Honesty, The Best Policy In Relationships?

Honesty is the best policy in relationships, right? Show yourself as you really are and your partner should accept you, warts and all. And be sure to see your partner’s warts, too!

So if your girlfriend asks if her new jeans make her look fat you should frankly respond, “No fatter than the rest of your clothes.”

Honesty may be overrated.

Psychological research is mixed. One study found that couples who idealized each other early in a relationship were likely to still be in love months later. But couples who saw each other realistically early on felt less in love, or had broken up, over the same time period.

In fact, passionate love makes us see each other in an idealized way — love is blind! But when we are passionately in love we also put our best self forward. We look nicer and we act nicer.

So we fall in love with idealizations, not realities, which can be hard to sustain over time.

And we probably want to be known and loved for who we really are. We want others to see us as we see ourselves. (But in another twist, most of us see ourselves through a positive bias.)

Another study found that dating couples were most intimate when their partners viewed them most favorably. But married couples were most intimate with partners who saw them as they saw themselves (read: with a slightly favorable bias).

Maybe we want our lovers to see us both how we really are and in a flattering light, the researchers suggest, since the contradictory findings were looking at slightly different things. We want to be accurately seen when it comes to little things like whether we can be charming in front of their friends and family. But we also want them to have a favorable view of us – we’re wonderful, intelligent and physically attractive – in the broader sense of who we are.

Maybe we really want our partners to see our best selves, focusing on our finest traits and playing down aspects that aren’t so hot.

As the researchers point out, marriage in Victorian times can seem pretentious. Each partner dressed for dinner, tried to look nice at all times, were courteous and kept up their best behavior – almost as if they were still courting. But all this helped their partners to see them in the most favorable light. And these marriages were the longest lasting in Western history.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to be on our best behavior with the ones we love.

And if your girlfriend asks if her new jeans make her look fat, why not honestly tell her that you think she’s beautiful?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on June 25, 2012, in psychology, relationships and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Victorian marriages lasted so long because divorces were almost impossible to obtain for most people and also because it would have been nearly as impossible for a divorced woman to be able to support herself in a society largely hostile to independent women. And, in the cases where a couple did manage to obtain a divorce, in reverse to the practice today, courts almost always awarded the custody of children to the father. So, many unhappy marriages remained intact because they had no real, practical alternatives.

    There\’s also the mistaken assumption that the success of a marriage can be measured simply by how long it lasts. Marriage shouldn\’t be viewed as as an endurance contest because the length of a marriage is no reliable indicator of the happiness within.

    Marriage success should be measured more by the quality of the years together, not simply by the quantity.

    I rather would have been in a marriage of ten years where nine of the those years were happy, but at the end both realized it wasn\’t working out any longer and then moved on, than a marriage that lasted fifty years, with forty one years of the marriage being hell. Indeed, such a marriage isn\’t a success simply because it lasted so long; it\’s more like a jail sentence. It\’s a shame because both partners might have been able to find happiness with other partners if they\’d recognized when it was time to move on. Marriage should be for people, not people for marriage.

  2. I love my boyfriend. But I can’t stand him, the less I see him the better it is. The busier we are the more we can appreciate our time together as bf/gf. And he is my best friend I feel extremely safe in the relationship: emotionally, physically, spiritually. And our honesty w one another has allowed that to happen. Whenever trust was broken or we hurt the other the situation was salvageable as long as the person was 100% honest and accountable. Even of the honest truth stung in the moment it would serve a lot better in the long run. When I ask him if I look fat in this outfit, if I actually do I would hope we tells me! What r friends for? Just because I look fat doesn’t mean he loves me any less or finds me any less attractive. Rigorous honesty is the best policy. It might be awkward or uncomfortable but it needs to be done in order to set boundaries! And to make sure we each understand the others’ expectations.

  3. Falling in love with your partner can make you ignore the objective reality of what your partner looks like ? Makes so much sense. Falling in love, they say, produces an amphetamine-like high. It’s a rush of dopamine. Your’e not necessarily thinking clearly when you’re in love. SO maybe if your girlfriend gains a little weight and you naturally aren’t attracted to this, you won’t mind so much.. Maybe that’s why people who stop dating their partners reminisce and think to themselves, “what was I thinking when I dated them ????”

    Yes, you can be too honest! “Honesty is always the best policy.” is such an overstatement. I think people who speak their mind bluntly to be one of the most tactless types of people out there. People have feelings, even men, and people won’t like you if you say the wrong things, even if you are being honest.

  4. There shouldn’t be a discussion on being honest or not in a relationship because that is out of the question. Of course everyone knows when to tell a white lie, that goes without question too. People know right from wrong, and if they dont know right from wrong then the other person in the relationship with them should figure that out pretty quickly. Lying about things that MATTER is what will ruin a relationship. The one who got lied to will second guess everything that the “liar” says, it will breed insecurities, and ultimately make the relationship so unpleasant that there is no choice but to break up. Lying should also be out of the question because it is immoral to break promises, spoken or unspoken, of loyalty. Loyalty is the most important aspect of a lasting relationship. And both partners must feel comfortable knowing their significant other is a loyal person. Lying will destroy that thought of the significant other being a loyal person, and it takes months or even years to get that trust and comfort back.

  5. I know my wife for 12 years and we dated for many years. We were physically attracted to each other and that kept us close at the beginning of the relationship. Sometimes I interpreted her honesty as rudeness. We did the whole try to impress each other for a few years and it was like acting. We had our first kid and the walls came down and I believe that for me, it was then that I truly became a men. I look at masculinity very different now. My wife is my best friend and little by little we letting our selves go(lol), and the honesty and confidence that we gain through out the years is sexier than skin. We were full of it before and now we are happier with our selves and better yet with each other.

  6. After reading this article one point in want to take a jag at is that yes it is true that love is blind and I mean I fell in love with a guy completely forgetting how he looks and what not but was so into the idea that I loved him that I didn’t care. NOW after the lovey dicey stage was over with I looked back and thought why on earth did i date that person because love is blind and it makes you do crazy things. First time relationships the truth seems overrated but it is always good to tel the ttruth. It is better to hurt with the truth than comfort them with lies but appreciate the good things

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