My Turn: How to be honest with your spouse and still preserve your marriage

My Turn columnist Sharkie Zartman.
My Turn columnist Sharkie Zartman.

My husband is basically incapable of lying. It’s the way he was raised and is both an amazing strength and, at times, an annoying weakness. I know I can always trust him and don’t have to worry about him getting involved with other women or sneaking out to party with the boys. But when it comes to getting his opinion on things I care about, he instinctively socks it to me.

I know what you’re thinking. If I can’t handle the truth, I shouldn’t ask for his honest opinion. But when it comes to knowing what is real, he definitely is the best resource I have. And also sometimes, the most irritating.

You see, I used to be of those lucky people who could eat anything and everything and never put on a pound because of my fast metabolism. But the rules changed in my mid-40s, and, even though I was working out for three to four hours a day on my job, I was packing on the weight. I never weighed myself because my lifestyle never changed. But my clothes were getting tighter and one day a student asked if I was pregnant.

Seriously?

I came home mad and frustrated, and, when I saw my husband, I asked the loaded question: “Pat, do you think I’m fat?” He paused for few moments and then answered honestly, “Yes, but I love you anyway and think you are beautiful.” I never heard what he said after “yes” and just wanted to smack him! How could he be so insensitive? Then I went into the bathroom and gently stepped on the scale. I almost passed out. He was right. For the first time in my life, I had a weight problem.

And this wasn’t the first time he told the brutal truth. After turning 30, I decided to get a new look and got a really short haircut and dyed my hair brown. When I came home and asked Pat if he liked it, he quickly said, “No.” As I started to get upset, he tried to make me feel better by suggesting that I buy a wig.

And don’t even get me started about the time I got my eyebrows feathered and tattooed. I knew they were too dark but when I came home and took off my sunglasses, he almost fell out of his chair and then described them as being crooked and even used his fingers above his eyes to show me how hideous they looked. He made me feel like Dracula, and I had a sudden urge to throw him on the floor, bite his neck and suck out all his blood.

So yes, I have a husband who tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But as we have continued our journey together as a married couple, he has tried to learn the fine art of “sugarcoating the truth.” I still know that he will be honest, but at least he takes my feelings into consideration.

Here are some tips for husbands to keep your marriage together while still being truthful.

1. Don’t ever tell the truth about something you know will upset your partner unless you are asked. Women don’t need to know your opinion about their hair, clothes or makeup.

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2. If you are asked, learn the fine art of sandwiching your answer. Say something nice first, then tell the truth, and end with something nice.

3. Remember that sugarcoating the truth is just being both kind and honest at the same time.

4. Always pause and take a deep breath and think before you open your mouth.

For the wives:

1. Don’t ask your husband what he thinks unless you can handle the truth. If you are married to a truthful partner, you are lucky, but don’t push the envelope.

2. Remember that your life is yours and you don’t need approval from others, especially your partner, to feel good about yourself. That is just icing on the cake.

3. If you’re the one who is guilty of telling the brutal truth, make sure you also know how to sandwich and sugarcoat.

Always remember that trust is the cornerstone of a great marriage and, once broken, may never be repaired. So don’t be afraid of telling the truth to your partner … just make sure it is done in a loving way. And remember, most of us love the sugarcoating!

Sharkie Zartman is a college professor, a former All-American athlete, and award-winning volleyball coach. She is the author of five books, hosts Sharkie’s Pep Talk on HealthyLife.net radio network and is a certified health coach and speaker.

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