| Karen Scarth |
In the last post of this series, we reviewed the relationship rule: “You need to feel the same way I do. Otherwise you don’t care about me or understand me.” In this relationship dynamic there is an intense need by one partner to be constantly reassured that their emotions are not just validated but shared without reservation. This may lead to the other partner feeling a loss of sense of self and maintaining the demands of this form of relationship may be emotionally exhausting.
The next relationship rule we will focus on is:
- You have to be completely open and honest, and tell me everything. I need to know what you are thinking and feeling at all times.
This relationship rule can create a profound sense of intrusion and emotional control. You receive the message that you need to open up and be honest yet, invariably, what you have to say can often lead to conflict. Individuals often feel like they are secretive and dishonest if they keep anything to themselves and start to feel they no longer know what is the right thing to do. Their judgment regarding what needs to be shared and what they are entitled to keep private gets eroded. They do not feel that they are entitled to any privacy of thought.
Individuals who have learned to operate within a relationship this way can become highly vulnerable to manipulation. They learn that if they are not completely forthcoming they may be later punished. At the same time, they also learn that if they are truly candid about their feelings, they may face conflict in the present. A common coping strategy is to present only thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are acceptable to the other person and, therefore, bypass conflict.
However, in the process of trying to avoid conflict, one’s sense of self becomes lost. A person who feels compelled to say and do whatever it takes to please the other starts to lose clarity about what they really think and what is real. Their gut tells them something is wrong with this scenario but they cannot figure it out intellectually.