Just Tell Me What I Want to Hear
By Janel Breitenstein
My husband had this annoying habit when we were first married: telling the truth.
I’d request his opinion on my shirt, and he would casually let me know if it looked sloppy or less-than-flattering. He’d thank me for the meal from my shiny new Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but when I pushed, he’d suggest I cut back on the onion.
Or I would begin a well-known wifely script. “I feel so [insert adjective]. I can’t believe you’re attracted to me.”
My husband was supposed to reply, “I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world.” But he recognized the quicksand of my insecurity, my attempts to drag him in.
A truth-teller would not speak with inaccurate superlatives. Instead, he extended a branch: “I’m not going to say you’re the most beautiful woman in the world; you wouldn’t believe me anyway.” Try me. “But you are beautiful to me.”
Kind of anti-climactic. Where did this guy go to man school?
At times he thought that I wanted to be reminded of scriptural principles. (And I did. But not when I was sinning, for Pete’s sake.) Not in a self-righteous way. Just carefully, honestly telling me what I needed to hear.
He was gut-level honest about sin he was struggling with. At first I’d feel awkward. Or disappointed. Or angry.
But the more this happened—and the more I revealed my own struggles—the more intimate and refining our relationship became. We drew closer, confessing failures, then asking forgiveness and even quietly holding each other accountable.
As he grew more gentle, more careful about his timing and choice of words, I recognized something valuable and rare: trustworthiness.
His compliments aren’t an attempt to make me feel good. His looks of admiration are from a brother in the battle, helping me anticipate the places I’d be wounded by my sin—or wound others. The white lies that grease the wheels of so many relationships aren’t welcome.
After nearly two decades of marriage, he’s changed a lot. But I love that he still tells the truth.
The good stuff: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Action points: Are there ways you avoid telling your spouse the truth to make him or her feel better in the moment? How do the “scripts” you expect from each other keep both of you from greater honesty and trustworthiness? Are you ready to embrace truth spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15)?
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