One NECESSITY for Thriving Relationships

TRANSPARENCY. Agh, this topic has hit me hard recently.

I’m realizing more and more that transparency HUGELY affects our relationships like a ton of bricks. It’s impossible to have a balanced relationship without it.

Think about it. Let’s say a husband has been not doing too well emotionally, mentally, physically, professionally, or in any other way. AND THEN HE SAYS NOTHING. Do you think for a minute the wife won’t know something is up?


WIFE: Is everything ok?  HUSBAND: Yeah. 

(Wife is thinking: Um, no. He’s not acting himself. I wonder what is up.) 

WIFE: Is there anything you’re worried about?  HUSBAND: No. Everything is fine. 

(Wife is thinking: Why isn’t he telling me? Is he upset with me? Is he ok? Are we ok?)

All of this because someone isn’t willing to say…

“I’m not doing well.”

“I’m struggling right now.”

“I dropped the ball.”

“I’m stressed.”

“My job sucks.”

“I am not perfect.”

Months or even years could go by with someone struggling personally- and yet not saying anything – and allowing a distance and a distrust and unneeded frustrations to begin. And I am sure we all know how fun that could be – and how deeply that can unravel a good relationship. I’ve been there.


Employee does not perform their job well. 

Boss is ANNOYED and wondering what the crap is going on. 

Employee is actually going through a divorce but says nothing. 

Boss gets more and more annoyed because she is in the dark. 

And the moment the boss learns what is happening, SHE NOW GETS IT. She isn’t so annoyed anymore. She only wishes the employee told her sooner as it would have prevented a lot of frustration.

Transparency. It’s a massive way to not burn bridges; to stay close to loved ones instead of creating a distance; to build trust instead of take it away; to gain respect or compassion or connection or understanding from others. Though clearly, to be transparent, it takes some guts. It takes some vulnerability. It takes an ego-self-worth-check…because we are usually hiding away or avoiding difficult conversations in order to protect those dang egos – because we think our worth is on the line. In reality, our worth is inherent. It’s never based on those perfect circumstances anyway.

Can you think of a scenario in your life where transparency would have prevented a lot of frustration, worry, or distance? Do share! And let’s all think of something RIGHT NOW that could get a dose of transparency. Hiding/Delaying/Procrastinating/Avoiding be gone!

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  1. Discovery Preschool April 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I love this post. I can totally see how this affected my marriage on so many levels, from the really big things like my husband locking his phone and keeping big things from me, to the little things like you mentioned about not being transparent with our feelings. I am even thinking how I could be more transparent with my kids.. as in when I am frustrated or feeling overwhelmed I am often less patient with them. I wonder if I talked about it with them in a simple way, or even when I apologize for being short with them if I mentioned that I am just feeling tired or overwhelmed. Good things to think about. I like how you gave the boss/employee scenario as well. This affects all of our relationships. Thanks for sharing! I love you guys!

    • mara April 14, 2015 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      These comments today are just so good – – and getting to the heart of LIFE. Thank you for starting it off with your thoughts. Oh, transparency. It is in the big things. And the little things. And it's even in this blog! I've had days before when I wasn't in the best place to blog. And if I don't have anything meaningful or noteworthy to write or share, I usually just share nothing. But I wonder – if just sharing something – anything – would still be of meaning to someone. Even it if was to say: Hello. today I can't blog. I hope to see you back here soon.

  2. Anonymous April 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Recently I have had thoughts on vulnerability. I admire it in others and yet I want my walls up. I never feel it is because of ego, but it probably is. I don't think of myself wanting a certain ego, I just don't want attention. Your thoughts connected transparency to many aspects in my life. I'm giving this a go. Today! I agree communication is important, but it can feel so dang hard to just open your mouth.

    • danny April 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      I'm not sure that ego is really about wanting attention. That's probably the most common definition that you hear (that's why whenever someone is described as having a big ego, you almost immediately think of attention and fame). But that's just the more noticeable way that self-centeredness is observable.

      Ego can also be the driving force behind the quietest, most reserved people you know as well.

