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How honest do I have to be with my spouse?

Life Under The Sy

Updated
By Dennis and Thammie Sy

Dennis-and-Thammie-200x300Dennis: Here are three principles that we often teach couples when it comes to honesty in marriage.

  1. Thriving, healthy marriages are built on trust.
  2. If you are not honest and vulnerable, trust is impossible to achieve.
  3. Without trust, any human relationship won’t work.

For this question, we first need to define what honesty is. Does being honest require that the couple is obligated to tell everything about their past and their present, down to the very last detail?

We have had some couples come to us for help in restoring their relationship after finding out about some form of unfaithfulness during their marriage. Some were financial, some were from other types of addiction, and some were because of adultery.

In the former cases wherein unfaithfulness was in the area of handling of money or addiction, it was more straightforward. Honesty meant laying down everything on the table so that the other partner can help his/her spouse with the present issue, and perhaps even help guard against potential problems that may arise in the future.

In the latter cases, however, wherein unfaithfulness was sexual, it may not be as straightforward. We know of some husbands and wives who have asked their spouses to tell all the details of their affairs, only to find it much harder to move on, because they could not get the images out of their minds. Instead of their spouse’s honesty helping them move forward and release forgiveness, some of them go back to the past and become unable to release forgiveness and rebuild trust.

As a couple, we suggest that you create an atmosphere of trust that can help nurture honesty in marriage. Here are some tips we have to build on for an atmosphere of trust among couples:

1. Check your heart.

If there is a temptation for you not to be honest, ask yourself this question: “Why do I feel like I need to hide this from my spouse?” When it comes to being honest,  it is critical to examine the intent of our hearts. We hope that when we commit to being honest with each other, we have the right intention to make the marriage work for the better.

2. Speak the truth in love.

When I tell the truth to my spouse, I can be brutally honest and loving at the same time. Being truthful in our relationship is critical for married people but what is more important is that our motives are loving.

3. Timing is everything

Whether it is saying something that we know might potentially hurt our spouse, finding the right time to say it is as vital to how you are going to say it. We advise couples who might be opening up something significant in the relationship to have somebody there with them during these moments. A trusted friend or couple who can be objective to commit to helping you both through this would be helpful.

4. Know what to share.

I (Dennis) made some dumb mistakes early on in marriage when I shared too much information to my spouse regarding some harsh things some people said to her behind her back. I was unnecessarily stressing my wife over gossip that was not true. It was when a mentor told me that when we know things that are not real or true (for example, gossip, fake news), we don’t need to share it with our spouse. He likened it to a man getting garbage outside the house and putting it inside the house when we tell our spouse things that are not true. As men, we are called to take the trash out of the house and not put it inside the house. So from that time on, Thammie and I agreed that we don’t need to tell things to each other that we know are “trash words” so that we can protect each other from unwanted stress. Garbage in, garbage out!

Thammie: Dennis just shared some practical points on honesty. I want to end by going back to the heart of why we want honesty to be a given in our marriages.

Let’s keep in mind that the goal of honesty in marriage is unity and becoming one. The motivation behind our wanting to tell our spouse something is ideal, because we want to share our lives with them entirely.

As we work towards honesty in our marriages, we want to create an atmosphere where being vulnerable to our spouse is safe. The reality is that being honest might mean revealing an ugly or hurtful part of ourselves that we would rather not talk about, simply because it is much easier to keep things that way.

In addition, the end goal of being honest with each other is not to unload or remove guilt because we were caught or for fear of getting caught. Rather, it is to find healing and have accountability in our marriage. We want to be fully known and fully loved, and this is what our relationship should be based on.

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