Self-disclosure is a necessary part of getting close to another person. Unless you are willing to share who you are with your partner, you will never be truly intimate with them. In order to be able to open yourself completely to your partner, you need to be able to trust that they will honor and respect you and your secrets. Fear of rejection or punishment can stop partners from sharing and may even create an environment that encourages lying. It is interesting to note that we may inadvertently teach our partner to lie to us by punishing them when they are honest with us. The benefits of self-disclosure are many. Couples who share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, as well as hopes and dreams tend to stay together longer. People who self-disclose, or are open and sharing in appropriate ways, are healthier and less susceptible to illness. Self-disclosure also helps us to learn about ourselves (did I just say that out loud) and to see ourselves more clearly. When your partner graciously accepts what you share you will feel more inclined to share. Self-disclosure helps us gain self-acceptance and makes for closer relationships.
Distancing occurs when couples stop sharing. If a long enough period of time passes without self-disclosure, couples will begin to feel like roommate or strangers.
Self-disclosure may not always be a positive. Ask yourself before sharing something with your partner: What is my motivation for sharing this information? Some positive motives for self-disclosure are wanting to share, express yourself or help your partner understand you. Some negative motives for self-disclosure include wanting to produce guilt or shame, trying to hurt or control your partner.
Self-disclosure is reciprocal. If one of you is sharing and the other is not, an imbalance is created in the relationship. Successful relationship have a give and take; a balance of sharing and receiving. The message your partner is getting, if you are withholding the personal part of yourself, is that you do not trust him/her.
It is important to note that self-disclosure should be a voluntary process. Do not allow your partner to push you into disclosing something that you do not want to disclose. Be assertive and change topics.
To improve your self-disclosure skills try doing the following: 1. Own your opinions. Speak for yourself. Offer your own thoughts, feelings and opinions. 2. Use sense statements. Sense statements describe what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. 3. Use interpretive statements. Describe what you are thinking, believing and assuming. 4. Use feeling statements. Describe what you are feeling. 5. Use invention statements. Describe your wants, wishes and desires. 6. Use action statements. Describe what you do and how you behave.
Just as any other skill, your ability to self-disclose will improve by doing. Practice sharing with your partner and the sharing will become easier.