Should you always tell the truth?

by Nathan Chua

Before I even begin talking about this touchy issue, I would like you, my readers to know, that I fully respect all opinions to the contrary of what I will share with you here. Like many other things, there are simply no easy answers to the problems we face negotiating through life’s vicissitudes.

Truth-telling can be tricky when we talk about it within certain contexts. More common among these situations where people struggle between being transparent or not, are instances of infidelity, or giving the dire news about someone’s imminent death. There are those, especially from some religious groups, that advocate for total transparency, that the old saying, “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them,” is unconscionable or unfair.

However, like most things in life that do not have easy answers, many also believe that telling the truth about a terminal disease or an affair may prove to be detrimental. In the case of an affair, there are studies cited that it is more likely for male partners to leave a relationship when they are the offended party. The revelation of a terminal disease may prove life-enhancing to one, but despairing to another.

I guess, the stand here is no different from what I have believed to be the best practice in therapy, which is to let the suffering individual, make his or her own decisions based on the prevailing circumstances. For it is the client who knows more about the people involved and the surrounding circumstances, than the therapist.

Frederick Humphrey, Professor Emeritus of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut refers to therapists who, by their influence or stature, encourage or even push their patients to truth-telling, as “Verbal exhibitionists.”

I often meet clients who treat me as some sort of expert in their lives, like I knew something about them that they didn’t already. These types of questions put tremendous pressure on a therapist. I often recuse myself from answering such questions, for it is in my opinion, the clients who are most equipped to provide such answers for themselves.

As in other things in life, there is always an option to keep a secret, a secret. There may also be instances when truth-telling can be liberating and useful to a relationship. But one thing I can guarantee for people who see me to seek advice on what to do, I will allow you to make decisions of your own liking, based on what is best for you, and the people around you.

What brings back the love in a relationship?

by Nathan Chua

As I join couples and families in their efforts to improve their lives together, I am beginning to see the wisdom in employing an old marketing slogan from a popular sports brand, “Just do it.” Much of the struggles that couples experience is not that they don’t love each other anymore, but they seem to have lost the ability to feel loved, or be loving.
There are many instances wherein couples think that they have to feel something, to do something. How can I be loving if I don’t feel like it? Unfortunately, the more a couple waits for the feelings to come, the more time is spent on waiting for something that needs acting upon.
This is probably one of the instances when acting or behaving a certain way, comes before the feelings of love. One only needs to go back to the courtship days, when each wants to outdo the other in expressing love. Even if you didn’t like to do certain things, you would do it to win the affections of the other. We do it to bring feelings of love.
So what should couples do to make them fall in love again? Just do it even if you don’t feel like it. No matter how wasteful you think buying those flowers is for your partner, just do it. No matter how much you don’t like expressing words of appreciation or tenderness, just do it.
Another common objection to this idea, is that people often feel it’s faking it to be someone you thought you have not been for so long. “It would feel fake if I were to change into a kinder, more appreciative and transparent person,” as many would say. Well, we can turn this statement around by saying that what you or others have considered to be your personality or style of relating, maybe just you faking it. The real you, is the one who wants to be more expressive, and who wants to act more consistently with how you feel inside. That self has been in hiding because of being hurt or shamed in the past, by the people you entrusted those genuine feelings and desires to.
Just remember you’re doing it because you want to keep the feelings of love. And if the law of averages applies, you will most likely receive the same loving acts in return. Furthermore, just do it because this may be the real you, who has been hidden from sight for so long…for that real you may turn out to be the better, more likable you.

Two Essentials of a Loving Relationship – Video

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Two Things that are Essential to Any Couple’s Relationship

by Nathan Chua

I am not one to say that I have easy answers to all of life’s problems. I hope the title does not mislead you into thinking that there are only two things that you need, to have a better relationship. Please note these are essential, but not the sole needs of every couple, who would each have their own set of unique circumstances affecting them. At times, their struggles concern other matters such as responsibility, physical intimacy, child-rearing, money management or trust. For this blog post however, I will focus on two deficits that I find common among couples that I meet. Let’s call them the Two C’s of Loving Relationships.

First C is for Connection.

In a blaming and shaming culture, it is easy to fall into adopting a false stance, or a false self. We essentially try to hide who we are, in the face of the shame that we experienced, most often early in life. To minimize emotional pain, we dig deep into our comfort zones, where the need to express some of our more vulnerable emotions, is held in abeyance. We therefore lose that inherent ability to show our emotions as they truly are.

This inability to show authentic emotions is connected to how couples feel toward each other. Couples only see the angry side of each other. I often wonder how a weeping and distressed individual that I see in my office, could be treated so harshly by the other. It is rather simply because this helpless and vulnerable state, is not what is normally displayed at home. Home has become unsafe. The relationship is no longer as real as it had been when it was just beginning. The result is each partner just expecting the worse out of the other, as they only see their angry and resentful selves, with no reason to believe that change can come anytime soon. Connection is lost and will be hard to come by if vulnerable emotions are kept hidden.

Second C is for Compassion.

This should not be confused with guilt or pity. Compassion is a genuine concern for the welfare of the other. Caring enough for your partner, that the last thing you’d like to see, is witnessing him or her in deep pain and sorrow. Guilt on the other hand, is a focus on the self and not on the other, while pity is too distant, and denigrates the dignity of the other. Without compassion for the offended person, it will be hard to connect and heal the inevitable emotional wounds, that are bound to be inflicted in all close relationships. Compassion is the fuel that feeds forgiveness, and the glue that connects our souls.