How Honest Should I Be In a Relationship - How To Win a Man's Heart

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March 3, 2015

How Honest Should I Be In a Relationship

# 1. Honesty comes in two versions

Dr. Randi Gunther

The one most people think they are supposed to hide or share has to do with personal information. “I am an addict in recovery.” “I have never been orgasmic in intercourse.” “My first boyfriend was abusive and I stayed with him too long.” “I had to file bankruptcy a year ago because I maxed out my credit cards.” “I’ve had two abortions.” “I leave men who don’t make me the center of attention.” “I used to shop lift as a kid.”

These “confessions” can not only be embarrassing but risk judgment and dismissal if your potential partner has biases against them, and, of course, in a new relationship, how would you know? There are some that must be shared out of integrity like an STD or a stalking ex-lover who could put your new guy in jeopardy. Your timing in sharing those personal facts is dependent on how much risk you are taking for someone else who didn’t get to vote. Those revelations shared too late can be deal breakers, and probably should be.

The second version of honesty can not only be shared from the beginning of any new relationship, but absolutely sets the stage for genuine intimacy later on. It is the way you let a new person know who you are without having to share information that might be misunderstood, activate disrespect or cause a premature disconnect. “I’ve had some hard struggles as a kid, but I’ve learned so much about rising above living like a victim.” “I believe that resolving deep emotional conflicts between what you’re supposed to believe and what you have to do sometimes pushes people to be more compassionate to others who have the same hard decisions to make.” “I’m the kind of person who cares deeply when I care, and sometimes I’ve stayed too long in relationships when I probably should have left sooner.” My parents were extremely frugal. Getting a prom dress was a major decision even when they had the money. I’ve gone to the other extreme a few times in my life, just wanting to make dreams come true for anyone who needed me. I’ve learned some hard lessons about balance, but the result has been really good.” “I used to live in fantasy much more in my life and escaping was often an effective way to cope. I’ve changed all that now. I love being present and facing my life with more courage but it wasn’t an easy transition.” “I’m the kind of person who is really easy-going until I get cornered and then not so nice to be around, but I’m working on being more up front when I’m upset so it doesn’t build up.”

As is clear, these open and honest self-views are accompanies by a sense of pride in one’s work-in-progress life lessons. That means, of course, that you’ve worked through your own shame or remorse for the mistakes you’ve made and can see them as lessons that had to happen in order for you to be the person you’ve become. If you feel badly about whom you’ve been or what you’ve done, sharing those self-deprecatory feelings is a sure way to push someone away. The only men who respond to that level of unresolved internal distress are rescuers who will eventually want to take credit for having “healed” you or keep you in your state of self-disrespect so they will have an eternal role to play in “forgiving” you.

These courageous, authentic revelations leave room for giving examples later if the guy you’re with seems deep and sensitive enough to support your journey. They are philosophical in nature and weave the past, however distressing it may have been, into a better future. A guy who argues with your process and your goals is not likely to go for the actual personal data.

Also beware any guy who tells you that all of his previous girlfriends have victimized him and gives you the gory details of how righteous his anger/resentment is. That’s a trapdoor you will eventually fall into and the women you meet under the floor are probably as nice as you are.

Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com

# 2. In order to attract a relationship where we can truly trust another’s love, we must be willing to let them fall in love with our whole self

Kristen Brown

Relationships are cosmic classrooms for us to learn and grow from. Each one is uniquely designed to facilitate healing in one area of our lives or another. Within each relationship, is a dynamic between two people that cannot ever be duplicated. Within this structure, the universe has created a divine plan; one that includes the ability for us to heal our own wounds while helping to heal another’s if we so choose to accept the assignment.

If you reflect back over your life and the relationships you have had, I bet if you are completely honest with yourself you can see the shame, guilt or fear you were carrying reflected back to you per your partner’s actions and/or words.

For example: When I was very insecure about my physical body in my 20’s, I married someone that no matter how in shape I was or how cute I dressed, he never complimented me. I would internally beg for his approval when in fact, it was my own approval I was seeking. My physical body was my insecurity and it was his actions that were showing me a place in myself that I had not yet accepted and loved.

The same concept holds true for any “infarction” we may perceive we have on our record of life. If we are secretly ashamed of our finances, our infidelities, our baby-daddies, our weight, our abusive past, our past addiction etc. – chances are we will attract someone to us that we be as shameful or unforgiving of those things as we are. We then downward spiral into wondering why no one will accept us as we are? The construct here is to reflect back to us the places inside ourselves that needs our love, forgiveness and acceptance. With this, we can do the work so necessary to attracting a mutually accepting relationship.

There is only one answer I have when the topic of honesty arises… YES! I am not implying honesty to the fault that we shame or hurt another. I mean true, authentic disclosure about who we truly are and what roads we have traveled. In order to attract a relationship where we can truly trust another’s love, we must be willing to let them fall in love with our whole self, not some imposter we have concocted.

