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How Honest Should You Be in a Relationship – 4 Relationship Experts Reveal Killer Tips You Should Absolutely Know About

by Amanda Patterson – LMHC, Cynthia Pickett – LCSW, LADC, Sally LeBoy – MS, MFT, Amy Sherman – M.A., LMHC

How Honest Should You Be in a Relationship

“The first step in a relationship is honesty and trust. Be honest and you’ll grow to trust. With trust you learn to accept your love.”

~ Rachel Andrews

Rachel Andrews First Step in a Relationship is Honesty and Trust Quote
Amanda Patterson

We’ve heard time and time again that honesty is the best policy. 

But what is the practical implications of having that type of policy? Does that mean you “spill your guts” no matter the question, the context or the outcome? 

The answer is NO!

Honesty is an integral part of a relationship. 

And there are ways to be honest in a very practical way without having to become Jim Carrey from “Liar, Liar”. There are three ways to be honest and that includes being honest with boundaries, integrity and intention.

1. Honesty with boundaries

It’s a first date and he’s forward and asks about your sexual history. Does that mean you have to share all the sordid details of your sex life? Again, the answer is no. 

You set your boundaries about what things you are willing and unwilling to share. 

You can ask for further clarification when someone asks you something. You can share surface level material until the depth of your relationship allows for more intimate details. 

It’s perfectly acceptable to set boundaries about what you are willing and unwilling to share. 

This is especially important in the beginning of a relationship, where the establishment of boundaries occurs in many forms and will carry through your relationship. 

  • What are your boundaries about what you are willing to share with a significant other? 
  • How might those boundaries evolve as you get more serious in the relationship?

2. Honesty with integrity

If you are not comfortable answering something, then don’t. Let that person know you are not comfortable answer their question or sharing that information. Let them know how you feel. 

Be honest about your integrity. 

It’s perfectly acceptable to let someone know you aren’t willing to share something, as opposed to lying about it or being coy. 

Honesty is the best policy and it can come in the form of letting the other person know where you stand on divulging information. What does honesty with integrity mean to you?

3. Honesty with intention

Another thing to consider is your intention when you share and get honest. 

  • Are you interested in getting emotionally closer to someone? 
  • Are you interested in being completely transparent? 
  • Are you interested in keeping parts of yourself hidden until the time is right? 

Once you know your intentions, the level of honesty and transparency will be natural. 

  • What is your intention in your current relationship? 
  • How does your intention help with being honest in the relationship? 
  • How do your intentions get in the way of being honest?

So is honesty really the best policy? 

Yes, but do it with boundaries, integrity and intentions. It’s time take an inventory of those three things to see where you stand and how you can communicate authentically in your relationship.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

Cynthia Pickett

Being honest in any relationship is a primary key to having a successful relationship. 

Without honesty, there is no way to have a rewarding, satisfying, healthy relationship. Instead, at best it is clingy, dependent and an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. 

So how do we have total honesty without having a relationship meltdown?

First, have no personal shame and no doubt that you are a person of value who is worthy of the best unconditional love that has ever been known. 

The process of dating is not to discern if you are good enough for any specific person, (or them for you) but to meet a person to which you have mutual trust, respect and flow. It is vitally important that you be very honest. 

Make it your policy to be very honest about who you are. 

Not “put your best foot forward” honest, but really show your prospective new friend who you are, day in and day out. 

If you are chronically late, be late, if you take phone calls during meals then admit to it upfront, if you are in therapy disclose it and be proud of self improvement. 

If you don’t do it now, they will eventually find out and then you both may decide that you are not so compatible after all.

Dating is about forming a great friendship, not about finding a mate. 

If you can’t be honest with your friends who can you be honest with? But as with any friendship don’t disclose it all at once. 

Take your time and enjoy each other, laugh, and see if you like each other. 

  • Do you enjoy each other’s company? 
  • Do you have fun? 
  • Is there a nice flow between the two of you?

As the dating progresses questions about each other’s past will start. 

Don’t rush this process; it is not a job interview. Answer all questions honestly. If a person is freaked out by some of the things you do or have done then, believe it or not, you are better off to have them go now. No matter how awesome they seem. People who run when your challenges are revealed are partners who will run at the first hint of hardship. 

