Honesty is the bedrock of a stable relationship. This is a rule of thumb acknowledged by couples worldwide yet white lies in relationships aren’t unheard of. You know, those ‘harmless’ lies and omission of facts we resort to just to avoid another argument or protect our partner’s feelings.
That’s because we, humans, don’t always do well when faced with the truth, especially the uncomfortable or disagreeable kind. Our egos and emotions are often fragile and brutal honesty can cut them like a hot knife through butter. So leaving out a detail here, making up a story there becomes a natural defense mechanism to keep a relationship going. But what white lies in a relationship qualify as acceptable? Where should you draw the line? Let’s find out.
What Exactly Is A White Lie?
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Telling a white lie in a relationship every now and again to maintain peace and harmony is not quite the same as a relationship built on lies. The latter has trouble written all over it. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between the two. So, let’s take a close look at what exactly is a white lie.
A white lie means concealing small, unimportant details and facts or presenting a false account of insignificant occurrences to avoid hurting another person’s feelings. On the other hand, a relationship built on lies is characterized by the withholding of important information and details that the other person has the right to know because these have a direct bearing on a couple’s future together.
So, what is an example of a common white lie? Your partner telling you they’re on their way for a date when they’re still in office or using the classic ‘got stuck in traffic’ excuse to make up for a delay are white lies. On the contrary, hiding an affair, details about financial assets, being untruthful about one’s past are classic signs of a relationship built on lies and manipulation. And that is the clear differentiating factor between what lies are acceptable in a relationship.
Are Little White Lies OK In A Relationship?
While the extent and exact definition of a little white lie remain subjective, it is imperative to understand that in most situations a white lie doesn’t seem to hurt anyone. Sometimes, people are not in the right mental state to accept or understand the truth and it is okay for a partner to choose to conceal it for a while. If this causes no potential harm to the relationship or to the person, it is largely okay and frankly, normal to have little white lies in a relationship.
It must also be communicated with your spouse or partner every once in a while what they feel about such trivial lies. If they have a strong stand on it, you might want to talk about it properly with them. Let them be on the same page as you, then these white lies in a relationship would never bring you any threat.
If you know of an incident that will trigger your partner, it is best to keep it to yourself until he/she is ready to digest it. While lying in a relationship is not always ideal, protecting someone’s feelings and safeguarding their emotions is also extremely crucial. Therefore, although telling lies in a relationship isn’t advisable, making wise decisions about revealing the right things is highly recommended too.
Related Reading: 12 Signs Of A Lying Spouse
5 Most Common White Lies In A Relationship
As much as we like to emphasize truth, honesty and integrity in a relationship, anyone who’s been in one has lied to their partner at some point about something. So, white lies in relationships are rampant. If you want to know what is an example of a white lie, here are 5 classics to keep an eye out for:
1. I love what you’re wearing
We ALL know this one. It’s logic really. It doesn’t matter if your partner is wearing an outfit worthy of a red carpet or just a pair of sweatpants. When your partner asks you, “Does this look good?”, the answer is always “yes”. It is just something you do instinctively. It is just one of the white lies in relationships that come out without any real thought or contemplation.
You do not tell your partner that they look odd or unpleasant, especially not if the relationship is new and their excitement about the outfit palpable. If they have a stain or a rip in their dress, of course, you point that out and help them pick a new outfit. But if the thing is just plain, you lie through your teeth.
2. I miss you
This one may seem heartbreaking but it is true. We don’t always miss our partners, do we? It’s not like we’re actively trying to avoid them, but work, responsibilities and other things take up our mind space, pushing our significant other out of focus for a while.
Phrases such as “You’re on my mind”, “I miss you”, “I was thinking about you” become sweet nothings that we just say to each other out of habit. These are the kind of common white lies in relationships that don’t even qualify as real, substantial lies but neither are they statements that can be called true. It’s like waddling through a grey area.
3. Your friends/family are great
If you want to know what exactly is a white lie in true earnest, this is an example to pay attention to. Getting into a relationship isn’t an activity done in a vacuum. When you become a part of someone’s life, you have to acquaint yourself with their friends, family, coworkers and so on. It’s a package deal. You can’t always like every person in your partner’s life. Heck, you may even find some of them insufferable.
Confessing this to your partner, however, doesn’t always work out well. These people are important to them and have been in their life before you came along. Making your dislike for them be known can become a persistent point of contention in the relationship. For the sake of happiness and harmony, you pretend to like them and even socialize with them occasionally. It might be dishonest but it’s a compromise people often make.
Related Reading: How To Deal With A Lying Husband?
4. You’re hilarious
We humor our partners by laughing at their silly jokes. While a sense of humor is attractive to everyone and a trait many aspire to, wit doesn’t come easy. However, it seems a little harsh to break your partner’s bubble and let them know that their jokes suck. So we resort to one of the most common white lies in relationships – faking laughter.
Well, at least at the beginning of the relationship. Lame jokes and offensive ones, however, are not the same things. If your partner tends to make racist, sexist jokes, it’s a reflection of their belief system. You need to take off your kid gloves and have an honest conversation with your partner about this.
5. I’m fine
Much has been made of this phrase. There are thousands of memes and jokes (usually with a sexist undertone) about people (read women) resorting to the ‘I’m fine’ response when they’re not and expect their partners to understand it without having to say the words.
This interpretation is only partly true. Most often, people resort to the ‘I’m fine’ response because talking about feelings is difficult. We are so focused on being happy that we tend to judge ourselves when we aren’t. This judgment causes us to deny our emotions and we put up a front of being ‘fine’.
Emotions, however, only tend to become stronger when denied. Couples often expect each other to be so in sync that they guess each other’s emotions. This results in a tug of sorts where one partner isn’t ready to admit their true state of mind and the other one is trying to understand what is going on.
White lies in relationships aren’t necessarily a red flag unless one of the partners is a compulsive liar. We all resort to these and are at their receiving end from time to time. More often than not, we know a white lie is being casually thrown around and we let it slide for the same reason that the other person is telling the lie – happiness and harmony. However, if the lies tend to become more serious, more complex, you must take serious note of it and let your partner know that dishonesty in a relationship isn’t acceptable.
The truth is, white lies aren’t supposed to carry manipulation and ulterior motives in them. This means they’re harmless and generally do not affect relationships adversely. If you and your partner fully understand the meaning of a white lie, there shouldn’t be a reason to have a fight.
This could only be subjective and differ from relationship to relationship. People need to define what they consider as a “small” lie in a relationship because if not, this might result in chaos and confusion later on. If defined properly, small lies are understandable and worthy of forgiveness in most circumstances.
If a person lies to you about every small and big thing in a relationship and makes it a habit to hide details, you’ve got yourself a relationship with a liar. They would fidget every time you bring up something they’re hiding and they would avoid eye contact. They would spend less time with you alone to avoid confrontations.