11/18/2014 11:08 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

Do Sacrifice Your Integrity to Avoid Conflict

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  • Being reliable and trustworthy with your word - doing what you say you are going to do.
  • Being honest, telling the truth about yourself.
  • Not doing anything you would not want announced in the papers.
  • Walking your talk - adhering to the moral principles and standards that you profess are important to you.
  • Being accountable for your actions and taking responsibility for your feelings.

David consulted with me because his 10-year marriage was running into severe difficulties. He was deeply in love with his wife and was terrified of losing her, yet the outlook was not bright with the way things had been going.

David was a scientist and the part owner of a large and successful lab. He loved his work and often got lost in what he was doing, forgetting the time. His wife, Adrienne, had learned to accept this about David, and no longer took it personally when he worked long hours and came home late. However, the one thing that really upset her was when David said he would be home at a particular time and then came home hours later, without ever calling her. She had told David many times that if he would just call and tell her he would be late, or not give her a time, it would be fine. When he did call or didn't give her a particular time, it was fine. But too often, after telling her a time, he didn't show up and he didn't call, and this made Adrienne feel crazy. When he finally arrived home after not calling, she was often closed off and distant. David would then get upset with her for being closed off. She was reaching the point where she was no longer willing to be treated with what felt to her like disrespect.

David was not acting with integrity, because he was saying one thing and doing another. As a result, he was feeling badly about himself, but blaming Adrienne's withdrawal for his painful feelings, which was only deepening his lack of integrity. He was not only not keeping his word, but he was not being accountable for his actions, and was blaming Adrienne for his feelings.

As we explored why David didn't call Adrienne, it became apparent that David had learned as a child to be a caretaker. He was actually a very kind and loving person, but was always trying to please everyone. The moment he felt a conflict between what he wanted and what he thought Adrienne wanted, he would space out and go unconscious. He could not bear to hear Adrienne's disappointment, even though he was generally projecting that she would be disappointed. So he would avoid the whole situation by ignoring the time. However, even though he was doing what he wanted to do, he would feel tense inside. His Inner Child was not happy with his lack of integrity. But he would choose to ignore his stressful feelings, and then dump them on Adrienne when he finally arrived home.

As we explored the great stress his lack of integrity caused him, David began to see that he needed to keep his word, not just for Adrienne, but for himself. He began to understand that not being true to his word was harming him and causing him to feel inadequate, not matter how much he worked and how much money he made.

Our essence has a deep and natural sense of integrity. We cannot ignore this without harming ourselves. David realized that by going unconscious because he didn't want to deal with possible conflict, he was not only causing more conflict with Adrienne, but he was letting himself down in a way that was deeply harmful to himself.

Take a moment to look over the characteristics of integrity at the beginning of this article. Think about any areas where you are not being in integrity with yourself and others. Think about how you feel when you are not reliable with your word, when you are not honest about yourself, when you behave in ways that you do not value, and when you are not accountable for your actions and feelings. People may choose a lack of integrity when they think that the outcome will be worth it. But is it worth any outcome -- emotional or financial -- to do harm to your own soul? We can get away with it only when we are not aware of the harm we are doing to ourselves.

We are on a spiritual journey of the soul. Integrity is a big part of this journey.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day at-Home Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul - For partnered individuals & couples, & people who want to be partnered."

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