Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Hax: Hearing, accepting the truth are two different matters

Making it easy to hear the truth doesn't make it easy to accept it

Q: Recently, someone wrote in about their significant other lying to them about things that might make them angry and you suggested that they try to make telling the truth as easy as possible. That makes a lot of sense and I have tried to put this into practice, since I have also had this issue with the person I'm dating.

But what if they do tell you the truth and it does hurt? Then what do you do? For example, my significant other told me a story about this girl who was flirting with him. He thought the story was hilarious but, honestly, it did hurt my feelings that he was out late at night flirting with women.

I said nothing because I was happy he told me the truth and I don't think he actually did anything with the woman, but it hurt my feelings nonetheless.

So how do I reconcile wanting to foster an environment of truth-telling but also not react when he says things that do hurt?

Anonymous

A: You're right to treat this as (at least) a two-part issue, because the way you deal with a difficult truth is as important as the truth itself.

I also don't think the answer can end at, "Don't react," because that's a form of dishonesty — to pretend you aren't hurt when you are. What you're looking for is an honest response that doesn't devolve into taking actions you wouldn't take if you were calm; healthy action comes after you've thought your way through the facts, assumptions, agendas and possible consequences.

To use your example of your partner's flirtation: If your face registered pain, there was nothing wrong with that.

If you also had said, "I'm glad you feel safe telling me stuff like that, but I'm not sure how to respond," then that response, too, would have remained within the bounds of "make telling the truth as easy as possible." That's because it stays out of the territory of conclusion-jumping, name-calling, threats and other ultimatums (sincere or hollow), revenge, past-dredging, screaming/crying/yelling, shutting down or any other punitive act.

Even better, an "I'm not sure what I think" buys you time to consider context and ask yourself important questions. Again using your example:

Does your partner have a history of baiting you with tales or hints of other women — or is his history more one of jolly extroversion with no subtext?

Do you ever flirt harmlessly with people yourself, and, if so, would you feel comfortable if he witnessed it, or heard about it later?

Do you think extra-relationship flirting can ever be harmless? If so, would you rather know it's happening, or remain blissfully ignorant?

Do you have other reasons to trust, or not trust, your partner on this issue? On others?

The answers to questions like these will give you insight into your own mind, if you let them, as well as some grasp of what exactly is bothering you. They'll hint at whether you've chosen a partner who doesn't respect you, or you've held your partner's behavior to a higher standard than you've held your own, or you've just got a case of mismatched expectations for the way couples behave.

This understanding, then, becomes the foundation from which all of your choices arise. Among those choices are brushing off the flirtation and the retelling of it; talking about it calmly after you've had time to think; being more honest with yourself about what you expect of yourself and others, and what you have a right to expect; and breaking up.

Just don't make the mistake of seeing that last choice as the kind of punitive reaction I've advised against. When you've decided a particular truth is a relationship-ender, then breaking up — after careful consideration — is a perfectly legitimate response.

That's because you can honestly say it isn't the truth-telling itself that ended the relationship, it's the difference between you that the truth exposed. Covering it with a lie would only have postponed the inevitable.

One more caveat: Becoming someone who can handle a difficult truth is not to be confused with being responsible for someone else's lies. Every lie is the fault of the liar, and anyone who retreats into lies instead of owning an unflattering truth is a bad relationship bet. One of the worst, in fact, especially if you tend to contort yourself to make relationships work.

However, I think it's unrealistic to believe that socially aware people who are generally honest also never lie, especially with someone's feelings at stake. People who want your approval — or just don't want multiday fights or silent treatments — will often shade things in the most appealing way possible. If that's not what you want, then it's on you to demonstrate through openness and flexibility that your favorite color is truth.

Comments
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

SHORTS: Art and Short Film Mini-FestA fundraiser for the [email protected] brings an Art and Short Film Mini-Fest to the studio tonight. There will be four short films, an exhibit of artwork by Corinne Leavengood and photography by Diana Lucas Leavengood. P...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita FestivalThis year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflower...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

1 Tibetan Monks’ Mandala: As part of a Sacred Art Tour, eight Dalai Lama-sanctioned monks from India will be at the Florida CraftArt Galleries for a week to create a sand mandala of the Green Tara, a female representation of the Buddha of Compassion....
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since."Back in the ’80s, I had a couple of songs that kind of fell on deaf ears. I said, Well, I gu...
Published: 05/23/18

Tell Me About It: Can she trust her new beau not to cheat?

Q: Is it really true that "once a cheater always a cheater," even when the cheater didn’t cheat on you?A few years ago, I left my husband after I found out he was a serial cheater. We are now divorced. I have been seeing someone new, and he seems lik...
Published: 05/22/18
Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

No matter what Cress Williams does the rest of his acting career, he’ll always be remembered as the first to play Black Lightning.The 47-year-old actor with roles on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night Lights is now that face of a DC comics franchise...
Published: 05/22/18

Tell Me About It: She has little sympathy for troubled sister

She has little sympathy for troubled sister"target="_blank">She has little sympathy for troubled sisterQ: My mom died when I was 10 and my sister, "Abby," was 6. My dad did the best he could but life was hard. I tried to make it up to him by helping...
Published: 05/22/18
Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Well, you did it millennials. As of this month, every sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom now serves alcohol. It was a big deal back in 2012 when the world’s most visited theme park broke with Uncle Walt’s mandate to keep alcohol ou...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Divorce is only option with abusive wife

Divorce is only option with abusive wife"target="_blank">Divorce is only option with abusive wifeQ: My wife and I have what looks on paper like a great relationship. My problem is I hate the way my wife treats me.I say something she disagrees with, ...
Published: 05/21/18