Honesty is the Best Policy in Relationships?
Honesty is the best policy in relationships, right?
So if your girlfriend asks if her new jeans make her look fat you should frankly say, “No fatter than the rest of your clothes.”
Is honesty overrated?
Psychological research finds that couples who idealize each other early in a relationship are more likely to still be in love months later. Couples who see each other realistically early on feel less in love, and are more likely to break up sooner.
In fact, passionate love makes us see each other in idealized ways — love is blind! Or at least wears rose colored glasses. 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.
We probably want to be known and loved for who we really are. We want others to see us as we see ourselves. Yet researchers have also found that most of us see ourselves through a positive bias, so we really want to be seen in idealized ways.
Another study found that dating couples were most intimate when their partners viewed them most favorably. And 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 friends and family. But we also want others to view us favorably – 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?
Maybe we can be honest and flattering at the same time: If your girlfriend asks if her new jeans make her look fat, honestly say, “You’re beautiful!”
This is a rerun. I’m on vacation.
Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Passionate Love: Like a Drug, or Mental Illness
Should You Ask Why Your Lover Loves You?
Who Falls In Love Faster? Men or Women?
Posted on July 6, 2015, in psychology, relationships and tagged psychology, relationships. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.
I do believe that honesty is the best policy in a relationship because one, you can’t be lying to your partner all the time, your relationship would be based on lies and lies and just lies. In my opinion I do agree with this topic. I am not saying lying is tolerated, but it could be tolerated to an extent. Like there is a fine line in the relationship towards lying.
I for one have experienced lying in a relationship and it really broke us apart. It went to a point where I couldn’t talk to him, couldn’t speak to him because it hurt that much. Lying will and can destroy relationships so I suggest not too. And when I mean “lying to an extent” I mean you lie to her to save her life or something like that but other than that you shouldn’t. It should be 100% all truths.
I think being honest is generally the better path. However, I find there is a distinct line between honesty and being cruel. You can say “I think your other pants go well with this shirt better” rather than “No fatter than the rest of your clothes”. Honesty overall in a relationship fosters a good level of communication. You don’t have to worry about your partner lying to you about something minor or major.
I do believe that initially both parties act their ‘best’, partly because they’re so enamored and distracted by their love and passion. I think even if this does happen, it’s okay so long as people recognize that they do it at the beginning of the relationship. It’s easy to think “Oh I’ll always love everything this person does” and make excuses for their behavior, but thinking “I really love this person, but everyone does have flaws. That’s okay though” is a better way to look at it. This way, you’re not blindsided by the ‘sudden’ introduction of flaws.
This post intrigued me more due to the fact that I am currently in a 2 year relationship, my significant other or how I like to refer to her “my better half” is about three years older than me. She has been through a lot more serious relationships than I have, with that she knows what she wants and what she does not want. One main thing that she explained at the begging of our relationship was that she did not want to “play games” she wanted a honest man in her life, as she has not gotten that in her two past relationships that ended due to cheating on their part. As this is not an issue to me, its not something I have to force, I have always been an honest person, I can’t even live with myself when I don’t put something back in the correct spot at the grocery store.
With all joking aside I do believe that being honest is key to a relationship, but being honest and being rude are completely different things. Some people believe if they are honest they will be coming off as rude so they lie instead, when they can simply restate what they believe in a polite manner and still be honest with the other person. For example, when my girlfriend asks me “how do I look in this outfit?” I will not tell her that she looks horrible, I will simply state ” I think that is nice, but I do like that other dress more”. She then decides for herself what she wants to wear, and normally it is not at all what I suggested, but that’s besides the point. I gave my honest opinion, I think it does look nice on her, I simply just like another outfit more than the one she currently has on.
Like the blog said, when a significant other ask “does this make me look fat” a person does not have to respond with “yes, just as all the others do” but with a genuine “You look beautiful”. When a person responds with a genuine and honest answer that is still polite, a relationship can last a lifetime.
