Trust, honesty, and openness are all deeply crucial to maintaining a solid relationship. Buuuuut, sometimes you catch yourself pretending to love the kinda-dry chicken your partner cooked for you, or telling them you’re totally into Phil Collins when you don’t understand the appeal and never will. So how can you tell the difference between a passable white lie and unforgivable deceit? Here are nine lies that are OK to tell in a relationship:
1. MAKING THEM FEEL BETTER OVER SOMETHING SHORT-TERM AND INSIGNIFICANT
Sometimes your partner is upset that their new fade makes them look like one of The Chainsmokers, or they’re freaking out that their micro fringe is a bit too micro. They hate their look, but still want to know *your* thoughts on it.
“Honesty is the best policy, but if you can keep from hurting someone through a white lie – while keeping the best intentions – then it’s OK to be nice,” says Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Chair and Professor of Counselling and Counsellor Education at Northern Illinois University. The main thing to remember, according to Degges-White, is “consideration of your motivation and the potential fall-out if the truth were found out.” It’s fine to tell your partner that their one-time bad outfit is cute, but they can get upset if you knew their job interview outfit didn’t look sharp and were too scared to tell them.
2. APPRECIATING A REALLY BAD (BUT GENUINELY SWEET) GIFT
When someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you but greatly misses the mark, it can be tough to know what to do, especially in the beginning of a relationship, when you’re both still getting to know each other. Do you tell your new partner that you have no use for a fresh-ground coffee subscription because you absolutely hate coffee? Do you hide the fact that you find teddy bears really juvenile and tacky?
“It’s always best to pick out something you genuinely and authentically can tell the truth about, like, ‘Thank you so much for thinking of me.’” says clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor Dr. Randi Gunther. Plus, when you date someone for long enough, they’ll learn on their own what you like and don’t like anyway.
3. BEING NICE ABOUT ONE-OFF ANNOYING SITUATIONS
Occasionally, being in a relationship means having to do things you’re not really into, but that mean a lot to your partner, like going to their awkward office Christmas party or being stuck in a 50-minute convo about pure-bred poodles with their cousin. But overtly announcing how annoyed you are (especially when your S.O. is already apologetic) is not really a kind move.
“These ‘one-off lies’ are totally OK to use when your goal is to make the best of a not-so-best situation,” says Dr. Degges-White. “These are the kinds of ‘fibs’ that we learn to tell when we are very young – it’s like when your mum reminds you to be a good guest when you’re at other people’s homes.”
4. HIDING SOMETHING YOU FEEL EMBARRASSED ABOUT ON THE FIRST FEW DATES
If, say, you have IBS and are mortified about mentioning how you might need to find an emergency bathroom on a second date, it’s OK to make something up, or simply omit that detail, however big it feels in your own life. “Until you know someone more deeply, you have to be protective about those things that can really hurt if you don’t know how they will respond,” says Dr. Gunther.
Down the line, you should be open because a normal partner has to accept you, but you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for worrying about some douchebag ghosting on you for something you can’t control.
5. PRETENDING YOU DIDN’T ZONE OUT DURING SEX
Regardless of how good the sex is, eventually, your mind will drift at least once to like, how much you can’t wait to go eat tacos, and your partner will worry they’re the most boring person in bed. While denial is the most natural go-to, Dr. Degges-White also suggests “using a ‘white lie’ that gets you back in the spirit of things is a good option – ‘Oh, no, sorry, my mind drifted off to a hot fantasy where we were …’ and fill[ing] in the blank with whatever you think would be a turn-on to your partner.”
6. SEXTING THEM YOU’RE WEARING LINGERIE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY IN PJS
It’s a rule of law that your partner only wants to sext at the exact moment you changed into a frumpy t-shirt and put on X-Files . Is it so bad to fudge the truth and say you’re totally “wearing lace knickers ;)”?
“Lying about what you’re wearing when sending sexy texts isn’t done for your own gain – it’s to play along with the fantasy you and your partner are co-creating,” says Dr. Degges-White. AKA, you’re fine, girl.
7. NOT TELLING THEM THAT YOU HAD A SEX DREAM ABOUT YOUR EX
It’s not that you can’t ever tell them about a random guy hitting on you during a night out (who you completely ignored) or that you find someone in the office so physically attractive in a totally non-serious way, but you have to ask yourself why you’d want to. If it is a big deal, they have a right to feel threatened or jealous, and if it’s not a big deal, they can be confused as to why you felt the need to mention it at all.
“Words are like emanations that come out of the end of laser beams,” says Dr. Gunther. “You point them to heal or to destroy, never without thinking about the effect they might have on the other person before you express them. There is a golden rule here that is helpful: ‘Would you want someone to say something like that to you?’”