I’ll be honest (see what I did there?), the need for honesty is just plainly logical to me that I can’t really consciously think of acting in a dishonest way. For one thing, a lie will almost always find you out, so there’s really no point in trying. It’ll be worse if you’re found out, so just fess up. That’s really for when you’ve done something stupid, though. The more important aspect about this topic is that I know I value being given honest (correct) information, so why wouldn’t my wife? Call it courtesy, fairness, whatever, it’s just the right thing to do.
Having said that, I know that I’ve been dishonest in my time here on earth, and I know the reasons why I do it – to protect myself or to protect someone else. I’ve never lied to deliberately hurt someone. (Does that make it better? Of course not.) But this chapter has made me look at myself a little closer to see where I might be dishonest in the first place.
First of all, my dishonesty would probably fall under the umbrella of “failure to give all information.” Ask me, I’ll be honest; don’t ask me, you probably won’t get any information. Again, the reason would likely fall under protecting someone or myself. Here’s an example. In the early years of our marriage I would withhold details of the finances from Bethany so that she wouldn’t stress about it. I told myself that she would only worry, and why burden her with that? I learned later (and was reminded again in this chapter) that I was doing a disservice to her. If I told her we could afford one thing but not another, and left it at that, then I hadn’t given her all the information, so she was left confused and would misinterpret the meaning behind my comment. I was kind of treating her as someone beneath me when I did that, because I had already judged that she couldn’t handle it. That was not fair to her. The chapter was a good reminder to me to treat my wife as my equal and not to withhold info from her even if I think I’m protecting her. She needs all the info to make educated decisions (and because she’s smart, she often comes up with awesome ideas to solve problems).
I’ll close with something this chapter reminded me of. A friend once told me in a men’s group about the time a woman hit on him at work. Rather than “protect his wife from worrying,” he told his wife that day. Why? Because why keep it a secret and give the enemy a foothold? After telling her, he felt free from any bondage or ties. It was out in the open, and with his wife knowing all about it, he didn’t have to worry about heading down a wrong way of thinking. If a secret like that is out of the darkness and in the light, it’s far less likely to do long term damage.
My first reaction to this chapter was “Well, yeah.” I guess because honesty is so important to me, I’ve always thought of it as a given. I can’t imagine a relationship without telling each other the truth. There is a difference between openness and verbalizing every thought. Tact is still important. Sometimes we have thoughts that shouldn’t be verbalized. That doesn’t mean we are being less than honest with each other though. A filter is a good thing. Spend some time with someone who doesn’t have one and you’ll realize how unpleasant it is.
The chapter specifically addresses men who tend to lie or withhold truth from their wives because they believe their wives can’t handle it. This can go both ways in a relationship. I prefer to say most things out loud and keeping my feelings inside has always been difficult for me. I don’t like to end an argument or discussion until an issue is resolved, no matter how long it takes. However, there was a time in my marriage when it wasn’t always easy to be open and honest. During the year after our daughter was born my husband suffered through a serious period of depression. During that time I put a lot of pressure on myself to handle things on my own, because I didn’t want to burden him. I tried not to ask for his help or share my fears and worries. I thought I was protecting him. To a certain extent I was. He was struggling enough, he didn’t need to hear my daily gripes. But at the same time, I needed to continue to be honest with him. Make it clear that yes, I was managing but that I still very much needed him. At times I find it tempting to fall back into those patterns. When he’s had a hard week at work, I wonder if I should tell him about how hard my day was. If he seems like he’s under a lot of pressure I hesitate to bring up the fact that there is water in the basement or that the porch roof might be leaking. But that isn’t fair. He needs to know what’s going on, even if I know he doesn’t want to hear it.
Like anything else, it comes down to discernment. He knows that I need him to be open and honest. But he also knows to pick his timing. Telling me he’s considering a career change during the pre-dinner hour while I’m rushing around the kitchen and the children are underfoot is a recipe for a mommy meltdown. The same goes for me when I totally unload my emotional frustrations on him right before bed. He wants to know what I’m thinking and feeling, but not at 11 p.m.
As far as secrets go the best policy is a simple one. Don’t do anything that you’d be too ashamed to tell your spouse and then you won’t have to keep secrets. If something does happen, deal with it sooner rather than later. Even painful truth is easier to overcome when it is expressed in the present. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it as soon as possible (while still employing that tact and timing that I mentioned earlier). Your spouse should feel like he or she can ask you anything and you should always be prepared to answer honestly.
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