How to be honest with your partner and come out alive ... and more loved.
When you get down to what separates great, long-lasting partnerships from ones that start with the best intentions but fizzle out over time, there are a few very basic rules and behaviors that while seemingly common sense, most people don't have a clue about. The truth is that we can all use a boost in our E.L.Q. ... our emotional intelligence when it comes to navigating the waves of our most intimate love relationships (a.k.a. your Emotional Love Quotient.)
One of the most vital components of keeping and growing a POWERFUL, LOVING, and FUN partnership is HONESTY. When life is smooth, honesty is easy. It's when the bumps come up that the temptation to fib, to disguise or avoid the truth seem like the simplest path. But over time, little lies build to bigger lies and resentment - neither of which you want hanging around your relationship.
One of the most fertile grounds for secrecy between two people is money. We call these 'sticky situations' and we've listed a few of the most common. We've also included the most dangerous but often used 'emotionally-stunted' responses... DO NOT try these at home! On the flip side, we've outlined for you the high E.L.Q. response, one we've used in our own partnership to transform financially sticky situations into deeper connection, a better understanding of ourselves, and more love.
• You've spent a chunk of change without consulting your partner
• You've blown the budget you both agreed to
• You've put something on credit when you've agreed you are paying off your debt
Emotionally Stunted Responses:
1. Hide the bill and pray he/she never finds out.
2. Feel guilty, wait for them to figure it out and beg for forgiveness.
3. Sneak your misdemeanor into another conversation or get to them while they are busy or distracted.
4. Fess up but slough it off as not a big deal, you'll find the money somewhere.
High E.L.Q. Response:
1. Admit to yourself that you acted outside of the agreements you had with your partner. You have to accept responsibility with yourself that your action was outside of either a stated or implied agreement (we always recommend having explicit agreements about money choices.) But even if you didn't have an explicit agreement, you knew what your partner expected. So face the music. Say out loud to yourself, "I chose to XX and I know that my action was outside of our agreements / expectations of each other." And then take a deep breath (don't skip the breath, it's important to releasing your own emotions!) Coming clean with yourself will feel good and erase some of the guilt or apprehension. You can't be honest with your partner if you aren't first honest with yourself.
2. Plainly and succinctly take responsibility with your partner and then tell them the facts. This is not the time to go into some long story to justify your actions. Just own what you did, not with guilt but with honesty. First, ask for his/her attention to talk about something important. Second, state that you broke an agreement. And third, tell them the specifics. "Joe, I broke our agreement about making big purchases without talking to you about it. I bought XX today for $XX." Then shut up.
3. Let your partner react. Before you get to the "Why" (which in your mind may either have been a good or bad reason) your partner will need to have their emotional response. Seriously, it's the least you can do. Your job is just to listen. Let them have whatever feeling they have. Don't try and defend yourself, unless you want to create a fight. This is also not the time to explain why. Just listen. If in your partner's reaction, they ask why, include your response as part of step four, after you own it. (Note to Partner... you are responsible for your own E.L.Q. too. You are allowed to honestly react but not to bludgeon, scream, attack, tear apart or try and make your partner - who is trying to be honest with you -- feel guilty or ashamed. You can be angry but you still owe this person your respect and unconditional love. Be angry at the action, not the person... and DON'T take it personally, their action was not a personal attack on you.)
4. Own your action again, apologize for breaking the agreement and then, finally, you can share... not your defense but your heart. Your simple response is, "You are right. I acted outside of our agreement. I am sorry." Let that apology land. Then take a breath and say, "I'd like to share why I made this decision..." and then share with them, from your heart what motivated you to make the choice to spend money this way. Be vulnerable. Do not get defensive. Do not bring up any of their actions from the past to throw in their face. Remember, the two of you are on the same side, and have committed to helping each other be the best people you can be.
5. Create Conscious Next Steps.
i. Discuss the "Now what?" Come to agreement on how you manage any financial stress this may cause, and work together to make it work.
ii. Create an agreement or modify the previous one. Converse about what really works for you both and talk about it until you both feel really good.
iii. State your agreed to expectations out loud. This will make sure there is no confusion, and will eliminate the need for any secrets.
And our favorite last step to this whole process...
Pinky Swear on your agreement and then seal it with a smooch!