What if our marriages were as honest and open as Jim Carrey in Yes Men. Imagine if you will, for just one simple moment, what would happen if your spouse could hear the inner chatter that normally has you biting your lip. Would your marriage last? Would it be better or would it be worse?
From the outside of marriage looking in, most of us believe that we will gain a life partner, a soul mate of sorts when we say, “I do!” You know, that one person that you love and respect so much that you never have to spend another day pretending in order to keep from hurting their feelings. Then, you get married and the words you say, instead of being honest – often become septic with little white lies you use to protect your spouse from pain – and yourself from argument. For instance…
“Honey, do you think I am fat?” And you reply, “As a pig…you need to lose weight FAST!”
“Babe, what has happened to our sex life?” And you reply, “Well to be honest the four minute man that you have become really isn’t worth me having to take another shower!”
And what about…
“What the hell have you been doing ALL FREAKING DAY, the house is a mess!” and you reply, “Taking care of these little brats you call children and washing the streak marks from your underwear!”
The truth is that much of the banter between husband and wife is anything but honest. Even though all of us know that the rules are we should respect one another, inside our heads we have a whole different set of playing rules that allow us to think unfiltered and indignant to societal expectations. What happens in most relationships is that we learn which honest statements are okay to blurt out, and which will not go over well. Sadly, this only learned from experience. You begin realizing that talking about your sex life with your wife may leave you with less sex than before, and that discussing the to-do around the house list with your husband will force him to play more golf. Because basically, all of us whether married or not, want to exist in a world that wholly believes we are right 100% of the time. Not! Gonna! Happen!
Yet, there is something to learn from the things we think in regard to our relationship, that we do not say. Especially if those thoughts are a continual stream flowing through your brain. Interestingly, by the time, most people actually file the papers for a divorce; one spouse openly admits that he or she has been thinking about it for a very long time. It has to make you wonder, if he or she would have shared their thoughts – would the two of them still be sitting across a long table with attorneys dividing assets?
So, why aren’t we always honest with our spouse?
One reason is one rooted in deep psychological studies. As we are with someone longer and longer, we begin thinking or believing at some level, that we already know how they will react. And just as a dog trying to jump an electric fence will learn to find another route after a while, we become conditioned to not unleash our truths. The problem is that when men and women start thinking they know how the other one feels, trouble is brewing. Sure, experience can give us a lot of clues about how our spouse will or won’t react to something, and experience also helps us learn the best way to get the reaction we want. But how can you grow as a couple, if you are constantly hanging on to preconceived notions of their reactions?
Spouses are also not 100% honest with each other, because there is also a deep human need to hold onto some autonomy in our lives. Sure, we want the joys that come from a healthy relationship, but no one wants to be responsible for sharing their thoughts 100% of the time with someone else. And, being able to think the things we cannot say, ensures that each of us exists with a private entity with which to deal with relationship stressors. The bottom line is that no husband or wife, likes or loves EVERYTHING about his or her partner. And marriages can only exist when couples illicit some self control from pointing out every single flaw or mistake. And some things, are just plain rude to say out loud – no matter whom you are talking to!
Relationship experts agree however, that it is important to maintain some level of honesty with your spouse. This doesn’t mean you have to say, “Wow honey your butt sure has gotten BIG,” or “Dear, what the heck happened to your hair,” but that we remain honest about our levels of happiness and satisfaction in the relationship. The squeaky wheel normally is the one that gets greased. If you are withholding the truth about your feelings, or about how well (or not) the relationship is going…you are setting yourself up for divorce, when you might be able to solve the problem. If you feel you cannot talk to your spouse or speak your mind, chances are you need to find an alternate route for initial communication, whether it be by letter or email, in order to avoid ending up with some pretty intense resentments down the road. The key is not giving up on talking about what is important with each other.
Perhaps an experiment is in order! See if you and your spouse could make it through one day of unfiltered conversation, where you say the first thing that comes to mind. If you make it through day one and even a week….report back to us here at Professors House and let us know how it went! Just remember, the little disclaimer that says we do not accept responsibility for what happens AFTER this experiment – is definitely in play.