As far as I'm concerned, honesty isn't just the best policy, it's the only policy in relationships. But above all, what is the one thing that you should never lie to your partner about regardless of anything else? This is just the kind of question that needs an expert for a proper answer, so I reached out to 17 relationship experts to get the 411 on this issue.
Honestly — see what I did there? — there was no consensus on the matter, which leads me to believe that there are a vast and varied number of things we should never even think of fibbing about. This brings me back to my original point: Don't lie. If you're in it for the long haul with someone, you might as well be honest with them, because you have nothing to lose (with the exception of maybe a little face from time to time) and everything to gain (turns out, people like honesty). If you feel something growing and expanding within you — a secret, a secret little truth that perhaps you're wondering if it might be better left unsaid — I would deeply suggest just airing it. Just opening your mouth and saying it.
But in particular, here are 14 things from 17 experts that you really, really shouldn't lie about to your partner.
1. Don't Lie About Attraction
If you have the hots for some girl at work, do not, under any circumstances, let that little crush fester. Open up and talk to your partner about it. "A couple should never lie about growing attractions to someone else," relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. The more you keep your mouth shut about something like this, the more exciting it can seem. "Secrecy fuels passion," she explains. "A lie of omission is still a lie, so if a partner doesn't discuss a growing attraction, it can actually make their feelings and desire for this other person stronger." Nip it in the bud by saying, "Hey, I have this weird crush on this person, can we talk about it? Because I know it's not real."
If you don't, things could snowball. "Most people don't think they would ever cheat, and most don't go out intending to have an affair," Chlipala says. "They end up setting up their own stage for an affair by not talking about their feelings in the first place." There's something about saying it out loud that can bring things back down to earth.
"Talking about the attraction brings reality to the issue, which can lead to more logical and responsible way of thinking," she says. "This then reduces the desire to act on the attraction. Both partners need to be honest about growing attractions and how to best handle them in order to reduce their power and effect."
2. Don't Lie About How You Feel
Clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle: "In relationships, I believe there is nothing worth lying about," she says. "Nothing big, anyway. Maybe you don't disclose every passing thought, but if you're after a healthy, respectful partnership, dishonesty is the first thing you should toss out."
But if there really is one thing that must be avoided at all costs, she says, it's lying about the way you feel. "If there is one area where honesty is of utmost importance, it's how you feel about each other and the relationship," she adds. "Nothing is worse than being madly in love with a partner who's lost that loving feeling." If you feel like this might've happened, talk about it. "Address problems as they happen, and work through them together," she says. "That way, resentment and misunderstandings never have the chance to build up."
And don't be accusatory — just say what you mean, and say it nicely. "When you do address a problem in the relationship, do it with loving-kindness, and with the goal of healing what is bruised between you," she says. "Accusations are pointless." Not sure where to start? "Simply beginning with, 'I'm feeling uncomfortable with us right now. Can we talk about it?' is a great place to start," she says.
3. Don't Lie About Love
"If you really love your partner, then tell this person how you feel," Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Grant Me a Higher Love, tells Bustle. This can be pretty much the scariest thing ever, but if you're sure you love someone and enough time has passed that it is rational (and not just lust), say something. "When it comes to matters of the heart, the truth is invaluable," she says. "Pretending that you don't really care about someone, or that you couldn't care less if he or she stayed or went, will only backfire on you in the long run." Truth. "You'll never regret saying what you needed to say and revealing your true feelings, regardless of whether you get the response you wanted or not."
On the flip side, if you're sure you're just not that into someone you're dating, let them know and cut them loose. "If you're the one who knows in your heart of hearts that you don't love the one you're with, and you know that you never could, then saying, 'I love you' to avoid hurting this person or to appease him or her might seem like a kind thing to do at the time, but sooner or later the truth will inevitably come out," Braff says. At that point, you've already done quite a lot of damage: "This person may never forgive you for leading him or her on," she says. "In a nutshell: If you love your partner, say it. If you don't love your partner and truly know that you never will, eventually this needs to be revealed as well."
4. Don't Lie About Huge Things
It might seem easier, especially at the beginning, to keep quiet about some of your larger issues, but, in a word, don't. "Anything that could put the other partner (or dependents) in harm's way" is not OK to lie about, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With A Narcissist , tells Bustle. On that list: "communicable and serious disease, financial crisis or malfeasance (e.g gambling debts, lying about unemployment, financial misconduct), legal/criminal issues," Durvasula says. Things like debt might seem like a good idea to put off discussing, but if have some serious skeletons in your closet, speak up.
