Updated: Dec 19, 2022
“I’m just being honest”
As a Marriage and Family Therapist I often hear this phrase in a couples’ therapy session right before someone says something hurtful to their partner. Although honesty is important in a healthy relationship, there are a couple important things to consider:
1. Is the honest piece of information being shared in a way that is helpful or hurtful?
Telling your partner “you’re being a real jerk right now to be honest” doesn’t give them any useful information to work with and may end up in hurt feelings or a worse fight. Like Kristen Bell’s therapist says “honesty without tact is cruelty”.
However, if you shift that around to say “what you just said felt pretty hurtful to be honest”, you’re giving them the information that they need to know how they can help you out. This approach opens the door for an apology.
Having honest conversations is an essential part of a strong relationship, but the delivery is important. One of the phrases I use often in couples’ therapy is “don’t let the message get lost in the delivery.”
2. Does your tendency towards honesty also highlight the positive things your partner does? One of the things I ask when people say, “I just like to be honest” in their relationship is: “does your honesty also highlight when your partner is doing well?” This is the mark of a true dedication to honesty — it goes both ways. It doesn’t only highlight the negative things your partner does.
If honesty in a relationship is a true core value for you, ask yourself “when is the last time I gave my partner an honest compliment?” When is the last time you said something nice — just to be honest?
Being honest is an essential value in a STRONG relationship, but it must be balanced with tact, kindness, and mutual respect. — Kristal DeSantis, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order now www.strong.love) Follow my instagram @atxtherapist | Facebook @strongloveatx | TikTok @atx_therapist