by Celinka Serre – Binky Productions
Honesty. Communication. Trust. Seems easy enough when you think about it, but it isn’t that simple when it comes to applying it. After 4 years with my husband, we are still learning to communicate to each other. Honesty, communication and trust is what we committed to each other when we officialized our relationship and re-committed it when we got married.
Honesty is as much to yourself as to the other person. Often times, we think we are being honest to the other person, only because we are lying to ourselves. We have to be honest to ourselves first and then we can be honest to our partner. Of course, it takes being honest to communicate honestly, which in turn builds trust.
Now, I’m probably going to repeat those three words often, but only because it’s important to grasp the essential nature of each. What does it truly mean to be honest? In my relationship with my husband, there are no white lies. It took a period of adaptation, naturally, but after a while, it became a habit and even just a little lie makes us feel bad. It’s the same when hiding something from someone. I’m not talking about a surprise party here. I’m talking about, for example, not telling the other person you smoked at a party because you know they don’t smoke. Well, my husband and I are of the mentality that if we can hide something small like that from each other, we can hide something bigger, more important, that will have a greater impact on our relationship, that could ultimately breach the trust that we have between us. And besides, there isn’t anything wrong in telling the other person about a small thing as smoking at a party. Then, in turn, the other must be honest and communicate their feelings. This is something we lived at the beginning of our relationship. I had to admit to myself that I was jealous because I used to be a smoker and every time he happens to smoke (every blue moon or so), I get jealous, I get angry, which is why he hid it that one time. This situation, which today we find a bit silly, helped me be honest with myself. Often times, when something angers us, there is an underlying issue that needs addressing. Instead of having outbursts, we can turn to our thoughts and emotions and figure out what it is we are truly feeling, and then where that feeling comes from.
Today there is very little that my husband and I don’t know about each other. Sure there are thoughts we might not share, it is a natural thing to be in one’s own mind and bubble. If telepathy were common practice, then perhaps total transparency would the norm. But it can come quite close to telepathy with couples who are very honest to each other. Couples who seem to know what the other is thinking, or how they are feeling, who finish each other’s sentences very accurately and who can play out a hypothetical scenario, which can ultimately help them understand their emotions better, usually become that way from years and years of honest communication.
All right, honesty, we get it. Communication is another tricky one. How do you communicate, as my husband and I like to refer to it, nonviolently. Wikipedia describes Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as focusing ‘’on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience), empathy (as defined as listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (as defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in other).’’
Again, we find that word, honest, and it’s in our definition of communication. This basically means, not only does one need to be honest when communicating, but also express themselves, without shouting, without using words or phrases that might be interpreted as accusatory, without self-accusation, without drawing conclusions on how the other is feeling, etc. All this is more challenging than all the rest, and my husband and myself are still learning to communicate nonviolently. Every day we learn more about what triggers a negative emotion or what inspires understanding. It’s easy to fall into the trap of arguing, accusing, especially when we feel accused ourselves. We become defensive. If the other fails to express themselves nonviolently, how does one remain calm and non-defensive in response to the defensiveness that has been targeted our way? How can one remain calm when the other talks to us the way they should maybe talk to someone who has offended them instead of taking it out on us? How can one nonviolently tell the other that they are communicating ‘’violently’’? I often say ‘’Maybe you can rephrase that, I don’t think I’m getting the meaning of what you want to say.’’ Or ‘’The way you said that makes me feel accused. What are you really trying to convey?’’ This way, I’m letting my husband know without directly accusing him or using a tone that will be as ‘’violent’’ as what he might have said and he can sort through his thoughts and rephrase. He says the same to me so I can sort through my thoughts and rephrase as well. We can also find ourselves telling the other ‘’ok, let me think of how to explain how I’m feeling’’ and we patiently wait while the other figures it out. This lets your partner know that you will respond, but that you need a bit of time to figure out how to express yourself nonviolently.
If you wish to learn more about NVC, there are plenty of helpful tools and loads of information on the official NVC website. I also provide the link to another website that has a nice variety of helpful tools as well.
Naturally, honesty and communication will create trust between two people. In order to maintain that trust, one must maintain honest communication. Just because you realize you’ve been lying to yourself, it doesn’t mean you’ve breached the trust; as long as you communicate your realization, then you are still living honesty, communicating and trusting. This is what my husband and I strive to live by in our relationship. It’s not always easy, but it is gratifying and very fulfilling. To know that you can trust someone, to know that they are honest with you and tell you everything and to know that they feel the same, there is no better feeling.
Wikipedia reference for quote and further information:
The Center for Nonviolent Communication website:
Nonviolent Communication (another website):