      With one person, "ego" is manifest in desiring that everybody admire and respect them. In another, "ego" is manifest in not wanting to be seen for fear of being discovered as a failure.

      I feel like in my life, this particular post is most relevant when I am afraid of having let others down, of not having met expectations that I have for myself or they have for me. It's ego driven not because I want attention, but because I don't want attention brought to my mistakes and failures.

      But oh what a release…when we finally voice those fears, that perceived failure, that inadequacy, to someone worthy of trust. It is more often than not met with understanding and a helping hand.

      And yet even knowing that, it doesn't seem to make it easier to do the next time around. It takes a lot of dedication to consistently live this way. Something I am always trying to learn.

    • mara April 14, 2015 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Anon – – So cool to get your comment today. Hopefully you've been able to rock some transparency already. 🙂 If not, we're cheering you on. And yeah, I remember when I used to hold back (a ton) – it was also due to not wanting any attention. BUT. I realized that was very self-serving – holding back was serving me and my needs/fears and no one else (and of course it ultimately worked against me, too.) What helped me make the shift was the desire to connect with others, the desire to use my voice for good, the desire to contribute in some way – and also, I'll just say it – the desire to leave a legacy. If I sat and said nothing, I could live and die without much of a bleep. Good luck today! And each day going forward as you use your voice! (And I think you're awesome for using it today to write that comment. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Turner April 14, 2015 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Every. Single. Day. of. My. Life. Fortunately, this problem is virtually non-existent in our marriage, which is a HUGE blessing, I know. However, in relationships with others…I struggle to find a balance. If I'm too transparent, I feel like a burden or a drain on energy, compassion, or patience. If I'm not transparent enough, they think I don't trust them or that there's something amiss in our relationship, which just adds to the burden & makes me sad. I find myself more and more withdrawing into myself because it's safer there. I don't want to offend, hurt feelings, or be a drain on anyone.

  4. Miggy April 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Yes, what about being too transparent? I think transparency is of course important, but like Stephanie mentioned above some people use it for excuses and eventually tap runs dry on compassion when that is overused as well. My own answer would be that it depends on ones motives. Are you being transparent for your own gain? In the same way that others hold back on transparency for their own gain? While I don't think I use transparency as a means to manipulate others I feel like sometimes I'm so worried about people not trusting me (cuz clearly I have trust issues myself) and so I find myself being overly transparent when I don't need to be. Which sometimes causes heartburn on my part because I have to remind myself I don't owe everyone an explanation of everything.

    Nothing is ever simple in my head…. 🙂

    • danny April 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      Welcome to the club! I was just teaching a Sunday school class this week which covered a bunch of times when Jesus was asked a question. Sometimes the question was to catch him, but other times it was just a question.

      The interesting thing is that he pretty much refused to actually answer any of the questions straightly, but always asked another question or told a story.

      My take away was how easy it is to take an answer and run with it, assuming that because someone told you it was right that you're covered as long as you do "x, y or z" that conforms with the answer.

      Perhaps he never gave straight answers because most of his teaching wasn't about "what" you do, but "how" you do things. There often is no hard and fast rule…"always be totally transparent and every relationship will flourish". You bring up a good point about the reasons in some scenarios it might be best to be less transparent.

      In this sense, it's often less about "what" you choose to do, and more about are you willing to take a good look at your motivations for either disclosing or concealing, and possibly change your behavior to achieve greater health in a relationship.

  5. Aubrey April 14, 2015 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    What if someone is using it as an excuse for other not good things that they are doing. Their life is so stressful and hard, therefore they are doing xyz to cope with this and although they are honest and talk about what is happening and why life is hard, but they are not honest about the xyz thing they are doing. When the xyz thing is found out, their excuse is that life is hard, etc. I suppose that's not really being transparent then… You feel compassion for them because things are hard for them right now, but you can't deal with the xyz thing they are doing.

