radical transparency in your relationship couples therapy Tom Bruett california and Colorado

Why do you need radical transparency in your relationship?

Are you ready to do some spring cleaning in your relationship? After a wet and cold winter for many, signs of spring are popping up all around us. Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good excuse to clean up and reorganize. So why not use this moment to do some spring cleaning in your relationship life?

Evaluate the state of your relationship

First off, I’m not suggesting you Marie Kondo your partnership and end your relationship if your partner isn’t bringing you joy. It’s unrealistic and not really our partner’s job to always bring us joy. Sometimes they will challenge us and even occasionally bring up tough conversations. Today I will be talking about how to evaluate the state of your relationship and then how to use radical transparency to tidy things up just in time for spring.  

What isn’t working?

The first step is to get real with yourself. What is not working in your relationship? As an example, have you gotten out of the habit of doing a weekly date night? This is a moment to go inward and be very honest with yourself about the things in your partnership that aren’t serving the greater good. This is not the moment to make a laundry list of all the things your partner does that you wish they’d change. You can’t change your partner; you can only change yourself. 

What do you want more of?

Another way to go about evaluating your relationship is to ask yourself what you want more of.  Using the date night example again, maybe you wish your date nights were feeling more exciting. Turn inward and ask yourself what would feel more exciting. Don’t use this as a moment to think of all the things your partner could do differently. Instead, think about yourself for a moment and what could you do that would make things feel more exciting on date night. Maybe you want to do a scavenger hunt. Or take turns planning surprise dates. Believe it or not, the solutions are often the easy part. The first step is clearly defining the problems and figuring out what you want, feel, need, or desire.  

What do you want less of?

Along the same lines, what do you want less of in your relationship? Maybe you want less fighting or less screen time when you’re together. I encourage you to do a deep dive and consider the things I’m mentioning before moving into a place where you’re trying to come up with solutions.   

Radical transparency

If you’re like me, you’ve heard politicians use the phrase radical transparency so often it’s lost its meaning. So, let’s take the phrase back the same way that we’ve taken back the word queer because I think the spirit of the phrase is very evocative.  Radical transparency means that you’re being fully honest, open, and authentic with your partner. You don’t keep secrets, even small ones. You share things in an open, fair, and kind way so that your partner can know you better. When we get in the habit of holding things back from our partners, this can quickly snowball. Before you know it, you’re not sharing big things either. 

Why do you need radical transparency in your relationship?

If you want your relationship to thrive, it’s important for there to be a strong foundation of radical transparency.  How does this apply? Think back to the questions we were exploring earlier. After you’ve had time to do some self-reflection and consider what you want more and less of in your relationship, it’s time to think about sharing those findings with your partner.  Make sure it’s a good time for them to listen and then be as honest and candid as you can be about your findings.   

Question of attunement

My mentors Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson who created the developmental model, have a great question that can help with the process of radical transparency.  They call it the question of attunement. It’s a way to explore how comfortable you are taking risks, being honest, and giving and getting feedback from your partner. There’s a lengthier version of this question that I often help couples explore in couple therapy, but here’s an adaptation you can try on your own.  I recommend using this question in a moment of open and honest conversation. Don’t try this mid-fight or even to make up from a conflict. Ready for the question….

What can I do this week to make your week go a little bit better?

I’m going to repeat that again because it’s such a great question.  

What can I do this week to make your week go a little bit better? 

Listen to the response, consider it, and if you can make it happen, make it happen. It’s a way to invest in your relationship and renew your bond.  It’s a way to ensure it will be a beautiful spring. And if your partner is feeling open to it, have them ask you the same question in return. Don’t turn it into a tit-for-tat power struggle. Instead, use this as an exercise to bring you closer together and get more comfortable giving feedback to one another.  Feedback that is radically transparent and kind.  

Action steps

  • First, do a self-inventory of your relationship.  What do you want more of?  What do you want less of? 
  • Then set aside time to share your findings with your partner. 
  • Have a conversation about the question of attunement and experiment with it for a week.  
  • Then set up a time to check in and see how the experiment went. 
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Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in Denver, Colorado. He works virtually with folks in California and Colorado. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.