When it comes to relationships, I believe that honesty is always the best policy. Not merely remaining faithful. Not in the sense of being able to say that you never really lie to your partner. I’m talking about Radical Honesty; actually coming out and naming the elephants in the room so you can deal with them before they trample all over your relationship.
Radical Honesty requires that you speak your truth even when you feel sure that the other person won’t want to hear it. Radical Honesty means that you have to say how you really feel, especially when you believe that you could either avoid x or conversely make y happen by hiding these feelings from them. It is a commitment to authenticity that requires being true to yourself as much as being loyal to another.
How long can you pretend to be someone else?
If you lack an intrinsic sense of self-worth you may be tempted to censor yourself; to try to express yourself in terms of what would be acceptable or desirable to someone else. In the short-term, you may even be successful in your goals. But, realistically speaking, just how long can you pretend to be someone else? And do you really want to be in a relationship with someone that you don’t believe could love you as you really are?
Whilst the idea of being “strategic” is a popular one when it comes to dating, it doesn’t feel so warm and fuzzy to think that one partner actively manipulated the other into committing to the relationship. Is that really a good way to build a foundation for a trusting relationship?
“I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me”
Your degree of reluctance to do this may be a gauge of how much or how little you love and accept yourself. In the words of Groucho Marx,
“I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me.”
If deep down you think you are “too much” or if there is any suspicion that there might “be something wrong” with you, of course you are going to imagine that everyone else is as turned off by you as you are.
However, if you dare to share the sadness and longing that you are so embarrassed to admit, you may discover that other people come closer instead of abandoning you as you might have imagined. Just maybe it’s you – not them – that finds your vulnerability so unlovable. It could be your tendency to abandon yourself that you are projecting onto others. Ironically, it could be what pushes people away is not your weakness but how you act you when you are trying to hide it.
Giving up control
All of this radical honesty requires a fundamental attitude shift and that is giving up the idea that you can control anyone or anything other than your own reactions. I find the more intelligent people are, the harder they find this to do. They quickly succumb to the trap of thinking that if they only try hard enough or think about it long enough or read the right book, they can figure it out.
In addition, you may have more difficulty with this if during your childhood you learned to try to predict or change the behavior of an unpredictable parent with your actions. This learned survival skill, combined with having a deficit of emotional security, is the reason that many people grow up to expend so much energy trying to control things. It doesn’t come from a malicious desire to manipulate in order to wield power; it’s a coping mechanism designed to try and make the world a safer place.
The illusion is that somewhere out there is something you could say or do which would be the guarantee that everything will be alright. Searching for it can drive you crazy. How much easier is it to simply speak your truth without attachment to the reactions you may receive?
Ten tips to get you started
- Don’t let resentment build, deal with issues one at a time and as soon as they arise
- Stop trying to control or manipulate your partner’s feelings or actions
- Share your hopes, dreams and wishes
- Share your fears
- Be honest with yourself
- Share your vulnerability instead of your anger
- Express your disappointment gently
- Check that you both have signed on to the same contract (Explain what you think the unwritten rules are)
- Admit when you don’t know what to do
- Admit it when you think you may have made a mistake
Radical honesty can be magically healing but it must always be used with respect. Remember that coming from a place of vulnerability instead of blame invites your partner to look for a solution with you.