  6. christina April 14, 2015 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    If I could bring myself to tell my mom that I'm having a lot of difficulty getting pregnant, it would avoid a lot of the distance that's between us right now. I am the only child of a single mother, so we have always been really, really close. However, the scary "i" word associated with an inability to get pregnant (that I can't even bring myself to type) has been consuming my life and I *really* don't want to tell my mom. Mostly because I can't bear disappointing a third person every month when I don't get pregnant (my mom would most definitely ask for updates). However, not telling her has resulted in us talking less because I am sad a lot but don't want to reveal why. Not to mention, the whole thing is starting to feel like a lie of omission.

    So there's that.

    • mara April 14, 2015 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Oh, dear Christina – I'm sending you tons of love as I know the situation you are in is so very hard. Isn't it nuts how this transparency thing just gets to the heart of so many situations? The one you mentioned is one huge one, for sure. I think I've written about this topic before – (I can't remember for sure, actually) – but I will say, that in my own experience and in observing soooo so many women over the last 10 yrs of this journey, it is more common that hiding infertility only leads to more pain. I know the first time you actually share the words, it can feel so foreign, so unwanted – and it makes it all feel REAL (opposed to something fleeting that you had hoped would just all go away soon.) But, distance from loved ones (family and friends) only leads to more pain. It leads to more hurt feelings and more misunderstandings, more assumptions and more avoidance. It sounds like you have a loving mother. See this experience as one that can bring you closer – one that can teach you both about greater love, and the great potential to find peace in our circumstances. Of course, ignore me completely if you feel you'd rather do something else! I know all of this takes time – and readiness!! XOXO

  7. Anonymous April 14, 2015 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    This post really struck a huge chord with me. I'm living this right now. Luckily for me, I've been vulnerable and let in the right friends who have stuck in with me in my time of need. Telling them I was sick was surprisingly easy, though I still needed to take my own time to accept it myself.

    Avoiding a bad situation, boy I wish I had avoided created a bad situation with work. I kept getting sicker and sicker and it was affecting my work but I was stubborn. Though I was sleeping late, I would stay late and burning my candle at both sides but little did I know that my boss was furious about my hours and getting fed up with my irregularity. Once I told them, they were understanding but the bridge is almost burned. I'm on leave but I have to worry now about my job, which is a situation I wish I could have avoided.

    Wonderful post for life and personal situations!! Thank you!

    — Ms. Pink Feet

  8. Emily April 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Danny used a really important phrase in one of his responses–"someone worthy of trust"–I'm struggling with that right now, not in my marriage, but in another relationship. I've learned from difficult experiences that this person isn't worthy of trust, and so, it's hard–and maybe not appropriate?–to be transparent with the challenges I'm experiencing in our shared work. How do we know whether a bridge is repairable, and how long to sink "building materials" into the river to try to build it back up again?

  9. Laura April 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    I think transparency is so important in a relationship but I also think it is very important to listen to and be respectful of other peoples words and boundaries. Sometimes when my husband asks how I'm doing I say, "I'm fine" and he immediately knows I'm not and vice versa. It's not that I don't want to be transparent but I just need some time to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I'm not trying to push him away and just because I don't want to share right then doesn't mean I won't want to later. When we push each other by saying things like, "I know you're not fine. Tell me what's wrong." it can cause more frustration and become a bigger issue than what was needed. I think we need to be aware of how and when we are transparent and respectful of how others want to be transparent too.

  10. Anonymous May 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    I had a rough day yesterday and so I came to this blog to help me get out of my funk. Well it worked! I have absolutely everything I could ever need…a loving husband, an adorable 13 month old, parents who shower me with anything I need, awesome suportive siblings and somehow I was still in a funk and then I felt ungrateful despite all that I am blessed with. My husband, of course, knew something was up and I told him I was in an icky mood and didn't want to talk about it because the things I was feeling were so petty and ungrateful. @Laura, thank you for saying what you said "It's not that I don't want to be transparent but I just need some time to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I'm not trying to push him away and just because I don't want to share right then doesn't mean I won't want to later." YES! I am going to try saying just that next time. "I want to talk to you about it but just not yet. I need some time to sort out my own thoughts." I am ready to talk about what was bothering me yesterday but it's a little easier today because i've had some time to think on it. Thanks for the perspective!

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