My Philosophy on Marriage Series #2 of 5

Ron Mueck Exhibition-48, originally uploaded by Mervin Chiang.

Note: In case you were wondering, the photo on the left is not real! It was taken at a Ron Mueck Exhibition of extremely detailed and confronting sculptures.

Ok, this next section is pretty self explanatory you would think. However, there is a reason why I used the word “extreme” before “honesty”. In order to understand what this means and how to try this in your marriage you must first have a good foundation on unconditional love taken from the section above. Soon you will notice that each layer builds on each other…

Firstly, let’s understand something I borrowed from Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (with written permission to use it here). He calls it the concept of “Invulnerability”. Let me explain…

In no matter what circumstances, we tend to avoid being vulnerable (a.k.a trying to be Mr/Ms Invulnerable). Since I am Chinese, it’s even more prevalent in our culture. We call this “saving face”. Or simply put, we don’t want to get hurt. It’s a self preserving reflex we have. However, too much of this in a work place actually starts to incite politics! And its the same at home. If we try to “beat around the bush” or “be a princess” about the issues, we then tend to tip-toe around them. Or worse, we sweep them under the carpet!

Let’s look at it from another angle. I normally say that if an issue cannot be “gossiped” or talked about directly with your spouse, but you find yourself only secretly telling your best friends or anyone other than your spouse, then you are “being the princess”. And you must wear a tiara on your head! (Yes, even the guys!) This means you are, as Lencioni puts it, trying to be invulnerable. For guys, you may call it “swallowing” it. Or tolerating. Or taking the pain. “It’s ok, I can take the unhappiness, I’m a guy…” you might think. Internalising an issue is equal to sweeping it under the carpet.

So why is unconditional-love-resulting-in-trust combined with the concept of NOT being Mr/Ms Invulnerable have anything to do with Extreme Honesty? These are the 2 key concepts to practising Extreme Honesty in a relationship. It means to NOT fear the ridicule of saying something’s wrong in the relationship. It is to call something that is not right out without fearing a lash back. It is to discuss something that is difficult and confronting without any fear of rejection and judgement. If you are sharing something that is bothering you in the relationship with someone else, don’t! Your spouse should be your best friend. If you are trying to tolerate something and internalising it, don’t! To sweep something under the carpet is actually more cowardly than to confront the issue head on!

Wait a minute! Am I saying that you guys should argue and fight? Absolutely! Yes! I am saying exactly that. I am saying that you should have a strong and healthy “robust conversation”. To argue and fight over a topic in an objective manner and never personally serving “low blows” are the best thing that can happen to a relationship. Why? Because it teaches both of you more about each other and how each other thinks, feels, process information and deal with situations. To tease that out in an “Extreme Honesty Episode” gives a great insight into your spouse that you married! If you objectively and respectfully try and hear each other out to seek a resolution, you will learn so much more in each episode than 30 years of sweeping under carpets and never finding the root of an issue with each other.

If you both need to join a course on conflict management, go for it! “Conflict Management in a relationship” is a whole topic in itself which I won’t go into here. However, remember this when going into an Extreme Honesty Episode: “Is this fight we are about to have, trivial?” In trivial I mean, does it really matter if the socks are on the floor next to the bed? Will both your worlds end if either don’t win on such a trivial event? Is it worth sacrificing your love and a good night together over the issue? Fight, but be sensible about them. No one likes being picked on. This comes comes back to the first layer – “Unconditional Love”!

The key to all this is to fight it out in an Extreme Honesty Episode and endeavour to never repeat the same episode again! Learn lessons from the episode and respect each others’ differences and learn to apply unconditional love on them. At least in this way you are both getting more clarity and “mental intimacy” upon each episode of an Extreme Honesty session.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” 
– Ephesians 4:26 –

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