Honesty is no doubt an integral part of living a fulfilled, accomplished and moral life. The concepts behind honesty are one of the first things that children are taught and honesty is encouraged in just about every venue of life. Thomas Jefferson said “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” The trouble with honesty is that in raw form it is a search for the truth; and the truth is different for every living person.
When it comes to being honest with you spouse certainly it is an important part of marriage. But there is honesty in the moment and honest that wreaks from a lifetime of living. The internal person within all of us has many secrets and undeniably many should not be shared – even with a spouse. Life tells us that even as intricately as we know a person – there is no real knowing anyone wholly but the self! Look how many stories about sinister ugliness that comes from people whose lives seemed full of integrity and honor. It seems that honesty is okay and accepted as long as the truth that we tell is as well. Being honest and the entire concept of honesty is bewildering at best.
Let’s talk about your spouse. Few spouses want to admit when their spouse annoys them to no end. Few will say that they look ugly, or blurt out for the sake of honesty that they just don’t turn them on the way they used to. Spouses don’t routinely share the innermost thoughts and desires that make up their daily mental chatter and few take the risk to answer questions honestly when they know their answer will hurt their loved one. Perhaps in some light all of this can be looked at as lying. There are white lies- the ones we tell to protect or save someone from something unnecessary and there are those lies that we tell others to protect ourselves from something we fear. Honesty and being honest with others has a lot to do with being real with ourselves. If we feel ashamed of our behavior or actions we lie…we lie to ourselves to make us feel better and we hide our wrong from the world. Millions of couples do this with each other and millions of couples survive marriages where love exists but honesty is chosen with care.
Being honest with your spouse is often about trust. There has to be a certain level of trust that by opening our mouths to speak the truth, we won’t close our heart or feel judged, ridiculed or humiliated by our spouse in any way. Since marriage enables us to understand and know our spouse a little better – we can often gauge their reaction before it happens. If we know our spouse is going to react badly, disagree or it is going to cause an argument it may be wise to speak the truth elsewhere. Of course marriage does call for us to be honest at most times; as it pertains to life’s responsibilities, our love for one another, commitment and long term goals. No spouse wants to suddenly realize that the other has been hiding $40 worth of debt. But in everyday life, honesty with our spouses may be over rated. Honesty with our selves on the other hand is vital for a fulfilled life!
Many spouses ask questions that they don’t want to know the answer to anyways. Does this make me look fat, do you think John’s wife is prettier than me, are you glad we got married, do you think it’s stupid that I go to the tanning bed, have you ever cheated on me, who is the best person in bed you have ever been with and a plethora of other stupid questions really don’t deserve honesty. In cases like this honesty serves no purpose. Other questions deserve honesty. How was your day, do you like your boss, can I get a new car, do we have money in the bank, are all the bills paid etc. are all examples of questions that deserve being honest with your spouse. The ancient proverb “if you really want honesty, don’t ask the questions you really don’t want the answer to” applies fully.
The difficulty in honesty is not just about being honest with other people. Humans are such a complex breed of thinkers that all the thoughts in our minds, feelings in our hearts are just not meant to be explained and spoken to anyone else. Not even our spouse. There is this preconceived notion that married couples spend countless hours talking and divulging their souls when in reality they spent countless hours figuring out how to be who they want to be and be a loving spouse without destroying either relationship. Millions of wives don’t tell their husbands they went shopping 3 days in a row, just like millions of husbands forget to mention the beer they had after work with co-workers. Would honesty make the relationship better or just throw more upon it to deal with? Have either of these fallacies broken a vow or destroyed love or commitment. Unequivocally no- but they may have saved an argument. If a person in their own right can maintain their integrity by not telling the truth than perhaps there is no lie. Marriage is not supposed to be an intrusion on our private moment or thoughts, rather a benefit to our often lone lives. We are married to make each other happier, better somehow – not to become another persons master or parent.
Being honest with your spouse gets easier and easier over time. In the beginning each partner has habits that drive the other crazy so they withhold the truth. Not lying really! Over time, when love persists and couples realize that they pretty much are going to be together forever; they begin to pay attention to their own lives again and do what they want anyway. In a way- this turns us back into honest people because no one is hiding anymore or overly worrying about being judged or ridiculed. Take me as I am, or don’t take me- either way I don’t care, seems to be the attitude. At this stage in a relationship, honesty comes easy because stupid questions and bogus expectations cease and couples slump back into a position of just being married, happy and content.
Dave Von Ronk coined honesty in it true form. He said “Honesty is the cruelest game of all, because not only can you hurt someone – and hurt them to the bone, you can feel self righteous about it at the same time.” In a marriage this will never work. Being honest with your spouse in essence is part of a healthy marriage; however maintaining respect for feelings and differences is also important. A marriage can survive through a web of irresponsible and silly white lies that in no way serve to tear apart the couple- but once the harsh truth is unleashed; the separation of hearts is expansive, irreversible and growing each day. Since truth changes often and is more likely in the eyes of the beholder- it may be good advice to sit on our eggs a while before hatching them. Especially with our spouses.