Truth is difficult for many of us.
We all engage in a bit of self-deception in our lives. There are things about ourselves that we have not been able to examine or accept. We have difficulty in admitting our flaws – even to ourselves, much more so to our partners. Sometimes we guard our intimate feelings because we have been hurt in the past when we tried to share them with others, so that trust is a difficult area for us. For example, if you and your partner are feeling unloved and lonely, but you try to cover it up by saying that everything is fine, you will continue to feel isolated. Our commitment to a relationship means that we have decided to open ourselves up to another person, flaws and all. To continue to deceive ourselves with our partner impedes the intimacy of the relationship.
A relationship has the potential to provide a healthy way to come to terms with our issues, both personal and interpersonal. Accepting the truth, and talking about it, can free us of pain and set the stage for a healthier future. When we share our fears within the context of our partner’s loving understanding and acceptance, the fears dissipate. The issues we have been holding on to alone for so long lose their force when they are shared with someone who loves us. Telling the truth can bring down the barriers that isolate us from our partners. It can lead to a new level of self-acceptance and authenticity in our own lives – and this in turn leads to a stronger level of commitment and intimacy in our relationship. The truth can make us whole and set us free.
Here are some guidelines for telling the truth –
- Understand what you intend to do when you communicate. This calls for an honest look at your motivations. If you intend to create healing, clarity, or a deeper sense of intimacy within the relationship, your intention will probably lead to these results. If, on the other hand, you want to make yourself look good and your partner look bad – or if you want to hurt your partner – then distrust will result from the communication.
- Assess how well your partner can handle the truth. There are times when your partner may not be ready to have heartfelt talks. A clue to this is when your partner continually rejects, or is unable to hear, your attempts at increased closeness. If your partner tends to become defensive, if there is a history of fighting when serious issues are discussed, if your partner is unable to honor your personal information and can’t keep a secret, or if there is a history of betrayal – then it might be best to practice telling the truth with another person, not your partner. Then, when you feel comfortable in telling the truth and trust feels comfortable to you, it will be time to engage in heartfelt talks with your partner. Some people prefer to start the process alone with a therapist, since they are trained to listen nonjudgmentally and are less likely to take things personally.
- Understand your own fears about telling the truth. Communicating on an honest and truthful level makes you vulnerable. You may fear getting hurt or hurting your partner’s feelings. You may feel that you will be misunderstood or that your partner will judge you negatively. Our fears are based on past experiences and reside within us. They are often unrealistic. The higher goal is to communicate truthfully with your partner in order to have a more satisfying relationship, and this means having the courage to confront your fears.
- Accept the fact that your partner does not have to agree with you. Many of us are afraid to have intimate talks with our partners unless they agree with everything we have to say. Unfortunately, this leads not so much to intimacy, which involves a sharing and acceptance of our differences, as it does to control struggles and isolation from our partners. Accept, and even treasure, your partner’s individuality. Two people can be right at the same time in a relationship – it’s just a matter of two different interpretations of the same events. Intimacy occurs between two complete, whole individuals, each of whom honors their partner’s way of looking at the world.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.