Honesty in a Relationship: Is it Always Essential?

In your relationship, there are times when you can't or shouldn't be completely honest. This is because, if you told the truth, it'd probably cause unnecessary arguments. However, you shouldn't lie for selfish or abusive reasons.
Honesty in a Relationship: Is it Always Essential?

Last update: 28 March, 2021

Honesty is contradictory, particularly when it comes to relationships. This is because, if you’re brutally honest, you might hurt your partner’s feelings. Therefore, is honesty in a relationship always essential?

It’s true that nobody can be honest all the time. You probably tell a few little white lies from time to time to make your partner feel good.

You say that their outfit looks great, when it doesn’t. You say it because you know they’re feeling a bit insecure. Or you tell them their mistake wasn’t that bad, even though you know deep down that it was massive. These are examples of white lies.

However, what happens when more serious topics come up, like faithfulness, how much you love each other, or when you just feel like you’ve had enough? Can you be totally honest in these cases? Is being honest actually worth it?

A happy couple, showing the benefits of honesty in a relationship.

Honesty in a relationship isn’t always a good idea

Marianne Dainton wrote a report for The Wall Street Journal that reflected on this point. Dainton is a psychologist and an expert in couples therapy. In fact, she thoroughly discussed the issue of being honest in a relationship and she concluded that it isn’t always a good idea.

What most people seek in a partner isn’t really honesty but affection, acceptance, and motivation. For this reason, if you say something truthful that hurts your partner’s feelings, it questions those feelings of affection and acceptance. Consequently, your partner doesn’t usually take it very well.

Dr. Dainton suggests that any truths that might cause an argument aren’t worth it. In fact, there’s a limit to what extent honesty is important in relationships. Often, lies and omissions actually protect your partner and they don’t have to be seen as a form of disrespect or manipulation.

Honesty in a relationship: demystify the lies

You don’t only tell lies to others, but you tell them to yourself as well. In reality, a large part of your world is made up of fantasies, misinterpretations, and falsehoods. In fact, you only half know your own truths and those of the world around you.

Lies, falsehoods, self-deception, illusions, and misunderstandings are more frequent realities of life than truth. There are discrepancies even in science. Furthermore, history doesn’t always tell the truth about what happened in the past.

Despite all of this, the word lie continues to have a moralistic association. In addition, people tend to generalize lies. However, the purposes and effects of lies aren’t always the same. Neither are the purposes and effects of what you call the truth. Also, being overly honest can often ruin things.

A couple arguing.

Be less moralistic and more pragmatic

Psychologist Esteban Cañamares said that “Lies are positive as long as they avoid unnecessary friction and conflict and as long as they don’t harm or serve to take advantage of others”. This is an extremely focused and realistic opinion that’s also extremely valid.

Of course, there are issues on which you need to be completely honest with your partner. For example, if you no longer love them, you must tell them, even if it hurts them. If you have a physical or mental illness, you must also inform your partner. That’s because they’ll end up being affected in some way. It’s also never good to lie about family or financial matters.

Similarly, you need to learn how to reasonably consider the lies your partner might tell you. Just because you caught them in a lie doesn’t mean you can never trust them again. In all human dealings, a person’s intentions are as important as what they ultimately do. Always take that into account.

Lies hurt and alienate when they’re told for selfish or inconsiderate reasons. Also, if they’re viewed in an overly moralistic or suspicious manner. In fact, accepting the truth shows maturity. It’s best to remember that you’re human, and that means you don’t always do what’s socially defined as “right”.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gottman, J. M. (2012). Siete reglas de oro para vivir en pareja: Un estudio exhaustivo sobre las relaciones y la convivencia. Debolsillo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.