The best relationships are always built on mutual trust and respect. Healthy relationships can’t survive, let alone thrive, without the respect that’s built on consistent honesty. Both parties are equally responsible for creating trust, through communicating their truth in an upfront manner, without hidden agendas of manipulation to gain an unfair advantage.
The truth can mean more than one thing: it can reflect the outlook, feelings, and opinions of someone from his or her own perspective, which is often subjective and sometimes based on bias; or it can represent the truth as an objective manifestation of reality, which is impossible for one person to grasp without the influence of his or her limiting viewpoint and perception.
Open and honest communication means each party discusses his or her feelings and perspectives without judgment or schemes to “win” over the other. Each person realizes that that he or she doesn’t have a corner on the truth. Through talking with respect and compassion for one another, they reach an understanding of the fairest resolution to their separate views, while taking into consideration both of their needs for validation and wellbeing.
If one loved one, friend, or partner is continually submitting to the other’s paradigm of what is real or false, right or wrong, good or bad, that person is likely being manipulated by a self-serving individual for his or her own benefit. This is an unbalanced relationship in which the submissive partner is not being treated as an equal or enjoying the respect he or she deserves, but is rather under the control of a bully, a narcissist, or an abuser—quite possibly all three.
As humans, we are all complex beings, with the intrinsic right to be heard—to have our needs for acceptance, validation and respect acknowledged, especially by those who claim to care about us. And we each need to be free to make our own choices without undue influence. Raizer Maria Rilke said it beautifully: “Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”
Attempting to control another person, and to give that person a false or belittling concept of him- or herself, is a serious form of abuse, not unlike enslaving that individual with mental and emotional trickery.
Mac de Pree made this observation: “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” A loving relationship has room for each person to enjoy the freedom of self-expression as long as he or she is not undermining the other party’s inherent rights or abusing that individual’s emotional needs.
When we first meet someone it’s impossible to know that person completely; in fact, we can never totally understand another, since we haven’t lived his or her life. So how do we move forward, without taking on the risk of hurt and personal damage?
To try to avoid all risk is to hide from the potential joys of life. But we can still minimize our chance of becoming a victim to a dishonest user, who only has his or her best interests in mind. Actor Tom Hanks offers this wise suggestion: “Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour.”
While this doesn’t mean we need to tell our life stories on the first meeting with someone, it does imply that we should be open and honest about our thoughts, interests, needs, and values, and listen to that person with the same respect that we wish from him or her. From this beginning of mutual cooperation, a beautiful relationship has a chance to grow. At the same time, we can assert our rights and boundaries and allow that person to do the same. If the friendship or love continues to grow, we’re on the right track to mutual trust, a partnership between equals, and even genuine happiness. If not, we need to summon the courage to walk away with our minds, bodies, and spirits still intact.
Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones
Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™