This article first appeared in the April 2006 issuue of Smart Parenting magazine
Shopping binges, unfinished chores, talking to an ex -- how many times have you kept these from your spouse?
People call them “white lies,” defined by many as unimportant little lies that are non-destructive in relationships. But are they really harmless? Let’s hear it from the pros and the partners who’ve been there.
Grace Macapagal, M.D., an adult and child psychiatrist at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, says, “As much as some people would like to rationalize or find excuses for lying to each other and qualify that this particular lie is relatively harmless na para bang they take away the rightness or the wrongness of it, it’s still a lie,” something that is far from the truth or that is meant to deceive.
When a person lies, it’s always assumed to be for personal gain -- to cover up an error and avoid embarrassment -- but Macapagal says it’s not all because of selfish motivations. “The most common reason why people lie is because…there is this perception na the person involved with them is not open to the truth kaya there is a need for them to come up with lies,” she explains.
Hale & hearty union But does real honesty exist in a marriage? Is it possible to keep absolutely nothing from your better half? Macapagal and marriage counselors Mel and Divina de Leon of DG De Leon Training and Consultancy, a firm that offers behavioral training and family development programs, share tips on building a marriage based on truth.
1. Your spouse is not a mind reader. “If the truth is something that is bothering you, if it doesn’t come out, it’s not going to be addressed…until such time that you’re already too desperate, you don't have a choice but to come out with it or to run away from the relationship entirely,” Macapagal stresses.
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In relationships, communication is the A1 requirement, says Mel. Professing your vows in front of an altar or a judge doesn’t network your minds and feelings, neither does it make your partner your personal psychic. “We share stories every day, because if you let your spouse enter your world, then you would feel secure,” shares Divina.
2. Leave no room for doubt. “It’s normal to have doubts,” says Macapagal. She explains that the trust and mistrust dilemma has been there since we were babies. Behind all these doubts and fears, she says, “is the feeling that if indeed this is the truth, I won’t be able to handle it.”
But one should never intentionally instill doubt. “I don’t put myself in a situation where I would be tempted to lie,” declares Mel. Cultivating honesty is like sugar or cream that you add to your coffee every day. Always assure your life partner that you love him/her. This helps eliminate jealousy and insecurities.
3. Don’t start spinning your web. “The truth will come out sooner or later,” Macapagal stresses. If you lie, be ready because with it come guilt and the need to always be alert and consistent about a lie you’ve told.
“Don't start, because it will become habitual,” says Divina. Knowing the truth may hurt and lead to arguments, but Mel emphasizes that it’s open and honest communication that really puts your relationship up a notch.
4. Avoid sugarcoating. “It’s more of respecting the person,” stresses Mel. Express your objection or opinion without being negative; try to be affectionate.
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There are ways to break the truth gently. Macapagal advises knowing the person really well and the consequences of learning the truth for both parties to prepare for any eventualities. “If you’re going to confront your partner, find a suitable time to do so, especially if it's a touchy subject,” she recommends. Also, always concentrate first on the feelings.
5. Silence is an option. “Sometimes, concealing the truth is not necessarily lying. It’s like simply waiting for the right time when the person is ready to hear the truth. But you’re not making up stories, you’re not deceiving the person by making the person believe otherwise,” explains Macapagal.
If you choose to conceal or delay the truth, she says you should know the other person’s coping style. What makes you so sure that the person is not ready? “It might be just your perception,” Macapagal says. She clarifies that you might be guilty of projecting your own biases or prejudices on to that person.
Divina agrees that silence is not a white lie. She says it’s an option for them to share past relationships. “When we started, we volunteered information to our partner that we felt were relevant,” shares Mel. If it is not volunteered from the beginning, it’s because it wasn’t important, the couple stresses.
6. Identify what’s important. “When we were starting out, I used to think that it was easier to ask for forgiveness rather than to ask for permission. Kasi ’pag nagpaalam ka, hindi ka papayagan, hindi ka na makakaalis…but once you start thinking that way, you’re ready to betray,” shares Mel. Weigh your priorities. “Immediately select what will bother you and let your spouse know,” emphasizes Divina.
Keeping a friend’s secrets are a different matter. Macapagal says that couples are not required to tell them to each other.
7. Allow room for faults. “There is a very deep assurance that whatever our mistakes, we would accept each other,” says Divina.
“Openness in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean we have to wash our dirty laundry together,” says Macapagal. She stresses that being open is being ready to talk about it when the need arises.
Macapagal reveals that some people demand honesty because they want to be 100% sure. “But life is boring that way. If you’re always 100% sure all the time then what is there to look forward to?” she says. Learning how to handle levels of uncertainty motivates you to improve, advises Macapagal.
8. Trust your loved one. “We don’t believe in hearsay,” Mel emphasizes. When you hear something that concerns your partner, ask him without judgment or prejudice. That’s one benefit of starting a relationship without lies. It’s also a plus if you sit down together and discuss ground rules for the foundation of your marriage. “The basis for our marriage are His rules,” Divina says. “If there is love, if there is trust, there is respect, there should be no doubt between the two of you,” Macapagal points out.