Can honesty be a problem in relationships?
To what extent is honesty in relationships always a good thing?
Honesty is a value that is usually claimed as a necessary element in every couple relationship. It is usually defended the idea that being totally honest with the person we love we will have a healthy, functional and mature relationship.
But although the theory makes it very simple, in practice it is much more complicated. There are many times when telling the truth, as we feel it or how we see it, can strain the love in our relationship or even cause the couple to break up.
Can honesty be a problematic factor in loving relationships? This is the question we are going to answer below, looking at some situations where telling it like it was is the last thing we should do.
Can honesty in a couple relationship become a problem?
No matter how faithful and transparent we are with our partner, there are many situations that, although innocent, make us wonder if we should tell our loved one. It may be that, in a totally disinterested way, we have "thrown the cane" to a colleague at work. It can also happen that, while on the subway, we have taken a glance at a stranger and he has responded to us. It can also happen that our ex has sent us a message asking us to come back.
All these situations are not a sign of betrayal or infidelity to the partner. We have not slept with another person, nor have we confided an emotional intimacy that we had reserved only for our partner, so, in principle, telling him/her should not necessarily change things. However, would we be able to tell him what happened? Do we know how he will respond? To what extent is telling him that this has happened, even though it is innocent and in practice has not been a betrayal, going to be good for him?
There are countless situations that, even though they are not a betrayal or a betrayal of our partner's trust in us, will not sit well with the person we love. Yes, he/she should have no reason to think that we have hurt him/her, since we have not done it to him/her, but we can make him/her doubt if we are really going to do it to him/her. He or she may think that we have noticed someone else and that it is his or her fault, thinking that we are looking for in others what he or she lacks or cannot give us.
Naturally, in all these situations we are faced with a dilemma that leads us to decide between two options: tell him or shut up. According to what we are often told, the basis of a good relationship is honesty, but to what extent? Although being honest is seen as a high ethical value in our culture, this value does not always have to be the same, this value does not always have to be a socially pleasant or functional behavior, i.e., it does not always guarantee us a good relationship.In other words, it does not always guarantee that we will get along with someone when we are honest with them. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Depending on our partner's personality, how he/she interprets what we tell him/her and other factors such as his/her self-esteem and history of infidelity, confessing any of the above-mentioned situations may be counterproductive. Nothing has happened, but in our partner's mind it will. She will go round and round like the drum of a washing machine, so many revolutions that she will end up being reproached: "No, you haven't cheated on me, but why do you want to cheat on me?
As we were saying, it is most likely that you are interpreting things in a very exaggerated way, whether you are a man or a woman. As much as we trust our partner, sometimes we don't want to know absolutely everything that happens to him or her and everything he or she thinks, no matter how faithful he or she has proven to be.no matter how faithful he or she has proven to be. In the heat of the moment we are capable of saying a lot of stupid things, and we can use things that have not happened as attacks and criticisms towards her. For this reason, unless it is something extremely necessary that must be told, there is no need to worry our loved one.
It should be said that every situation and every person is different. It may be that what has happened to us, for example that our ex has spoken to us to come back, causes us deep discomfort because we experience not telling our partner as a kind of deception. In this case, as a favor to ourselves, we can tell him/her, but in a filtered way, calmly, specifying that we have not been the ones who have contacted our ex. We tell him/her because it is clear that if we do not do so, our concern will end up affecting the couple.
In other cases it may happen that we see this message from our ex as something no more important than one of the many SPAM messages we receive on our cell phone. In this case, why tell him/her? If that message does not eat us up inside and does not mean that we want to get back together with our ex, it does not make sense to risk worrying our partner about something that has not happened and will not happen, causing him/her damage caused by his/her interpretation of the situation, and not the situation itself.
We could expose all the situations in which, if we told them, we could risk having a real couple problem despite being nothing, but the list would be endless. These are situations in which we may believe that we have done nothing wrong, because they have meant nothing to us, but this could destroy our partner.But this could destroy our partner if he/she does not know how to deal with it in the most rational, realistic and objective way possible. You cannot be blamed, love is not rational, and everything that happens around you can hardly be interpreted in this way.
Before being honest with our partner about something that is trivial and, apparently, innocent, we should ask ourselves the following question: "Is honesty going to harm our partner?" We should know how to assess whether it is advisable to tell him/her what has happened to us. Things that should be communicated should never subtract. If we know that something we are going to say will hurt him/her, we will only say that thing if it is extremely necessary. If it is not necessary and it may hurt you, why tell you?
Talking with filters
There are other aspects of the couple's life that are purely internal to the relationship, i.e. in which no third parties are involved, but which, if said in a totally and absolutely sincere manner risk causing tension. For example, it may happen that one day our girlfriend comes up to us and asks us if the new dress she has put on suits her. We, who think it doesn't, tell her clearly that it doesn't suit her, that it doesn't suit her at all and that perhaps the best thing would be to return it.
It is clear that here we have been honest, and we have also damaged our relationship as a couple. Our "truth" may clash directly with her "truth", who may think that she looks very flattering in that dress that, although she has not told us, she has purposely chosen for us, spending hours and hours deciding in the store to make sure that it made the most intense impression on us. Of course, us telling her that it doesn't suit her is not going to do her any good.
This case is a clear example of why unfiltered honesty is bad. We may have been sincere with our partner's best interests at heart. As we are told that the best thing for any relationship is to tell the truth, clearly and concisely, we, with very good intentions, have done so. The problem is that, sometimes we forget that filters are there for a purpose, and that purpose is to soften the blow.. We can't say things as we think them, much less to a loved one who does many of his or her things thinking of satisfying us.
This is why here we come back to the idea that every couple is different. What one may feel good and see as constructive criticism, the other may see as an attack on both his identity and his decisions, and his self-esteem will be damaged by it. If we love someone we must learn how to tell her things, both what we like and don't like about her, and if there is something that we know could be bad for her and that it is not an urgency for her to change, why tell her? Let's accept that she has her strengths and weaknesses, as we do too.
- Hussain, M., Price, D. M., Gesselman, A. N., Shepperd, J. A., & Howell, J. L. (2020). Avoiding information about one’s romantic partner. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407520969856
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)