“You look as beautiful today as the day I met you.” “Of course you don’t look fat in that.” “I’m not angry.” “I wasn’t looking at her, I was just noticing her boots.” Little white lies in a marriage is one thing that every couple deals with whether or not they are aware of it. These tiny little lies seem so harmless, and every single person who has ever been married has stretched a truth or covered an almost innocent action with on band aid known as a little white lie. Are they harmless? Some experts say that a small percentage of white lies can actually decrease relational stress. Other experts state very clearly that lying of any kind is bound to cause problems.
One of the downfalls about telling those life saving little white lies is that they are completely subjective. What qualifies as a harmless lie and what constitutes a serious lie? A white lie is defined as an act or statement of deception. Thus, I suppose that defining the purpose of your need to deceive is the perfect examining point to determine whether or not your little white lies are hurting your marriage.
The most common little white lie is in response to the age—old—destined—to—start—an—argument question, “Do I look fat in this?” “Of course not, honey,” is the conditioned response. But why? Let’s say whatever “this” implies makes her look about ten pounds heavier. Do we tell her she looks great because we are trying to deceive her for our own gain, or for hers?
If we tell her the truth, what has anyone gained? She has gained some hurt feelings and the sense of being too heavy, even if only momentarily. Even if she looks great, being honest is bound to hurt her feelings. Do we tell her she looks great because we don’t want to engage in the response? Possibly. But really, what act of deception have you responded to, her feelings or your inability at that very moment to the potential response, which may include some tears. If your only real motivation is to prevent her feelings from being hurt and to keep her feeling attractive, you probably haven’t done any harm.
What about when she asks who that was that you were chatting with until she came back from the restroom and you say, “Just someone I used to know.” Depicting her as your previous girlfriend may not go over quite so well, so you’ve lied. Why? Because you don’t want to hurt her feelings? Or are you simply not looking forward to the twenty question game which will follow and will most likely lead to feelings of jealousy? By omitting the past you shared with the other woman you are also now omitting a time of your life, a period which she will ultimately want to learn from through the experiences you’ve already had. Did your little white lie do any damage to the integral structure of your marriage? Probably if she never finds and most definitely if she discovers the truth.
Little white lies in a marriage can blur the lines between respect, honesty, and valuing each other’s opinion’s, thoughts, and feelings. Where do these little white lies go when they become a way of life or grow up into much larger white lies? Obviously, while you’re not out to hurt your spouse’s feelings, lying can easily destroy the fragile balance of trust the two of you have. Lying can cause doubt, serious doubt, which can erode the structure of the relationship. If it gets bad enough, in fact, your relationship becomes little more than a guessing game, even during those very special heart to heart talks.
Little white lies are bound to happen. Nobody is completely and one hundred percent honest all of the time. Sometimes we offer up a little white lie for our benefit and sometimes it is for someone else’s benefit. We say that we prefer the truth, but is that how we respond when we receive it? For instance, how would we respond to being told that we really shouldn’t leave the house in the get up we were thinking made us look sleek and cool and hot? Even if we realize that we honestly appreciated the information while we were still at home in the privacy our own bedroom with ample time to fix the problem, our initial response would still be emotional, and our emotions would relay that our feelings were hurt. That can be difficult to deal with when we are adamantly asking for the truth and then crying or pouting when we get it.
A little white lie doesn’t have to be pronounced in words. Is faking an orgasm a little white lie? Does that not set up both partners for a life time of disappointing sex and even possibly sexual resentment? But by the time you get to that place you may very well have easily forgotten that you sent your relationship there by faking it the first time.
It is not easy to be honest because there can, and usually are, emotional consequences to our open and honest responses. If we were all to try for just one day to be completely honest, a lot of our relationships would actually suffer. Who wants to hang around with someone who will tell you that you need to drop those last ten pounds or who will tell you that your singing in the car makes the neighborhood cats run for cover? These are not niceties but rather hurtful comments.
When opting for little white lies in a marriage make sure that you are keeping yourself aware of your reasons for lying and that you are only doing so when the only possible outcome of the truth is hurt feelings. Hurt feelings with a possible resolution is not the same thing. When telling those little white lies, your emotions shouldn’t be playing a role. Telling lies because you are afraid that your spouse will get upset and hurt and angry and pack their bags and ultimately take five days to decide whether the relationship can endure, then your relationship has deeper problems than can be covered with little white lies. Fear of being left should not be a factor in whether to admit that that tie is highly outdated and should simply be tossed or that the jeans she has squeezed into are really too tight and aren’t very flattering.
Should you become aware that your spouse has been handing you a set of little white lies, don’t insist that they stop it unless you can really handle it. While I prefer knowing that I will not be allowed to wander out of the house looking like Mr. Roger’s finger painted my clothes on during an all time low, I am more sensitive when it comes to issues of my body. Thus, we have an understanding about which little white lies in a marriage are beneficial, and which ones are likely to do some harm. This technique and out willingness to talk about it keep the little lies in perspective and keep the larger lies completely off the table.