Relationships

Radical Honesty 'Scares The Hell Out Of People,' But It Could Be Worth Trying

Practicing radical honesty might be the best way to stave off complacency in a long-term relationship.

A year ago, Allie Stark, a life coach from San Francisco, struggled over how to handle a crush she’d developed.

At the time, she was in a committed, monogamous relationship. It wasn’t the crush that bothered her so much; she’s a firm believer that it’s natural to feel attraction to others, even if you’re in the most happy, healthy relationship. Plus, she was certain the crush would eventually blow over. (It did.)

What ate at Stark was the guilt she felt over not telling her boyfriend.

“I had this gnawing feeling inside of my gut that I was being out of alignment with my own integrity,” she told HuffPost. “My body was telling me to be honest about my fleeting feelings toward someone other than my partner, so that we could move through it together.”

Friends suggested Stark keep it to herself, but eventually she told her boyfriend, then wrote about it in a Mind Body Green essay last year.

“My boyfriend gently stared back at my tear-streaked face,” she wrote. “When he spoke, the words that came out of him were those of understanding .... It made sense to him. He got it.”

The couple chatted about boundaries, commitment and attraction, and ultimately the conversation brought them closer together.

“Amid the somewhat taboo and unconventional words that were shared, a valley of deeper intimacy emerged,” she wrote.

Stark’s decision to tell all was partially inspired by radical honesty, a philosophy and book written by Brad Blanton, a psychotherapist who likes to refers to himself as “white trash with a Ph.D.”

At its core, Blanton’s idea is a very simple one: When you’re radically honest with someone, you tell them what you feel, what you’ve done or plan to do and what you really think. Being radically honest means telling the truth all. the. time. and losing that internal filter that tells you to keep certain things ― usually knotty and emotionally complicated things ― to yourself.

“Eight-five percent of relationships are pretty much more phony than authentic, half or more of marriages split up, and more than half of those that do stay together suck."”

- Brad Blanton, author of "Radical Honesty"

The idea is that when you do that, you open yourself up to truly authentic intimacy and relationships.

Once you get into the practice, though, you can’t let yourself slide back into your old (dishonest) ways, Blanton told HuffPost.

“It is important to understand that the title of my book is Radical Honesty, not Liberal Honesty or Sporadical Honesty or Positive Honesty or any other horseshit like that,” he said. (How’s that for radical honesty?)

The ideology is especially relevant to relationships, which Blanton believes are rife with dishonesty.

“Eight-five percent of relationships are pretty much more phony than authentic, half or more of marriages split up, and more than half of those that do stay together suck,” he said.

Author Brad Blanton, center, at a radical honesty residential workshop.
Author Brad Blanton, center, at a radical honesty residential workshop.

What couples need to do is be more like children in communicating and loving, Blanton said.

“Children are good at loving,” he said. “Adults are not all-in-all that good at loving them back and mold their kids into being good civil liars through careful schooling and judgmental oppression.”

Suppressing what you really want from your partner silently kills the relationship, said Taber Shadburne, a counselor and trainer of radical honesty. (Shadburne has also developed a slightly less hard-lined offshoot philosophy called revolutionary relating.)

“People say that the passion is bound to go out of a romantic relationship, but I disagree completely,” he told us. “Loss of passion, for your relationship or your life, is a symptom of falling into a habitual unconscious trance together, sliding into automatic pilot.”

Being truly candid with your partner about who you are and what you want is an antidote to that complacency, Shadburne said.

“Radical honesty is a way of repeatedly reintroducing the mystery and excitement, the edgy and unknown, the learning and growth, the love and intimacy back into your relationship,” he said.

“The idea of this often scares the hell out of folks, because of the fear of the pain that may be involved or a breakup. And, yes, both of these are possible. But being willing to feel your way through pain together is the cost of admission to real love and intimacy.”

- Taber Shadburne

Radical honesty works for singles, too. Imagine how many people you’d weed out if you told them right off the bat that you don’t want kids or that you have a five-year game plan to move out of the state and settle down.

If you are coupled up, though, take it slow with the honesty. Tell your partner you plan to be more candid moving forward; don’t just let it slip that you hate going to your in-laws for the holidays.

And, lastly, recognize that not every relationship can withstand the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“The idea of this often scares the hell out of folks, because of the fear of the pain that may be involved or a breakup. And, yes, both of these are possible,” Shadburne said. “But being willing to feel your way through pain together is the cost of admission to real love and intimacy.”

And sometimes radical honesty shows you that you and your partner are better off apart, like it did for Allie Stark.

“We were together three years and lived together for two,” she said. “The reasons for ending our relationship had absolutely nothing to do with the fleeting feelings that I had for this other man, and, really, I think radical honesty is what supported both of us in following our own hearts and moving in the direction that was best for both of us.”