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Telling the Truth in Relationships

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Relational Problems » Featured Article

By Jennifer Lehr, MA, MFT

Jennifer Lehr, MA, MFTSometimes it is hard to tell the truth because:

  • We don't trust our perceptions.
  • We are afraid of hurting the other person.
  • We are afraid we will make them angry or they will reject us.
  • We don't realize that relationships are about relating.
  • We have been taught to take care of others by not being ourselves.
  • We assume that we are 100% responsible for the relationship.
  • We are afraid of being transparent, real and seen.
  • We are afraid of our power.

If we don't tell the truth, the other person has no way of knowing who we are, how they are impacting us or what we are thinking or feeling. We assume (perhaps unconsciously) that they do not have the ability to navigate through their own feelings in response to us. By not telling the truth, we rob them of the opportunity to rise to the challenge of relating to who we are, of having a truly authentic relationship with us.

Learning to tell the truth is a big process. Often we have been taught since we were little to put other's feelings ahead of our own. In order to change this and honor ourselves, we need a new perspective. We need to know that as we take actions and speak the truth in a way that empowers us, our lives will re-align. We are no longer hostage to our own fears about voicing ourselves and being seen. As I become truthful and powerful, those I interact with will get to choose whether they can also step up to the challenge, or not. In either case our relationships will change. We will become closer to those who support hearing our truth and honesty, whether they like it or not. Our relationship will become deeper and we will no longer feel alone. We may lose relationships with those who do not want to truly hear how they affect us, who do not truly want to know who we are. If this happens, we get to experience our grief. Rather than being trapped in resentment, or fear, we have the opportunity to grieve and let go of our expectations, accepting the limitations of that person and relationship. A reorganization of our lives and relationships will occur.

How do you not tell the truth? Look at someone in your life who you don't talk to directly about his or her impact on you. Imagine telling them something they do that is difficult for you. Notice what feelings come up in you. Discomfort, fear, shame? Notice how you are choosing the feelings associated with not telling the truth, frustration, feeling trapped etc, rather than the feelings that emerge when you do tell the truth. Both sets of feelings are uncomfortable. But one set will lead you to freedom and healthy relationships, and the other will keep you trapped and disempowered.

About the Author...

Jennifer Lehr, MA, MFT has a priviate practice in Del Mar, California. She specializes in couples counseling and helping people increase their sense of satisfaction with their lives.

Last Update: 10/13/2009

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