Have you ever spent a long time, maybe hours, poring over the right profile picture for Facebook? Well, I didn’t spend hours; but, recently, I did scroll through a number of pictures before picking the one I liked best (i.e., the one that made me look thinnest, etc.). After I uploaded the picture, I started getting likes and comments – you know – those compliments that get us all through life. ~smile~ After receiving a lot of sweet affirmation from friends, I asked Eric what he thought about my profile picture. He said something to the effect of, “It was okay.” Okay?!?! He was supposed to tell me it was great! Hello, did he not see what everyone else was saying? Then he said that the picture I posted did not look like what he pictured in his head when he thought of me. What in the world?
Do not Ask Questions When You Cannot Handle the Answer
Early in our marriage, Eric and I promised we would be honest with each other – always. This comes much more naturally to Eric than it does to me. His life verse is Galatians 4:16, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (ESV) When I ask him a question, I know he is going to answer me to the best of his ability. If I ask “How is my hair?” and he thinks there is something wrong with it, he will tell me. His purpose is not to be mean or degrading. He just wants me to know the truth.
I, on the other hand, tend to coat the truth with so much sugar that any bitterness which may have been there is completely gone. That may sound good, but sometimes the truth is lost in all the sweetness. There are times I need to be honest – even bitterly honest. And, I confess, I have not always done a good job with honesty. I cannot count the number of times someone caught me off guard and said, “How do you like…” and I responded with something like “It’s great!” or “It looks good!” Sadly, these well-meaning lies started making me suspicious of other people and their compliments. If I will give fake compliments, then others will do that to me!
Thankfully, I do not struggle with this as much now as I did when I was a teenager. Perhaps living with Eric has rubbed off on me. Because of our total honesty policy™ with each other, I know that I can always trust his compliments and his advice. If he thinks I should change my shirt (which is incredibly rare), I know that he is trying to help me. If I give him advice on how to talk to someone (because he has a tendency to be blunt), he knows I want what is best for him and his relationships. And, because we have an honesty only policy in our home, we know not to ask a question if we cannot handle the answer. So, I was not surprised when Eric did not affirm my profile picture; but, I like it so I am keeping it! ~smile~
Take Time Each Day to Talk
Being honest with each other is easier when you are in the habit of sharing your lives together each day. Though I am not always fond of hearing the truth, I feel very connected to Eric when he shares the truth in love with me. When I am over analyzing something, instead of ignoring me or placating me, he says something like, “Do you think you are reading more into this than is there?” or “Take what she said at face value. You will be happier if you stop assuming people do not mean what they say.” Even though it would feel better at first to have Eric always agree with me, I love knowing that he is there to give it to me straight. It shows that he cares enough to put up with my initial displeasure to bring me the truth.
Eric and I do not get to talk as much as I would like, but we do try to debrief at least a little each day. As a woman, I am almost always up for more chatting time; but, some days life gets crazy and an hour-long, leisurely conversation is not always a practical reality. However, even when our time is short, I am thankful that we can talk to each other. We are in the habit of discussing what is going on in our lives and we are not closed off to feedback from each other (as long as it is delivered well).
It is far easier to have and keep a pattern of honesty in your relationship if you talk and connect often. Two people who are deeply connected will not fear rejection nearly as much as two people who are loosely connected. When I do not feel especially close to someone, it is scary to tell him or her a painful truth. What if he rejects me? What if she bad-mouths me to others? What if he yells at me? But, when I know the person loves me and is committed to me, there is less fear of losing his or her favor. This is true in romantic relationships too. When a man and woman take the time daily to keep their connection strong, they have fewer arguments, and the ones they have are usually manageable. No, I do not like telling Eric the truth when I think it may hurt him, but I am not worried about him rejecting me when I do. Keep that daily connection; it is worth it!
Learn the Art of Kind Honesty
Do you know how to tell the truth without hurting each other? If not, never fear! You can learn! ~smile~ There are different forms of honesty. There is apologetic honesty, which happens when the one who has an ax to grind confronts the other apologetically. “Hey, um, I need to talk to you. Um, I am sorry to bother you while you work, but something has been kinda eating at me. I mean, it’s not that bad or anything, but I thought I should probably tell you. It hurt my feelings last week when you called me a ‘rhinoceros face’ in front of our friends at dinner. I mean, I’m sure you were just being funny, but it stung a little. You probably didn’t know that, but, it kinda hurt my feelings.” Apologetic honesty does not get the point across very effectively.
Then there is straight-to-the-point honesty. “When you called me a ‘rhinoceros face’ at dinner last week, I wanted to kill you. It hurt so badly. You are an awful person sometimes.” Though the wounded party may have been speaking the truth, the delivery does not inspire reconciliation and change.
My favorite form of honesty – the form I hope will be second nature to me someday – is kind-and-gentle-but-firm honesty. “If you have a minute, I need to talk to you. I want you to know that I appreciate your sense of humor most of the time; however, when you called me a ‘rhinoceros face’ at dinner last week, I was completely humiliated. Maybe you did not know how it came across, but I would appreciate it if you did not make jokes at my expense anymore. You are usually so complimentary of me in public, so it caught me off guard.” This person kept a level head, gave compliments in true “sandwich compliment” fashion, but did not shy away from the point: It is not okay to call me a rhinoceros face. Ever.
Delivering and Receiving the Truth
Approaching your sweetie honestly will not always be the most enjoyable part of your relationship, but it does not have to be dreaded either. The more you practice delivering the truth kindly, yet firmly, the less awkward it will be over time. And just as you practice delivering the truth, it is a good idea to practice receiving the truth. Remember that your sweetie’s reproof is not a slap in your face. None of us are perfect and we can all use a little guidance once in a while. ~smile~
It may seem far-fetched, but I am here to tell you, honesty connects people! Some of my best friends are those who were not afraid to tell me the truth, even when it hurt. If you have a sweetheart that lovingly points out issues of concern to you, be thankful! You do not want to marry a yes-man or yes-woman. When you wake up each morning, you will want to know that the man or woman lying next to you is not hiding anything. Honesty creates openness and openness creates connectedness.
How honest are you with your sweetie?