I talk to people about relationships regularly. I realise that there’s a common belief that relationships require a certain degree of omission of the truth.
Honesty in romantic relationships is an easy concept to explain. In practice, however, honesty to a loved one is a ridiculous thing to achieve consistently.
Having been in multiple (unsuccessful) relationships, I noticed a consistent pattern in all the unsuccessful relationships around me (mine included). I realised that there would be a consistent difference in the way the failed couple viewed fundamental things like punctuality, money and knowledge. The truth is that many couples want to be together, and these people tend to lie constantly to themselves until they believe in the lie. If you’ve ever pointed out a serious problem in your friend’s relationship, only to hear “but he/she’s actually alright lah, it’s just these few things I have to bear with”, and then completely avoid talking about the problem with said partner, you’ll know what I mean.
Now, just to clarify, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t possess a loving patience towards our partners. I’m saying that if there is a fundamental difference in values, don’t dodge it. Bring it out and push the issue.
Don’t like that she doesn’t value your time because she’s always late? Tell her honestly. Don’t want to get married immediately, but feeling pressured by him? Please don’t hint subtly to him about your reservations.
Defense as a default
I have a theory that our need to always be right and defend ourselves against any criticism comes from our academic system. We are not trained to fail or admit our failings at all, we have to have “the right answer”.
So, when someone says to us that we “never pay attention” or “don’t listen”, or “spend too much money”, what we’re hearing is that we’re wrong. What we should be hearing is
“This is what I need from you.”
It’s a REQUEST, not a REPRIMAND. There’s an honest plea, probably born from their frustrations. Deal with it like a grown-up, accept it and counter with:
“What, specifically, did I do?”
“Why does this annoy you?”
“How can I do this better for you?”
Yes, this is about serving one another.
What’s the point?
There’s a serious need to let each other know, in no uncertain terms, how we think and feel about each other. How we perceive each other is important, and honesty gives us some serious clarity on what we can expect from each other.
At the end of the day, love needs honesty to grow, no matter how painful we think it might be.