This article is more difficult to answer because I have only been in one relationship so my opinion is limited to one scenario. Yet, despite my limited experience in relationships I can say that I do feel that some mystery or boundaries are needed to keep passions ignited. I have been with my husband for 11 years, we are high school sweethearts. We have been through a lot and seen the best and worst of each others tempers and flaws and yet there are some questions, behaviors and interests we do not share. We never ask each other loaded questions, like do I look fat in these jeans, because for one thing I have had four children, one just 10 months ago, in the last 7 years and so I do not want to know that answer even if its a beautifully sculpted lie. We do not pass gas or burp in each others presence and if we do its masked by a sudden coughing episode or a sudden swift exit from the room. Finally we do not do everything together. He plays pickup soccer, I go to the gym, he loves to play video games, I like to decorate and do projects with the kids, and he loves action movies while I like to go in to the city and watch low budget indies. These are just some of the examples that keep our relationship strong. Some people would say we aren’t being honest about who we are or we are trying to keep a facade, but i say what’s wrong with that? A relationship in itself can be a facade to some people, the idea of being with someone from a completely different background and culture may seem unrealistic, but we make it work everyday. We are exactly who we want to be and show each other love, respect and admiration without having to reveal every intimate detail of our bodies and minds. I learn new things constantly about my husband and he does from me too. If we shared everything and did all of our activities together their would be nothing to talk about, nothing to have just for ourselves and I think eventually we would become overwhelmed by the boredom, the lack of independence and our marriage would fall apart. Honesty is often the best policy when it comes to communication and making a relationship work but modesty, and mystery in a relationship can make it go further and allow both partners to keep a bit of themselves while still sharing the best parts of life with a wife or husband.
Hi Georgia, I like this sculpture. Thanks for sharing this and congrats for your interesting site ❤
Thank you! And you’re welcome.
Whenever I tell people that after more than 25 years of marriage, Mrs. Ralph and I *never* lie to each other under any circumstances, the “does this make me look fat” question comes up (along with birthday surprises, Christmas gifts, and the like).
Our philosophy is, if you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask. And if you’re giving an answer that may not be the one the asker wanted to hear, you can be truthful and still gentle.
I wouldn’t go with “You are beautiful!” because it doesn’t really answer the question that was asked. I could honestly say that the jeans do NOT make you look fat, and omit the speculation that it’s all the donuts and beer rather than the jeans.
For gifts and surprises, don’t ask. She has never asked, but I suppose if she did I would say “Do you really want to spoil the surprise?” And if she persists, I’ll tell her. She’s an adult; she can make her own decisions and live with the consequences.
We had a similar policy of never lying to our children (that includes common childhood myths — there was never a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy in our house except as part of a pretend game). The one change in policy was that we could outright refuse to answer a question if we felt doing so would jeopardize some important plans (such as revealing gift surprises) or overload them with information they may not be mature enough to process yet.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I need to update this and talk about what inspired it. I don’t think people should lie. But I do think that they can have a shift in seeing that helps them to see beauty where they hadn’t before.
Honesty is the best policy, I believe in! A person should be honest to his or her partner always. But sometimes, lying is ok to not make them feel bad about themselves.
Or we could shift our vision to see what is attractive about them, instead of insulting them and then saying, “I was just being honest.”
I think honesty is an important foundation of any relationship, BUT (and it’s a big but :P) should be utilized with kindness and a concern for feelings. For example, if your girlfriend asks you if she looks fat, one should not respond with “yes,” but rather a less-harsh response. If I were to ask my significant other, I would want them to let me know if I honestly needed to go work out or put down the brownies (Lol).
I think that a relationship’s sexual activity and longevity should not be cut short because someone chose to be honest. I think that two people should be secure enough with themselves to be able to take honest (but hopefully not too mean) criticism.
Honesty is a perilous aspect in a relationship. I believe you should be honest with your partner but white lies exist for a reason. I think many times we forget that in a relationship each partner holds a tremendous amount of power over their other self. We should be gentle with each other and perhaps look to dissuade them from those jean through other methods, aka “You look great, but I love the other pair you own with the lighter blue color.” Brutal honesty needs to be reserved for a time deserving it just as we don’t scream and shout at our children every time they do something bad, brutal honesty should be used sparingly like truffles.
