Honesty is a core value of ethical non-monogamy for good reason. Honesty really is the best policy.
All relationships benefit from honesty, not just polyamorous ones.
Honesty benefits our relationships with our parents, friends, coworkers, in laws, and relatives. But honesty in polyamorous relationships is absolutely essential because you are impacting multiple people, as well as committing to the ethic of honesty when agreeing to practice polyamory.
What Is Honesty?
Honesty doesn’t mean you can’t keep a secret and it doesn’t mean you have to say what you think every time, even if it’s hurtful. There are times when silence is truly golden and other times when telling the whole shebang is overkill.
Generally speaking, honesty means you present yourself in a genuine way, aim for transparency, act in a trustworthy way, and refuse to cheat, lie or manipulate.
Honesty is necessary for authenticity.
Honesty in polyamorous relationships or any relationship is necessary if you want the experience of authenticity or of fully being yourself. If you pretend to be someone else, you don’t get to experience that authenticity and what it means in a relationship with others.
Honesty is an essential aspect of communication.
Communication is useless if honesty is absent. It’s just a bunch of words with no meaning if the things you say aren’t true.
Honesty in polyamorous relationships is a vital part of communication, facilitating the smooth operation of multiple relationships and contributing to the wellbeing of many others as well as to those in the immediate relationship.
Learning to tell the truth is a key part of maturity.
It’s a natural instinct to deny, avoid, or lie. When you’re a kid and your mom says “Did you eat the cookies?” you automatically shake your head even as the crumbs are falling from your mouth! But growing up means you have the maturity to tackle difficult conversations and difficult consequences, to handle disappointment, and to hear tough things from someone else.
Dishonesty drives a wedge into a relationship.
Honesty deepens intimacy. When you are dishonest and deceptive, you lose the trust of your lovers. You threaten the stability and security of the relationship. You make your partners doubt themselves or cause unnecessary anxiety.
When we can tell our lovers who we really are, we learn to handle various difficulties, individually and together. We learn to live with people with different philosophies, opinions, and perspectives. We rob ourselves of that chance when we are dishonest, and often destroy our relationship in the process.
Honesty gives our partners the rightful opportunity to opt out.
One reason we hide important and relevant things about ourselves from our partner is that we don’t want to be abandoned. We don’t want them to “not like us.”
Honesty in polyamory can lead to someone choosing not to pursue a sexual, romantic, or love relationship with us, and that hurts. But it is a partner’s right to opt out if something is a dealbreaker for them.
There are certain things our lovers have the right to know, and the right to respond to. Maybe they won’t abandon ship, but will alter their behavior or the way they respond, and you don’t want to risk that either. But we have the right to make decisions for ourselves about our companionship, sex life, emotional connections, health and mental health, and so do our lovers.
For example, maybe it would be tough to disclose that you have bipolar disorder and take lithium. This is something that is no one’s business at work or at baseball practice. But if you’re dating someone and thinking of living together, it becomes a very relevant issue.
Another example would be disclosing that you have herpes before sexual intimacy.
These are complicated matters, not causes for shame. But of course the information can impact the direction things will go.
Honesty also shows us the truth about who our partners are.
If we reveal something painful, complex, difficult, or awkward about ourselves, it makes us very vulnerable, yes. But we do ourselves a favor by being vulnerable, because if our lover changes their tune or responds in a way that is hurtful, we can see the truth about who they are, too.
Not wanting to know how a person you are in relationship with will react when the proverbial you know what hits the fan won’t prevent you from finding out who they are when it does.
The two examples above work here, too. You want a lover who can handle your situation, determine how to practice safe sex or self care, learn more about the situation, and be compassionate and open minded. Your honesty in disclosure can help you, because a partner who isn’t willing to work with you on these issues is of course not the right partner for you.
Honesty gives us the experience of being accepted.
If you don’t reveal yourself honestly to another person, you don’t get the experience of being loved for who you are, in spite of flaws or weaknesses. Honesty in relationships is important to a genuine feeling of stability and security.
Honesty is not about gossiping or salacious tell-alls.
Everyone has the right to privacy and discretion.
We all have secrets. Honesty is not about giving too much information. It is not about sharing secrets that aren’t yours to share, things your sister or friend confided in you when they needed a listening ear. Honesty is not about blabbing every last thing you ever did, and it is not a confessional.
Honesty is about being open and truthful about who you are, what you think, what your needs are, what your values are, what you stand for. It isn’t about dredging up every creepy deed or error from your subconscious and dumping it on a partner. Some mistakes you’ve made in the past have no relevance today.
Honesty requires some discrimination and discretion. The purpose of honesty is to inform and to avoid deception. There’s no need to spill over in matters that have nothing to do with the present, unless they become relevant.
This can be especially relevant when it comes to honesty in polyamorous relationships. In polyamory you may be juggling emotional cargo from several lovers, and you may be called on for discretion in unique situations.
An honest person aims not to deceive, while safeguarding their own privacy and the privacy of others when appropriate.
What tips around honesty can you share from your polyamorous experiences?