My clients often report that they’re upset with their partners about something or the other. When I ask them, “Did you tell him or her that you were upset?” they routinely say, “No.”

Why Not Be Honest?

Often, we neglect to tell our partners what we’re upset about because we
• Don’t want to cause waves
• Don’t think our “upset” is justified, anyway
• Feel that the problem is ours to resolve
• Don’t want to appear petty, small or un-evolved (not even to ourselves)
• Don’t think our partner will change, anyway, so why talk about it?

What Happens When We’re Not Honest?

I don’t know about you, but what happens for me when I’m not honest about something that bothers me is that my frustration comes out sideways. I end up making a snide comment. I’m passive aggressive. Over time, I become resentful. Then I blow up at my partner — all because I didn’t talk about what was bothering me in the first place.

Think about a time when you withheld a frustration from your partner (and maybe even from yourself). What ended up happening? Are you holding onto to any frustration at this time in your relationship? If so, how is it affecting you?

What is the Purpose of Being Honest, Anyway?

When I encourage clients to tell each other what is really true, I’m not suggesting that they do this in order for their partner to change. Sometimes, this is what is desired, but usually there is a benefit in simply sharing the truth — the truth being that you’re struggling with something.

The Problem of Fido

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:
Mary and Jim have been dating for about a year and have just moved in together. Mary is upset because Jim’s dog sleeps in their bed, and she can’t get a good night’s sleep. She hasn’t talked to Jim about it because she has several assumptions about this situation:
• Jim’s dog is used to sleeping with him and she can’t come along and change that.
• Jim will think she’s not a dog lover after all, and then he’ll start questioning their relationship.
• Mary has a cat and Jim puts up with the cat, even though he’s allergic. She should be appreciative.

How To Be Honest Without Being Manipulative or Unfair

Mary is stuck in all of her thoughts, and yet, she’s still frustrated with the situation. Is this fair to Jim? Or to the dog? She’s grouchy with the dog when she comes home from work, and feels herself holding other grudges against Jim. For some people, this exercise may be remedial, but I find that many people get stuck at this point and really don’t know how to move beyond it.

Here’s One Approach

“Jim, can we talk? I want to tell you what is going on with me, at least for the sake of being honest (after all, this is an intimate relationship, right?). With Fido in bed with us, I’m having a very hard time sleeping. I’m not actually asking for you to kick him out of our bed — I don’t know what the solution might be– but I just want you to know that this has been
bothering me and I’ve been too afraid to tell you.”

How Might Jim Respond?

Who knows? He might suggest that he have Fido sleep on his side of the bed. He might admit that he hasn’t been sleeping well, either, and be willing to have Fido sleep on the floor. He might buy a king size bed! And yet, there is a chance that he might get upset by the conversation with Mary, too.

And what if he did? Is that the end of the world? It’s probably not. If you find yourself fearing that any amount of conflict in your relationship will be disastrous, that is probably a belief you should question. A great way of working with unhelpful thoughts is by using an inquiry process developed by a woman named Byron Katie. (You can find more information about this at my blog, listed below.)

With a non-blaming approach like the one above, Mary and Jim probably have a better chance of brainstorming the problem than if Mary waited until she got totally fed up and then lit into Jim.

True Intimacy Requires Authenticity and Honesty

In order to achieve true intimacy in our relationships, we must show up authentically. And that means that we must be willing to be honest about what is going on with us. This includes the good, the bad and the ugly!

For more information about healthy relationships, go to

Author's Bio: 

Becky DeGrossa, MA, NCC is a psychotherapist, Relationship Coach and Divorce Coach who lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado. Having lived and learned from imperfect relationships, she now shares her wisdom to help others along the path to true intimacy.