Conventional wisdom dictates that lying is bad, lying to a friend is worse, and lying to a lover is verboten. The building blocks of a healthy relationship are integrity, comity, and, above all, honesty. Break any part of that base and the whole shebang comes crashing down.
But let’s face it: life isn’t always so simple, and we’re not all Boy Scouts. In fact, I’d be willing to put forth that lying can actually be not only smart but also very healthy for a relationship. Does she really need to know that you loathe her friends? Would it really help things if he learned your feelings about his beef stroganoff? On both counts, the answer is no—and that’s just us being honest. Read on to learn the instances where you should hold your tongue. And when you’re done with that, be sure to learn the 30 things you should be saying to your partner on the regular.
While it might sometimes come up in conversation, relationship experts say that apart from any medical concerns you might have (like whether you’re both up-to-date on STD testing, for example), discussing your sexual history with your current S.O. has pretty much zero benefits. “Number of sex partners is one that comes up over and over in couples therapy,” says David Ezell, the Clinical Director of Darien Wellness. “Don’t ask and don’t tell on this one,” he advises. “Some people love the juvenile idea of a virgin bride or groom, some really want a seasoned partner, and most land somewhere in between. But more often than not, this is a topic that should stay off-limits even if you think you can predict the results.” For more great relationship advice, here are the secret tips for building the best relationships.
Look: everyone does strange things when they’re alone; it’s totally normal. “If you indulged in some weird behavior while you were alone, such as eating an entire cake while binge-watching bad TV in your underwear, keep that to yourself,” suggests Erica Gordon, a relationship expert and author of the dating book Aren’t You Glad You Read This? This information won’t be helpful to your partner in any way, so they don’t need to know about it. Speaking of being single, did you know that sometimes that can also be a good thing?
“There are times in both new and long-standing relationships when you may find yourself questioning whether you want the relationship to continue,” says Karol Ward, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist and confidence expert and coach. If it’s the first time you’re having these feelings, don’t feel like you have to share them with your partner. “These initial thoughts are not helpful to share because they will create insecurity and hurt feelings,” she explains. And very often, they’ll resolve on their own. “Sit with your feelings and process them on your own. Only if the feelings persist and become stronger over time should you share them with your partner.” If you are having doubts, though, be sure to check out the 20 signs your relationship may be in trouble.
Let’s say your partner has a job that they’re passionate about, but it doesn’t necessarily leave them rolling in dough. Or maybe you can’t figure out why they don’t just try just a little harder to move up the ranks at their current gig. “If you share this frustration, your comments will be experienced as unsupportive and hurtful to your partner,” explains Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, Founder of the Relationup online community. In the end, it’s probably better to keep these thoughts to yourself. This is especially true if your S.O. has ever struggled with self-confidence issues in the past. But if you’re the one struggling to move up the corporate ladder, here are the tried-and-true ways that smart employees get ahead at work.
“This is one of the hardest secrets to keep, but one of the most important,” says Paul DePompo, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. “You certainly don’t have to say you love them, but spewing any hate will only backfire.” And if their mother, sister, brother, uncle, or whoever truly is terrible, “eventually this issue will come to light and you play a supportive role,” DePompo says.
Another time you don’t have to be brutally honest? When your partner can’t do anything about your complaint. “It’s much kinder to harbor little white lies having to do with your partner’s haircut, hair color, meatloaf recipe, and dance moves,” says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert. “If you love someone, sacrifice the truth in these situations. Tell them you want seconds on the meatloaf, ask them to dance, and compliment their haircut. Their smile in return will let you know you did the right thing.”
“If you’re attracted to one of their close friends, it’s okay to keep that a secret,” says Gordon. Of course, this is only true if you never plan to act on your attraction. If you do, that’s a totally different situation and a conversation should be had about it. But if it’s just simply that you’re a little bit attracted to one of their friends, it’s no big deal. “Plus, you’d make everything immediately awkward if you told your partner that you think their friend is hot,” she adds. On the other hand, it’s fun to be attracted to, so learn the one best way to boost your sex appeal into the stratosphere.
You’ve probably heard the advice before that even if you have joint finances as a couple, each of you should have your own personal bank account, as well. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that it’s really okay to spend money on little things that your partner doesn’t know about. “There are times when you spend money just for you,” says Ward. Obsessed with an expensive pair of sneakers that you know your S.O. would not approve of spending 300 dollars on? No big deal. But Ward cautions that “if those expenses start to impact your joint finances, you will have to talk about it.” That said, hopefully you’re not spending money on any of the 40 things no man over 40 should own, ever.
“It is best if you don’t share the initial negative reactions that your loved ones had about your partner,” advises Milrad. “These comments can be very hurtful and hard to recover from. If you reveal them, your partner will always remember what was said and later on may use it as evidence that your family or friend never liked them from the start.” Plus, what do they gain from knowing? That’s right—nothing.
So maybe you’ve had a better time between the sheets with one of your past love interests. This isn’t something you should share with your current lover. “Your partner wants to know that they are the best lover ever,” explains Masini. “They want you to forget all others before them, so let them think you have. There is no good that can come from letting your partner know how great the sex was with someone else from your past. In fact, it opens up a Pandora’s Box, so keep that closed. Tell them they’re the best you’ve ever had, and watch their self esteem (an unexpected aphrodisiac) blossom.” Plus, the good news is we know just how to transform your partner into a sex goddess.
“Attraction often grows after getting to know someone,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. Offhandedly mentioning that it took some time for you to become attracted to your current partner is not amusing or helpful to them. “This information is hurtful and now irrelevant. You are with them now for a reason, so you do not need to share that the attraction eventually grew,” she adds.
“There is no point of reminiscing with your partner about what you miss from your ex or what was better in that relationship,” says DePompo. After all, what will that accomplish? Maybe your ex was a better cook, planned better dates, or shared your interest in a certain hobby, but your past relationship ended for a reason, so let it go. “Time is better spent taking what you have learned and enjoyed and building on it where you can in this relationship,” DePompo notes.