You have promised each other no lies and no secrets, only truth and honesty. But does that really happen? Can you tell your partner everything you go through? And if you do not, for whatever reason, does that mean you are breaking your promise? Does that shake the mutual trust you are trying to build? Does that make for a healthy relationship?
Should you tell your other half everything, or is it better, maybe even wiser, to keep certain things to yourself? How can you tell which is which? Sooo many questions –makes your head spin, doesn’t it? Let’s try to find some answers.
In the beginning there was love…and only love. With stars in your eyes everything is possible. But back on the ground, in the real world, when the honeymoon is over (whether literally or figuratively), rules have to be set. Certain understandings and agreements come into play, not the least of which is that little issue known as trust. Trust is built on honesty, and you cannot trust someone unless you believe they are totally honest with you, at least not on an intimate level. The totally part is debatable and probably differs from one case to the next, depending on the kind of relationship a couple has and its basic dynamic.
While a couple could be very much in love, they could still choose to keep certain things from each other, perhaps trying to spare their partner’s feelings. Fear of facing your other half, and dealing with their reaction, could also be one of the reasons you might become reluctant to share certain things. A friend recently shared with me a simple solution that I find quite ingenious: write it out. She tells me that as an ice breaker and a way around inhibitions and fears, writing whatever it is you feel the need to share with your partner, and then handing them that piece of paper to read alone, is a healthy solution. I agree with that. Obviously it helps you maintain the promise to be honest, because you are sharing, plus you do not have to do it face to face, so that reduces the nervous factor, plus there is a real gem here as well, and that is you can really think about what you want to say and be very precise about it, and present it in the very best way possible, all away from eyesight and earshot of your significant other, where you would not have been able to take whatever you say back; all of this thanks to the possibility of rewriting as many times as you want, until you believe what you want to say is put perfectly. In addition, you get to spare their feelings by putting delicate issues as tactfully as possible, because of the ability to prepare at your own pace, with no time limitations. Perfect, I think.
But still, that does not really tackle what to share and what not to share, if anything.
I spoke to many of my friends in preparation for this piece; friends at different stages in their relationships: newlyweds, married with children, married without children, divorced, separated, various phases of dating and currently single, both males and females, to try to get an many perspectives as possible, and see if other people agree with me or not. When I asked one of my friends whether she would share everything with her partner, right off the bat and without missing a beat, she said emphatically “Of course not! What are you talking about?! Of course you do not share everything, are you crazy?!!” I needed to know why; she replied “Because you have done certain things in your life that you are not particularly proud of, and embarrassed about; certain mistakes that you regret.” So I explained myself: “I am talking about things that happened during your relationship, not in the past. I do not think you have to share your past; that is up to you, and your partner should understand that that is your prerogative and your right.” “Oh,” she replied “then yes, absolutely, I think you should share everything.”
Pretty much everybody I spoke to agreed that you should indeed share everything, although some of them did acknowledge that that is the ideal, and you might not be able to do so a lot of the time, for a number of reasons. I believe this is where problems begin – maybe they should give the writing exercise a try. I feel I must say here though, that while in theory the writing option is a potential gold mine (it does help you preserve your train of thought, you will not get interrupted, and your partner will actually sit down and read your piece till the very end), it does need time, effort and serious tolerance. I mean, for someone who has usually been reluctant to share certain aspects, incidents or what have you, writing them down might not come as naturally, or as easily, as they would to someone more courageous, or even to someone who is naturally courageous, just because they are not used to the process of total sharing. So you need time and practice to get over that hurdle. Even if you do finally write everything down, and you write it perfection, what is to say it will be well received? Meaning, where is the assurance that your head will not get bitten off, and you end up regretting wanting to share everything, the good, the bad and everything in between? This is where tolerance and understanding come in. Aristotle once said “It is the true mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Just because you have the right to get angry because of something that went wrong, does not mean that you actually should. Just because your mate came up short on something they know very well that they should not have mal-acted on, does not mean you should tell them off. I find that it is far better to let them off the hook than to watch them squirm; it means that they will come to you the next time they err at something, and you can work it out together. It also means that they will extend you the same courtesy when the shoe is on the other foot -and it will be, we all make mistakes, we are humans. It is not about pointing fingers, but rather about living your lives together, as comfortably as possible.
Tolerance, of course, is not just limited to the writing exercise. True tolerance and genuine understanding should be afforded to your partner in any particular situation, and since we are talking specifically about sharing and honesty, therefore communicating, then that means tolerance with any form of communication, be it writing, talking, sign language or even smoke signals.
Tolerance does need a helping hand though, and for this particular issue, I think no helping hand is better than that of tact. Identifying how to say what it is that your want to say will have a direct impact on the outcome of any given situation. It is kind of like sugar coating a pill, but with no deception or underhandedness, but rather wise, balanced honesty.
Well, we have identified how to share, which is a very important point that often goes overlooked, to disastrous results. But in spite of almost everyone telling me that you should share everything, I am not buying it. I still think there are certain things that should not be shared. You might think this is dishonesty, but I disagree. I do not think you should share things that will irritate your significant other and will probably have no real affect on your relationship on either the short or long run, if you do not put it out there. Why frustrate them? I also think a couple need breathing space; each one should be able to go off and do their own thing without feeling that their partner has to give them a full report on every single detail. Rather, they should get together, like a couple of close friends would, and talk about their lives, with a mutual respect for each other’s privacy and individuality; which falls back on the trust issue we have already established as the basis of any strong, healthy relationship.
So, befriend your spouse, partner, soul mate, significant other, Pooky, or whatever you call each other. Afford them the space, tact, tolerance and acceptance you normally would your dear friends. Not only will that make them comfortable in less than easy situations, it will also put you at ease, and you will not have to think twice when it comes to dealing with them when handling certain issues.
Your other half as your closest friend: now that is true intimacy.