There are a lot of ideas about what can contribute to intimate relating. One of the areas is the level of honesty and transparency within a relationship. To me these are essential qualities that enable intimacy (into-me-see). Intimacy often freaks people out and that is partly why we don’t want to be honest!
Why does intimacy freak people out?
It can easily trigger deep pains related to experiences like rejection, abandonment, worthlessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, betrayal or powerlessness. Most of us have jammed down any painful emotions associated with these experiences, particularly the ones we experienced in our early childhood, and so learnt to disguise our realness. If there’s a risk that we may experience some of this pain again we tend to avoid it. Some of this avoidance is completely unconscious and becomes part of normal life going largely unnoticed.
Unfortunately, hiding who we are and our truth leads to a lack of intimacy in our relationships. This lack of intimacy will weigh in with the sense of dissatisfaction in our intimate relationships, something will seem missing. Either we do not actually get to know the other or we do not allow the other to know who we really are. So then we come to question the purpose of the relationship.
A lack of transparency and honesty in relationships can create all sorts of complications. For example, it may make it difficult to express our needs or personal values about things with our partner for fear of rejection or shame. If your needs or values are not being expressed clearly, how will significant others understand how to contribute or even understand more about who you are?
Remember that verbal communication is a mere fraction of our communication. When there’s a lack of transparency and honesty, this can lead to a build up of misunderstandings and mistrust. A sense of mistrust is cancerous to a loving relationship and will be just a matter of time before the relating becomes to uncomfortable to bear.
So what am I meaning by honesty and transparency? Doesn’t telling my partner my honesty opinions have the potential to really hurt them and damage our relationship? There are some relationship therapists who actually encourage ‘white’ lying even around sexual infidelity – do you want honesty or do you want a relationship? Others may be concerned that allowing for honesty means their partner will be dumping all their emotional projections upon them. Let me explain what I mean by honesty in a loving relationship.
If we are behaving in ways and saying things that are not really true to our significant others then our relationship is going to be based on the person we are pretending to be. What can happen is two people can have a whole relationship mask to mask more than heart to heart. It also takes a lot of energy to maintain these masks. Dr. Brad Blanton who encourages radical honesty, claims the primary cause of stress in humans is lying. Not only do we end up with an inauthentic relationship, we add stress to the relating.
Being honest to me, starts with self-honesty to be able to express what is truly going on. It doesn’t mean dumping our emotional projections and opinions on another. If we are concerned about our projections we can own them and try to understand them without blame or judgement. That might sounds like “Hey, darling, I’ve been stewing over last night and I want to check in with you. I’m feeling a burning pain of jealousy when I remember how you were talking with James last night. I’d love to understand more about your interactions with him last night.” Instead of accusing your partner of flirting and adding in how disrespectful they were behaving. Honesty in a loving relationship is being vulnerable and open.
Being honest in loving relating also comes from a place of empathy. It is not a cold stone opinion thrown at your partner. For example; instead of “I’m so sick of Italian food, there’s no way I’m going to that restaurant with you”, this can be honestly expressed in an empathetic way: “I can see how excited you are about wanting to take me out to [the new Italian restaurant] and I love the way you think about me. Honey, I’d love to go out for dinner, though I’m really feeling like a different cuisine. How do you feel about considering something different tonight?”
Silence isn’t being honest either if you didn’t want to eat Italian food for dinner and just went along with it. Going along with things in a silent compromise not only builds resentment, but the lack of understanding can have a partner believing, in this case, that you love Italian food all the time. So your partner, clueless, will be thinking they are doing something wonderful for you when they really are not. Food may be trivial but this misunderstanding can involve aspects of your life together like sex, holidays, massage, kissing, and many personal boundaries and values.
The most important thing about being honest and transparent in intimate relationships is that you receive love for who you truly are. This is deeply fulfilling and intimate to allow another to love and accept us, sometimes beyond what we are willing to do for ourselves. Honesty and transparency are key ingredients to deeply loving relationships.