One of the cornerstones of any relationship is trust. That, of course, begins with forthright and open communication. We all want it. We all expect it from our partners. Rightfully so. Years of trust can be shredded by one breach of a couple’s virtual relationship contract.
But can that there be too much of a good thing? Can some people’ ironclad adherence to the concept of complete and total honesty actually be problematic, even harmful, to a relationship’s long-term success? As I’ve appeared at more and more relationship forums and panel discussions, one of the more interesting debates into which I’m drawn, is the one about being too honest – too communicative.
Let me be perfectly clear, we should all strive to be open and honest with the ones we love. Heck, one of the joys of being in a loving partnership is that you have access to someone who’s committed to being a sounding board for whatever is on your mind.
Women are generally more open communicators – maybe not always better – but absolutely more willing to share their feelings about….everything. This is a good thing.
Here’s the rub; there doesn’t need to be a conversation about everything. And there’s no real need to know everything. I’m not insinuating that you stick your head in the sand and ignore major issues — that would be ridiculously destructive. But just as damaging, is the process of oversharing. I continue to come across people who simply haven’t mastered the art of picking their battles. These folks are well-meaning. They want to get everything out in the open, they want full disclosure.
Unfortunately, that person can be absolutely emotionally exhausting. To them everything, every little disagreement, every personality difference is cause for the dreaded, “Can we talk?” And quite often there’s a, “This isn’t a big deal” thrown in as well. I’m not sure if people understand the dual message sent by those two statements – especially to guys.
“Can we talk” is a dog-whistle guys hear as, “You’ve done something wrong and I’m upset about it.”
“This isn’t a big deal” means this isn’t a big deal. Okay, then why do we have to talk about it? Guys want to fix things. Guys want to offer solutions. And as sure as I am that women know this general truth about men, I’m just as certain that they forget it. If you put it out there it becomes an issue that we need to address – even if you say it’s no big deal.
I once went out with a woman who insisted that I tell her everything that annoyed me about her. For me this was overkill. For her, it was just a way of putting all our cards on the table. But I found it extremely difficult and unnecessary. Why? Because even though there were minor things about this woman that I found bothersome, they were minor things. They were minor nuisances that in all likelihood were never going to change and they weren’t deal-breakers. But she insisted on knowing because…well, I’m still not quite sure how that exercise was supposed to be helpful. Who among us couldn’t come up with a ledger of negatives about the person we’re seeing? Question is: is it worth it to tell your partner every little thing that bugs you about them?
I caught an episode of NBC’s family drama “Parenthood” the other night. On the show, one of the lead married male characters is, without provocation, kissed by a female co-worker. His dilemma: Do I tell my wife? He decides to do the honest thing and tell his wife. And his wife goes ballistic, basically accusing him of doing something to make this other woman feel like it was okay to make that move. Now she doesn’t trust him.
Was it worth it?
What do you think? Do you tell everything? Are you and your partner completely open and honest – if so has it ever posed a problem? Do you and your partner talk about everything? Is everything on the table? What, if anything, isn’t worth “having a talk” in your mind?