Q.On the one hand, I’ve been told I should always be completely honest about everything with a partner. On the other hand, I’ve also heard it may not be wise to tell your partner everything all the time. What do you think?
A.I think that honesty is one of the foundations of a healthy, lasting relationship. That said, sometimes tact and kindness rather than uncensored honesty can nurture a relationship; whereas at other times, it is a loving act to tell it like it is. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
i) Will being honest make a positive change? If your partner comes home with a terrible haircut or bores you by reciting every detail of a “fascinating” new project at work, think carefully before you blurt out something.
A thoughtful approach doesn’t mean you have to lie (don’t gush about the haircut, or the project), but be careful not to say something that will make your partner feel unvalued or attacked. Over time, you’ll hone the fine art of managing these delicate situations.
ii) Family matters require tact. Difficulties with your loved ones’ friends or family members can be especially difficult, and honesty is often not the best policy. If you don’t get along with these other important people in your partner’s life, think carefully before saying something hurtful (even if it’s true!).
Again, ask yourself if sharing your negative feelings will improve the situation or only cause pain. If your partner asks you a direct question, respond with tact: “We’re very different,” or “It may take some time to get used to each other.”
iii) Managing conflict. If you and your partner are dealing with a conflict, share your true feelings in a way that leaves a door open toward resolution. Honesty is important, but it has to allow room for the other person’s opinion. If your partner is making an effort to resolve the conflict, meet him or her halfway; if you were in their shoes, you would appreciate this kind of empathy.
It’s also important to restrain yourself from re-entering an argument after it’s finished—even if you can’t stop thinking about it! Sometimes it’s better to distract yourself than to express everything that’s on your mind in the moment.
iv) Act in the best interest of the relationship. When it comes to the major life decisions you must make with your partner—like marriage, children, or big financial commitments—any policy besides honesty can be dangerous. Your relationship relies on values you share with each other, and open communication is required to work through differences. Even when addressing a difficult issue that demands your honesty, an empathetic, open-minded approach will take you far.
Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio. Jasbina@intersectionsmatch.com.