“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” Barbara De Angelis
Do you have integrity? In all situations or just some? On what beliefs do you base your integrity? Do you act with integrity when you know it will create difficulties?
Integrity is the third element in what I call the essentials for a good relationship of any kind. The elements I’ve already written about are empathy and intimacy, and I’ll conclude the series next week with the topic of commitment.
Integrity Strengthens Trust and Love
Integrity is usually defined as being true to your moral or ethical principles, so it has meaning only when it is coupled with a belief system. In a relationship, acting with integrity can create trust and strengthen love because you learn you can depend on the other person to act in accordance with their values. This, of course, assumes that you are in a relationship with someone whose values are compatible with yours.
Integrity Begins With Being True To Your Self
I like Barbara De Angelis’ quote because it covers several important aspects of integrity, mainly the idea that we must be true to ourselves if we are to be true to others. That’s where it starts—being true to yourself. Only then can you be true to others. When we always try to please others to the extent that we go against our own values or harm ourselves, we are out of integrity.
What Is Integrity In A Relationship
Years ago, I was in a relationship with a man whom I deeply loved. We were both creative people and that bound us in a spiritual way that was very powerful. But over and over, to be with him, I made choices that were not good for me financially. One time, I cashed out a life insurance policy so I had the money to spend an extended amount of time with him to see if we could live together. At the time, I was unemployed, but a month before I was to leave to see him, I was offered a good job and I turned it down. I put the relationship first.
Our relationship had always been off and on because he was afraid of commitment although he clearly loved me, and when things were good between us, they were very good. But in this case, I had sacrificed my security by turning down a job to be with him and expected him to understand I would need to get work. He kept insisting that I needed to create my own business and not work for any institution. He was self-employed and had no respect for people who worked for institutions.
I had tried to be self-employed, but I didn’t have the financial resources he did, so I had to work for other people. He had a fit over this. While he was true to his values, he had no respect for my needs—a not unusual dilemma in relationships. The situation disintegrated from there. I asked for his understanding and didn’t get it.
At this point, I realized I was settling for a lot less than I deserved. Clearly, his set of values and mine were not compatible. I didn’t feel I should have to sacrifice my financial security to be with him, and he couldn’t afford to take care of me, nor did I want him to. But I was not taking care of myself and I didn’t feel good about that. However much I disliked the choices this man made in relation to me, he was being true to his own belief system, no matter how selfish I may have judged it. It became clear that he would not change anything in order to be with me. At that point, I finally had the sense to walk away.
Being True To Ourselves Empowers Us
What became very clear to me was that, by speaking my mind and not sacrificing what I needed in a relationship, I felt more empowered, although it created conflict. I found the courage to be more of who I was and committed to living with more integrity in relationships. I could not live with someone who felt he would be out of integrity in order to meet my needs.
Integrity Is The Core For Decision-making
Living with integrity helps us to respect ourselves even when it creates difficulty, but without it, we lack an inner core from which to make decisions. On the other hand, we also need to look at our value system. Does it allow us to live with integrity and relate to others in a loving and caring way? Most of us want to be in a relationship in order to share in a deep and loving way, and that may require some compromises.
Relationships Require Compromise
The question is always: what can you compromise and still be true to yourself? Some couples want to keep the peace no matter what they have to do because they are afraid to explore what is hidden and unknown. The problem with hiding ourselves is that we can never be loved for who we really are because our partner never knows who we are. It may never dawn on us that our partner might love us more if they knew who we truly were.
The Value Of Shared Values
It’s not a choice I would make. I want the person I’m in a relationship with, even in just a friendship, to know who I really am and show me who he really is. I want the relationship to have integrity based on a shared set of values, and if the price we pay is to disagree sometimes, so be it. Disagreements hopefully lead to a discussion that leads to a deeper understanding of each other and enriches the relationship. Besides, making up can be a lot of fun. It’s all good.
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© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5