Imagine a relationship where everyone was honest from the start and one’s truth was honored without being challenged. Imagine a relationship where both parties felt comfortable to say or do anything that he/she wanted and it was respected. Imagine a relationship where
you could be you without apology. It is possible.
Recently I was in Philadelphia to participate on a relationship panel, specifically addressing sexual, financial, and emotional manipulation in relationships. Many of the participants at the event were 20, 30, and 40 something year olds who offered a range of ideas and beliefs about the possibility of using ones “assets” to get what one wants from another person. I have to note the audience watched movie clips from “Harlem Nights” and “Boomerang” that depicted men and women doing whatever they could in order to get attention, money, or intimacy from another person. At one point in the program, the moderator asked for my thoughts and so I responded, “Why can’t people just be honest and speak their truth about what they want rather than being manipulative, coercive, secretive, or divisive?”
Is it naïve to expect us to ask for what we need in a relationship?
Oftentimes people struggle and find it difficult to speak their truth to others because they have spent so much time being untruthful to themselves. Upon lying to themselves, they find themselves being sexually and relationally manipulative in their romantic relationships
which limits their emotional and spiritual growth as well as their partner’s. When you cover the truth with an untruth, a relationship cannot grow. There is no perfect relationship and even those of us with the best intentions can be guilty of not always being honest. It’s a process.
As a marriage, family, and sexuality therapist and consultant, I work with people all the time trying to “figure out” or “read in between the lines” what they want or what their partners want. That can be a lot of work to do in a relationship. Healthy communication is never ambiguous. When people have different expectations (as they often do) people can feel compelled to shift, control, or force circumstances to fall within their favor. In other words, forcing a square peg in a round hole will only cause something to break; a literal communication break-up. Embracing the idea that you deserve the truth as well as your partner deserves you to be honest about yourself is a good foundation. When this expectation is integral to your relationships there will be no need for passive aggressive coercion or even the slightest manipulation.
Be authentic even when it’s difficult. Give yourself the time, space, and latitude to be the genuine you. Keeping it “100” all day, every day, may
allow you to have the relational satisfaction that you deserve. Alright then!
Dr. James C. Wadley is an associate professor and Director of the Master of Human Services program at Lincoln University. He is a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is a contributor to healthyblackmen.org.