Maybe You Shouldn't Be Totally Honest With Your S.O.

Photographed by Tom Corbett.
In a new mini-series, with help from therapist and relationship coach Esther Perel, we're exploring relationship myths perpetuated by rom-coms and fairytales. Yesterday, we unpacked the statement “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Today: the potential cruelty of honesty.
Q: Is honesty REALLY the best policy?

A: How many intimate little secrets are spilled over pillow talk? It’s no surprise that we equate love with ultimate transparency. “Sharing has become the ethos of perfection — I should be able to tell you everything... If you don’t [open up], then you have a secret,” Perel says.

The problem, however, is that this sort of thinking creates a binary: complete honesty or complete secrecy. But Perel says white lies or lies of omission can be the kinder option in some cases. “I think it is very wise to think certain things and not say everything," Perel says. "Honesty isn’t just about you telling the truth; it’s about how that other person has to live with it."

In fact, research has shown that two types of lies have inverse effects on relationships. According to an Oxford University study published last year, white lies, a.k.a. lies that protect someone’s feelings, can help strengthen a relationship. Meanwhile, lying to cover up something you did wrong weakens the relationship. “You can’t have a blanket statement that says, 'everything out in the open is best.' But that doesn’t mean you hide affairs,” Perel explains.

In our current era of open communication and dialogue, however, honesty has become the go-to foundation for arguments. That's not always good; how many times have we heard "I'm just being honest," following a particularly cruel, underhanded comment? Sometimes, being truthful is the most caring, respectful thing to do. Sometimes, it’s the harshest comeback — an undermining way to twist the knife. “Telling the truth can be a hostile maneuver,” Perel says. “‘I’m not attracted to you,’ ‘I think you’re a fat slob.' But, if you don’t want to be with someone, you can [be honest] in a way where they won’t hear the resonance of that in their head for years to come. That's respect.”

Have a question about relationships for Esther Perel? Leave it in the comments below, and we'll choose one to answer on July 12.

More from Sex & Relationships

Historically, women in West Africa have not had a voice. Men decide if their wife or wives can use birth control or have access to money; fathers decide if...
Foreplay often doesn't get enough credit — not to mention time or attention. In one study of heterosexual couples published in the Journal of Sexual ...
Aside from encountering creeps and starting conversations that just don't go anywhere, one major problem online daters face is catfishing. According to a...
Amber Rose doesn't do "off days." "I always feel confident," she tells us. "I never allow myself to not feel confident. I wake up and say, I’m going out ...
A version of this story originally appeared on Shape. When it comes to female pleasure, there's enough misinformation out there to fill a book. One of ...
This article was originally published on December 18, 2015. According to stereotypes, men are the sexually voracious cheaters and women are the ...
We're great fans of accessorizing in the bedroom. Au naturel stimulation is wonderful, but sex toys can do things that people just can't. The sex toy ...
(Paid Content) You don't need a degree in common sense to know getting involved with a coworker is a bad idea. Yet, we probably all know someone who has, ...
Even as the sex toy market continues to expand, there remain a few vital "firsts" for the industry to tackle. This week, with the arrival of the Buck-Off...
The Halloween-costume-planning frenzy is officially in full swing, and we still have so many questions. Is our costume idea clever without being obscure? ...
This article was originally published on April 2, 2015 and has been updated throughout. Lube is a little like masturbation. It's a big part of most people...
It would be an understatement to say that a lot of us love superhero blockbusters. Luckily, there's really no shortage of them, but should you ever need ...
The following is an excerpt from Asa Akira's recently released memoir Dirty Thirty. Another year of wasted eggs because I chose to whore instead. “Do ...
In the best-case scenario, you go on a first date with someone, and you hit it off. The chemistry is off the charts, and you're never at a loss for what to...