Should You Really Tell Your Partner Everything?
Reveal, don't conceal.
Posted August 27, 2016 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
“A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” — Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.
Reveal, don’t conceal; express, don’t repress; accept, don’t reject; connect, don’t protect; open, don’t close. These are all good guidelines when committing to a partnership characterized by a high level of trust and closeness. In so many couples, a lack of emotional intimacy compromises partners' sense of well-being.
There are a number of components involved in co-creating a highly successful partnership, not the least of which is to become consistently emotionally intimate. The process always begins with the self: When we periodically step out of our busy lives to take a reflective pause and see what is occurring in our body, mind, and emotions, we can find the words to describe our feelings and needs. Once we have told ourselves the truth, then we are challenged to dare to risk revealing whatever is there to our partner.
Communicating fully and openly, without withholding, is a key to successful relationships. And yet, many people operate from a commitment to conceal that which they fear could reflect negatively on them. As a result, they tend to be discriminating about what they chose to share about themselves and what they chose to withhold, even with the people with whom they are closest. This practice of concealment can foster feelings of mistrust, inhibit spontaneity, and diminish feelings of intimacy.
So many of us have had negative experiences revealing our feelings and needs. We have been shamed and blamed for feeling the way we do. Those of us who attempted to be authentic were sometimes ridiculed for being overly sensitive, making a mountain out of a molehill, or being too needy. We got the message early that it was dangerous to show our tender underbelly. We might be judged and criticized, even humiliated. Many of us have spent our lives studying how to conceal, repress, and close off, thereby arriving at a level of mastery in disguising our true self. It can be a revolutionary thought to reverse this process and dare to try living another way.
Couples with strong, vital relationships use candor characterized by forthrightness or frankness. Candor is truth-telling with tact and reserve. Such couples are generally more committed to revealing all aspects of themselves, including those that may not reflect favorably upon them. They are more committed to authentically sharing themselves than to protecting their image and manipulating another’s impressions. The commitment to reveal is really about authenticity. For people committed to being authentic, self-expression shows up in all relationships, not just those with their romantic partners.
Such a commitment to authenticity promotes a kind of transparency that creates deeply meaningful and fulfilling personal connections. Those of us who trust each other to be accepting and nonjudging feel secure in revealing our feelings and experiences on an ongoing basis. Trust is earned out of a long history of acceptance. By practicing revealing, without being met with judgment, we accumulate evidence that we can be ourselves. The ability to accept another person nonjudgmentally is linked to self-acceptance, and such self-acceptance is a circular process that allows us to be accepting of each other.
People can get nervous when they consider the idea of being more self-revelatory, but they may be intrigued, too. On the one hand, they sense that there is an enormous possibility that someone will finally accept them "as is." They are delighted with the thought of a lover or a friend saying “I love you.” They may imagine resting into that love and the peace of mind that would come with it, without wondering whether they would be loved if the other person knew their whole story. On the other hand, dread and trepidation can surface when their recollections of past painful experiences start showing up.
When we succeed in hiding who we really are from others, we lose touch with our real Self. When we disclose ourselves to at least one other person, we know ourselves more deeply—and that intimate knowledge of self allows us to make wise choices in determining where our lives will go. Our destiny will be in alignment with our true self, our tastes, preferences, beliefs, values, and passions.
Stay tuned for Part 2 for six steps to becoming transparent.
Linda and Charlie Bloom's third book is Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths About Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.