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.

How do you survive infidelity?

by Nathan Chua

We often hear from different sources how cases of infidelity have risen in recent times.  In the Philippines, there is the added pressure for couples living in distant locations around the world.  Millions of Filipino families fight loneliness and leave loved ones behind for contractual work overseas.

To start off, it is critical to know the motivations behind indiscretions that can happen without warning.  In my experience, affairs are not consciously pursued by the erring party.  Often, people just find themselves caught up in situations when their commitments to their partners are at a low point, while they happen to meet someone interesting, or more often, someone interested.

The manner of discovery can also play a role.  In our technological world, it is much easier for people to get firsthand accounts of flirtatious exchanges through any of the various social media networks.  They witness the whole affair from its inception, which could have been unlikely if the technology were not available.

An affair or affairs will alter the roles that each party plays in the relationship.  Upon discovery or confession, the offended party will naturally feel a mix of emotions.  There will be anger, hurt, betrayal and suspicion.  The erring party on the other hand, will primarily experience guilt and shame.  The couple then assumes roles of one being an inquisitor, and the other, a defender.

The frequent result is a chase.  The hurt party will be out for revenge and begin wanting to ask a barrage of questions to appease agitated and painful feelings.  In other words, the offended party is on the attack mode.  The transgressor however, would want nothing less than to put it all behind them.  There’s confusion as to why one sincere and heartfelt apology does not seem enough.  The transgressor will be in escape mode.

There goes the dance of a relationship in terrible distress at the moment that the affair is unraveled.  They never seem to meet some place where they can discuss matters rationally and without major altercations.  The affair is now taking its toll on the relationship, making it feel like the couple is slowly drifting towards indifference, and ultimately an end.

The key here is knowing the true needs of each one in the aftermath of an affair.  The aggrieved party needs above all else, reassurance that the whole misstep is temporary, and would not linger any longer.  What they crave for are words of assurance and empathy towards their searing pain.

For the offending party, however, his or her needs may have to be put on hold.  With intervention and a display of genuine contriteness, he or she may eventually get the chance to air grievances which could have contributed to the misstep.

In the immediate aftermath of the discovery, there is an imbalance in the relationship.  The aggrieved party would tend to take moral ascendancy.  There is a one up one down relationship.  The goal of therapy is to get them back to a relationship where they see themselves on equal footing.  For a relationship that has lasted for so long, is still certainly worth another try.