How Honesty Can Save Your Relationships

“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living and truth loving.” ~James E. Faust

When we talk about honesty in relationships, our minds often go straight to deception–to lies, to manipulation, to ruined relationships. We think about honesty in relationships in terms of whether someone lies to their partner or not. There is a lot more to honesty in relationships aside from simply not lying.  In 2019, I wrote a post to those who are victims of lies in a relationship. Four and a half years later, I want to revisit this post because I have realized we all can improve. We all have been guilty of lying–it is part of our human nature to want to protect ourselves. I want to make sure we all understand what exactly a lie is, the importance of telling the whole truth, and how we can make amends if/when we lie. 

What is a lie?

When I am explaining lying to my clients, I define it as intentionally deceiving someone, omitting important information, exaggerating, minimizing, only telling half of the truth, and even “little white lies.” A wife may lie about how much money she spent. A husband may lie about what really happened on his boys’ night out. The husband I referred to in a PREVIOUS BLOG POST ON GASLIGHTING lied to his wife about turning the lights down (thus creating an alternate reality). A lie can be about anything–from what a person said, to what someone did (or did not do); from whereabouts to motives to goals to grades. The bottom line about a lie is that the truth is purposely manipulated in some way. 

Why do we lie and how does it affect our relationships?

According to Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a psychology instructor and clinical counselor, “fibbing” in relationships happens more often than we think. Studies have shown that people lie frequently to those they care about most. We usually lie to protect ourselves, but then once we start lying, it often snowballs and we continue to lie to protect that lie, and then to protect the next lie and so on and so forth…thus no lie is innocent in relationships.  It is flat-out false to think that the consequences of telling the truth are not worth the risk of telling a lie. Lies damage relationships as they undermine trust–the foundation of all relationships.  No matter the motive behind a lie, deceit is damaging to any relationship. Studies have shown that couples who cease to lie to each other for a measured period of time reported smoother interactions and improved relating. One study even linked this improvement to better overall health in participants!

How can we make amends if/when we lie?

Where lying creates distance and inauthenticity, telling the truth fosters trust, bonding and vulnerability, which strengthens relationships. So, where trust has been lost, the most effective way for it to be regained is for us, the offender, to 

  1. Understand the error of our ways and own the lie(s). 
  2. After taking accountability, we can sincerely apologize for lying. The apology needs to include the impact that the lie had on your partner and how we intend to avoid making the same mistake again in the future (Example: “I’m sorry I lied about where I was going. I know I should have told the truth, and I regret causing you pain. I want you to know…[correct the lie and tell the truth here]”). 
  3. Then comes the hard part: We must understand the vital need to be continually honest going forward. We have to remember that it is our responsibility to speak honestly, and that our partners will always prefer the ugly truth over a pretty lie.  After doing this over time, we can regain trust and strengthen our relationships. It takes work and persistence, but it is so worth it!

“Radical honesty”

Honesty in relationships is not simply the absence of lies…it is telling the whole truth, all the time. Some studies refer to this idea as “radical honesty” and it involves telling the truth no matter what, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient, with kindness. Radical honesty can feel scary because it requires us to speak our truth even when our partner may not want to hear it, but it is powerful because it leaves no room for doubt. Radical honesty can help us be our most authentic selves in our relationships and live our lives according to our values.  If we can employ this type of honesty in our relationships, we will more effectively communicate our needs, solidify our bond, build trust and even create intimacy with our partners. Being wholly honest will allow the other person to understand our needs and will give them the opportunity to respond accordingly. Go ahead and try it!

Every relationship goes through rough patches. There is no shame in reaching out for help.  Couples counseling can be a great resource when dealing with trust issues (especially where infidelity is involved). A counselor can offer an unbiased view of the relationship and help both partners work through their underlying issues and make a plan to move forward.  Lying can be a very hard habit to break; please know that help is available and that change is worth it. Contact me today to start living a life without lies, a life of integrity . 

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.