Trust is an important part of a sound relationship. One element of trust is being honest with your spouse. We’ve all heard the expression honesty is the best policy. But there are important things to remember about being honest in your relationship. In my work with couples, I have seen couples where one spouse confuses honesty with a license to be critical or hurtful when being honest. They say things to excuse this behavior such as “I’m just being honest” or “I’m a blunt or direct person”, or “I have no filter”.
When these statements are made they send the message to the hurt spouse that their feelings don’t matter and that because this is the way their spouse communicates it will never change as that is part of who they are. Let me be clear when I say that is not true. All of us can learn new communication and conflict skills to benefit our relationship. There is a way to be honest in a loving soft way that makes the two people feel more connected. And there is a way to be honest that I call the sledgehammer approach that harms your spouse and your relationship.
The sledgehammer approach generally involves the word “you” and is followed by honesty which feels like judgment, criticism, or contempt. If your intention in being honest is to be heard and get your spouse motivated to do something about it, this is not an effective approach. When people feel attacked or hurt by “honesty”, they react by becoming defensive. Defensiveness escalates the conflict. It damages your relationship as your feel less connected after this “honest” discussion. You are responsible for how your choose to be honest with your spouse. If you struggle with being soft with your honesty, work to get better at it. Healthy love requires compassionate communication. Take the time to think about how to be honest in a loving way. Your relationship will be better for it.