I kept hearing the term “radical honesty” being thrown around in the self-help scene and for some reason, I really wanted to try it. To me, it was the ultimate exercise in cultivating a close relationship. Little did I know it would pull my boyfriend and me further apart.
Honesty sounds good in theory but in practice, it can be destructive. I’m an avid reader of self-help books and when I read about radical honesty, I thought, “Wow, that’s what’s been missing from my life!” The idea of being unabashedly honest no matter what seemed like the ultimate challenge and I wanted to do it. Turns out, it sounds great on paper but can be pretty destructive when used in real life.
It was actually really hard to do. I grew up in a family full of perfectionists, meaning that any kind of flaw or negative feeling was to be covered up. We weren’t the Jones’ but would do everything we could to be that perfect family. I was taught this way of thinking early on so when I started to admit how I was really feeling in my relationship and all the unacceptable and potentially embarrassing stuff I was up to, it took everything in me to fight that reflex to make myself seem better than I really am.
I’m too nice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my honesty was often met with defensive, kneejerk responses and even outright insults. I would go in all confident, thinking that my boyfriend could handle it and he’d appreciate the fact that I was being brave and speaking up. In reality, our conversations started ending in fights and I hate fights. I think I might be too nice to be radically honest.
I did it because I wanted the “perfect relationship.” I have this fantasy of being in a relationship where nobody hides anything and we tell each other the deepest secrets of our heart all the time. To me, being radically honest in a relationship means that you’ve reached this peak of really understanding each other. Either I wasn’t doing it right or my boyfriend just wasn’t ready to take that journey with me.
I believe couples should be OK with being totally vulnerable. I’m an all or nothing type of person, so the idea of radical honesty was really attractive to me. It meant telling the truth and nothing but the truth 100% of the time no matter what, even if you might hurt someone’s feelings. Even if you’re embarrassed by it. I thought that it was this ultimate level that couples should reach but it only made our relationship weaker.
I ended up feeling more alone. As my radical honesty experiment trucked on, I started to feel resentful towards my boyfriend. Like, why wasn’t he appreciating my attempt to be honest about stuff? I started to question his behavior as well as my own. I realized I was forcing him to be someone that either he wasn’t ready to be or didn’t want to be.
Secrets can kill a relationship. I’ve always heard that it isn’t good to have secrets in a relationship, that only the couples who are truly in love feel comfortable baring their souls to each other. I now know that this isn’t true. Having some secrecy and even telling the odd white lie every now and then can keep a relationship fresh and ensure that it’s not so taxing.
I would create drama out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s better to just slap a smile on your face and call it a day. The whole thing with radical honesty is that you say/do what you want as long as it’s authentic to how you’re feeling for what you think. I was becoming one of those reality show contestants creating drama out of thin air and my boyfriend was getting tired of it. It wasn’t good.
It was actually a little selfish of me. I’m not usually a selfish person but I can be self-absorbed, and this radical honesty experiment just put more fuel on that fire. I tend to get obsessed with things easily and this was no exception. I thought I was so much better than my boyfriend because I was able to be honest with myself and he wasn’t. I was being kind of insane.
I thought it would fix our relationship. When I heard about radical honesty, I jumped on it because I thought that it was the missing piece to our slightly defunct relationship. I never would have guessed that it would make things worse.
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