There’s a saying that all good relationships are based on honest, open communication. Whether it’s your best friend, your boss or your spouse, you expect to hear the truth from the important people in your life – and you’re prepared to give it to them in return. Is it true though that great relationships are based on truth alone? What if you need to lie?
But balancing honesty with sensitivity can sometimes be trickier than it sounds. Even the most straightforward people find themselves in situations where they feel more comfortable telling a “white lie” than hurting someone’s feelings.
So when is it okay to stretch the truth? In general, the deeper the relationship and the more significant the subject matter, the worse it is to lie, even to spare someone’s feelings.
Your fiancé might be hurt if she knew you had lunch with your ex-girlfriend, but that doesn’t make it okay to tell her you had lunch with your brother. There’s nothing innocent about that kind of lie.
If you’re not sure whether stretching the truth is okay, think about who you are really trying to protect – your partner or yourself? Take a step back and ask, “How would I feel if I found out they lied to me about this?”
Here are a few tips for how to handle the “white lie” world.
Don’t set them up
People often feel compelled to lie to their loved ones because they don’t want to hurt them. Sometimes such sticky situations are impossible to avoid, but other times we set each other up for these deceptions.
How many times do women ask their partners “Do I look fat?” And how many men look for reassurance on their sexual prowess by asking “Am I better than your ex?”
The next time you’re feeling insecure, don’t turn to your partner to fluff your ego up – you may just put them in situation where they’d rather lie than hurt your feelings.
Don’t be set up
And what do you do when someone asks you a must-lie question? Offering a disingenuous platitude may insult his intelligence – and make you feel like a liar, liar pants on fire.
If they ask how you like the present, you don’t have to say “I’ve always wanted a hot pink spicture frame!” You can still be honest by saying, “I really love that you thought of me while you were out shopping today. Thank you!”
If it’s something more personal, like how many people you’ve slept with, ask why they feel the need to know. If they’re worried about sexual health, offer to get tested. If they’re looking for a reason to get jealous, be honest but vague – and most importantly, emphasize that the only person who matters now is them.
Don’t set yourself up
There’s a difference between being cornered into a white lie and choosing to tell one. If no one asks your opinion on your mother-in-law’s (terrible) meat loaf, there’s no need to rave about it. Don’t set yourself up for more lies, or worse yet, more meat loaf! Instead, thank her for putting so much effort into making the meal.
At the end of the day, even small deceptions can undermine the trust between loved ones. As trite as it sounds, honesty really is the best policy.