Do you encourage honesty when you argue with your spouse? Truly? That may seem like a different type of question to ask but it’s relevant.
“When presented with the truth about something that had been concealed, many spouses think only of punishment. They cry, scream, hit, and threaten. And all these things do is persuade the lying partner to cover his or her crimes more carefully in the future.” (Dr Willard Harley)
Do you encourage honesty from your spouse? When your spouse confesses something that is painful for you to hear do you make it a safe place for him or her to do so? Could your reactions tempt him or her to want to lie to you instead? Prayerfully consider whether or not this is a possibility. It’s important for your spouse AND for you to face this issue honestly.
Below is a great illustration of that very point. There’s a lot of truth to the “deal” that your spouse may want to make:
With that in mind, here’s what Dr Willard Harley writes:
If you truly want honesty, don’t make your spouse miserable when he or she tells you the truth. That simply encourages dishonesty the next time. Instead, talk about how important honesty is to you. And discuss what you can both do to make your marriage a safe place to be open and honest.
How well do you encourage honesty? You may say that you want your spouse to be honest, but do your own actions promote it?
How do you answer the following questions?
- If the truth is upsetting to you, do you want your spouse to be honest only at a time when you are emotionally prepared?
- Do you keep some aspects of your life secret? And yet, do you encourage your spouse to respect your boundaries in those areas?
- Do you like to create a certain mystery between you and your spouse?
- Are there conditions under which you would not want honesty at all costs between you and your spouse?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you do not always value honesty. In certain situations, you feel your marriage is better off with dishonesty. You see, there are always “reasons” to be dishonest. But that little crack is all dishonesty needs to slip into your marriage and run amok. As soon as you allow one reason for dishonesty, it becomes easier to allow others. And before you know it, you have a dishonest relationship.
You encourage honesty when you value honesty. If your own values do not consistently support honesty, you will be sending each other mixed messages. This will undermine the Rule of Honesty.
Having consistent values is one way to encourage honesty. But another important way to encourage it is in the way you react to honesty. Do your reactions convey an appreciation for the truth, even if it’s painful? These questions will help you determine if you are actually discouraging honesty in the way you sometimes react to it.
Think about it:
- Do you have angry outbursts when your spouse is honest with you?
- Do you make disrespectful judgments when your spouse is honest with you?
- When your spouse is honest with you, do you make selfish demands?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are punishing honesty. You are also inadvertently encouraging dishonesty. The way to encourage each other to be truthful is to minimize the negative consequences of truthful revelations. Instead of punishing your spouse when a shocking truth is revealed, try to reward your spouse’s honesty.
I have had couples learn to say, Thank you for being honest. If they feel they need some time to process the new information, I have them add, Can I have ten minutes to think about this? Then we’ll get back together to talk about it.
Make Honesty Safe
There are some marriages so infected by angry outbursts that it is not safe to be honest. Honesty runs the risk of a severe beating or even death. In these marriages, I suggest that a couple separate until safety can be assured. Couple should not live together as long as one spouse persists in abusing the other. And if honesty triggers physical or emotional abuse, separation is usually the only reasonable response.
Dishonesty may prevent physical and emotional abuse in the short run. But dishonesty can lead to even greater abuse when it is discovered. If the fear of abuse is preventing you from being honest, I suggest separation while the abusive spouse receives professional treatment. Then when the risk of abuse is overcome, be totally honest with your spouse.
Remember, honesty is never your enemy. It’s a friend that brings light to a problem that often needs a creative solution. If honesty is followed by safe and pleasant negotiation, it becomes the necessary first step toward improving your compatibility and love for each other.
This comes from the book, Surviving an Affair, written by Dr. Willard F. Harley and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers, published by Fleming H. Revel. It’s a great book for married couples who want to stay together after an affair.
Dr Gary Chapman wrote the following concerning this issue of encouraging honesty. It comes from The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional – April 10:
“’Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters’ (1 Peter 2:17). I’ve heard many people say, ‘My spouse won’t talk with me.’ If this describes your marriage, the question is, why? One reason some spouses go silent is negative communication patterns. Here are some questions to help you think about your own patterns. Consider whether you often come across as negative or complaining.
- Do I listen to my spouse when he talks? Or do I cut him off and give my responses?
- Do I allow my partner space when she needs it? Or do I force the issue of communication, even at those times when she needs to be alone?
- Do I maintain confidences? Or do I broadcast our private conversations to others?
- Do I openly share my own needs and desires in the form of requests rather than demands?
- Do I give my spouse the freedom to have opinions that differ from my own? Or am I quick to ‘set him straight’?
If you answer yes to the second half of any of these questions, it may be time to change your communication patterns. It’s all about treating your spouse (and all believers) with respect and love, as 1 Peter 2:17 directs. Doing so may loosen the tongue of a silent spouse.”
Do you Truly Encourage Honesty?
Do you show your spouse by your words and actions that you are a “safe” spouse to talk to? Here are a few more questions to prayerfully and honestly ask yourself:
- Am I using my communication to build my spouse up or tear him/her down?
- Would my spouse say that my words are glorifying to God?
- If I feel like my spouse is picking a fight, do I respond in a way that deescalates the conversation or adds fuel to the fire?
- Is my body language welcoming and open during this conversation?
- Am I seeking to hear what my spouse is actually saying or putting my own biases and opinions on their words? (Questions come from the Communication Checklist written by Grace Marriage)
— ALSO —
Here’s an important article to read that can give you additional insight into this issue:
Building upon that point, please be careful how you deal with the things your spouse tells you. Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us. We’re SURE we recall something a certain way; but it may not be so. Below is a link to an article posted on The Generous Husband web site that makes a good point concerning this issue. For better understanding, please read:
• BEING GRACIOUS ABOUT DIFFERENCES IN HOW YOU REMEMBER
(Your memory is not as good as you think it is)
Here’s a book that can help you encourage honesty, as you apply it’s principles:
The following quote is addressed to wives. However, if you just switch the pronouns around, it can also address husbands:
“If your actual words, or even your tone of voice, communicate any message of disgust or resentment, he’ll probably tune you out. He’ll think, ‘She doesn’t understand.’ You want your message to be heard. But if he senses condemnation, wrath, or rejection he’s not likely to listen to what you say. He’ll interpret those messages as nagging; and that will only drive him to the safe place of more buddy video game playing. Nobody nags him there!” (Carrie Oliver)
In this same context, below is an article that addresses women so they better understand why their husband may not be openly communicating with them. The things shared in this article do not pertain to EVERY husband. And they do not describe EVERY wife. But please glean through it. See if you find truth in it that helps you:
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International compiled the info in this article.
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Filed under: Communication and Conflict