How Emotional Honesty Can Help in Your Relationships
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”
Whilst you may consider yourself to be an honest person, have you ever thought about your own emotional honesty? Many of us don’t realise that we are being emotionally dishonest in our relationships with loved ones, despite our best intentions. The desire to be a good partner, a good parent and a good friend can all be helped our hindered by our level on emotional honesty; and yet, it is something that most of us fail to recognise as a factor.
What is emotional honesty?
Emotional honesty, as the term suggests, involves being honest about one’s feelings. Whilst it may seem like a simple enough idea, emotional honesty in relationships can be a remarkably uncommon thing. Even the most outwardly honest of us can have difficulty being honest about our emotions.
When we are emotionally honest, we admit to ourselves what our deepest feelings are, and also learn to understand why we feel the way we do. Emotional honesty can be confronting and even frightening for those of us who are used to concealing our feelings; including our deepest fears and desires. Emotional honesty is important however, for forming strong and mutually respectful relationships.
How do we become emotionally dishonest?
Most of us operate with the intention of being honest in our relationships. Trust and honesty are the bedrock of many successful partnerships, friendships and family relationships. And yet, even the most willing of us can have difficulty in being honest, emotionally. Emotional dishonesty occurs often without even realising, and most certainly can occur without intent. There are many factors which can result in emotionally dishonest behaviour, such as:
- Trying to protect a loved one’s feelings by not admitting to our own emotions
- Avoiding conflict or confrontation
- Being worried about the negative reactions of others to our honesty
- Concerns, unconscious or conscious, of being vulnerable when being ‘too honest’ about our emotions
- A desire to remain detached and not too ‘needy’
- Learned behaviours from our childhood or young adulthood about the dangers of being emotionally honest (such as suffering punishment or abuse, or being heartbroken after making oneself vulnerable and open)
- Previous bad relationships in which emotional honesty was punished with negative reactions, abuse, or reinforced by emotional dishonesty of the other party
Those who are emotionally dishonest often do not intentionally become so, but are taught that their emotional honesty is a bad thing. Many genuinely honest people find themselves being emotionally dishonest in order to ‘not cause a fuss’ or ‘rock the boat’ in their relationships. Unfortunately, prolonged emotional dishonesty will hurt, not help, in relationships.
How does emotional honesty affect our relationships?
Have you ever snapped at a partner because they didn’t take the bin out, or didn’t remember to pick up the milk on the way home? These rather banal scenarios represent what few of us recognise are somewhat unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, most people aren’t mind readers. And more unfortunately still, we each operate on an inherently distinct set of values and objectives. What matters to one parent or partner in the household (the rubbish, the milk) may not even cross the radar of the other. The difficulty surrounding these, and much more serious circumstances, comes when there is a lack of clear understanding between two parties.
When one partner regularly feels let down, whilst the other feels continuously attacked and disrespected, conflict inevitably arises. We would all be familiar with the cry of ‘not being heard’ from Hollywood relationship counsellors and reality television shows alike. In fact, not being heard or understood is one of the key reasons for failed marriages.
Little do many of us realise, that our expectations are not clearly understood by those we love. We expect partners, children and friends to know how we feel about things, without ever actually explaining why. Emotional honesty is key to opening up effective communication with those we love. When each party can understand the feelings of the other, without feeling attacked or vilified, the chances of success are much stronger.
Can we learn to be emotionally honest?
The good news is that, yes, we can learn to become more emotionally honest. Despite years of learned behaviours and deeply ingrained habits, emotional honesty is something that we can teach ourselves and in turn, teach those around us.
The first step to learning emotional honesty is to admit that we may need some help. Whilst we may consider ourselves to be kind, and open in our relationships – none of us are perfect. Even with the best of intentions, many people simply do not know how to begin to be emotionally honest. Learning emotional honesty involves recognising your true feelings, and learning to express those in a positive way. Understanding the feelings of your loved one is also critical in leading an emotionally honest life.
Becoming emotionally honest can be an uncomfortable experience for some people. It may involve opening yourself up to vulnerability, and preparing to accept that from vulnerability comes strength. Furthermore, uncovering your deepest feelings can be shocking, and sometimes these feelings can be hard to accept.
The next step is to seek out the proper tools, and the appropriate support. When learning a new language, for example, you would not expect to succeed without the tools to help you learn. Learning on your own, with a few textbooks, or even with a new smartphone app may help you to get started. However, the quickest and most effective way to learn would be to employ a tutor to help you with your studies.
Learning to be emotionally honest is much like learning a new language. You cannot be expected to understand it without the proper training. To aid in your efforts, you may choose to see a relationship counsellor who can help you to navigate this new territory, and assist you in facing the hurdles you are likely to encounter. It is important to be patient with yourself, as well as with your partner or loved one. Learning anything new takes time, and can only be achieved through concerted practice. Breaking the bad habit of emotional dishonesty is as challenging as kicking any habit. For this reason, having expert help can make the likelihood of success much higher.
If you’re struggling with emotional honesty and would like advice on how to overcome this problem in your relationships, get in touch with Integrated Health Specialists today. Our relationship counselling can help you on your journey to emotional honesty today!