The Truth Hurts

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.--Oscar Wilde

The most painful and hurtful thing you can do to someone doesn’t necessarily involve deception; it usually involves telling the truth.

upset crying womanTypically, the best way to hurt a romantic partner is by being completely honest—tell a spouse something that he or she does not want to hear (see Vangelisti).

To put it mildly, the truth can be used as a "weapon of destruction" in our close relationships (direct quote – Solomon, 1993).

For instance, would anyone want to hear the following:

  • You are not as attractive as you used to be.
  • I sometimes think about someone else during sex.
  • I sometimes wonder why we are together.
  • I have a little crush on someone at work.

Lovers often lie to each other about these types of issues, issues which are common whenever two people get close, but issues which cannot be easily resolved through discussion (see what lovers lie about). Again, as someone’s looks fade, what’s the point of being brutally honest about it?

And we are happier and feel closer to our romantic partners when we do not have to acknowledge such painful, hurtful truths.

In fact, we like it when our spouses hide unpleasant facts from us. As long as we are not aware that our partners are hiding things, ignorance can be blissful.

On the other hand, when we really want to hurt someone, we often say what we really think. Anyone who has been involved in a divorced knows first-hand how damaging the truth can be. When people are no longer concerned about keeping a relationship intact, the truth comes out fast and furious and it stings.

While telling the truth in a romantic relationship can often lead to a lot of hurt, pain, and suffering—deception is not a luxury, sometimes lying is absolutely necessary.

Deception serves as a "social lubricant" which safely separates romantic partners and their negative thoughts (direct quote – Saxe, 1991).

No one could stand to hear everything. And deception is often required because it allows people to share with lives with each other while avoiding difficult issues which cannot always be discussed away.

For instance, deception can sometimes be useful when romantic partners ask:

  • What are you thinking about?
  • Are you attracted to him/her?
  • Did you miss me?
  • Where were you?
  • Why didn’t you answer the phone?
  • Why are you so quiet?
  • Is there anything wrong?
  • Have you ever thought about being with someone else?

Make no mistake about it, telling the truth is necessary in a close relationship (see truth is necessary). But, always telling the truth often leads to more problems than good.