Have you been truly honest with your spouse?
Has your spouse been truly honest with you?
If you have suffered from an affair or some other breach of trust (and you are being honest with yourself), you will likely answer “no” to at least one of these questions.
The reason is fairly obvious, yet it bears mentioning: When trust is broken in a marriage, it means that at least one spouse has been dishonest.
One of the keys to a successful marriage and building trust is the free and open exchange of information or being open and honest with each other.
When the lines of communication are tampered with or closed down by lies and deceit, it sets off a chain reaction in which the person being lied to closes down to protect him or her self from future lies.
This, in turn, further damages communication and often leads to arguments, or more arguments, and damaged trust and other significant problems in the marriage.
The solution to this is employing the concept of transparency.
I will explain later what transparency means to me, what it entails, and why it is a foundation for rebuilding honesty and trust.
Before I get to that, I want to clarify exactly what it means to be dishonest with your spouse. There are a lot of opinions out there on what it means to lie, many of which I disagree with. I want to clarify my position on this, since it is of core importance to this entire subject.
What is Dishonesty?
I have talked to many people who say, “I never lied to my spouse. I was never dishonest. I always told the truth.” By this they mean that they never looked into the spouse’s face and told a blatant untruth.
These people tend to think that because they haven’t “technically lied” they are indemnified against guilt for the damage their marriages have suffered.
In my opinion, this is nonsense.
Damaging the lines of communication in your marriage doesn’t require an outright lie. In fact, there are many different ways to lie to your spouse. Each of them can damage or even destroy the open flow of information I described above.
You can make up outright untruths and pawn them off as reality. These are lies of commission. You could include here lies of distortion. I’ll explain.
If you say that you are going out to buy a pint of ice cream when you are really going to make a phone call to your paramour on your cell phone, but you are also buying a pint of ice cream, you are telling a lie of commission and distortion.
Lies are obviously damaging. Most people agree they are unethical. And lies of commission and distortion are what most people call “lying.”
However, this isn’t the only way to lie to your spouse.
Lies of omission are equally important, are equally dishonest, and in some cases are more insidious and damaging than lies of commission.
You are telling a lie of omission when you intentionally choose not to share information with your spouse that, deep down, you know he or she should have.
Instances like this include (but are certainly not limited to):
. “Forgetting” to tell your spouse about a lunch date you had with an attractive colleague of the opposite sex
. Telling your spouse that you had lunch with such a colleague but neglecting to tell him or her that you were flirting with this person, holding hands, or any other information your spouse would want to know, but doesn’t even know to ask
. Omitting similar details of an affair after your affair has been discovered and your spouse asked for details. You leave out embarrassing or incriminating details “for his or her own good”
Again, these are just a few examples.
In a marriage, you should freely exchange information. There shouldn’t be any questions about “what your spouse has a right to know.” When you are married, just about everything is your spouse’s business.
If you accept this idea (which I feel is critical for a successful marriage), then in almost all cases, intentionally withholding information from your spouse is just as much a lie as telling untruths.
This all leads me back to the real topic of this article-transparency.
Transparency is the key to a happy, healthy, fully intimate marriage. It creates a free and open exchange of information. It is one of the keys to rebuilding honesty and trust after it has been shattered.
So what is transparency?
Webster’s Dictionary defines transparency as:
. 1.) Fine or sheer enough to be seen through. 2.) Free from pretense or deceit.
These definitions do a good job of describing what it means to be honest in a relationship and how to keep the lines of communication open and free.
If you can become so open that your spouse can actually see through your words and actions and know what you are thinking and doing, this sends a message that you are being honest, and opens the lines of communication in your relationship.
If trust is gone, your relationship needs to shift from an environment of deceit to an environment of truth. Transparency is the primary tool.
Openly sharing yourself and making it obvious to your spouse that you are not withholding information of any kind is an effective, practical way to start restoring the trust and honesty.
If your partner is suspicious and is worried you are still lying, he or she is not going to trust you.