Don’t take it personally; it is not you running them off or you not being good enough. 

Instead it is them who are not strong and caring enough. It is just not a good fit between the two of you and that is ok. We are not compatible with everyone we meet. Be grateful to see it now rather than when you are in so deep that it will be much harder to get out.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

Sally LeBoy

Honesty is the best policy. However you don’t have to share everything right away. 

Timing plays an important role in the formation of a good relationship, too. 

I think there is a difference between presenting yourself honestly in the present, and revealing everything about your past. 

Your past is your own, and sharing it should be a choice you make based on your assessment of the soundness of the relationship. 

The only things I would exempt from that are sexually transmitted diseases and children. Everything else is a choice.

Revealing who you are is one of the ways that partners become more intimate. 

That includes current and past information. Honesty allows you to assess your compatibility with a prospective partner. Higher compatibility generally leads to a more successful match. 

Don’t tell your partner that you love sports if you don’t. Might that be a deal breaker for him? Maybe; but you don’t want to spend the rest of your life watching Monday night football, if you don’t enjoy the game.

Honesty is about you finding the right mate, not about whether your will be acceptable. 

It isn’t a test, and there are no right or wrong answers. It’s just about saying who you are and expecting the same in return. Never put on a façade. You will only delay the disappointment you both will feel when the truth comes out. 

You are fine the way you are; you don’t need to prove your value to anyone.

Most of us have made choices that we regret. Granted, some are worse than others, but nobody is exempt. We have to live with the consequences of our mistakes, but it doesn’t make us bad, just human. 

Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and then move forward. Life is a series of experiences that contribute to our growth. Self-forgiveness is an important step in that process, and crucial to being ready for an intimate relationship.

I really think that ultimately you will want to share all of the important experiences in your life, even the ones you regret. 

The experience of feeling accepted for who you are, the good and the not so good, is what makes an intimate relationship so special. It takes time to develop that kind of relationship. 

You can’t rush intimacy, and talking about your secrets won’t make it happen any faster. Trust yourself to know when the time is right.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

Amy Sherman

The key, of course, is to be honest from the start so the relationship is based on trust and integrity. 

But there are some boundaries you do not want to cross early on and that is based on how comfortable you are talking about certain things in the early stages of your relationship.

If you are asked questions that seem too personal, intrusive or “off-limits” for now, there are several options as to how you can answer them.

Here are the suggestions:

  • Be honest by stating how uncomfortable you feel about the question and then change the subject quickly. It’s always best not to make a big deal about the question, unless the other person becomes insistent on knowing the answer. If that’s the case, you are under no obligation to be polite, since they are being rude.
  • Smile, maybe chuckle and then say, “Wow! This is too personal to answer now. No offense, but I’m not going to answer that.”
  • Answer a part of the question that you feel comfortable with, so you are not totally ignoring the whole question. “I like my scale a lot more now.” Or “I’m lucky. I’m still young at heart.”
  • Answer with another question. “Why do you want to know?” “Why do you need to know something like that?”
  • Bounce the question back at the asker. “That’s an interesting question. How many diets have you been on?”

You should also be careful as to how intrusive you are with your questions. Obviously, you want to know as much as you can about this interesting partner. 

Just be careful you don’t come on too strong and make him feel uncomfortable.

  • Do not ask about his previous relationships unless he offers that information. Questions about his divorce or relationship with the ex should be put on the back burner until you know each other better.
  • Do not ask about how much money he makes, although you may get an idea by the type of job he holds.
  • Do not ask about the mental health of family members. Once you feel more comfortable, those answers usually come out naturally.
  • Do not ask very personal questions, like his weight, criminal record or nationality.
  • And finally, do not talk about your problems. He is not your therapist and does not want to learn about your “issues” while you are getting to know each other. Keep your horrible day, miserable boss, nasty co-workers, intrusive mother to yourself, for now.

All these restrictions are lifted after you are seeing each other for a while and getting more intimate. 

No relationship should have secrets and the answers to these questions are important and should be disclosed if you are interested in pursuing a long-term relationship. 

Obviously, timing is essential, so get to know each other on your common issues before delving into more personal matters.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

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