“Be honest” is something you have probably been told to do since you were a child. The irony is that no one really tells you how to be honest or what honesty truly means in practice.
Sure, it sounds simple: “tell the truth.” But how do you know if you’re telling the whole truth – your whole truth?
What if someone has gotten upset with you, or you have gotten in trouble for telling the truth? I would venture a guess that pretty much everyone has had an experience that disincentivized them from telling the truth at one point or another.
As a result, being honest in a romantic relationship can be difficult. You can find yourself in awkward or uncomfortable situations. You can also fear upsetting your partner and become focused on the “right” answer instead of what you actually feel or think. It can even reach the point where you are failing to be honest with yourself and therefore lack honesty with your partner without even knowing it.
Honesty is one of the bedrocks of a romantic relationship, but the unfortunate reality is that many couples struggle with it. Couples that are not honest with each other are building their relationship on a foundation of false hope. And it is not dramatic to say that if neglected, one day that foundation will falter, and the relationship will be in dire straits.
The good news is that it is never too late to change. Honesty is like any skill; you can improve it with practice. It is also one of the many aspects of a relationship, and the other good qualities in your relationship can carry you through rough patches as you work to improve your honesty.
I’ve split the questions into two groups:
Group 1) Honesty in uncomfortable situations, disagreement, conflict: Is the environment conducive to you being honest?
Group 2) Honesty with yourself: Are you holding yourself back from sharing your opinion?
Group 1) Honesty in Uncomfortable Situations
When you share your perspective and opinion with your partner, they should accept it and hear you out, even if they disagree or don’t fully understand. You should never be put down for your opinion.
If so, why? You might feel nervous sharing your opinion for a variety of reasons, which may need to be assessed by yourself or with a therapist.
It may be because your opinions and feelings haven’t been validated, either by your partner or other people in your life. You might also feel nervous because your partner has responded negatively to your opinion or preference in the past (next question).
In a relationship, you should be able to disagree with your partner. If you feel that you cannot express your disagreement, your partner may be browbeating you into accepting their truth.
If you are tailoring your responses to your partner, this may be an indication of your nervousness (question 2) or that they have responded negatively in some way to your answers in the past (question 3). This could also be the case if your partner has experienced some sort of trauma in the past, and you are nervous about triggering them.
Whatever the case may be, if you feel that the dynamic of your relationship is not conducive to sharing your opinion or disagreeing with your partner, I would strongly recommend that you sit down and take the time to communicate with your partner how they are making you feel during these discussions.
Healthy disagreement is an important part of any romantic relationship. If you need some suggestions about how to disagree with your partner in a healthy way, check out our article regarding healthy disagreements here. And if you are still unable to make progress with your partner through these discussions, consider inviting a therapist in to help navigate the specific situation.
Group 2) Honesty with Yourself
You may not always be right but your opinion is valid and you should always feel comfortable sharing them.
This might manifest itself as negative self-talk when you have an idea or want to do something.
Think about the last time your partner asked you a serious question. Did the answer reflect what was in your heart? Or was it what you knew they wanted to hear?
When you feel strong emotions, good or bad, you should be able to share them with your partner. This is especially true if the emotions relate to your relationship.
If you think that you are holding yourself back from telling the truth or undercutting your thoughts with negative self-talk, know that YOU ARE IMPORTANT! Your feelings, emotions, ideas, and desires are valid. No one can take that away from you.
Personal Anecdote: I know this struggle intimately. I often had a difficult time telling Imani the truth. Some of it was from my own insecurities; I was afraid that if she didn’t like what I said, then she would leave me. I was also wary of her response; some of my responses/feelings had been triggering to her due to her childhood trauma (this was especially true when discussing sexual topics). As a result, I was not as honest with Imani as I should have been. Not only would I not always answer questions truthfully, but I would also lie by omission. I wouldn’t tell Imani how I actually felt about certain situations. It got to the point where I wasn’t even evaluating how I felt in order to avoid having to hide something from Imani. Looking back on it all, the worst part about it was that Imani had no idea I was being dishonest; she was even proud of how honest we were with each other.
But I realized while we were overcoming this hurdle that I was my own worst enemy. It can seem challenging and even scary at first, but as you share your opinion and perspective more, it will become easier. Therapy helped me a lot on this journey, and, again, I would strongly recommend it.
At the end of the day, your emotions, opinions, and perspectives are valid, and you should feel comfortable sharing. Don’t let anyone else invalidate or diminish them, including yourself.
I hope these questions have helped you evaluate the levels of honesty in your relationship. If you feel positive, I am really happy for you! That honesty is the rock that will support your relationship as the two of you continue to grow and flourish.
If you doubt the honesty in your relationship, I applaud you for taking a serious look at yourself and your partner. It can and will get better if you put in the effort. I know you can do it.
Loving the old; exploring the new,