Heidi can’t understand why her husband Rick gets so offended so easily. They’re trying to pick up the pieces of their relationship after Heidi had an emotional affair with a co-worker last year and it’s not going very well. She feels bad about what happened and she didn’t mean to betray Rick, but he’s making it so difficult!
Heidi promised Rick that she’d be completely honest with him about everything and she has. In fact, after all of the hiding she used to do about her feelings and actions, it’s been refreshing for Heidi to tell the truth as she sees it.
The trouble is, Rick has withdrawn from her even more than when he first confronted her about the affair. He doesn’t seem to appreciate her honesty and has expressed more and more doubt that they’ll be able to repair the damage to their marriage.
Is there a time when telling the truth isn’t healthy for your relationship?
This question might cross your mind if you’re trying to rebuild trust after infidelity or when communication gets prickly between you and your partner. You’re tired of feeling like whatever you say “comes out wrong” or gets “twisted” into something it’s not. You’re asking yourself if telling a particular truth is worth the risk of offending, hurting or unintentionally pushing your partner away.
It can seem like continuing to lie or withhold the whole truth will actually preserve trust more than your honesty will.
In response to your concerns about being honest with your partner, we have this to say…
It’s smart to be honest AND to do so in a way that promotes connection and bolsters trust. Where some people run into trouble is when they blurt out raw and off-the-cuff emotionally charged statements as “truth” when this might not be what they really mean. Honesty erodes trust when it’s spoken in a way that dishonors the relationship and the other person.
Our advice to you is to tell the truth, but make sure that truth is authentic and communicated in a way your partner can really hear.
Be clear about the real truth.
Before you open your mouth, make sure that the truth you’re about to speak is really true for you– not just in the heat of an angry moment, but true at your core. Often, an accusation or statement of blame feels true in that second, but it’s not really true. Cool down and get clear first about what’s actually at issue for you and what you want when you consider more than just your short-term impulses.
If you feel upset, hurt or mad, take a few moments to ask yourself this question, “What is this really about for me?”
Watch your intentions.
Once again, before you speak your truth to your partner, pause and check in with yourself. Find out what your intentions are before sharing this thought or request. What is it that you hope will happen as a result of you saying what’s on your mind?
Is it to try to convince your partner to see your side of a disagreement? Are you wanting him or her to change? Do you secretly want revenge or to somehow punish your partner with the truth in the way you feel compelled to say it?
Uncover any motives you have that are hurtful or aren’t in the best interests of your relationship. Sit for a moment with your impulse to blurt out your truth in this manner and invite yourself to find a different way to say what you want to say– one that won’t damage trust.
Say it with confidence and kindness.
When you speak your truth, do so mindfully. Choose words that aren’t blaming or accusatory. Speak in terms of how “I feel…” and what “I want….” Convey your truth with as much kindness as possible and this will make it easier for your partner to stay open and listen.
Don’t apologize or be wishy-washy about how you feel. Speak with confidence and in terms of what you DO want to happen in this situation. Offer specific examples of what you mean instead of making generalizing statements.
The old adage, “think before you speak” definitely applies to communication with your beloved. If you want healthy trust and a closer connection, always come to a conversation honest, respectful and loving…even when you’re talking about difficult topics.
Honest and trust-building communication is all about HOW you speak your truth. Relationship coaches and authors Susie and Otto Collins teach individuals and couples how to communicate more effectively and create passionate love relationships. Click here for their free e-course: “10 Communication Tips to Create a Lifetime of Love”