Your mom may disagree, but when it comes to relationships it’s not always prudent to adhere to the maxim “honesty is the best policy.” When looking for and cultivating interpersonal connections, we should all be up-front about ourselves. There is a need to reveal information about our past relationships and what our expectations are in moving forward with that other person. But does the other person need to really know everything?
The short answer is no. In fact, there are certain scenarios where it behooves us and our relationships to lie (or more precisely) withhold the truth. Read on to learn where and when it’s okay to hold your tongue, or even spit out what the Germans refer to as an “emergency lie.”
Lying about your Insecurities
It’s a sad fact that often we are nicer to other people than we are to ourselves—at least in our own minds. Unless we practice keeping it in check, a disparaging inner dialogue can eat away at our self-esteem until we feel like less than nothing. But when we verbalize the awful things we think about ourselves to our significant other, that person and the relationship suffer.
Take a woman who’s scrutinizing herself in front of a mirror. She points out this flaw and that wrinkle to her boyfriend/husband/significant other who then, in turn, probably says something to the contrary to alleviate some of her anxiety. He walks away and she feels better. Here’s the catch: he probably never really paid much attention to the perceived imperfection but now there’s a chance that he might. By bringing flaws to the forefront, you are making them even bigger.
We all have things that we don’t like about ourselves and it’s okay to share such insecurities with your partner, but don’t go overboard. The fact that your waist isn’t small enough and your feet are too big is your opinion—don’t try to convince anyone else.
Lying to Spare Feelings
For our second point we’ll need to refer to the first one. We’ve all been in a situation when we’ve needed to stroke someone’s ego because he or she was feeling insecure. If you happen to be the boyfriend in the aforementioned example, it’s best not to confirm the fact that your girlfriend indeed does have saddlebags. This is where the emergency lie comes in. “What saddlebags? You’re crazy!” is a good response.
It’s also okay to lie when someone is trying to do something nice for you and fails. Think of the situation when someone made you a chocolate cake but didn’t know you can’t stand chocolate. Or the time your significant other took you to see his favorite band—a band that you weren’t too crazy about. This is where your mom is right: it’s the thought that counts.
Keeping Your Friend’s Secrets
This lie falls under the “withholding information” kind of lie. This is a pretty simple rule that not many people think about: your friends’ secrets are not your own. So don’t go spilling them to your significant other.
Before we’re hooked up, our friends are everything. Then we meet a partner who, among other things, becomes our best friend. In turn, that person gets to know all sorts of things about us and that’s where the information should stop (but it rarely does). Telling your boyfriend/girlfriend that your best friend slept with X-number of people in college is bad form. Moreover, it’s in bad taste.
If you truly want to be a good friend, don’t reveal every skeleton in your friends’ closets to your significant other. You may not think that it qualifies as gossip because you’re confiding in someone you love, but it is.
Lying about Your Past
One of the biggest first-date blunders is honesty. That is, too much honesty. Without realizing it, or maybe out of nervousness, many people are very forthcoming right off the bat and this is embarrassing for the person on the other side of the table. Never mind conversation that touches upon exes, divorces, weddings, religion or death is too heavy for a first date.
If the first, second and third dates go off without a hitch, you’re in good shape. But that still doesn’t mean that it’s time to tell your new companion all of your secrets. In fact, it’s never really time to tell your partner everything, particularly about the people you dated before him or her.
The rule is: supply your partner with a name, the span of time you dated that person and (perhaps) a reason why you broke up. Then leave it at that. Why even mention that your old girlfriend was a model or that your ex-boyfriend was a professional athlete? Doing so may make you feel good, as if you’re proving something, but it’ll only make your new partner feel bad. Likewise, trashing the ex isn’t recommended either.
Remember, there is something very sexy about a person who remains a little mysterious, so leave a few shadows in your past. As long as your secrets are harmless, there’s no reason not to keep them secrets.
eHarmony Advice readers: What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?