Relationships are delicate. Our hearts are delicate. And there are so many ways to do things the wrong way – and end up feeling hurt, mistrustful and devastated, rather than loving and connected. The thing is, honesty is like a knife. If you know how to hold it correctly, it can cut through all the crap between you and your girlfriend, and help you create genuine intimacy.
But if you use it wrong, you can really hurt yourself and others.
That’s why it’s important to learn to do honesty the right way – the way that will make your life and relationships richer, sweeter and more connected…
rather than the way that leaves you and your girlfriend(s) covered with the emotional equivalent of stab wounds!
Here’s a true story about someone who came to us for coaching. (Their names and situations have been changed to protect their privacy.)
June and Dani had been together about eight months, and June was starting to feel restless. Little things about Dani were grating on her – like how loud Dani laughed, how messy she kept her apartment, and – worst of all – even how she kissed.
Now, here is the wrong way to use “honesty.”
June: “Dani, I need to be honest with you. Your laugh really bugs me. It’s too loud. And you’re so messy. It’s making me nuts. And you know what? Your kisses are too wet, too.”
Yikes!! Has anyone ever been at the receiving end of this kind of “honesty”? If so, I can see how it would make you want to steer clear!
But I put “honesty” in quotes there for a reason. If June had spoken to Dani this way, she would NOT have been practicing the kind of self-responsible, embodied, compassionate sharing we teach. She’d have been telling the truth about some of her reactions, but only a surface layer of truth. She wouldn’t know what was really going on inside her, or why. She wouldn’t know what she most wanted or needed. So her “honesty” would be destructive, not intimacy-building.
Fortunately, June came to us for coaching before she said those things!
The first thing we asked June was when she had started feeling so bugged by these little things about Dani. She hesitated. It took a little prodding, but eventually we had this conversation.
“You know, I never brought it up with Dani, because it was such a little thing. But a couple of months ago I told her I was thinking about going back to school. She said ‘Oh my God, more student loans! That’s such a racket. Don’t do it, babe.'”
“And how did you feel when she said that?”
“I felt really shut down and hurt. She didn’t even ask me why I wanted to go back to school, she just discouraged me.”
“How come you didn’t bring that up with her?”
“It seemed so petty. I mean, she’s entitled to have her opinion, right? I should be strong enough to make my own choices regardless of what she thinks.”
As this conversation went on, it became clear that the issue between June and Dani wasn’t really Dani’s laugh, kiss or messiness. It was the fact that June shared something really important to her, and Dani didn’t get it. So June felt hurt and shut down – but she never talked about it. Instead, she criticized herself – and then started feeling less close to Dani.
For our next coaching session, June invited Dani to join her. She was nervous, but finally said, “You know, I need to tell you something. There was something you said a couple of months ago that really bothered me, even though I know you probably didn’t mean it that way…”
Dani was shocked when June told her this truth. At first she didn’t even remember the conversation! But because of how June approached the topic, she was able to listen without getting defensive. Then her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh my God. I can’t believe I said that to you. It’s exactly the kind of thing my father would have said to me.”
We’d love to tell you more about what happened that day, but it would make this post much too long! To cut to the chase: June and Dani had a breakthrough. By the end of that hour, they understood themselves and each other much better, and felt much closer than they had before. (And you know what? Once June felt seen, heard and accepted by Dani, the loud laugh and mess became non-issues — and she loved Dani’s kissing again, too.)
Things like this happen all the time between couples. Often we don’t even realize why we’ve pulled away, or why our partners pull away. We never have the real conversations – and the hurt just builds. A few months or years down the line, the passion and joy are gone, and we don’t know where they went or how to get them back. So most of the time – even though it hurts like hell – we just break up and go looking for another person to love. And maybe after this happens too many times, we just give up on love.
There is a better way! We can help you realize what’s really going on, and communicate about it in a way your partner can hear. And if you’re not in a relationship now, we’ll help you gain more understanding about what went wrong in your past relationships, and gain the tools to do it differently next time around.