Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they told was necessary, for some reason, and shrugged it off as a lackluster excuse, there might actually be some white lies it's necessary to tell to keep your relationship healthy, even if that initially sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. All lies are not fair game, however. Although there are some white lies that are probably OK for you to tell your partner, they tend to fall under certain categories. You can't just start lying about anything and everything, because lying can also, of course, be detrimental to the health of your relationship.
"I'm not too big on lying to others in a relationship (which is done at times under the guise of a white lie), as it corrodes trust in the other person and does not make us worthy of their loyalty, love or affection," Dr. Vijayeta Sinh, PhD, a licensed psychologist, tells Romper in an email exchange.
And while it can sometimes be difficult to know if something falls under the category of acceptable white lie or off-limits lie, thinking it through can help you determine on which side of the line it falls.
"Honesty is not always the best policy," therapist Dr. Rebekah Montgomery, PhD tells Romper in an email exchange. "Clients are always a little surprised when I say this, but it's true. Sometimes we are honest for selfish reasons rather than altruistic ones. Examining the intention behind your honesty is the most important piece. Ask yourself, 'Am I sharing this with my partner to benefit them or just to make myself feel better?'"
If the answer is the latter, then it might be a situation in which a white lie is actually called for.
1. Anything That Would Make Their Insecurities Worse
If whatever you'd tell them will worsen their insecurities, then you likely should keep that statement to yourself.
"There is no need to intensify their insecurities or shut down the vulnerability it takes for them to ask you about something they are self-conscious about," Montgomery says.
Choosing to answer the question or make a comment in a way that will highlight positives, rather than leave them floundering in negativity and insecurity is a better way to go about it.
2. That You Don't Like Their Family Members Or Friends
Family members and close friends are people who will likely be in your partner's life for quite awhile, and though you don't have to love them just as much as your partner does, you don't need to make a big deal about disliking them either. "There is no real benefit to sharing your negative emotions about someone they love," Montgomery says. "This puts your partner in between two people they care about."
3. That You Don't Like Something That Matters A Lot To Them
Montgomery says that criticizing or poking fun at your partner's favorite things, activities, or causes probably isn't necessary. Just because you don't like it as much as they do doesn't mean you need to launch into a diatribe about how much you hate it. It matters to them and keeping your feelings to yourself is probably the better course of action here. That being said, Montgomery notes that the caveat to this is if this particular thing is something that harms you, them, or your relationship. In that case, you probably need to speak up.
4. How They Compare To Previous Partners
"We all compare, but it's important to keep your relationship protected from the past," Montgomery says. "There is no benefit to your partner thinking that someone you used to be with was better at them at...well, anything."
Your current relationship is what you should be most focused on, not your past relationships. It'll likely only hurt them and your connection if you vocally compare your current and past partners and that's not what you should be trying to do.
5. That You're Not Sure How Family Members Or Friends Feel About Them
Your family members and friends may not always love your partner as much as you'd like, especially at first. It might be that they didn't make the best first impression or it could be that your loved ones just don't know them well enough yet to make an informed decision. Regardless of the reason, letting your partner know that your family or friends aren't sure about them or straight-up don't like them probably won't help improve the situation, especially if they put forth some effort to try to impress everyone. It'll just hurt their feelings.
Sinh recommends offering up something more akin to "I'm not sure what they thought" if your partner asks and you don't think it went all that well. As time goes on, hopefully things between them will improve, but if it doesn't (or if things get worse), at some point, you might need to reassess and have more of an honest conversation about it because it might become an issue that can no longer be brushed aside.
6. Anything That Isn't Relevant To The Relationship
White lies about things that aren't exactly relevant to your relationship might be good things to keep to yourself. "For example, your partner doesn't need to know that your ex was fantastic in bed or even how many people that you've slept with before this relationship," Theresa Herring, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper in an email exchange. "You also might want to downplay who you dated/hooked up with before you became exclusive with your current partner. These sorts of white lies avoid irrelevant things impacting your relationship." Unless what happened in past relationships has the potential to directly impact what's going on in your current relationship, you probably don't need to tell your partner all about it — at least, not right away.
7. Anything That Will Unnecessarily Hurt Your Partner's Feelings
Hurting your partner's feelings for no reason other than to make yourself feel better or just to "be honest" is typically the wrong move. Herring says that if something would be "hurtful rather than helpful," you shouldn't disclose it. That being said, the rules can be different when it comes to topics would or could have a major impact on your relationship. Telling your partner the truth because they deserve or need to know is different than telling your partner the truth because it'd make you feel better.
Still, even seemingly insignificant white lies can sometimes upset your partner. "If you get caught telling a white lie, you want to apologize for lying and come clean about why you skirted the truth," Herring says. "And, even more importantly, make space to have a conversation about why they are upset about the topic and/or white lie. Really try to understand and empathize instead of becoming defensive or dismissive. This is key to avoiding a blow up."
Ultimately, white lies that protect your partner and don't harm your relationship are probably sometimes necessary to tell, but knowing when you definitely need to tell the truth — and doing so in those types of situations — is just as important.
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