Question: While I have read a great deal about the value of honesty in a relationship, I do have some questions about whether it is really valuable to be completely honest all of the time. Can you describe what role honesty should play in a committed relationship? — Brian
Here’s how we hear your question. “I’m very interested in truth and learning how to be in truth but I have difficulty believing I can tell the full truth and not be rejected, especially by those I most care about.”
The working title for Dancing In the Dark was “Relationship is not for the feint of heart” which reflected our belief that an individual striving to be an authentic adult in an authentically mature relationship must strive for the truth at all times. Anybody who runs away, collapses, counterattacks, or otherwise defends when an unpalatable message comes their way has lapsed into a child state.
Hearing Life Messages
An adult man or woman has to be able to hear whatever comes. How else can we expand ourselves if we cannot hear some of the more difficult messages from life? If the topic is highly sensitive, it might take a while to digest a painful truth, and take in whatever is necessary from it, but a person who is genuinely seeking answers in life will not shelter themselves in defense or reject an intimate when an intent at honest expression comes their way.
Our society has many people who easily lapse into child states when truth comes their way (ourselves included sometimes!). It is also worth remembering there are always individuals who are capable of being in truth at higher levels.
The question for you is: Are you prepared to lose friends/lovers who lapse easily and hold steady until you attract those who can stand in with you at the level of truth you are desiring to go to? Are you willing to take painful truths from them and still hold in there with your love? That’s only something you can answer.
Tired of Relationship Games
Very early on in our time together, part of the commitment Naomi and I made to each other was to be as truthful as possible with each other. Both of us had been through failed marriages and were tired of games. We realized we didn’t really know what love was. At the very least, we wanted our time together to help us become more aware and thus less of a failure at relating in love. As a couple we haven’t always avoided lies but I can tell you that we’ve told each other “truths” that would stand most people’s hair on end, and done it pretty regularly.
At times it has been very tough to tell the truth and we’ve both hated what we’ve heard (and sometimes the other for saying it). But you know, even at the worst of times, a part of me (Doug speaking now) has felt that it was refreshing. Part of me was excited at having a partner who didn’t run away (or at least returned to the fray without too much delay).
Part of me said to myself: “Bad as this is right now, it is still better than the tension it takes to hold lies in place.” Even though I’ve felt stung by Naomi at times, I love her deeply because of her dogged willingness to go for truth (in herself as well obviously). I’d also have to say we’re a little odd, and from our experience with people over the years in workshops, I know this type of commitment to growth isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
What is Truth?
Now we get to the questions about what is truth and whose truth are we talking about? In our intimate relationships we often end up using words attempting to support a personal reality that is convenient to us. As we earnestly craft these words, we might fool ourselves into believing we are seeking the “truth” when in fact we are more interested in being “right” or leveraging for a position of power.
The safest, most vulnerable, and by far most difficult way to be in truth with an intimate is to work very hard at keeping the focus on one’s own inner experience and expressing from that experience. Rather than judging, analyzing or interpreting the other (perhaps coming up with “your truth,” but arguably not “the truth”), can you practice coming from your own inner experience of the events which are happening in the relationship, and in particular, your own feelings?
For example, rather than saying “You’re controlling” the irrefutable truth is “I’m feeling powerless relative to you.”
Look at the difference between these two statements: “The way you spend money is going to bankrupt us” verses “I’m feeling very scared about our financial future” or “I’m feeling angry and used about the way you deal with our money.”
More specific to your scenario we might have something like: “I don’t believe I can tell you all of my truth because you can’t take it and might run away” verses “I don’t believe I can tell all of my truth because I have a deep belief I could never be accepted for all of who I am and all of what I think” or I’m very afraid of getting your truth back.
In each of the above examples, it could be argued that both versions are getting to “truth” but the difference in expression is significant and will lead to significantly different results.
Consistently telling one’s personal “truth,” from one’s inner feelings (which is the only irrefutable truth), is much, much easier said than done. We hope that you are willing to go for it. Because one thing we have found to be true is: we attract who we are.