Love tells the truth and the truth must be told in love. Do you believe that? Is it true in your marriage?
Matt and Sara have a marriage with minimal conflict. Their evenings are filled with some casual conversation about the day, the children, household decisions and friends. But to keep the peace they avoid telling each other what is happening inside their hearts. Neither wants to admit that they are lonely in their marriage. And so they continue to pretend and wish for a different life. And the separation widens…
John is quiet and reflective while Mary is strong and outgoing. When John opens up about something that he is feeling or thinking, it is common for Mary to power-up and shut him down. Over time, John chose to become more secretive with everything from money to activities to his thoughts. And the separation widens…
The irony in trying to keep the peace in marriage by not telling the truth is that you actually LOSE the relationship you are trying to preserve! It is only in telling the truth with love to your spouse that you are drawn together and are connected intimately.
Dishonesty in marriage can include a myriad of different “shades of grey” in truth telling:
- Omitting information to protect one’s self
- Hiding money or expenses
- Secret accounts (email, bank, Facebook, etc.)
- Not sharing passwords
- Traffic tickets
- Issues with children
- Secret drug use
- Friendships your spouse wouldn’t approve of
- Not being honest about emotions, feelings or thoughts
You get the idea.
In our marriage we have learned the hard way that: Love tells the truth and the truth must be told in love. We believe that transparency builds trust. Here are three things to keep in mind in telling the truth:
Choosing to hide the truth from our spouse is ultimately an effort to control their response to the truth. Hiding truth is often out of fear of how we presume our mate will respond.
Make the decision to trust God with the outcome and through the ensuing conversation. Your spouse’s response is their responsibility. In fact, research has shown that if you and your spouse learn to work through conflicts instead of around conflicts you decrease your chances of divorce in half.
Speak truth wisely
On day-to-day issues, if truth-telling isn’t natural for you, take a breath of prayer to trust God—and tell the truth. And as you do so, remember that truth in marriage is always to be spoken with love and respect for one’s spouse.
Own your perspective. Use “I feel” statements instead of beginning with the accusatory “you.” Guard against exaggerations with “always” and “never.” In these situations they are actually a form of dishonesty.
If the matter is one of sensitivity to your spouse’s feelings and you have to initiate the conversation, first communicate your love, motives and intent for having this talk. (i.e. Because you want to be married to them for many years, you want to talk about their health habits). Timing matters, so as the issue to discuss becomes more serious, make sure you both have time and energy to engage in the conversation.
If the conversation is about significant betrayal—such as infidelity—it may be wise to have the conversation with a third party present. Set up the meeting with a Christian counselor, pastor, or mutually respected mentor. God will give you strength and see you through as you honor Him.
Hear truth graciously
As your spouse tells you truth, assume that they have the best of intentions. Conflict or misunderstandings can escalate dramatically when we think the worst of our mate’s motives.
Give grace and be patient. This opens the avenue for ongoing honesty. Dr. Willard Harley writes:
“If you truly want honesty, don’t make your spouse miserable when he or she tells you the truth. That simply encourages dishonesty the next time. Instead, talk about how important honesty is to you and how you want to work together to achieve greater love and compatibility. Use the disclosure as evidence that you both need to rise to a new level of honesty.”
Love tells the truth and it begins with you. Make the choice for honesty and watch how God uses it to build your marriage!