Can You Be Too Honest in Relationships?

The other day, we were asked an interesting question about relationships…

The question was– “How honest is too honest in relationships?”

In other words, this person wanted to know if we thought you can damage a relationship if you are “too honest?”

This question doesn’t just apply to intimate relationships or marriages. It applies to every relationship that you’re in–friends, family, and coworkers.

In our opinion, there’s no such thing as being too honest in a close, connected, alive relationship–no matter what type it is.

With that being said, we recognize that there can be some problems with honesty and here are a few…

1. Saying or doing something that is inappropriate for a given situation

We remember being at a funeral for a friend’s husband and we were shocked by the eulogy that portrayed him as a model husband and father. That was not what we knew of him through our friend.

Did we express our shock at the funeral?

Of course not! We did, however, tell our friend about our observations at a much later time and in a private setting.

2. Having the conscious or unconscious intention to hurt the other person with your “honesty” or to mask the “real” issue.

One woman wrote to us that her husband constantly tells her that he wants to make love with other women.

Now while we don’t know why he is motivated to do this but we do know that there is a bigger dynamic between them that needs to be addressed. His “honesty” is a smoke-screen covering the real issue.

3. Giving your honest opinion without being asked

This was one of the big lessons that we had to learn in the very early days when we started helping people with their relationships.

We were trying to “help” everyone (whether they asked or not) and what we quickly figured out is that not everyone wanted help with their relationships!

In fact, if we were out in a social setting and trying to “fix” them by giving advice that was not requested, they would shut down and close to us.

So what have we learned about honesty and what are some ways that we can all live in integrity with ourselves and the people important in our lives?

Here are a few tips and ideas about honesty in relationships that are worth considering…

1. In our relationship, we’ve agreed to being totally honest with one another–and it’s a conscious choice.

We might “feel” into each other for the appropriate time to speak if it a “touchy” subject, but we are committed to being
emotionally transparent with each other.

2. We’ve learned to always ask others, as well as each other, whether the other person wants our advice or if they just want us to listen.

Sometimes, other people just want to be heard by someone and are not asking for advice.

We’ve found the phrases “Would you like some feedback about that?” or “Are you open to a couple of comments about what you just said?” to be helpful when you feel like you have advice to give but don’t know if the other person is wanting advice or not.

3. We’ve learned that sometimes we withhold some of our feelings, opinions, and certain experiences because we don’t trust that the other person will understand and accept who we truly are and our “honesty” could cause
unnecessary pain and even estrangement.

In these relationships, the level of intimacy and the cost of withholding ourselves is relatively low.

While these are not the best kinds of relationships, sometimes we find that in order to interact within a group (an extended family or certain friendships are great examples of this), we are not totally forthcoming.

While we might be making certain assumptions, we also are learning whether we can trust or not and at what level.

A few questions to ask yourself when trying to decide whether to be totally honest with someone or not might be these…

1. What level of intimacy do I want and think I can have with this person? Is what I have to say necessary to maintain the level of intimacy or even take the relationship deeper with this person–if this is what I want?

2. What are my motivations for saying what I want to say to this person? Am I just wanting to get something off my chest no matter what the cost or will it further the relationship if I say what I want to say?

3. What problems will I create within myself if I withhold this information? Am I getting physically ill by keeping this information from this person?

Honesty in relationships is a huge topic and these are just a few of our thoughts.

So this week, we invite you to consider what honesty means in your life.


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