When to Lie to Your Partner and How to Do It

by Sandra on August 31


Honesty is the best policy. At least that’s what they say. But, if you want to keep your relationship healthy, is that really always true?

Does your significant other always want to hear the truth? Is it always in their best interest to hear the truth, and in yours to tell the truth?

I don’t think anything is black and white, not even a statement as common as “honesty is the best policy”.

There are several questions that you need to answer yourself and ask your partner in order to know if you should be honest, or if a little white lie might be better in the long run.

How much value does your partner put on honesty?

For some people, honesty is their highest value and even a small lie about being late because of traffic can hurt if they find out you were instead on the toilet.

For others, a higher value could be kindness or attention. In that case, being honest about being late because you completely forgot might hurt more than the truth.

If you are not sure what value is most important for your partner in the relationship, then it may be wise to talk with them about it. Take a nice relaxing Saturday night and talk about the values and expectations you both have when it comes to the relationship.

How much value do you put on honesty?

This is just as important as knowing how much value your partner puts on honesty. If honesty is your highest value, it is important to set that standard for yourself and live by it. Continuously disregarding your own values for those of your partner will not lead to a happy relationship in the long term, with your partner or with yourself.

You could choose to disregard this value at times, but if you make it a habit to disregard your highest value, you will create friction within yourself and thus within your relationship.

If you or your partner’s highest value isn’t honesty, or if you want to decide when it is worth it to set honesty aside, the following points are good guidelines…

For whom are you being honest?

I am a firm believer that, if being honest just hurts the person you are with and the truth only serves to make you feel better, it may be better to bend the truth.

A good example of this is being attracted to someone else. If you find someone else attractive and yet you know you would never act outside of the agreements with your partner, what good can come from telling them?

It can hurt your partner, might hurt the relationship, and will only release you from some of the guilt by placing a burden on your partner. If telling the truth does nothing positive for your partner, it might be better to keep things to yourself.

A very controversial example could also be cheating. If it is a one time thing, you never do it again, and you love your partner and want to spend the rest of your life with them… Is it really worth it to make your partner hurt, and put the otherwise healthy and good relationship in jeopardy, just to release your own burden of guilt?
Obviously, if they find out in another way there might be even more hurt, so it is a decision not to be taken lightly.

Is it a question that your partner wants an honest answer to?

For example, when a woman asks you if she looks fat in those pants, she doesn’t usually want an honest answer. The same goes for when a guy asks if he is the best lover that you have ever had. The true answer might not be the best answer for your relationship.

Knowing your partner and knowing what answer they expect from you is very important. My husband knows that when I am asking him how I look, the answer that I want to hear is “You look as gorgeous as ever, my love!” Usually he obliges. It is not something that he has to do, but it is something that he willingly does because he loves seeing me smile. I know that maybe he is not always 100% honest (especially when he tells me I am the most beautiful woman in the world). I love hearing it, but I know it is not really true.

Knowing what you want to hear and what your partner wants to hear—and letting each other know—is important. If you don’t know, ask them!

I am not saying that you should lie if the clothes really look awful, but the truth can be told in a different way. Which brings us to the next point…

How are you telling the truth?

Like in the previous example, when a woman asks you how she looks in a certain dress (and you really think it makes her look fat), there are several ways to tell her so. “It makes you look fat” may be the complete truth, but it could also hurt her feelings. Making it about the dress instead of her is a good option.

“I don’t like how it fits on you” sounds much nicer and allows you to be honest.
There is always a kind way to say the truth and isn’t it always better to be kind to the person you love?

Truth can hurt, so be kind

Hearing the truth can be painful, particularly if it is about something personal, a sensitive spot, or a rejection of any kind. If for example you don’t feel attracted to your partner anymore because they have put on some weight you can tell them about that, but it will hurt, no matter how you say it.

There isn’t one way, or set of steps to follow to make it not hurt. However, you can do your best to avoid more hurt than absolutely necessary.

Pick the right time to tell them. Don’t tell them something hurtful right before a big meeting, when they are already late, or when life has them down in general. Make sure you have the time to really explain your point of view, that you have the attention and energy to comfort them after.

Be prepared for a negative reaction, a fight, and your partner getting defensive. Some people might get quiet, or sulky and others might react by screaming and getting angry. This is only normal, and something you have to get through when you say something that you know will hurt them. Don’t take it personally, let them get through it however they need to, and then have a constructive conversation with them. Don’t try and force them into a problem-solving conversation when they are still feeling hurt.

Know how your partner prefers to hear the truth. How do they want you to rip of the band-aid, in one go, or little by little?

As with anything, it is important to have these conversations with your partner. Assuming that we already know our partners feelings on honesty, or that they are exactly the same as our own, can lead to conflicts and disappointment. By having important conversations about all of our values and priorities, we can respect each others preferences, and build a stronger relationship.

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Sandra is a 33 year old mother, wife, life coach. As a Dutch national living in Mexico she is trying to find ways to make most out of life. She’s passionate about simplifying life, yet loves her luxuries and non-minimalistic lifestyle.

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