THE PARADOX OF INTIMACY

Lauren, for example, remained close with her ex, Ryan, after she and Mike started dating. Although Lauren and Ryan couldn’t make their relationship work, they still enjoyed each other’s company and considered themselves friends. Lauren would talk to Mike about Ryan, and it upset Mike because he didn’t think it was appropriate for her to remain friends with an ex. In fact, Mike became so upset, he raised his voice and told Lauren that he wanted her to stop talking to Ryan altogether. Because Lauren loved Mike, she took his perspective into account and tried to avoid doing things with her ex. However, one day Ryan stopped by Lauren’s work unannounced and offered to take her out for lunch. Lauren went to lunch with Ryan because she wanted to catch up with her friend.

Not only do people sometimes fail to live up to their partner’s expectations, but under certain circumstances, people often conceal what they’ve done. People sometimes conceal the truth because they are ashamed of their own behavior, or they want to avoid punishment, or they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings, or they simply don’t want to have a long, dragged-out conversation about the issue. For example, when Lauren occasionally sees Ryan, she conceals it from Mike because she feels bad about what she’s done; she doesn’t want to hurt Mike’s feelings; and she doesn’t want to spend hours talking about the issue with him.

When people fear that the truth might lead to a negative outcome, especially a partner’s disapproval and even punishment, telling the truth becomes a less attractive option. Fear is a powerful emotion—fear of hurting a partner’s feelings, fear of getting into trouble, and fear of damaging a relationship.

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