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The Importance of Honesty in a Marriage

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

Dishonesty destroys trust and love in a marriage and prevents spouses from understanding one another, according to marriage and family expert, Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., author of “His Needs, Her Needs.” Even little white lies told to protect your spouse’s feelings hide your true feelings and prevent you and your spouse from addressing issues in your marriage or adapting behaviors to resolve conflict.

Conflict Never Admitted Can’t Be Resolved

Lying about your feelings or thoughts to prevent a conflict is counterproductive to a good marriage, according to Harley’s article, “The Policy of Radical Honesty.” If your spouse doesn’t know that a specific behavior gets on your last nerve until you blow up or announce you’re filing for divorce over it, he can rightly claim, “But I didn’t know!” Instead, be tactfully and respectfully honest so the issue can be resolved. Start with a statement that focuses on how the issue makes you feel, rather than making an accusation. For example, “When I find your wet towel dropped on the floor, I feel like I’m living in a gym locker room.” You can follow with a request that he hang the towel up or place it in the hamper.

Dishonesty Is More Than Lies

Lying is only one type of dishonesty in a marriage, notes marriage counselor Frank Gunzburg, Ph.D., in his article, “Honesty in Marriage: How to Get Back to the Truth.” To be totally honest with your spouse, don’t sidestep or distract her from an issue to avoid discussing it. Don’t omit information she needs to draw the correct conclusion or focus on an insignificant fact to avoid a truth you don't want to admit. Avoid answering in anger to shut her down or giving her the silent treatment instead of an answer. These strategies are dishonest and harmful to your relationship even when you do it to avoid an argument or protect her feelings, agrees Harley in “His Needs, Her Needs," because they erode trust and prevent issues from being resolved while they are still small enough to handle.

Honesty as a Basic Emotional Need

For many women, a husband’s honesty is a necessary emotional need, according to Harley’s book. Openness and honesty provide a sense of security that allows her to bond with you. When asked, be forthcoming with your true feelings and thoughts, likes and dislikes and your habits. Willingly discuss your personal history, daily activities and future plans and goals so she understands you better. If you don’t like something she says or does, discuss it calmly and respectfully to resolve the situation. Being open with each other helps you to draw closer to each other and build the trust that is necessary to keep your relationship strong and growing.

When You Can’t Discuss It

Some issues are too volatile to discuss without creating recurring conflict, admits journalist Jeannie Ralston in a Parenting.com article. If you know something will create a major fight, it can be helpful to discuss the situation in the presence of a marriage therapist. If you don’t feel a therapist is necessary, discuss such issues in a public place where you are more likely to work to control your responses. Avoid name-calling, disrespectful comments and bringing up ancient history. Once the situation is in the open, you can work on a solution. Dishonesty just allows the issue to fester, which can drive you apart and breaks down the trust that solid marriages are built upon.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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