The email response to my post “If You Love Someone Should You Tell Them?” has prompted me to write another post on this particular topic. For all of you who sent me emails, I appreciate everyone of your emails. I was able to respond to some but there just isn’t enough time to respond to all.
The general experience of most people is that being honest with their feelings brought them more pain than love. Telling someone how they truly felt instead of bringing the person closer made the other person run away. This has caused them to question whether revealing ones feelings is a good idea in the first place.
What I should have added to my earlier post is that while emotional honesty is a pre-requisite for any healthy relationship, not all men and women are emotionally healthy and mature enough to appreciate it, respect it, and reciprocate it.
Emotionally unhealthy and immature men and women place a higher value on the intensity/excitement created by emotional stress and find it hard to appreciate let alone reciprocate emotional honesty. While there are many psychological reasons for being drawn to emotional drama and stress, there is no question that the tactics of manipulation and deceit can be a powerful source of adrenaline high. For some (sadly), it’s the only way they know how to interact and relate.
We all know or have known someone like that. Their first contact is confrontational for no reason, they start arguments and fights about nothing and are always suspicious about everyone’s motives. It’s like they enter your personal space and their energy contaminates it with negativity, pessimism, mental and emotional stress. Most are not even aware they have this emotional “dis-ease” vibe about. They keep blaming everyone else but themselves for their inability to emotionally connect with others in a healthy way.
Emotionally healthy and mature men and women have an emotional “ease” about them. They not only seek but thrive in healthy emotional expression, openness and honesty. They’re realistically aware that any relationship with others has the potential for hurt, but are not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves and do not run when a man or woman to whom they’re attracted professes his or her feelings in an appropriate way.
The key words here is “appropriate”. There is such a think as too much too soon and too little too late when it comes to emotional honesty. When you’re emotionally healthy you have this internal emotional regulator inside of you (some people like to call it “emotional intelligence”), that tells you how much to reveal and at what stage of the relationship. It’s not about dishonesty or manipulation (what and how much can I say to get what I want) but rather “what’s healthy in this present experience?” (now as it’s happening).
Problem is that if your childhood experience with attachment was unhealthy or if you’ve consistently been in relationships in which you did not feel truly loved and cared for, your internal emotional regulator will either be faulty or broken and as a result your judgement on what’s healthy in the present experience will be somewhat inconsistent with reality. Without a well tuned and functioning internal emotional regulator, you’ll tend to do for the people you love what you want to be done to you which in itself a good thing, except that you’ll tend to overcompensate for all the love you’ve never had. The “unhealthy” part of you believes that if you love them the way you were never loved, they will love you right back just as much and that will make up for all those years/experiences of not feeling loved. The “overload of love” (too much or too soon) makes the other person run away.
The opposite of too much too soon, is too little too late. You hold off telling someone how you truly feel for fear that your feelings will not be reciprocated or telling them might scare them away. The effort of keeping a tight lid on your feelings makes you come across as emotionally cold, emotionally unreachable/unavailable, manipulative (playing mind games) or not authentic. That’s enough to make someone want to run away fast.
In summary, emotional honesty is the the gift of “self” (emotionally naked and unashamed). It’s not only the best quality that someone can offer to a relationship, it’s the ingredient that is necessary for deep and meaningful intimacy. Like everything in life, there is risk for potential hurt but the reward so much outweighs the risk.
If your experiences with being emotionally honest consistently cause others to run away, you should look at 1) the kind of people you tend to draw to yourself and 2) how you go about emotional honesty. Sometimes it’s the manner in which you express your love feelings (and not that you express them) that makes someone want to run away.