If you’re seeking a romantic relationship, what is the most important thing you look for in a person? If you are already in a relationship, please keep reading because this blog post applies to an ongoing relationship as well.
Although many will have a different answer, the one thing that tops the list for most people (or it is at least in their top 3!) is “honesty”.
I agree, honesty is very important. It is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. However, we must ask ourselves “what do we mean when we say that we want honesty from another person?” Most people mean that they want someone who “won’t lie to them” or “keep secrets” but the question of honesty goes beyond lying and keeping secrets.
I have worked with many individuals who come into therapy because they are unhappy in their relationship. They share with me what makes them unhappy about their loved one, meaning what they bring, or don’t bring to the relationship. When I ask the question, “does your partner know how you feel?” the answer is almost always, “no”. There are many reasons why we do not share how we feel. Some don’t want to hurt their partner, while others worry about the reaction they will receive. And some people express, “what’s the point, it won’t make a difference anyway”. However, this is an important aspect of honesty in a relationship and deserves your attention.
Let me share a few examples with you:
First, before I share this particular example, let me say that I think it is so unfair that as women we struggle as we do with physical self-image. But this first example has to do with the question that women often pose to men, “Do I look fat in this outfit?” Men have shared with me that when a woman (often their wife) pose this question to them they find it challenging to feel attracted to them. It is often the lack of confidence that they find unattractive but this is one of those difficult situations when it is very hard to be “honest” about how you feel and how you are affected by your spouse. How do you say to your spouse “I struggle to feel attracted to you when you pose that question to me”
Another example is when one person is apprehensive to share with his or her partner when they are unhappy and feel that they are not a priority in their partner’s life. They may need more from the relationship but do not know how to ask for more from their partner. It becomes a very difficult “honest” conversation to have with your spouse.
And lastly, one might not like that their partner vents so much about whatever it is that leads them to being unhappy in life, often work related. We want to turn to our partner for support and most partners want to be supportive but sometimes we don’t realize how venting about one’s life affects our partner. Again, this is another example of a very challenging “honest” conversation to have with our loved one. How does one say “I don’t always feel that I can listen to you” or “I don’t always look forward to you coming home from work because you’re so unhappy, I want to look forward to seeing you”.
“The truth is that it takes courage to give honesty to those we love, and it may be even harder to receive that honesty. But growth in a relationship occurs when we are open to providing feedback to our partner and receiving it in return”
Honesty may be one of the most challenging parts of your relationship. It is likely that no one knows you better than your partner and it can be frightening to receive honest feedback about ourselves from someone who knows us so well. And to be honest with someone we love can be frightening. The goal in a relationship is to feel connected and grow in our connection with one another.
“The fear is that if we need to share something about our partner that is unpleasant, honesty can lead to disconnection. But the disconnection may be temporary and necessary to pull the relationship forward”
However, if you are going to be honest with your partner about whatever it is that concerns you about your partner or how they affect you…whatever it is that you need to say to them needs to be said with love and compassion. Honesty is not a license to be hurtful or mean to your partner. Blame and accusations are not honesty. But please remember that being honest with your partner, even if said with love and compassion, does not mean that it will go well. It is a process that needs time, love and nurturing.
One last thought, I don’t believe that everything needs to be said to your partner. However, if through not sharing with your partner you are ultimately harboring resentment and/or withdrawing, or you simply recognize that not using your voice is causing diminished feelings toward your partner – this is when it becomes critical to talk with your partner. And remember, how something is said can (not always) make all the difference in the outcome. As always, remember that this is very hard work so be kind to you in this very challenging relational work!
Thanks for reading!
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section.
About commenting on my blog – I am reminded of when I taught in the College classroom. I encouraged conversation. HOWEVER, I always let my students know that I wanted them to feel emotionally safe in the classroom. The same is true for the community that I wish to create with my blog. You will be safe. I am passionate about protecting those who are willing to open themselves up and share with all of us. Everyone should feel that they can express their thoughts and opinion without the worry of being criticized, attacked and hurt. Disagreement is fine, of course, as long as it is respectful of the other person. We can all learn from one another with love and respect. I want your comments; I want to learn from you just like I learned from my students. But only when you feel ready to do so. Like I said, it took me a very long time to find the courage to blog. So I don’t want to push you, only reassure you.
Here is my gift to you, my new e-Book! I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope it is helpful. Please let me know!
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