.Most couples cite honesty and trust as essential to the stability of their relationship. When a couple experiences a crisis, especially a crisis that threatens their ability to trust each other, the truth often acquires a particular importance. This kind of crisis often injects a huge dose of fear into the relationship. And, many people correctly believe that the primary antidote to fear is the truth. People will say things like, "If I just know what's really going on, I can deal with it." Or, "If he would just tell me the truth I think we would work this out."
In the rush to manage fear, couples quickly latch on to specific truths. For example, "I looked at your cell phone and you called him three times yesterday." Or, "You haven't wanted to make love for the last several months. Something must be very wrong." While these events are certainly true, they represent only a truth. The crisis is made substantially worst when the truth that's been discovered gets translated into the whole truth.
Translating a truth into the whole truth is the shift from viewing something as an act to viewing it as an example of identity. It's the move from noticing what a person did to labelling who the person is. So, Bill says, "I looked at your cell phone and I could see that you called him three times yesterday." If he follows that truth with, "You are a cheater!" he has taken a truth and turned it into the whole truth. The question is, does doing something automatically determine who you are? Perhaps, but not necessarily. When a truth is translated into the whole truth, meaningful conversation becomes almost impossible for most couples.
In these circumstances, the goal is to recognize a truth and remain calm and steady until the whole truth has a chance to emerge. This takes courage and compassion along with a willingness to see beyond the event. The goal is to remember the aspects of your partner you fell in love with.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.