"These things may not go away, and can significantly place a family or a partner at risk," she says. "Lies are never good, and mistrust is a cancer." You'll know in your gut what needs to be divulged. "There are some lies that can cause harm to the other, and those are unacceptable." First, do no harm.
5. Don't Lie About What You Need
"Don’t lie about anything that you will resent later," Tina B. Tessina, a.k.a. Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, tells Bustle. If something has gotten to you, a lie of omission will just come to bite you later. "If you either don’t tell the truth, or just don’t admit what you really feel about something that’s important to you, and defer to your partner’s wishes when you don’t want to, you’ll wind up feeling resentful, frustrated and angry, which will lead you to sabotage the relationship," she says.
Of course, you don't have to throw a fit every time every little thing isn't exactly perfect. "You can go along to get along, but at least let your partner know that’s what you’re doing, and make some sort of deal to even things up in the future," Tessina says. If now is not the time nor the place to open up, gently let your partner know that you need to talk soon, and find a time to check in later.
6. Don't Lie About The Future
If you really aren't in it to win it, don't play like you are. "You should never lie about your outlook for the future," Samantha Daniels, Professional Matchmaker and Founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, tells Bustle. "A lot of times, one spouse will tell the other what they think they want to hear." But if you're yes, dear–ing left and right, you're not being honest.
When you just smile and nod along, you're actually creating huge issues for yourself. "This causes a whole host of problems, because when the future comes, they don’t truly see eye to eye," Daniels says. "Plans for the future and how they see their life can be a deal-breaker for any couple." If you really don't see yourself ever living in the city of your partner's dreams, it's not fair to pretend that you do. "It’s better to be honest here, and make sure you are on the same page about things like where you want to live, kids, education, religion and lifestyle, so that you make sure you are truly compatible as life partners," Daniels says. If not, you may need to say adieu.
7. Don't Lie About Money
This is a big one. Four of the experts I tapped all said pretty much the same thing: "Couples should never lie about their finances." This in particular is what psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle, but it was echoed by three others.
Straight-up, relationship expert April Masini tells Bustle: "Debt and spending habits are dealbreakers." If you have it, confess it. "Don’t lie about money." she says. "People feel easily ashamed over what they owe, what they make and how they spend. Get over it."
Indeed, echoes psychologist Nikki Martinez: "Couples should never lie to each other about finances." Not that everyone is automatically transparent about it: "It is one of the most common issues that couples discuss in therapy," she adds. "There should be an open discussion, agreements and transparency between the two of them when it comes to finances." If not two, not three but four relationship experts say the same thing, it must be real. Don't. Lie. About. Money.
8. Don't Lie About Complicated Situations
Similarly, don't try to cover up matters of finance that might be a little delicate or odd. "Since I work with couples on overcoming fears and conflict related to their money and wealth, I often encounter issues where one of the partners has been taken advantage of financially by a friend or family member," Emily Bouchard, who is a certified money coach, tells Bustle. "If this is the case in your relationship, then never lie to them about your financial situation."
And she agrees that it's a bad idea to cover up the truth about your spending habits. "Instead, you want to be open about your credit card debt, student loans, gifts from your parents or a recent spending spree. When you take full responsibility of your spending, your saving and your debt, and you are open and honest with your beloved, they know that they can trust you in taking care of your financial life on your own." This way, your partner can chill, and not be worrying all the time that you're on the verge of breaking the bank. "This will allow them to relax, and for the two of you to have even greater intimacy and mutual respect," Bouchard says.
9. Don't Lie About Your Expectations
If you envision a particular future or need something special from your partner, tell them. "Couples should never lie to each other about what they expect in or out of a relationship," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "It is totally normal for all of us to want to show the best version of ourselves when starting out in a relationship, but so many times we blur the lines between who we are, and who we want to be."
If, for example, you hope to get married and have kids someday, and you're in a new relationship with someone who hates kids and doesn't believe in marriage, it's worth voicing your future goals. "It is essential that we are honest about who we are today, and what we expect today. Otherwise our needs aren't met, and resentment builds," Rogers says.
10. Don't Lie About How You're Doing
"The one thing couples should never lie about is how they feel," relationship coach Chris Armstrong tells Bustle. Never just say you're fine when your partner asks, if indeed you are not fine. "Are you [fine], or is that your canned answer?" Armstrong says. "Whether you are replying to the actual question or showing that you're fine or good based on your verbal or body language, you must be truthful and open with your partner about how you feel." Even if you don't feel like getting into it right now, you can't just pretend all is well.