It’s cool to see the article emphasize that what we say we want vs what we actually want are a couple of blocks apart. I have been with my partner for 2 years now, and I believe intimacy in our lives is the single most important aspect of our relationship. And no, I’m not talking about sex but the intimate moments we have with each other as human beings when you come home and see your partner stressed out, to be able to reach out and comfort them without worries to how your own day went. This intimacy will do more wonders for a relationship than honesty ever will. Besides, we all look fat in those jeans!
Honesty is definitely always the best policy.
There’s a big difference between plain lying and supporting another person. If the person you love is in need of some emotional support simply due to some comforting words that you can provide as their significant other. When they ask “do you think I will get that promotion I worked so hard for?” and you feel uncomfortable to lie and bluntly say yes or no, you can simply rephrase and say “I think there’s no use worrying about it now and we should just do something to relax you, like maybe a massage?” When you can do this type of answering, I find it hard to find lying to be any bit acceptable.
Moreover, honesty allows us to quickly get to our goal int he relationship, which is figuring out whether or not this person is truly right for you. If you are in a relationship that contains lies (even if it is just a few), you are essentially either preventing yourself or the other of finding out sooner that you two are not the right fit and should move on to another individual, for both your future happiness. In other words, you could have found another individual that truly does not find you “fat” in those jeans you are wearing, just like you want, but these lies have prevented you from finding them another day, weeks, months, or worse, years.
Or you could shift your way of seeing to appreciate a fuller figure. People shift their views, authenticity, all the time.
I am all for honesty but sometimes there are things especially in a relationship that you have to understand the situation first before answering or saying something. Being in a relationship most of the time you both have to be honest to each other but sometimes the response that the other person is looking for is not the brutal truth but something sugar coated but not a lie to make them fell better.
Relationships whether it be with your significant other or your best friend should be surrounded with honesty. No relationship lasts built on lies and secrets. If something is a secret it should be shared at the proper time and place for it but not be hidden or made into a big deal. Two people in an intimate relationship should accept one another in their entirety for everything they are or are not. For all the times they fell to the ground or stood up high and succeeded. Each person adapts and acts in certain ways with different groups of people. This doesn’t mean that they are actually different people or pretend to be people they are or are not. One person is composed of many types of themselves. An impatient self in time sensitive situations, a patient person with a loved ones illness or even an excited person for a hobby they never seemed to like. The first step to being an honest with someone else is to be honest with yourself. Realizing who you are and what you are doing well help you create and keep a bond with someone else. They will understand your ways – even when it is very different than the way before. Being open and honest yet appreciative of each other also really helps to keep the relationship going. So what if that shirt she’s wearing is not your favorite? Tell her she looks beautiful regardless knowing that she truly is beautiful.
If I were to ever tell my girlfriend that frankly she looked fat in the clothes she is wearing, she would feel really awful about herself or think I am not as attracted to her. I believe that honesty is the best policy but then there is also common sense. Obviously, nobody should be that frank with anyone and sugar coding things is not a bad thing. However, honestly is the best policy if your girlfriend/or boyfriend is doing something you do not really like or need to talk about, example: if your girlfriend or boyfriend are lacking in communication, you should tell them you want to communicate more. I think there are so many arguments in relationships that can be avoided in general, if people can just communicate and be honest! It take both!
In my opinion, it is best to be as honest as possible without causing the person you love too much pain. For the jeans example, if the jeans don’t look flattering, it is best to casually turn them down such as, “They look good, but I’m sure you can find others that are better.” In this way, your significant other knows you think they’re beautiful, but can catch the hint about not buying them. If you were to lie about the jeans and he/she purchases it, what if their friend is honest and tells them how they really look? Then your significant other will be upset with you for not being honest and allowing them to be embarrassed in front of other people.
I also would want my significant other to fall in love with the real me. I know that it is difficult when people tend to put their best self forward early on in the relationship, but if there is honesty early, then it is more likely your relationship is based on realistic views rather than just an idealistic view.
