Good Relationship:

Using Honesty to Build a Good Relationship

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

Do you feel hopeless about an important relationship in your life? Do you feel that you are doomed to suffer for the rest of your life with an unreasonable, inconsiderate, and mean-spirited partner? If so, you're definitely not alone. In fact, I would say that you are in the majority.

As a part of the initial evaluation that I do with each person who visits our clinic, I encourage full disclosure of any emotional stressors that may be contributing to an existing health challenge. Sadly, the majority of people I have worked with over the years have indicated that they were miserable with their life partners.

"Oh sure, we've had some good moments, but overall, if we didn't have children, I would move on." I hear this thought in one form or another on a regular basis.

A few months ago, I sent out a survey to some of our newsletter subscribers, asking which of the following topics that they would like to see more articles on:

  1. How to have healthy relationships
  2. Food and nutrition
  3. Remedies to specific health challenges
  4. Healthy recipes

Can you guess which category received the least number of votes? You guessed it - how to have healthy relationships.

Based on conversations that I've had with guests of our clinic, I am willing to bet that most of our subscribers feel that articles on relationships are useless since their partners will never change .Whenever I talk with people about this topic, the feeling I get is that many people feel trapped and doomed to a lifetime of sadness.

If you can relate to anything that you've read so far in this article, I'm here to tell you that things don't have to be this way. You are not destined to have a sad, painful, and hate-filled life. And the answer is not a quick, costly and painful separation.

There is one essential key that you must embrace to stand a chance of turning things around.

It's to be honest about your fears - first with yourself, and then with your partner.

A few months ago, a couple in their 30s - John and Cindy - visited our clinic, looking for help with a few minor health problems. After carrying out separate, initial evaluations, I was certain that the most significant root cause of their physical symptoms was a chronically tense marriage. And equally obvious was that their troubled relationship was the result of not having the courage to share their deepest fears with one another.

After getting married, John had the following mind set:

I'm married now and have to do everything that I possibly can to support our family. If it takes working 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, I'll do it because it has to be done.

Cindy's mind set was a tad different:

Being married is going to be great because we are going to be able to spend way more time together than we did when we were dating!

John expected that Cindy would understand why he was working so hard. In fact, he thought that his mind set and work ethic would actually cause Cindy's love and appreciation for him to grow, since she would see how dedicated he was to supporting their family.

Cindy expected that her husband would want to spend as much time together as she did. She believed that the primary purpose of getting married was to enjoy each other's companionship.

Because John and Cindy did not take the time to clarify their expectations of married life with one another, each of their actions resulted in hurt feelings and at times, hatred toward each other.

John would have feelings of contempt, believing that his wife was needy, ungrateful, and unaware of how hard it was to earn an honest living in this world.

Cindy would have feelings of resentment and hatred, believing that her husband got married for the wrong reasons and that he put his ambitions ahead of their relationship.

The reality is that both John and Cindy had good intentions. Both of them had the same goal: to have a healthy and happy family. The problem was that their respective expectations of a healthy and happy family life were different.

When I sat down to talk with John, he confessed that his workaholic behavior was fueled by two fears:

  1. The possibility that they might not be able to pay their bills in a few years and would lose everything that they had worked for.
  2. The possibility that Cindy and her family would come to think that he was a failure.

During a private conversation with Cindy, I learned that her anger about John's work schedule stemmed from a fear that John didn't really enjoy spending time with her - that she was boring and not smart enough to engage in fun and interesting conversations with him.

As you can imagine, sharing these fears with one another was not easy to do. But once they did, sadness, anger, and even hatred appeared to melt away instantly and effortlessly, which is usually the case when people come to realize that hurtful behaviors often stem from unexpressed fears and insecurities.

Late last year, a couple in their 60s - Leo and Marlene - visited our clinic for a number of health problems. Just as it was with John and Cindy, it wasn't long before I began to believe that the main problem was that they were extremely angry with one another.

Because people rarely disclose their deepest fears for the first time in the presence of the object of their hatred, I had separate follow up conversations with Leo and Marlene. Here's what I discovered:

Marlene was extremely upset that Leo wouldn't tell her about their finances. He wouldn't let her open any of their mail and refused to show her their bank statements. Her frustration boiled over one day and she accused him of buying RRSPs (the Canadian equivalent of IRAs) in his name only and asked him if he was planning on running away.

Leo was shocked and deeply offended by Marlene's accusation. Wasn't it their agreement that he would take care of earning the money while she would take care of the house? He genuinely wondered if she had a serious psychological condition that caused her to conjure up the crazy and evil notion of him running away after more than 35 years of marriage. He went on to explain to me that he kept all the details of their finances to himself because his wife had a tendency to worry needlessly about trivial matters and ask more questions than he had the patience to answer.

After more than a half hour of discussing the situation with Leo, he finally revealed his biggest reason for keeping the details of their finances to himself. Although an extremely smart and well educated man, at 64 years of age, he was still living pay check to pay check. The nature of his work was such that there were weeks when he would make $1,000, but then there were weeks when he would make $75. And during those weeks when money was extremely tight, he was depressed and worried. He couldn't see any benefit to telling his wife that he was depressed and worried.

Talk about a contrast in realities. Marlene honestly and rightfully believed that Leo might be up to no good, while Leo was plain old embarrassed about his struggles as a breadwinner.

When Marlene learned the truth behind Leo's clandestine ways, it became easy for her to forgive him. She actually took him out to dinner that same night and surprise, surprise, their relationship and their health improved significantly over subsequent weeks. Mind you, Marlene still has occasional headaches and Leo must continue to be careful with his diet and blood sugar level, but their health challenges have become much easier to tolerate in the context of a happier relationship.

Clearly, happy endings don't always happen. I have worked with couples who were not able to muster up the courage to tell each other the root fears behind their maladaptive behaviors. I have also worked with couples who have been able to do this but unfortunately, their scars and painful memories were too strong to transcend.

Still, if you believe that sticking with a well intentioned partner through life's hills and valleys is more meaningful than moving from partner to partner when times get tough, I hope that you and your partner will read this article together and work at being honest and kind with each other. I trust that your efforts will be worthwhile.

Dr. Ben KimImprove Your Health With Our Free E-mail Newsletter

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