If you are the injured person and you are reading this, I want to tell you something you likely already know: You can’t make your spouse be transparent with you.
If your spouse chooses to lie to you, there isn’t anything you can do about it. I often have people come in to me and ask, “How can I make my spouse tell me the truth?” And the reality is that you can’t.
Similarly it is very hard to detect when someone is lying with any accuracy.
Of course, you cannot know for certain, but if your spouse begins to act transparent it is an indication that he or she wants to demonstrate a significant change and is showing a willingness to start the repair work for your marriage.
If your spouse doesn’t choose to become transparent, you find your spouse lying to you repeatedly, and he or she fails to show a real commitment to change, this is a sign of impending disaster.
In the end, only you can make assessments about whether or not your marriage will work. No one else can do it for you-not I, nor your pastor or rabbi, nor even your best friends or parents.
I urge you both to be transparent with each other. It is a positive step toward intimacy in your relationship.
How Do You Become Transparent?
Becoming transparent with your spouse is a process. It isn’t going to happen overnight and it isn’t going to happen by magic. You will have to learn some skills and practice regularly if you want to improve the level of transparency in your marriage.
There will be mistakes along the road. Even in normally functioning marriages, people sometimes make mistakes and slip up in their attempts at transparency.
However, with practice and commitment you can shift the environment of your marriage from one of deceit to one of open and honest communication.
The following is a brief overview of 5 Building Blocks for a Transparent Relationship. They will help you achieve that goal.
Building Block #1: Share Everything without Attaching Yourself at the Hip.
You need to start telling your partner about your life.
You will want to tell your spouse where you are going to be during the day. You need to share information about your work. You need to open up and tell about your life.
You need to be honest and forthcoming, and you need to share information freely.
If you tell about your day, but make it seem as if you are being coerced or as if you were reporting to a superior, you are violating the spirit of transparency and will create the reverse effect on your marriage.
Building Block #2: Openly Express Your Thoughts and Feelings
By sharing your thoughts and feelings openly you avoid building up resentments, because you tell your partner immediately when you get your feelings hurt, when something angers you, when you are upset in some way, about things you plan, and about things you like and dislike.
Building Block #3: Using Suspicions to Zero in on Problems
Suspicion is a very difficult problem in a relationship where someone has had an affair or lied to his partner over time. In this case, the person who has been lied to has reasonably developed mistrust. One of its consequences is suspiciousness.
To get past your suspicions it’s helpful to develop a “suspicion filter” to analyze your suspicious thoughts and feelings. This actually consists of two things.:
1. Filtering out unlikely suspicions before you act on them.
2. Confronting your spouse when a behavior or issue is significant enough to make its way past your “suspicion filter.”
Building Block #4: Develop a No-Lies Policy and Reveal Everything.
This building block is a two-step process for cleansing your relationship. If your marriage has been haunted by lies, you need to clean out that grime to get a fresh start.
I suggest you start by “flushing the toilet.” What that means is getting everything you have ever lied about out on the table.
Once you have accomplished this (which will require a series of conversations, time, and a number of specific techniques to make sure it is done correctly), you will have a starting point for complete honesty. Then, you make the choice, inside yourself, never to lie to your spouse again, and you do everything you can to keep that internal promise.
Building Block #5: Keep the Door Open
There are both verbal and nonverbal ways that you can shut someone out and send the message that either you don’t want to talk with this person or you feel that what the person is sharing is unimportant. Keeping the door open means avoiding these behaviors to shut your spouse out.
You can learn what to avoid and how to do it so you can maintain transparency in your relationship by continuing to utilize Building Blocks 1-4..
If you successfully employ these techniques, over time you will begin to sense a shift in your marriage. You and your spouse will begin trusting each other again. This is one of the hallmarks that the work you have put into your marriage is paying off and that you are on the road to recovery.
Once you have reestablished the trust in your marriage using transparency, you can protect the work you have done by building a fence around your marriage.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,