I think that this topic is a main issue in relationships but I also think that honesty in some way have to come in within ourselves. I think that when we are honest with our own selves it is easier to be honest with the one that you are in a relationship with. But it’s not all honesty that is important in a relationship, I believe that love, attention, communication is also very important- because with it all working together, I don’t believe that there is a functioning relationship. Honesty comes hand in hand with communication, is there is no flowing communication then I don’t think individuals cans be frilly honest with each other. It makes it really tough now a days to find someone who will be completely honest with you, or maybe it’s that we find ourselves making honesty a priority that we panic and obsess over thinking that we are getting lied to or cheated on, which is where conflicts start in a relationship and end up failing.
By reading the title to this article I immediately agreed that honesty does play a big factor in relationships. I think that honestly shows a lot in a relationship. When it says that couples stay in love longer when they idealize each other early in the relationship, I partially agree. It is nice to be complimented and adored by a love one, but one needs to realize the reality of things. I know that some, or most, couples tend to plan nice future adventures in the future that may seem great, but at the same time I think it would be nice if these plans were more realistic. I hate to be a “Debbie downer” but, personally, I just do not like planning things too far in the future and when the time comes and it doesn’t happen, I just get sad devastated. To avoid this situation, I plan to not think too far ahead. I do agree that love is blind. Sometimes one can be so in love that they can forget what is around them. Being in love is great, but I think it would be better off if love and reality were more balanced. Personally, I prefer it when one is really honest with me even when it hurts. I would rather hear it from my loved one than by a random person. But at the same time, I love it when I get admired by my loved one, it makes me happy and reassurance that he truly cares. I also agree when the article states that we put our best foot forward when we are in love. It’s the little things can show how much you love someone, from dressing nicer or complementing on another.
I think that relationships built on a foundation of, essentially, lies is harder to sustain. Although it may be right that we want our significant other to see us positively, and the relationship lasts longer when we flatter each other, I don’t think this necessarily leads to a stronger relationship. A strong relationship is founded on the principal of acceptance, but I also think that adjustment is valuable. Being under this illusion may promote stagnancy.
Also, I am not too sure if this is a personal preference, but I’d rather be told the honest truth than to be constantly lied to, even if they were simply words of flattery. I think that to a point, flattery and positivity become tiresome. I wouldn’t put up with a person’s bad qualities if I really couldn’t handle them, and so I would tell them. In turn, I wouldn’t want my partner to continually put me under the impression that he can accept me completely if it becomes an issue later on. This could also relate to one’s personality: if the couple is willing to grow and work with one another or keep themselves in an illusion of the other. Truthfully, it would be perfect if one individual could sincerely complement his/her partner and if one could genuinely see the other in a positive light, but I don’t believe that forming that artificial image could add any real value or depth to a relationship.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend building a relationship on a foundation of lies. That’s crazy.
And I wouldn’t recommend flattery so much as this: if we are seeing our partner in a negative light we have two choices. 1) we can be honest and tell them what we are seeing, or, 2) we can shift our way of seeing. Maybe there is something about your partner that you don’t think use that physically attractive. You can tell your partner that. Or you can shift your way of seeing so that the thing you have not liked becomes attractive to you.
I trying to develop the habit of doing that all the time. You can see people as ugly — and tell them so — or you can shift your view so that you can see them as beautiful. There’s nothing artificial about that.
A friend of mine told a story, which I should relate sometime, about how she made a conscious decision to move from looking at her partner in a negative light to seeing him in a positive light. And it made all the difference!
For instance, he is really smart and informed and sometimes you could see him as a know it all. And then she shifted her way of seeing, and begin to appreciate how she could talk with him on so many topics and he had so much that was interesting to say.
Or, I once had a boyfriend who told me that he preferred larger breasts than mine. Which made me lose all sexual interest in him. And then he was really upset when I broke up with him. “But I love you!” He said that had to be honest, right? I said that he had two choices. He could be honest. Or he could shift his way of seeing to see what was beautiful about me, and appreciate my physical qualities. I really don’t think you would be so hard to see what is beautiful about women with different sizes of breasts — there’s no reason why that should have to be artificial. I broke up with him as much for his lack of empathy as for his taste in boobage.
Miss Manners has said before that, “I just have to be honest,” is often used to introduce a comment that is cruel.
