The Policy of Radical Honesty
Reveal your emotional reactions, both
positive and negative, to the events of your life,
particularly to your spouse's behavior.
Some people find it difficult to openly express negative reactions. They may fear that their response
will be interpreted as criticism. Or they may feel ashamed of their own reactions, telling themselves
they should not feel the way they do. They may want unconditional acceptance from their spouses
and consider that their negative reactions prove their own inability to be unconditionally accepting.
Whatever the reasons, many spouses try to avoid expressing their negative emotional reactions.
While positive reactions are easier to communicate, many couples have not learned to express these
feelings, either. This failure not only misses an important opportunity to accurately communicate basic
feelings, but it also misses an opportunity to deposit love units. Whenever your spouse has made you
feel good, if you express those feelings clearly and enthusiastically, you'll reward your spouse for
having made an appropriate adjustment to you. That, in turn, makes your spouse feel good.
If you want to meet each other's emotional needs, and you want to overcome Love Busters, one
essential ingredient is an honest expression of your emotional reactions to each other. What makes a
marriage successful is your willingness and ability to accommodate each other's feelings. And
without the facts about those feelings, an otherwise happy couple can become very unhappy as the
events of life change.
The conditions that existed at the time of your marriage were partly responsible for the love you had
for each other. Those conditions made it easy for you to meet each other's emotional needs, and
tended to ward off Love Busters. They may have made you feel perfect for each other, because you
did not have to do much to make each other happy.
But if you are like most couples, those conditions changed right after your marriage and have
continued to change right up to the present. If you have not been able to adjust to those changes,
you are probably very disillusioned about your compatibility. What had seemed effortless at first
may seem impossible for you now.
But adjustment in marriage is not impossible. In fact, it may be quite a bit easier than you think.
Because of the way your brain is put together, you have the ability to make remarkable adjustments
to each other throughout life, as your environment changes. But in order to be successful, you must
do four things:
First, you must realize that these changes will take place, whether you want them to or not. Many of
the circumstances surrounding you cannot be controlled and will be changing constantly.
Second, you must stick to your goal of meeting each other's most important emotional needs, and
avoiding Love Busters regardless of the change in conditions. A change can be very distracting, and
can cause both of you to lose sight of your primary objectives in life. Don't let these changes cause
you to lose sight of each other.
Third, you must be totally committed to making all of your decisions jointly and enthusiastically.
Changes in circumstances require new decisions, and each must be made with each other's feelings
in mind. Otherwise, the changes will leave one of you in the dust. Don't go on in life unless you are
both on board.
And finally, in order to make the best decisions, you must be radically honest with each other about
your emotional reactions to the changes in your lives. The best decisions take the emotional
reactions of both of you into account simultaneously, but without an honest expression of those
reactions, you will be missing the target.
While some couples may fail to make a successful adjustment after feelings are honestly explained,
failure is almost guaranteed when the need for adjustment is never communicated. Always take each
other's complains seriously. As I mentioned earlier, your emotional reactions are a gauge of whether
you are making a good adjustment to each other. If you both feel good, you need no adjustment. If
one or both of you feel bad, a change is indicated.
But let me also explain what honesty is not. It is not selfish demands or disrespectful judgments or
Expressing a feeling is not the same as expressing demands. If you try to tell your spouse what to
do, you are not revealing an honest feeling; you are making a demand. If your spouse does
something that bothers you, the correct way to express it is simply say that it bothers you. The
Policy of Joint Agreement would take over from that point to help you try to resolve the problem.
If you tell your spouse that he or she is wrong about something, you're not being honest, you are
being judgmental. While you should be free to express your beliefs and opinions, you should respect
your spouse's beliefs and opinions. If you try to "straighten out" your spouse, you are not being
honest; you are making a disrespectful judgment. The expression of feeling should not carry
judgmental baggage with it.
It goes without saying that angry outbursts are not expressions of honesty, either. When people have
them, they often think that they are being honest, but that's their Taker trying to rationalize what is
actually cruel and destructive. Whatever it is you have to say when you are angry is not worth
saying. Keep that basic principle in mind so that you will keep your mouth shut when you feel
angry. When you have recovered from your anger, it's safe to tell your spouse what was bothering
Failure to express negative feelings perpetuates the withdrawal of love units. It prevents a resolution
to a marital conflict, because the conflict is not expressed. Negative feelings provide evidence that a
couple has not yet achieved a successful marital adjustment. More work is needed.
But positive feelings not only offer proof for a successful adjustment, but they also provide a reward
to the spouse that has been successful. Don't neglect to tell each other how you feel when you are
Now we're ready to look at the second part of this Policy of Radical Honesty. This part faces the
reality that history often repeats itself.
The Second Part of the Policy of Radical Honesty: