In this post I want to examine the value of honesty in relationships, and the benefits of opening up to yourself and others.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for me emotionally. I had some very real and intense discussions with my girlfriend about our sexual pasts, and about the future of our relationship.
To be honest, what’s been the main issue for me recently has been insecurity. Somehow, just accepting and admitting that my girlfriend had slept with others in the past has been difficult for me.
But that’s why I wanted to have these discussions, because I wanted to examine these feelings and ultimately overcome them. Jealousy is rooted in insecurity, which is in itself a manifestation of fear.
Developing honest communication
Recently, I’ve tried my best to develop honesty and sincerity as a character trait.
Especially when it comes to my relationships. Especially especially when it comes to the people I love the most.
This approach is incredibly scary when you just start out. It certainly was for me. But developing the capacity for honesty has changed my life for the better in so many ways. There are and always will be things that are important to you, that will be difficult to discuss. This is just a part of life.
Learning to overcome the fear and being vulnerable in a relationship has multiple hidden benefits. Things start to become clearer. Your view of the other person will almost certainly change. And who knows, you may learn something about yourself that was hidden.
Expression of emotions is key
What I’ve found is that until you express your feelings, whatever they may be, you can’t fully understand them. You can try to intellectualize them, conceptualize them, but feelings seem to require expression to be fully resolved.
Our society is in many ways fiercely individualistic. So much so that we tend to forget that we are social creatures at heart. In fact, we are the most connected, most gregarious animals that have ever existed. When we look past this subtle fact, we’re in danger of isolation.
We try to resolve our issues by ourselves, we try to work through difficult feelings by thinking about them.
That’s probably the least effective way of dealing with difficult feelings.
The most effective way of resolving emotions
As anyone who’s experienced catharsis during heartfelt conversation with a loved one can tell you, it’s intense. The feelings you’ve been ruminating on for so long will gush out of you like a geyser. Subtle feelings that you may not even have noticed will rear their sometimes ugly faces.
In order to truly deal with an unpleasant feeling you must find a counterpart. You need to create a emotional loop with someone you trust.
Let me expound on the feelings of jealousy I spoke of earlier.
I wouldn’t ordinarily consider myself especially prone to jealousy. This has changed in recent months. I’ve recently realized that my compulsive use of pornography of many years, was a crutch that I used to escape the need to deal with emotional pain. Some do this with alcohol, others with heroin. Yet others with video games. The root of all addiction is unresolved emotional pain. More specifically, the inability to experience emotional pain.
I’ve now been clean for two months, and man! It’s been a roller coaster ride.
I’ve had really good days, and then I’ve had really difficult days. Days where I’ve had insane scenarios playing in my mind for hours at a time. For example, there was a three day period where I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my girlfriend was cheating on me. Even though I had no evidence to back it up, and even though she was as sweet as she’s ever been.
After three days of this constant ruminating on my girlfriends supposed infidelity, as you can imagine, I was absolutely mentally exhausted.
The feeling just couldn’t be shook! Or could it?
You guessed it. It wasn’t until I actually sat my girlfriend down and had a heart to heart conversation with her about what I was feeling that I started to feel better.
I didn’t accuse her of anything, and I didn’t ask her to explain herself or anything like that. I simply told her what was going on in my head. This was incredibly scary for me, because I kind of assumed that she would be very hurt, think I didn’t trust her, etcetera. But as I said earlier, when you start to practice true honesty, people start to surprise you.
My girlfriend is a wonderful person. She accepted my feelings and did her best to make me feel better. She had noticed that something had been up with me recently. In fact, she had even been worried that I was angry at her for something. That’s the danger of not owning up to your emotions. The people who know you and love you will always notice when something’s up.
Let me end this post by examining the effects of honesty on self.
The effects of lying on the soul
There was a time in my life where I constantly lied to myself. I told myself things were okay when they weren’t. I would fool myself into thinking that doing things badly, or lying, or cheating, was okay.
This has major psychological consequences. I like the way the movie Matchstick Men portrays this. The main character, played by the awesome Nicolas Cage, is a con man by trade. Every day, he lies and deceives. He doesn’t care who he hurts. Not coincidentally, he also has OCD, all kinds of ticks, and generally just feels terrible. At the end of the movie, he’s forced to stop his games of deception, and voilá, his OCD goes away and he feels way better.
Although this may be a simplified depiction of the effects of lying on the soul, to me it feels spot on.
The wonders of self-honesty
In my own experience, the more I manage to come clean to myself and (important) others, the more psychologically healthy I feel.
I would say that the major example in my own life has been stopping my porn addiction. For most people, hardcore pornography is anathema to their values. In my own case this was so. I would think I was a good person at one moment, and then indiscriminately search for brutal, degrading pornography the next.
When I finally managed to rid myself of my addiction, I started to notice all kinds of kinks and peculiarities of my psyche start to dissolve. My shyness has been steadily going away, and especially the constant sense of shame I used to carry with me.
Making an effort to be fully honest and sincere to yourself is the first step to emotional freedom. It’s also the only way to find true connection to another human being.
I wish you luck in your endeavors of honesty.