I believe that there are parts to this argument that are valid, while others are simply just ideas. The one point in this argument that I believe is valid is that we all have biased opinions of ourselves. However, we are raised in a society where honesty is valued and it is this honesty that forms trust, an undeniable bond between two people. I simply don’t agree with some of the facts that are in your blog post. It says that couples are more intimate with one another if they lie to one another about how they view their partner. If you are dating someone that doesn’t find you attractive and tells you what you want to hear just so you will be more intimate with one another then I don’t believe this is a relationship that will or should last. This is a relationship founded upon falsities and nothing can last on lies. We live in a society that is founded upon both honesty and trust, both equally important. Americans live everyday free because we trust our government to be truthful to us. An extreme example being that if the government was constantly telling Americans that we were safe, when in reality a war was about to start here, then many Americans would die at the cost of this lie. This is a clear example of the relationship between the government and it’s people. In this case, telling the people what they wanted to hear ended up with a unhealthy relationship and cost them their lives.
“I simply don’t agree with some of the facts that are in your blog post. It says that couples are more intimate with one another if they lie to one another about how they view their partner.”
Well, you misunderstood. It’s not that they are lying. They simply view their partner with a favorable bias. And there is actually psychological research that reached this conclusion. I think it had to do with looking at pictures of your partner and choosing which one looks most like him or her. Somewhere actual photographs. Others were enhanced to make them look more attractive. Couples who were happier tended to think that the more attractive picture just reflected their partner, Even though it didn’t. If you go to link you can find the source — which in this case is from a social psychology book I’ve used in my social psychology courses I teach.
“If you are dating someone that doesn’t find you attractive and tells you what you want to hear just so you will be more intimate with one another then I don’t believe this is a relationship that will or should last.”
That’s not my point. You have two choices 1) tell your partner you don’t find her or him that attractive or 2) adjust your way of scene to see what it is beautiful about your partner. Here’s a quote from another blog post I wrote:
“Men who consume porn often say they come to objectify women in a way that has them expecting a particular body type, leaving them disappointed if their partner looks different from the images they’re used to.
“Psychologist Gary Brooks explains that he is concerned that many of these men lose the ability to be aroused by their partner’s positive features, and try instead to “re-create the images from porn in their brain when they’re with another person in order to maintain their arousal.” Adds Mark Swartz, clinical director of the Masters and Johnson clinic in St. Louis:
“You’re making love to your wife, but you’re picturing someone else. That’s not fair to the woman, and it’s miserable for the man.”
Notice this: “lose the ability to be aroused by their partner’s positive features”
A guy could change his way of seeing to see what’s beautiful, sexy… about his partner.
I could’ve been more clear. Plan on a follow-up post.
This post discusses the question if honesty really is the best policy in relationships, and also if we honestly depict our true selves when we are involved in passionate love. While I agree that when we are first falling into passionate love we put our best selves forward, I don’t believe that this self is a figment of our imagination or an idealized idea of who we want to portray. I believe that we simply are showing some of our true selves, the part of our selves we admire, and what’s so wrong with showing the person you love the aspect of yourself you admire? I do agree that we can’t always be the best part of ourselves as no one is perfect, however, it is the good parts of ourselves that overshadow our down falls. When someone truly loves someone they love that person for who they are, for the admirable traits and the imperfections. The other aspect discussed in this blog is honesty within the relationship. This blog uses examples such as, “Does this make me look fat”. Overall, I do believe honesty is the best policy within a relationship, however, I do believe in telling white lies in order to give reassurance to our loved ones. There’s no point in being brutally honest if it is unneeded and causes pain.
“when we are first falling into passionate love we put our best selves forward, I don’t believe that this self is a figment of our imagination or an idealized idea of who we want to portray. I believe that we simply are showing some of our true selves”
Good topic. The idea of honesty comes to my mind a lot and how it relates to being nice, or as you say, flattering. I think in most cases, there’s a way to be both honest and nice/flattering. The trick is finding that balance.
Yes, I think so. Thanks for chiming in.
