When Does the Truth Help or Hurt in a Relationship?

shutterstock_256158817One of the main behaviors that can compromise a relationship is a significant lie. Poll after poll shows we detest liars. And psychologists will tell you that telling the truth, even if it is uncomfortable, is the best way to build up the bond of trust. They will also tell you that people lie an average of three times within any ten minute conversation. Robert Feldman, Ph.D. is a professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He says the number one reason people lie is spare the feelings of another. These are little white lies. We just don’t want to say anything that may cause another confusion, hardship, or pain. For some, the same is true in their relationship. You see it in the woman who drinks coffee as her husband fixes it, secretly wishing for years he would add just a little less milk, but never saying so, or the husband who endures a pet name from his wife, who inside gets pangs every time she calls him it. We sometimes don’t speak up, or lie to give in to what we think our partner wants. But in the end, we are just hurting ourselves, and not being honest with them. At other times, being brutally honest with our partner or spouse can hurt them, yet, add nothing to the relationship. So how do we know when the truth helps or hurts?

Err on the side of the truth. There is no reason to lie about how you like your coffee, or agreeing you like a certain performer that you can’t stand, just to get into someone’s good graces. Bigger lies will poison a relationship, such as infidelity or addiction in one’s past. It is best when things start turning serious to sit the person down and tell them, if you have something concerning in your past. The longer you let it go, the worse it gets. When you hide such things, you have to know that sooner or later they will find out, and it will be devastating to hear it from someone else instead of from your own lips. If your partner is wrapped up in a new hobby or something that doesn’t interest you in the least, do not feign interest. But you don’t have to be brutally honest, if you say think it is the most boring thing in the world. If you and your partner disagree on religion. Say one person is religious and the other an atheist. The atheist shouldn’t feel the need to tell their partner how ridiculous they think their religion is, or vice-versa. If it is just an opinion and that opinion will hurt your partner, without improving the relationship one iota. Keep any severe opinions to yourself. You can just say, “It’s not for me.”

Some people consider lying as a normal part of courtship or dating. In one study 147 people were surveyed. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 71. All of them admitted to lying to their partner at least one-third of the time. In another study, psychologists found that men and women lied in relationships for different reasons. While women generally lied to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings, men usually fibbed to improve the impression they gave. Sorry guys, but all truths are revealed in time. Sooner or later she is going to find out, and be disappointed. The best thing you can do is to evaluate what you are going to say before you say it. You want to be completely honest on the things that matter. You don’t want to swallow a lie on something inconsequential however, and endure some injury from it, like the wife and the coffee. But you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings with the truth, without they, you, or the relationship seeing any gain from it. Just keep negative opinions to yourself, or better yet formulate them in a positive light. “It’s not my thing, but I can see why you are interested in it.” Otherwise, be completely forthright and you’ll have a lot to talk about and work through, but you’ll also be building a deep understanding and a close and loving relationship. If you’re okay what you’re saying, but on the lookout for mistruths from the other side read, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage by Paul Ekman.

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