But I save this for times when the potentially conflict-inducing thing I have to say is really true, to the best of my knowing.
I’m not saying, “don’t be honest”. I’m saying, make sure what you are saying is deeply true to you, before you say it, and not just a knee jerk reaction or habitual response.
This means, for healthy communication, we must first and foremost know what is true for ourselves (like what we want or don't), which can be especially hard for sensitive people (learn why here). Deciphering between those reactive thoughts that fleet through your mind, and what really needs to be said is an essential skill if you value connected loving intimacy.
So, the next time you are tempted to say something that might trigger your partner, put the metaphoric duck tape over your mouth. Keep it on until your emotions have leveled and you’ve processed what triggered you. Use this time to listen more deeply to yourself and to sort through your own murk.
You may decide nothing needs be said at all. Or you may find that you have something that you really want to share, which can now be said in a way that is much more easily received by your partner.
When you do share, don’t worry about being pleasing or right in the eyes of your partner. What matters is that you are really authentic and truthful. And that you feel safe to share it kindly, with self-ownership.
This way, you are much more likely to feel seen and heard and accepted for who you are. In place of the distant, defensive, and reactive partner you have been living with, you will have a partner who feels at ease with you.Then you are able to come up with solutions together and feel a sense of connection and peace between you.
If you want to learn more about how this all works for you, join me in my individualized program, Unleash Your Love, where we go into depth on the subtle skills of communication and the art of turning a challenging relationship into the connected loving one you’ve always wanted. Apply to talk about how it will look as tailored for your relationship.