“Embrace Honesty” is the 2nd Key to an Intimate Marriage. We all know that honesty is a good idea when it comes to big things like financial disclosures, being faithful and the like. But in this article I am focusing on the need for honesty in a different type of context, one which is seldom acknowledged.
Embrace Honesty does refer to the big things, but it also refers to embracing the truth instead of making seemingly small compromises in your otherwise happy marriage.
Spouses often compromise, looking for the smoothest and most conflict free way forward in a discussion. In some cases that is a wise choice, but every time you choose that style of conflict resolution, it comes at a cost. It builds what I call “micro-walls”.
Think of a time when you were feeling unresolved emotions or some internal tension, and your spouse kindly asked, “how are you?” or “is something wrong?”
What was your answer? Did you tell them the truth about how you were feeling? Or did you say “I’m fine”? If you answered the latter, not only are you being dishonest, but you are essentially desensitizing your spouse and training them not to be attuned to your emotions and internal state.
I know – sometimes it’s not worth an argument, or maybe you just don’t have the energy to have a larger conversation then and there. My hope is that you will choose that option less often and instead share your experience honestly. Here’s another example to show you the importance of maintaining honest communication.
As a woman, it’s quite likely there’s been an occasion in the past when you’ve faked orgasm. Indeed, there are times when it seems like the most efficient, and kind, thing to do. Once you fake an orgasm, your partner can feel better and the two of you can move on to whatever is next.
However, every time a woman fakes orgasm, she is training her partner to be a less qualified, less sensitive, less aware, less skillful lover. He now believes that whatever he did led to an orgasm, when in fact, it did not (because you were faking it). No matter how skillfully you fake it, you do not do yourself any favors by training your lover to misinterpret your response to how he was touching you. He’s going to think you enjoyed it, when in reality you didn’t. Sooner or later, your lover can’t really trust his sense of how you like to be touched because the feedback he’s received is unreliable (even if he doesn’t know that).
So, going back to our first example – if your spouse says, “how are you? Are you okay?” and you respond, “yeah, I’m fine” when you’re not actually fine, he’s not going to be able to attune to your experience and accurately understand your needs. This doesn’t mean you need to engage in a particular conversation immediately, but every time that you avoid it, you’re putting up a micro wall between the two of you.
Your spouse consciously or unconsciously perceived something was bothering you, which is what prompted them to ask the question in the first place. But your response of “I’m fine,” is training your partner to not pay attention to your subtle emotional state, to believe that you are “fine” when you actually aren’t. You are training your partner to be less sensitive to what is happening in your soul. That mini wall goes up and you’re no longer available to be seen.
Even though I’m describing a very subtle, seemingly micro moment, it builds an emotional wall that then needs to be dissolved for true intimacy to unfold, for true connection and easy flow of energy to happen.
Including erotic energy.
Let me tell you a story of how this played out in my own life.
On a Tuesday night, my husband went to sleep early because he had to get up and go into work for a meeting before his regular workday began. He slept for 3-4 hours before I went to bed. When I got into bed, my phone screen was set to full brightness and the light got in his eyes. Unintentionally I woke him up.
I had been looking forward to getting into bed with him and was so sorry to have disturbed his sleep. His response to being woken this way was to get up and leave the bed. I wanted him to stay so I called out for him to come back. In fact, I called out two or three times and he didn’t answer. I didn’t get up to follow him, because it was clear that the priority was his sleep and, honestly, it was so late that I wanted to get to sleep myself.
Evenso, I felt rejected and my feelings were hurt.
After he came home from work the next day, I asked him, “what happened with you last night?” He said he had gotten out of bed thinking that that would be the best thing for both of us. He didn’t want to have a whole conversation with me about it because he wanted to get back to sleep. He believed that this would be best because then I could do whatever I was doing on my phone, and he could sleep. It would be a win-win for both of us.
To be fair, that made sense to me. Also, I was completely clear he had no malicious intent-he just wanted both of us to be well rested.
I told him I saw that, and appreciated his perspective. And I also said that when he left the room without even responding to me, it hurt my feelings. His response was a whole explanation about why he had done that, mostly repeating what he had already said, with more emphasis on what had motivated him to just leave and get back to sleep. He also said that he hadn’t meant to hurt my feelings.
Again, I understood his reasoning. It all made sense. But, while he gave his explanations I found myself feeling ignored again.
So instead of hiding myself, I took a breath, and said “I feel like a turtle.”
His response was one of befuddlement for a moment, but then I explained further. I told him, “I stuck my head out and told you that my feelings were hurt, but you just railroaded over that. And so what I want to do now is stick my head back into my shell and not come out for a while.”
I explained that I was keeping my head out by explaining why his response hadn’t worked for me. I did understand his perspective but it felt vulnerable and uncomfortable that he wasn’t seeing mine. At that point he pivoted, became fully present, and thanked me for sticking my head out again, knowing it wasn’t easy for me to do so. From that point on, he was present with me and listened to my experience.
If I hadn’t embraced honesty and shared my truth about my feelings, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it a week later. It wasn’t that big a deal to me because I am a grown up and I know how to move on.
But, here’s what would have happened…
A micro wall would have been erected, I would have felt resentment about my experience being unimportant to me, and then slowly but surely, I’d be sharing less of myself with him. Which means I’d be bringing less of myself to the relationship. So soon, with less of me in the relationship, there’d be less flirtation, less fun, less emotional connection. Of course, we’d interact on plenty of logistical things like who’s cooking dinner and who’s tending to the children – but those things are no replacement for the kind of connection that comes from sharing feelings and insights and other vulnerabilities. Furthermore, if there is less of an emotional connection between us, libido drops and I would become less available for as much sensual intimacy as I otherwise would be.
A marriage becomes much more complex when micro walls go up. So even though “how are you?” seems like such a benign question, in the context of a long-lasting marriage, your answer is significant.
Very few people grow up with this level of honesty modeled in their childhood home. This level of honesty requires a large amount of self awareness and a growing capacity to express the truth with vulnerability and that’s just not common in our society. However, it definitely becomes easier with practice!
So when I’m talking about the importance of embracing honesty, in the context of creating an intimate marriage, what I’m really referring to are those moments when you feel tension, hurt feelings, anger, fear, sadness, rejection, disappointment, disgust, or frustration. If you are feeling anything other than a wonderful, warm, beautiful connection with your spouse then it’s your job to be honest about that. With care.
Start by being honest with yourself, and then practice “Embrace Honesty” in small moments of communication with your partner.
Honesty of this sort completely changes the flavor of your relationship so see what happens when you bring more of it to your relationship..
Listen for more about Embrace Honesty on The Intimate Marriage Podcast
And in the meantime, if you want to learn more about how to stoke the passion in your relationship, read my book Uncompromising Intimacy.
Or check out my article on Intimacy Coaching in long term relationships.