I read this somewhere recently, and jotted down a few notes as I found I related to what was said. Sadly, I can’t remember where exactly I got this info, but my gut tells me it is from the authors Dr. John Townsend & Dr. Henry Cloud, PhD, as I read a tremendous amount of their work… But don’t quote me on that!

Here is what I took notes on:

Areas Couples find difficult being honest about:

Feelings
Disappointments
Desires, likes & dislikes
Hurts
Anger and hatred
Sex
Sins
Failure
Needs and vulnerabilities

And the barriers to honesty were:

Fear of real closeness and being known
Fear of abandonment and loss of love if they are known
Fears of being controlled and possessed if they are known
Fears of being seen as ‘bad’ or ‘not good enough’ if some part of them is known
Fears of their own desires, needs and feelings.

There is some loaded discussion that can come from that information!

My husband and I recently had a conversation about some of the values that we are freshly committing to in our marriage, as we were reading a book on marriage together, and one of the things we discussed was the absolute need for complete honesty in a relationship, and I can personally relate to the fears that are barriers to that complete honesty. I often fear expressing some of my desires that I feel my husband does not value with me. I know part of it is perception on my end, but actions and tone of voice and expressions speak loudly as well, and sometimes I receive messages from his actions that I allow to cause myself to feel he is unsupportive, and the cognitive distortions run wild believing he does not value my desires. (Admittedly, I currently am speaking of clothes! I’m a bit of a shopping nut! I LOVE purses, and shoes, and jewelry, and clothes… And books. Lol!) My hubby has always been a lot more practical about clothes than I am. This has been a common thread that reoccurs repeatedly, where I feel he diminishes my desire to shop or at least criticizes it. I admittedly, fear that he will control our financial decisions, as my dad did as I was growing up. Jason, (my husband), knows this fear I have. I have been honest with him, but there are times when I see that one shirt I just ‘have to have’ and immediately my gut instinct is shame that he will reject and diminish or refuse to allow me this one indulgence.

On the flip side, I understand what is going on in his mind. We are spending a lot of money on business expenses over the next while, and budget issues and responsibility financially are important values to us both. I know there are other items there as well, but will not reveal his concerns in my blog out of honor and respect for him.

Why I mention this, is that it came up last night. My underlying fear of being controlled, or being seen as ‘bad’ for desiring something I place some level of value on. I know this is a very surfacey and material example, but isn’t that the way it often goes? Couples fight about things that seem to be so insignificant, only to recognize that there is a much deeper issue at the core that is really being exposed and brought to the light!

Looking back up at the list, I am afraid of anger, my own and other’s, again, there are roots to this issue, as well as my fear of disappointing people, or failing. My hubby relates to the fear of failure as well. I fear abandonment or loss of love if I mess up. I fear abandonment even if I don’t mess up! Depending upon the season of my life, I often find myself fearful of being known. Again, there are roots to each of these fears.

It is a good thing if you are able to get these issues out into the open and be able to learn how to exhibit grace to each other’s weaknesses.

I read the following somewhere too, which helps me remember grace when I am angry.

F- Focus
E- Emotion
E- Empathy
L- Leave

It suggests focusing on what the root feeling is beneath the anger and identifying with it. For instance, anger most often is a protective barrier covering over another, deeper emotion. Like hurt, pain, fear of abandonment, etc. In order to redirect yourself away from expressing anger in a harmful way, it encourages you to look at the EMOTION you are feeling underneath. Then as you identify that emotion, sometimes the anger diminishes. The next step is to try and find empathy for your partner, and understand their point of view, or where they are coming from. This also is a tool to help the anger settle into something more manageable and allows for healthy ways to deal with it without brutally attacking your partner’s self worth. Finally, if the anger is pretty massive, LEAVE. Tell your spouse that you need a cool down time to get your anger back under control and tackle it again when it settles. A good rule of thumb is to have an anger action plan. Determine together when you are not angry that you will have a 20 minute or 30 minute cool down period (or whatever you decide and agree upon together). After which, you will check in on your spouse to see if they are ready to resume the conversation. If emotions have not settled, agree to check in again at the agreed upon 20-30 minute period of time. This allows for you both to feel cared about and know that even your anger is not something to be rejected by your partner, but is given a healthy permission period to cool down to avoid abusive speech toward each other. Above all, remember that you love your spouse! This will continue to hack away at the anger and allow your empathy for the other to surface and bring about feelings of compassion and love and help diminish the anger as you continue to look for the underlying root beneath the anger. I am not saying anger is all bad! Please don’t misunderstand! But there are healthy and very unhealthy ways of dealing with it. If you read my entry from last Friday on verbal abuse, you will see ways that anger can get out of hand very quickly.

I am also not saying I am perfect at this by any stretch. In fact I am not -by far! This is a new exercise I am trying myself, to deal with my anger when it comes up.

Being honest about anger is also very important in any relationship. And a person can get very angry when they feel their core values are being attacked or threatened. Any of the barriers mentioned above are often based on your core values of being known, and having a security and sense of permanence and safety, so as not to fear abandonment, it reveals core values about needing love and intimacy, respect, equality, being ‘good enough’ that you don’t need to perform or be perfect and yet, still know you are loved. I’m sure there are many more.

Honesty is much more important than we give it credit. Honesty sometimes hurts, but it the only way to pave a trustworthy, healthy relationship where integrity and love can truly grow and blossom.

Honesty is something I highly value. I believe it is one of the necessary cornerstones of a good relationship. Without it, the whole house you build your relationship on, will crumble. My encouragement to you: be ruthless to value honesty! It is a life (and relationship) saver!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Relationship Coaching Program which will equip your relationship with the tools it needs to grow!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

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