A while back I heard a quotation by CS Lewis and it goes something like this: If you seek comfort at the expense of truth, you get neither. If you seek truth at the expense of comfort, you may get both. The truth is so hard to hear sometimes. Just this morning my husband pointed out something to me that was hard to hear. My first reaction was to get defensive, which is something I always talk to couples about (as in "don't get defensive!). But after I thought about what he said, I saw the wisdom in it, and I thought he was right and I began to think about a few instances recently when I should've responded differently.
I'm known to be a pretty straight-shooter by my clients. I often tell clients who see me for couple's therapy that I take sides and sometimes I'm on one person's side, and then I switch and I'm on the other person's side. In many ways, I am a behaviorist when it comes to couples. I pay attention to how couples treat each other, what they say, and what they do to and for each other. Sometimes, I know that what I am about to say could hurt someone's feelings, or that person may become defensive and make up that I'm attacking them in some way. I have to weigh this out in the moment. That being said, I am committed to being truthful to my clients, even if it causes momentary discomfort. What I tell them, and what I believe based on almost 30 years of experience, is that when your partner says something, or when your therapist says something (once trust and a good rapport has been established), there is usually some truth to what is being said. It may not be all true, but you can be sure that there is at least an element of truth.
Therapy is hard work, and most people don't come into therapy to just vent and have their ego boosted. Most people come in wanting to make a change or work through something. We are relational beings--in every aspect of our lives--even at Target or the dry cleaners. We effect others whom we encounter, We all have edges that need to be smoothed out. We all have rough patches and blind spots. To be sure it's much easier to hear truth from a trusted friend or individual. The relationship needs to be there to speak deep truth. If your rough patches or blind spots are exposed and confronted, do you want the truth or do you want comfort? In my better moments, I'll take the truth. In my not-so-good-moments, I can become defensive. With time, however, I have become much more appreciative of people loving me enough, and caring for me enough, to speak difficult truths to me so that I can become more relationally connected and kind. Good therapy promotes truth telling and you should expect it.