There is a quote by Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, a 2000+ year old Chinese manuscript revered much like the Bible. It goes like this:

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

It is not our job to hide in shame at our humanness. This mind set has never done anybody any bit of good. It is our job to love and accept our broken places and be willing to stand before anyone who asks and say, “These are my battle scars. I have fought an honorable fight. I am a better person for where I have been and what I have endured.”

When we finally understand that nothing we have done in our past is an accurate barometer of our soul worth, we are then better able to give ourselves grace and forgiveness for our human flaws and move through life a more empowered and confident person.

And if this isn’t good enough for your potential partner, well, that says to me that he’s simply not good enough for you!

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com

# 3. There are three ways to be honest and that includes being honest with boundaries, integrity and intention

Amanda Patterson

We’ve heard time and time again that honesty is the best policy. But what is the practical implications of having that type of policy? Does that mean you “spill your guts” no matter the question, the context or the outcome? The answer is NO!

Honesty is an integral part of a relationship. And there are ways to be honest in a very practical way without having to become Jim Carrey from “Liar, Liar”. There are three ways to be honest and that includes being honest with boundaries, integrity and intention.

1. Honesty with boundaries

It’s a first date and he’s forward and asks about your sexual history. Does that mean you have to share all the sordid details of your sex life? Again, the answer is no. You set your boundaries about what things you are willing and unwilling to share. You can ask for further clarification when someone asks you something. You can share surface level material until the depth of your relationship allows for more intimate details. It’s perfectly acceptable to set boundaries about what you are willing and unwilling to share. This is especially important in the beginning of a relationship, where the establishment of boundaries occurs in many forms and will carry through your relationship. What are your boundaries about what you are willing to share with a significant other? How might those boundaries evolve as you get more serious in the relationship?

2. Honesty with integrity

If you are not comfortable answering something, then don’t. Let that person know you are not comfortable answer their question or sharing that information. Let them know how you feel. Be honest about your integrity. It’s perfectly acceptable to let someone know you aren’t willing to share something, as opposed to lying about it or being coy. Honesty is the best policy and it can come in the form of letting the other person know where you stand on divulging information. What does honesty with integrity mean to you?

3. Honesty with intention

Another thing to consider is your intention when you share and get honest. Are you interested in getting emotionally closer to someone? Are you interested in being completely transparent? Are you interested in keeping parts of yourself hidden until the time is right? Once you know your intentions, the level of honesty and transparency will be natural. What is your intention in your current relationship? How does your intention help with being honest in the relationship? How do your intentions get in the way of being honest?

So is honesty really the best policy? Yes, but do it with boundaries, integrity and intentions. It’s time take an inventory of those three things to see where you stand and how you can communicate authentically in your relationship.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

# 4. While honesty is vital, don’t disclose everything about yourself at once

Cynthia Pickett

Being honest in any relationship is a primary key to having a successful relationship. Without honesty, there is no way to have a rewarding, satisfying, healthy relationship. Instead, at best it is clingy, dependent and an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. So how do we have total honesty without having a relationship meltdown?

First, have no personal shame and no doubt that you are a person of value who is worthy of the best unconditional love that has ever been known. The process of dating is not to discern if you are good enough for any specific person, (or them for you) but to meet a person to which you have mutual trust, respect and flow. It is vitally important that you be very honest. Make it your policy to be very honest about who you are. Not “put your best foot forward” honest, but really show your prospective new friend who you are, day in and day out. If you are chronically late, be late, if you take phone calls during meals then admit to it upfront, if you are in therapy disclose it and be proud of self improvement. If you don’t do it now, they will eventually find out and then you both may decide that you are not so compatible after all.

Dating is about forming a great friendship, not about finding a mate. If you can’t be honest with your friends who can you be honest with? But as with any friendship don’t disclose it all at once. Take your time and enjoy each other, laugh, and see if you like each other. Do you enjoy each other’s company? Do you have fun? Is there a nice flow between the two of you?

As the dating progresses questions about each other’s past will start. Don’t rush this process; it is not a job interview. Answer all questions honestly. If a person is freaked out by some of the things you do or have done then, believe it or not, you are better off to have them go now. No matter how awesome they seem. People who run when your challenges are revealed are partners who will run at the first hint of hardship. Don’t take it personally; it is not you running them off or you not being good enough. Instead it is them who are not strong and caring enough. It is just not a good fit between the two of you and that is ok. We are not compatible with everyone we meet. Be grateful to see it now rather than when you are in so deep that it will be much harder to get out.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

# 5. Follow the 4 tips below

Sarah Hofer

As a general rule, the more time you’ve spent with a person, the more comfortable you should be baring your soul to them. That’s typically how a healthy relationship progresses. However, in new relationships, you need to be certain that you can safely trust your partner before divulging intimate details about your life and your past. You do not owe the other person information simply because you are in a relationship with them.

