When Is It Okay to Lie?

by | Apr 30, 2013

“A truth that\’s told with bad intent

Beats all the lies you can invent.” – William Blake

In recent articles I\’ve talked about the importance of honest communication in good relationships. It\’s essential that our partners understand us, know how we feel, how we might react to certain situations. We share our most intimate thoughts with our partners because we feel a fundamental need to have someone close to us who gets us—in all our complexities. Who loves us for who we really are. Or maybe despite who we are.

If you want a close relationship, you have to be honest with your partner. For the most part. But if we\’re really honest, we understand that a certain amount of non-disclosure, or even outright deception, is required to keep our relationships on an even keel.

Truth Hurts

When you absolutely know the truth will hurt your partner, and when there is no upside to telling the truth, why do it? I have a friend whose husband is a little vain about his nice head of hair. He told her he felt sorry for their friends who were bald, and would feel really bad to be bald himself. He apparently can\’t see the bald spot on the top of his head, about the size of a grapefruit. She\’s not going to tell him. It wouldn\’t do him or their relationship any good.

Avoid Conflict

While it\’s usually important to address conflict straightforwardly, with an honest approach, sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. There are so many issues that couples need to work out—money, sex, family, chores, communication—the list goes on. And if couples discuss the important things, maybe it\’s better to let the small stuff go by the wayside. A friend spends more money than her husband would understand to get her hair done every six weeks. It\’s just about the only place where she overspends, and she goes to some length to charge it on a card her husband won\’t see. She pays for it out of her own funds. And he likes her hair. So she doesn\’t tell him how much it costs. He asked her once and she replied, quite honestly, “I don\’t want to tell you.” He had the wisdom to let the subject drop.

Keep Private

Intimacy and connection with another human being are critically important to our well being. But sometimes we need to keep a little bit to ourselves. Holding back certain information sometimes helps individuals maintain their autonomy. When one partner peppers another with constant questions about where they were, who they were with, what they were thinking, it\’s intrusive. The partner being questioned might well reply with deception, because he or she needs to fight back and maintain control. Deception under some circumstances helps people gain a sense of freedom and independence. However, if one partner feel the need to lie frequently, then perhaps counseling would help. But basically, if you don\’t want to be lied to, don\’t go overboard with intruding on your partner\’s privacy.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.



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