tell the truth

Tell the Truth

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There is ancient wisdom packed into a couple of still familiar sayings: “Physician, heal thyself,” and “Get rid of the log in your own eye before you deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Each of these proverbs emphasizes how you’ve got to take stock of yourself and deal with your own problems before launching a campaign to “heal” someone else.

When married couples come in for counseling, one of the most foundational principles we usually have to work on is to tell the truth. That might sound surprising. It sounds simple enough; just tell the truth. But couples can accrue years and layers of secrets, hiding, deception, lying, or manipulation. Over time, it can get challenging just to say things how they really are and agree not to run from the truth. When I spell out this principle, most people look at their spouse and think, “Yeah. You really need this. I hope you can see and deal with the truth because I’m about to give you some!”

Can you relate to this? I can. I’m usually able to think of a few things I’d like my wife to see and understand from my perspective. But we’ve got to slow down for a moment. Do you know where we need to start telling the truth? To ourselves. Even before telling the truth to a spouse, health in marriage starts with a long, honest look in the mirror. So in this case: Husband, heal thyself. You’ve got something in your eye there.

This isn’t to say wives don’t have any issues they need to work on. They do. It’s just that in my experience counseling couples, there are some key areas where men and husbands are particularly vulnerable to blindness. See if you recognize yourself in any of these areas. If you do, you’d be wise to start working on your marriage by first addressing the tendencies that require correcting in yourself.

Issue 1: Men often blameshift. This one is as old as time itself. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, God asked Adam if he’d eaten it. Like a guilty child, Adam replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Not a good idea, Adam. Blaming God and Eve? Dude, seriously. But we do the same things. Instead of taking an honest look at our own irritability or demandingness, it’s so much easier to point the finger at our wives and say, “Well, you’re not keeping up your end of things!” Maybe. But maybe a better place to start is by telling the truth to yourself and admitting that when things don’t go your way, you too can resort to childish blameshifting.

Issue 2: Men like to compare “levels” of right. In an argument, have you ever known that you were wrong about some aspect, but really, really wanted to focus instead on the parts where you still think you’re right? As if resolving disagreements is as simple as stacking up which one of you has got more rightness and then declaring the winner? (Has that ever worked?) This subtle cousin of blameshifting can be tough to spot if you think disagreements are basically win-loss scenarios, determined by who’s just “less wrong.” Husbands would do so much good for their marriages if they simply embrace that their own wrongs injure the relationship. You don’t need to compare “rights” if your own wrongs are sufficient explanation for the mess you’re in. Humility goes a long way.

Issue 3: Men struggle with pride. This can take so many shapes—each detrimental. Husbands don’t like admitting they’re wrong (see above). They also don’t generally like admitting where they feel weak or in need of help. And husbands often struggle with intellectual analysis of a situation, assuming they can fix things they have themselves complicated. There’s so much value in telling the truth to yourself that sometimes life and relationship is beyond your control, outside of your ability to fix. You won’t come across as a superior sounding, proud fool when the situation calls for a wise husband seasoned with gentleness and transparency.

Both husbands and wives need to tell themselves the truth. No doubt. But husbands, before you apply the truth to your wife, make sure you’ve done the same for yourself first.

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “Are there places I need to hear some truth?”