Just how honest is too honest?
We all have our annoying quirks.
That one little thing that makes us feel bad when others point it out.
Maybe you chew too loud or snort like a farmyard animal when you laugh.
“Oh no, you did not just go there. Well, I hate how loudly you chew anyway!”
Relationships demand transparency, and most people in long-term relationships will tell you, honesty is critical.
Sometimes, your partner just rubs you the wrong way — but words can hurt.
So, how can you be honest with your partner without hurting their feelings?
From our work at the Gay Couples Institute, we’ve discovered that how you deliver the information is key to successfully solving the issue.
- Think, “I would really love for us to have some alone time, is it okay if we have your mom over every other weekend?”
- instead of, “I hate having your mom around all the time!”
Honesty is great, especially if you are in a new relationship.
But ask yourself — is what you’re about to tell your partner good for their psyche?
Will it solve the problem or provoke a negative reaction?
Are you stuck in a situation where you don’t know how to tell your partner the truth without hurting them?
Read on to find out how you can navigate these murky waters.
Tough Love or Just Plain Mean?
If you’ve been following our articles, you’ll know all about your emotional bank account.
If you haven’t, your emotional bank account is the understanding, trust, love, and all the other good stuff you invest in your relationship.
Vocalizing your feelings about your partner’s annoying habits is the equivalent of making a withdrawal from this account.
You can redress the balance by depositing something positive like friendship.
It’s okay to address your partner’s shortcomings, but it is also important to look at what they put into the relationship.
Consider their positive aspects as you point out the negative.
Remember, you can’t withdraw from your emotional bank account if it’s empty.
If you and your partner are in a good place, pointing out the negatives will strengthen your relationship.
If the two of you are in a bad place, you will only be depleting an emotional bank account that’s already in the red.
Scientifically, successful relationships follow the 5:1 rule — for every negative thought you have about your partner, there are five positive things you notice.
But how does this factor in when it comes to being brutally honest?
The Science of Trust
According to the country’s leading relationship researcher, John Gottman, there is a metaphorical ceiling on criticism in relationships.
Simply put, if you hit your limit, you break up.
Your partner might have body issues or emotional scars from the past.
With this in mind, how you deliver the cold, hard truth determines where the relationship goes from that point.
You may say something that makes your partner think, “Why am I with you?”
This is the emotional crisis point.
So, is there any way to come back from the brink?
Bouncing Back from Brutal Honesty
Okay, you went all-out. You told your partner the ugly truth, warts and all.
After all, the truth will set you free.
“How about going out for a jog, instead of rewatching Game of Thrones?”
Is there any way you can go back to how things were before you made such a scathing comment?
From our work at the Institute, we’ve learned that genuine remorse goes a long way.
“I messed up. I shouldn’t have said that to you. What can I do to fix this?”
When initiated by the partner who made the hurtful comment in the first place, an attempt to make the situation better indicates genuine remorse.
“I know what I said was hurtful. Let me try to make it better.”
Human instinct might push you to back away slowly and pretend you never said it.
Even your partner might try to sweep things under the rug, even though, at the back of their mind, they will always remember it.
“It’s okay, I’m sure my partner didn’t mean it like that. They just said it in the heat of the moment. Besides, I have gained a few pounds… but did they really have to say it like that?”
Science proves that human beings are pack animals — we work better in pairs.
Couples in relationships live longer and experience fewer incidences of disease.
There’s no shame in being honest about your past. Admitting you may have some baggage and letting your partner help you work through some of it is all part of the healing process.
If you’re the partner who feels betrayed, you need to be patient and understanding.
Try to figure out what your partner wants.
Why do they suddenly have a problem with you spending Friday nights binge-watching your favorite TV show?
If you’re wondering why you seem to be more sensitive about the quality of the bond in your relationship than your partner, you might be a Guardian.
Guardians evaluate their relationships on the basis of trust.
Take our Communication Style Quiz and learn how to address sensitive issues with your partner when you have different communication styles.
You’ll also get a discount on our Stop Fighting Toolkit, which covers the skills you need to help prevent unnecessary conflict in your relationship.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org