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How to Be Honest With a Friend

POPSUGAR / paid for by / Freeform's The Letter

Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim

Despite being open with friends, we all keep secrets to spare their feelings. We've teamed up with Freeform and its new show, The Letter (premiering Oct. 11 at 9/8c), to show you what it's like to discover how your BFFs really feel about you.

I've always prided myself on having honest friendships. I'm partial to a late-night, candid conversation over a glass of wine, and I like learning who my friends are and who I am in relation to them. But do I really know what they think of me? After all, I've censored myself numerous times when it comes to their choices. I've got my own set of judgments, my own little irritants and observations about their personalities. I'd be deluded to think they haven't bitten their tongue when it comes to mine.

After watching The Letter, where a circle of friends anonymously exchanged letters, I decided to test out this experiment with my own group. Of course there were jitters: Would this wreck our carefully preserved decade of friendship? Was I actually a total nightmare and my friends had just kept their complaints quiet to avoid conflict? And even though I thought I wanted to know the whole truth, would I be able to handle it?

At first read, the anonymously written one-pager listing my flaws and foibles was tough to swallow. Apparently I'm too protective of friends. I get jealous. My own dreams can make me dismissive of others' life choices. But the worst one of all came at the end: I was guilty of unsolicited "scheming and matchmaking" that had made my friend feel inadequate about her love life. This wasn't good. I might have had positive intentions, but the end result was still the same: my compulsion to meddle had made a close friend feel bad about herself and, in turn, resentful of me.

Once I'd read about my flaws, it was time to fix them. My friend suggested that she serve me a taste of my own sweet medicine, offering daily relationship advice for the next week that I'd have to take without complaint. Recently married, I've been with my husband since I was 23. Because I was secure in our relationship, I'd always assumed that my friends felt the same way about us. Suddenly open to criticism, I was anxious about what I'd learn. As it turns out, she views my lifestyle as being dull. Perhaps being seen as difficult wasn't as bad as being viewed as . . . boring?

On Monday night, I was instructed to cook dinner. A simple task to some, but my friend nailed the thing I hate doing most. I admit to driving my husband mad when I ask, every single evening around 7 p.m., "So what shall we eat tonight?" (The implication is always that he should solve that problem.) She'd identified a point of profound laziness, an unwarranted expectation that he should keep me fed despite the fact that I am nearly 30. So I cooked. I peeled potatoes for an hour, I followed recipes, and I drenched everything in so much olive oil that it had no choice but to taste good. The next day, we were instructed to go out late and have drinks (apparently an 11 p.m. bedtime doesn't seem sexy to an outsider). That weekend, we were told to try out a new restaurant.

My friend's requested tasks shook up the comfortable routine that comes with a six-year relationship. She forced me to try harder, to try new things, and to try showing my husband that I love him in different ways. She was able to look at my relationship and spot the fault lines so that I could strengthen fortifications before an earthquake hit. And she injected our long-term relationship with the excitement we had when we were first dating.

When we all regrouped, I discovered that my letter was written by Tiff, a friend who I've lived with, traveled the world with, shared a bed with, danced until dawn and spent the next day curled up in fetal position with. Obviously, we adore each other. So while the letter was upsetting to me at first, it was also hard to learn that I made Tiff feel bad by preaching unsolicited advice. I've definitely learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to her love life. They say honesty is the best policy, and I want to continue bringing it to my friendships, but matchmaking is something I can leave at the door.

More From Freeform's The Letter

Watch a sneak peek below, then get excited for a new episode of The Letter Tuesday at 9/8c on Freeform!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim