I was pleasantly surprised when my recent article in The Huffington Post about emotional honesty in relationships received over 2,100 comments in a few days. Clearly, it pushed a lot of men’s buttons, and some women seemed unclear about how it works in relationships.
The common denominator for most of the men’s comments was fear. My goal is to allay that fear and encourage men to stretch beyond their relationship boundaries.
Some men vigorously protested that emotional honesty with a woman is suicidal, and that one of two things would surely occur. First, that the relationship would instantly become a friendship and love would be out the window. Second, that women don’t respect men who are emotionally honest.
The truth is: there are few, if any, successful relationships in which emotional honesty doesn’t play a significant role. The goal is for men to break through their existing relationship barriers and create a deeper dialogue. This pushes a lot of folks past their comfort zone, but that’s how emotional growth is achieved.
“I like you. I feel good about us. I’ll call you,” after a first date isn’t emotionally honest if you don’t mean it, and no one’s feelings are spared when the truth is spared.
A woman who surprises her partner by informing him she met another guy and fell in love isn’t being emotionally honest, because she was looking and failed to be truthful about how she was feeling about their relationship. She trashed his feelings rather than tell him she wasn’t satisfied with their relationship and wanted to date.
The purpose of men being emotionally honest isn’t just to satisfy women, but also to live in integrity as men. A man who shares his emotional truth is simply being honest.
But what does that look like to women, and what’s their perception of that man? There’s an enormous difference between a man being emotional, and a man being emotionally honest.
The image suggested in some men’s comments — of a guy sobbing out his pain to a woman and being rebuked for his effort — is anathema to me. That’s just being emotional, and isn’t necessarily even honest.
When women said they wanted men to be more emotional, sometimes what they got instead was emotional men, not emotionally honest men. There’s some confusion regarding the difference.
Women respect a man who demonstrates the courage, confidence, skill, and willingness to articulate how he’s feeling about them. Women don’t necessarily respect men who are just being emotional.
The dilemma for men is due, in part, to the ambivalent manner in which women sometimes treat men who express their authentic feelings. Women can’t have it both ways if they want to know how a man is feeling about them.
A woman may not like hearing how her guy feels about her or their relationship, but she’ll know his truth, and she can work with that. A man who speaks from his heart is sharing his absolute truth, and as such, deserves respect. Of course it works both ways.
I urge women to listen without judgment if they want to continue hearing their partner’s truth. Verbalizing emotional honesty isn’t second nature for most men, and men deserve to be respected, not judged.
This can be tricky because no one likes bad news, particularly if he or she doesn’t share the bearer of that bad news’ sentiments. Still, I believe most people prefer to operate knowing the truth. In any case, emotional honesty is off limits to judgment.
For emotional honesty to become the benchmark in relationships, the first roadblock to crash through is fear. How a woman treats a man’s emotional honesty matters. It takes courage for men to move beyond their fear and be emotionally honest.
The games men sometimes play in relationships are meant to keep women off-balance. Men want to feel safe, and keeping their feelings to themselves can feel safer than sharing them and getting trashed for their effort. Women who insist they want honesty and then bash a guy who shares his true feelings are just playing a woman’s version of a relationship game.
No one wins when the truth gets beaten up.
Men and women know that being emotionally honest can feel tenuous, so responding to it with appreciation and mutual respect creates a sense of safety. Sitting quietly together and having an open and honest dialogue might cause some anxiety. Yet if both partners remain cool and open, and resist acting defensively, they’ll be on a path to deepening intimacy.
It’s okay for a woman to express her feeling about a man’s shared emotional honesty. That’s her right, and since she’s expressing her feelings, she’s not being judgmental.
If the conversation devolves into a volley between “Here’s how I feel” versus “Here’s what I think about how you feel”, it’s game over. Emotional honesty is best met with emotional honesty.
The walls in relationships can be broken down when both partners trust each other enough to speak their emotional truths.
“Where there’s no trust, there’s no love,” was my mentor’s sage wisdom.
What are your thoughts on this? Have an experience you would like to share? Join the conversation below.