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It’s easy to think that those tiny white lies we tell, or even just small omissions, don’t actually hurt your relationship in the long run. Many people, in fact, ascribe to this belief. Personally? I highly disagree. (You’re shocked, I know!)

Let me explain. Sure, there are times where it feels like the white lie might be the best course of action.

“Do you like my haircut?” They can’t go back and uncut their hair, after all, even if you don’t like it.

“Are you annoyed?” Yes, you are, but you know that they didn’t do anything wrong — it’s more about you than it is about them. You don’t want to start a fight or make them feel badly!

“Can you get milk on the way home?” Well, maybe you could, but you really don’t want to — and rather than fight about it, just say you forgot. Or that you’re taking a different route home. Easy, right?

Did you notice how easy it was for those lies to escalate? From a haircut, to avoiding conversation, to outright lying about where you are.

But it’s just a white lie, right? Here’s the thing, though: it’s not just about the escalation. We use white lies to avoid vulnerability — vulnerability that could lead to a deeper connection. The times we’re tempted to use a white lie are really opportunities to build a closer relationship with our spouse. But to use that opportunity well, it involves true humility, self-awareness, and honesty. That’s being vulnerable.

“I think I really liked your hair before, so this might take some getting used to. But what matters is what you think; your happiness is beautiful to me.”

“You’re probably sensing I’m annoyed because…well, I am, but I don’t think that’s your fault; I think I’m having a stress reaction. I’m not sure why. I’m sorry, I just need to process this a little bit.”

“I’m so exhausted after work, I really don’t enjoy making stops. Can we go without milk for a day or two and I’ll get it this weekend?”

For each of these responses, you still need to be kind: being honest does not, contrary to some opinions, give you free reign to be a jerk, or to stop considering your partner’s feelings. You still have a responsibility to do that. But here, there’s self awareness (think: why are you responding this way? What’s most important? What do you need?) and, yes, honesty! But when honesty is couched in kindness, gentleness, & self-reflection, it tends to build deeper connections and attachments. Transparency builds trust.

Yes, this is hard. Self-awareness is probably one of the most difficult skills to develop. It takes practice. But the bond you build over time of deeper and deeper trust will certainly be worth it.