Honesty in marriage is perhaps one of the most basic requirements for long-term success. Without honesty, problems that may destroy the relationship can lie hidden for years, building momentum, creating blocks to intimacy, and then suddenly surfacing larger than life to wreak destruction in your marriage.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson
Honesty In Marriage
Honesty is the foundation upon which all other aspects of marriage are built. With honesty you know exactly how your actions will affect your mate, and you can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate his or her feelings.
With honesty, you and your spouse are aware of each other’s weaknesses, and can work with that knowledge. Knowing and understanding the thoughtless things you might be inclined to do allows you to take precautions to prevent that from happening.
“But we are honest!” you say?
Honesty In Marriage Knows No Exceptions
How honest are you? Is there a line you can draw which marks where a little bit of secrecy turns into dishonesty? Is there such a thing as mostly honest?
Being honest is like being pregnant, or alive. You either are, or you’re not. There is no half way, no mostly, about any of those things. In marriage, partners must learn to become completely honest with each other if they are to achieve true intimacy.
Honesty In Marriage Quiz
Here’s a little quiz. Do you, or have you, shared the following information with your spouse? Do you know the same sorts of things about him or her in return?
- Your past. Does your mate know all there is to know about: former lovers, friends, occupations, dreams, mistakes, achievements, failures?
- Your feelings. How do you feel about the events of your life? Especially your reactions to the things that your mate does? How do you feel about the life you have created together?
- Today. What are your plans for the day? Who will you see, what will you talk about, where will you go, when will you be home, how can you be reached?
- Tomorrow. What are your hopes and dreams and plans? What are your goals?
- Anything left unasked above. Does your spouse know as much as you do about yourself?
Well now, I can just see you shaking your heads in disbelief. She must be crazy to think that I would share my past failures, or the fact that my spouse’s job really annoys me. Talking about those things would just cause a fight to end all fights.
Does Honesty Cause Conflict?
Is it the honesty that causes the argument, or is it the things you have been hiding? Is it speaking the truth, or is it the manner in which you deliver the message?
Fostering Honesty In Marriage
How well do you handle your spouse’s honesty? Do you become upset, yell, threaten, or criticize when your partner shares difficult information? If so, then you are fostering dishonesty in your marriage.
You would be well advised to make a practice of thanking your spouse for whatever information he or she shares. If it is too difficult at the time for you to handle the things your spouse is sharing with you, then express your thanks and ask for some time to process what you’ve heard.
Honesty Isn’t An Excuse For Disrespect
When you share information with your partner, do you do it in a way that is calm, respectful and pleasant? Saying something like, “You lazy thing, all you ever do is sit around and look at trash on TV; you never do anything to keep the house up,” is not being honest. It’s being rude and disrespectful. Saying instead, “I’m overwhelmed with things I’d like to get done, and I’m wondering if there’s a way you would be willing to help me out?” is honest and respectful.
Honesty needs to be framed in a way that is respectful of how the other person feels. This is not to say that you should not convey information that might be upsetting. It simply means that you must do so in a way that is as considerate as possible.
One of the things I strongly emphasize with couples who come to me for help is the practice of sharing their own reactions to each other’s behavior.
Sharing Difficult Truths
So often we are afraid to tell our mate that he or she has offended us in some way. Frequently it was something done in innocence, and we want to overlook it. Unfortunately, when we do that, our feelings for our partner are adversely affected. And we deprive them of the ability to make necessary adjustments in their behavior to take our feelings into account.
If you have very difficult information that you have been withholding from your spouse, then you might want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Things such as past or current infidelity are incredibly hard to confess, and even harder to hear. Sharing with the help of a caring third party can ease the process.
Honesty is the bedrock of marriage. It is essential for trust, for building compatibility, for creating a way of life that you both enjoy, and for maintaining the feelings of love in marriage. If you are serious about saving your marriage, or about keeping alive the love you have now, you must begin with real and complete honesty.
© Penny R. Tupy 2004