I sum up what supports healthy relationships as integrity. That simple alignment of words and actions is your compass. It is the foundation for a durable emotional bank account. And, you play a vital role in the success of each relationship you choose.
Integrity [in-teg-ree-ty] of being honest and having moral and ethical principles; the soundness of character. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
Have you ever had a relationship that went from fun and connected, only to dissolve into something far less enjoyable? There comes a point in many relationships when there is too much water under the bridge; trust and integrity erode away. All the years of arguing, that lead to the desire to get out, a loss of friendship, general distrust, and hurt feelings. As you may know, it’s a terrible place to find yourself, and you don’t have to.
There are so many small things that stack upon one another that lead to the depletion of the love in your emotional bank account. I don’t have the space to write them all. So for now, let’s look at the most important.
5 often hidden needs that shag up conversations
Issues that can become Relationship Pitfalls
Let’s start with what integrity means. For me, it is a word that describes honesty and trustworthiness combined. Have you ever experienced someone agreeing to do something and then they didn’t follow through? Or agree to something without the intention to follow through? The reasons that we agree to things we don’t want to do or aren’t interested in doing can point out concerns about saying “no” or trying to avoid an argument. With this in mind, it’s a no-brainer that a lack of integrity breaks down trust. In fact, anytime you experience a disconnect between words and actions, it erodes trust.
I used to work with couples when infidelity had brought them to my office. The betrayal of infidelity is real and overwhelming. Yet, often the relationship had begun to erode far in advance. Lack of respect can show up in a myriad of ways. For example, name-calling in the heat of an argument, when it’s easy to let our anger overwhelm our mouth; saying things that we can’t take back. Or, when someone stops respecting a boundary, our “no.” Respect shows up in the daily moments when there’s a choice to either turn towards each other showing interest or we turn away by showing annoyance at being bothered. Furthermore, when people disagree they often listen for ammo, rather than understanding. When respect is missing, it deteriorates communication and pushes people apart. In other words, we need to be aware of the moments that diminish respect between us because we can choose differently.
How often have you started a relationship with the idea that someone needs to change you? That you need someone to come along and fix you because you aren’t good enough? Not often I imagine. Yet, when we find ourselves in relationships, we can spend a lot of time trying to change people. One of our greatest human desires is to be acknowledged and appreciated for who we are. And still, we can find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else’s ideas of how we could be so much better; if only… You are not my project, I am not your project. Accepting and liking someone’s behavior are two different things. I can accept that someone is a liar, and then choose to distance myself from the relationship. Conscious choices are mine to make. Conversely, trying to make someone into a different person is a little like banging your head against a wall, hoping for ice cream; it’s highly unlikely it will happen.
It’s a funny thing, our relationship to control. In reality, very few people want to be controlled. And still, we often find ourselves madly working to control the world around us. This often leaks into relationships. In the hundreds of hours, I have spent sitting with clients, one of the biggest challenges to a sense of connectedness and trust is feeling that you are being controlled. How you wash the clothes, how you load a dishwasher, who you talk to, what you wear, how you do your hair, all these are just the tip of a very large iceberg. And, when you feel like someone is controlling your actions, words, experience or feelings, it is incredibly easy to start to distrust them. Alas, the secondary bi-product of control is that we often start acting out of integrity as a way of avoiding being controlled.
When I was 15 I remember deciding to clean the kitchen. I felt pretty proud of myself. Counters were scrubbed, dishes were done, floors washed, it was a very sparkly kitchen. After pouring myself a soda, I went and sat down. My dad walked in a few minutes later and said, “Who left this soda bottle on the counter?” While I wasn’t expecting to get any praise or even a “Thank You,” what I hadn’t expected was to be scolded. We often communicate a lack of appreciation with our words, or tone, and even with a lack of acknowledgment. In couples, a lack of appreciation can sound similar to my example, or it can show up in the differences of our Love Languages. Different love languages can cause a lot of complications. We tend to give people love in the way we want to receive it. For example, if one person loves little cards and gifts and the other person appreciates long conversations, then we can miss the love we are being given, and feel unappreciated and unloved.
Integrity in Action
I remember early in my marriage, Michael and I had a conversation, about loading a dishwasher. It may sound like a minor ridiculous thing, yet at the time it felt important. There was something about how he did it that I didn’t like. So, I attempted to “share with him” my “better” more “efficient” method of dishwasher loading. This ultimately led to a conversation that sounded something like, “Michael, if you just loaded the dishwasher like
As an illustration, this one small situation had all the components to generate an argument that would increase distrust or was an opportunity to build it. Michael was being clear about his boundaries, I had a choice to ignore his boundary or to respect it. At that moment I had a decision about my dishwasher loading preference or continuing to get help with doing dishes. There was an appreciation piece also. I could have continued to harp on a particular style of loading, missing appreciation for his contribution to our household. Michael’s love language is around acts of service. By criticizing his help, I was actually shutting down his form of showing love. Lastly, due in part to the internal pressure to have something be my way, I had stepped into being utterly controlling.
Choosing Another Response
I opted to back away from stirring the pot of distrust. I took a few deep breaths, walked out of the kitchen and rubbed by tummy repeating, “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok.” Letting go of my need to micromanage this dishwasher situation and unhooking the idea that doing it “my way” = “you love me.”
By staying in calm integrity, and naming what he was and wasn’t willing to do, Michael added to my trust of him. And for my part, by acknowledging and owning my thinking and story, taking time to breathe, and letting go, increased his trust in me. We have had other situations, in which the conversation flowed the other direction. As you might imagine, I too have taken turns naming my experience and setting boundaries. And Michael has taken the time to breathe, let go and respect my choices. Through the repetition of these experiences, we have grown. By n
Through the years I have listened to couples argue about pretty much everything. Arguments run the gamut from doing chores, to how to spend or save money. For many people, these conversations expand into bigger issues, like the hurt caused by careless words in an argument.
And, learning to speak your truth with integrity, is crucial. At the end of the day, when your head lays upon your pillow, you know if you have behaved in the manner that keeps you in integrity. In conclusion, by understanding these pitfalls people find that awareness has led to the deepening of trust in their relationships also.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What ways do you encourage trust and integrity in your relationships?
- What is your love language?
Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC is a Leadership Confidence and Whole Life Coach, and the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life. Lyssa works with confidence challenged high achievers who are ready to rewrite the internal narratives that slow them down. Her clients include executives, senior leadership, and managers at organizations such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, the US Military, as well as with creative writers, actors, and artists.
What fires her up is working with smart people to trust their brilliance and develop the courage and confidence to believe in themselves and the work that is their purpose. If you are interested in meeting to see if you could benefit from working together, let's have a coffee and a chat.