Is It Ever Okay To Lie In A Relationship?


All of us remember the story of Pinocchio and the role honesty played in his life. In order for Pinocchio, a marionette, to become the real boy he longed to be, first he had to prove that he had true values. However, the blue fairy warned him about lying, “A lie will keep growing till it’s as plain as the nose on your face.” Pinocchio soon realized that when he lied his nose would grow bigger and bigger, and he’d be exposed.

Why is Pinocchio on my mind? There are several areas of my life that bring to mind the ethics of lying.

With falsehoods spreading widely online and the recent coining of the term “alternative facts,” (for every fact, there is a counter-fact), it’s impossible not to notice that we have become a culture who is blatantly lied to and misinformed.

As a therapist, my clients and I assume an honest exchange and an authentic connection. However, I also understand that clients can distort the truth (using defensive behaviors such as rationalization, avoidance and omission), consciously or unconsciously, as ways to avoid shame or embarrassment, for example.

What about lying to your partner? What if you have cheated on your significant other? An affair is serious business. Do you come clean and confess or keep it to yourself?

As a human being, I do my best to look people in the eye and tell them the truth. However, there are times I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place, unsure how to respond: 

  • After a year of dieting, a friend expresses joy at having lost weight and looks to me to reinforce how thin she is. That’s not my perception. 
  • A colleague has a get together to introduce me to her significant other and asks me what I think of him? Do I tell her I think she’s headed for trouble?

It makes me wonder if the absolute truth can be saved.

Is It Ever Ok To Lie To Your Partner?

Most people would immediately say, “No” of course it is wrong to be deceitful to your partner.” But, after a minute or two, many would say “It depends.”

Depends on what?

There are plenty of relationship experts who will tell you that you SHOULD tell your partner if you cheated on your them, for example, and that your relationship will be doomed if you don’t. On the other hand, there’s a prevalent line of advice which says you SHOULDN’T tell your partner you cheated, except under certain circumstances.

Since there is no consensus among professionals about whether to tell your partner you have cheated, the good news is that you get to choose to tell them, or not.

However, what there is consensus about among relationship experts is that the glue that holds long term relationships together is TRUST.

While there may be differences of opinions about the motives of lying to your significant other (telling a falsehood you believe is for your partner’s benefit or for your personal gain, for example), as far as I’m concerned, there are certain things you should never lie to your partner about.

Never Lie To Your Partner About The Following

  1.  Don’t lie about love. When it comes to matters of the heart, the truth is invaluable. If you love someone, tell them. If you’re just not into them, cut them loose.
  2. Don’t lie about what you need. Deferring to your partner’s wishes when you don’t want to will create resentment, frustration, and anger.
  3. Don’t lie about money. Debt and spending habits can be deal breakers. All relationship experts agree that when it comes to finances, do not lie to your partner.
  4. Don’t lie about attraction. If you aren’t honest, you can end up setting the stage for an affair.
  5. Don’t lie about how you are feeling. You can’t pretend all is well if it’s not.


I believe that, in some rare contexts, it can be more compassionate to avoid or omit the truth than to reveal something that might devastate your partner.

Having said that, let me also say that there is a difference between choosing not to tell your partner the truth because you honestly do not see the value in it and you want to protect your partner, and choosing not to tell the truth because you are scared to take responsibility for your actions.

However you decide to handle delicate situations, remember that THE ABSOLUTE FOUNDATION OF MAKING A RELATIONSIP WORK IS TRUST.

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