We want our loved ones to love us with our flaws… 🙂
I think honesty is overrated. Too many people use is as an excuse to be cruel. I think the benefit of having brains capable of reasoning is that we can make a choice to say or not to say things that could be hurtful. Compassion and understanding are more important than honesty.
Yes, some time in between my first writing this post and reposting it I heard Miss Manners say that the words, “I just want to be honest” typically come before someone says something cruel. And my morality is based on not doing harm, so I agree with you. And of course, people can change their way of saying to see beauty in many things, for instance.
I’m an advocate for honesty but I also am for assessing the situation and listening beneath the question to what the person is really needing in the moment. No need to lie but sometimes the response someone is looking for is more about support and affirmation–your ending example/sentence makes that point perfectly 🙂
That’s a really good point.
Or…we want our loved ones to see both our flaws and our strengths and accept us as we are.
I truly believe this topic is centered on the concept of self because is there really an idealized self in the first place? What really makes the real self? Do we have one or are we composed of several versions of ‘self’? And does the self change constantly rather than having one distinct form?
I believe that the self is a continuous form of identity, always changing based on the situation, and that’s a different opinion on such an open subject.
The researches itself are not only different in result but have different concepts of the self, which makes it very opinionated to be ‘realistic’.
(I mean realistic as in acknowledging all forms of belief of the self through the research. But, I know that acknowledging all forms would ruin the simplicity of an experiment itself, so I am not complaining–only acknowledging that there is a flaw.)
Separating the self between two categories, ‘realistic’ (which has a more pessimistic tone to it) and ‘idealistic’ (which sounds like optimistic), loses the complexity of the self all together. I believe all characteristics of ourselves are expressed some time to another, and they are all real despite the contradicting ‘traits’ that we show. We’re honest about ourselves when we express it. We’re not 3-d; we’re infinite.
We individually contain the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, and I believe relationships are suppose to be focused on striving for the better. But how does a couple strive together to progress?
As my idol, Benjamin Franklin, once said, ” Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.” (Marriage, as in committed relationships.)
We’re all flawed, but its about focusing on the parts that we love about them rather focusing on the parts that displease us. It’s because we’re all trying to improve. We’re all trying to aim to better our shifting selves.
And, there’s a positive feeling to that when we know that both individuals are making an effort to be happy with each other because being happy does not come naturally, as much as I wish it was. It’s about loving each other for both ‘accepted’ and ‘unaccepted’ traits, and seeing the efforts to strive closer to happiness. That kind of relationship, in my opinion, will last longer.
You make some good points.
Sociologists say it is more accurate to say “selfing” than self.
But the research is out of psychology, Which doesn’t make that distinction. So you bring up a good point: what is a real self supposed to be, anyway?
I’m wondering if one would go back to sociology: The social construction of identity. Other people’s opinions tend to be seen as more objective (Many people seeing you a particular way) than one’s personal opinion (which is experienced as more subjective). But of course, the individual person may well know more about herself than all those others. And how does all that play into this whole thing?
Some interesting thoughts. Thank you.
We want others to see us as we see ourselves. Yet researchers have also found that most of us see ourselves through a positive bias, so we really want to be seen in idealized ways.
The disappointed man speaks:—“I listened for the echo, and I heard only praise —”
Looks like Nietzsche nailed it. For some reason, I was captured by that phrase the first time I read it years ago.
Very good points in your post and I have not argument. I agree from experience. 😀
It’s a research finding that has giving me some food for thought. Both in how I see myself — and why — and in terms of how I treat others. Thanks for the Nietzsche quote.
That’s why it’s hard to find the “one”, but why I think there is a right person for most people and it’s because that one person while having their flaws like you. They are just compatible and see you in the idealized way and your quirks, are manageable to them and vice versa. That’s because everyone has their views of what is bad or wrong and a problem so like a puzzle, it’s a matter of someone with same traits and views, but maybe different in a way that allows them to compliment you, so they can see you in an ideal way and love it, but also in a realistic way and still love you for who you are.
Interesting thoughts. They are making me think more about my response to Itsmine. I may do a follow-up post.
all time truth ! 🙂
I wrote this a while back and the last line is making me think more about this question: what is honesty?
Thanks for chiming in.