That may seem contradictory, but I promise that it’s not. Intimacy grows when we share vulnerable parts of ourselves with our significant other, but I would never recommend exposing pieces of your soul with someone whom you cannot trust. Use your gut feelings about the relationship and the other person as a guide for the correct time to be honest about the less-than-wonderful parts of your life. Steer clear of sharing information with someone if the following warning signs are present:

1. You’re sharing because you’re feeling defensive and judged by your significant other.

2. You’re sharing because you feel that doing so will make the person like you more or feel sympathy for you.

3. You’re sharing because you’re trying to hook their interest to keep them from leaving.

4. You’re sharing because you simply feel that they appropriate amount of time has passed and you “should” be at this point in your relationship.

If any of the above sound familiar to you, it’s time to stop and ask yourself why you are with the person in the first place. Honesty should come from a desire to connect with and be known by your significant other, and should not be used as a tool to get something from them (whether that’s approval, interest, brownie points, or anything else). It’s worth waiting for someone who encourages truth-telling from a place of love and respect rather than obligation and fear.

Sarah Hofer, MA – www.sarahhofercounseling.com

# 6. Honesty is about you finding the right mate, not about whether your will be acceptable

Sally Leboy

Honesty is the best policy. However you don’t have to share everything right away. Timing plays an important role in the formation of a good relationship, too. I think there is a difference between presenting yourself honestly in the present, and revealing everything about your past. Your past is your own, and sharing it should be a choice you make based on your assessment of the soundness of the relationship. The only things I would exempt from that are sexually transmitted diseases and children. Everything else is a choice.

Revealing who you are is one of the ways that partners become more intimate. That includes current and past information. Honesty allows you to assess your compatibility with a prospective partner. Higher compatibility generally leads to a more successful match. Don’t tell your partner that you love sports if you don’t. Might that be a deal breaker for him? Maybe; but you don’t want to spend the rest of your life watching Monday night football, if you don’t enjoy the game.

Honesty is about you finding the right mate, not about whether your will be acceptable. It isn’t a test, and there are no right or wrong answers. It’s just about saying who you are and expecting the same in return. Never put on a façade. You will only delay the disappointment you both will feel when the truth comes out. You are fine the way you are; you don’t need to prove your value to anyone.

Most of us have made choices that we regret. Granted, some are worse than others, but nobody is exempt. We have to live with the consequences of our mistakes, but it doesn’t make us bad, just human. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and then move forward. Life is a series of experiences that contribute to our growth. Self-forgiveness is an important step in that process, and crucial to being ready for an intimate relationship.

I really think that ultimately you will want to share all of the important experiences in your life, even the ones you regret. The experience of feeling accepted for who you are, the good and the not so good, is what makes an intimate relationship so special. It takes time to develop that kind of relationship. You can’t rush intimacy, and talking about your secrets won’t make it happen any faster. Trust yourself to know when the time is right.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

# 7. Follow the tips below

Amy Sherman

The key, of course, is to be honest from the start so the relationship is based on trust and integrity. But there are some boundaries you do not want to cross early on and that is based on how comfortable you are talking about certain things in the early stages of your relationship.

If you are asked questions that seem too personal, intrusive or “off-limits” for now, there are several options as to how you can answer them.

Here are the suggestions:

a. Be honest by stating how uncomfortable you feel about the question and then change the subject quickly. It’s always best not to make a big deal about the question, unless the other person becomes insistent on knowing the answer. If that’s the case, you are under no obligation to be polite, since they are being rude.

b. Smile, maybe chuckle and then say, “Wow! This is too personal to answer now. No offense, but I’m not going to answer that.”

c. Answer a part of the question that you feel comfortable with, so you are not totally ignoring the whole question. “I like my scale a lot more now.” Or “I’m lucky. I’m still young at heart.”

d. Answer with another question. “Why do you want to know?” “Why do you need to know something like that?”

e. Bounce the question back at the asker. “That’s an interesting question. How many diets have you been on?”

You should also be careful as to how intrusive you are with your questions. Obviously, you want to know as much as you can about this interesting partner. Just be careful you don’t come on too strong and make him feel uncomfortable.

a. Do not ask about his previous relationships unless he offers that information. Questions about his divorce or relationship with the ex should be put on the back burner until you know each other better.

b. Do not ask about how much money he makes, although you may get an idea by the type of job he holds.

c. Do not ask about the mental health of family members. Once you feel more comfortable, those answers usually come out naturally.

d. Do not ask very personal questions, like his weight, criminal record or nationality.

e. And finally, do not talk about your problems. He is not your therapist and does not want to learn about your “issues” while you are getting to know each other. Keep your horrible day, miserable boss, nasty co-workers, intrusive mother to yourself, for now.

All these restrictions are lifted after you are seeing each other for a while and getting more intimate. No relationship should have secrets and the answers to these questions are important and should be disclosed if you are interested in pursuing a long-term relationship. Obviously, timing is essential, so get to know each other on your common issues before delving into more personal matters.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

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