Here's why, Armstrong says: "So much about how you feel guides the manner in which your partner shows up, and, by extension, your interactions together. It's easy and habitual for us to say 'fine' or 'good,' and if that's not true, we live with one or two consequences." Hint: Neither are good. "Consequence one: Our partner knows we're not 'fine' or 'good,' and sees us as a liar, or sees the relationship as not strong enough to allow honesty," Armstrong says. Eek. "Consequence two: Our partner thinks we're telling the truth, does nothing about it and the real issues never surface." Double eek. Yeah, don't lie about this one.
11. Don't Lie About Sadness
If you're feeling down, let your partner in on it. "Couples should never lie to each other about their happiness," Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. "So often couples keep things that are troubling them inside. Not being able to air out that you are unhappy, be it in your relationship, at work, or in life in general is not healthy," he says. Instead, when you're depressed, "your partner should be the first person you turn to," Alex says, "and the last person you should lie to about it."
Why? Well, your partner might be helpful in this type of situation. "Your partner is usually the person that can help you get over those unhappy feelings, even if it is within your relationship," Alex says. "Your partner should be your rock, and help you solve your problems that are causing you to be unhappy." And guess what? If you open up, things might improve and you might be happier. "It is amazing when couples are open to just tell their partner what is making them unhappy, how quickly the happiness train starts to roll again," he says. "Lying to your partner on your happiness is silly, because most of the time, your partner's going to be able to tell something is wrong." If you're freaking out and say all is well, it's not fair — and confusing. "When this happens, they are baffled at what is causing this change in you, and in turn could cause unhappiness in them," Alex says.
12. Don't Lie About Marriage, Divorce, Or Kids
You'd think this one would be obvious enough to avoid stating, but just in case: Never, ever lie about "being married," says Masini. "If you’re married, don’t tell someone you’re single," she says. "If you’ve been married, don’t omit that fact. Lies of omission count as lies."
This applies to kids, or the possibility thereof, too: "If you have kids, don’t say you don’t, and if you really don’t want them, don’t say you do," Masini says. "And if you’re in the process of divorcing, you’re still married, so don’t tell everyone you’re single. Your ex may take retribution on you in the proceedings — even if it was his or her idea in the first place." Be real. Don't lie. And never slip a ring off your finger in the process.
13. Don't Lie About Cheating
Well, another very obvious one, but I'd be remiss if I didn't include this. Never lie about "fidelity," relationship coach Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "This is the be all, end all for most relationships," she says. If you lie about this one, there is often no coming back from it. "Once your partner loses their trust and faith in you over infidelity, it is a very hard road to gain back their faith and trust." Of course, cheating in general is a form of lying, and even if you do come clean about it, you may lose your partner over it, so, by extension, don't cheat. If you cheat — whether you lie about it or not — they may never trust you again. But lying about cheating is doubly dangerous, and you may as well kiss your partner goodbye, even if you stay together for some time. After something like that, "in the back of their minds, your partner will always be asking themselves, 'Is he/she lying again, or is this the truth?'"
14. Don't Lie About Your Preferences In Bed
Lying about "sexuality" is not where it's at, Cecil Carter, CEO of dating app Lov, tells Bustle. Be honest with your partner, and tell them what you want and don't want. "What do you like? How do you like it? How often?" says Carter. These are questions you need to ask yourself, and air the answers aloud with a partner. "Many aren’t honest with their mates on this subject, which can lead to dissatisfaction."
If You Want To Lie ...
And if you're itching to lie to your partner, something may be wrong, life coach and psychotherapist Dr. Jennifer Howard, author of Your Ultimate Life Plan, tells Bustle. "If someone in a relationship thinks they need to lie to the other one, I would want to help them understand why," she says. There is a litany of questions she suggests asking yourself if you are feeling dishonest with your partner.
The questions go something like this: "What are you doing, feeling or thinking that you wouldn’t share, and why? Would you want them to do this? Are you scared to face something? Are you acting out something from an addictive inner teenager? Have you broken a spoken or unspoken agreement? Are you afraid of them? Why? Have you turned them into one of your parents?" From there, you can try to make sense of what is going on, get to the bottom of things and see the truth. And if there's something particular that you're afraid of telling them, don't delay. "What you have done needs to be faced, processed — and then see how you might want to address it with them," Howard says.
Be honest. Always. Without fail. About this, and the other things on this list.
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