Trust, honesty, and openness are all deeply crucial to maintaining a solid relationship. Buuuuut, sometimes you catch yourself pretending to love the kinda-dry chicken your partner cooked for you. So how can you tell the difference between a passable white lie and unforgivable deceit? Here are eight lies that are okay to tell in a relationship:
Making them feel better over something short-term and insignificant.
Sometimes your boyfriend is upset that his new haircut makes him look like one of The Chainsmokers, or your girlfriend is freaking out that her micro bangs are a bit too micro. They hate their look, but still want to know *your* thoughts on it.
"Honesty is the best policy, but if you can keep from hurting someone through a white lie—while keeping the best intentions—then it's okay to be nice," says Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Chair and Professor of Counseling and Counselor Education at Northern Illinois University. The main thing to remember, according to Degges-White, is "consideration of your motivation and the potential fall-out if the truth were found out." It's fine to tell your partner that their one-time bad outfit is cute, but they can get upset if you knew their job interview outfit didn't look sharp and were too scared to tell them.
Appreciating a really bad (but genuinely sweet) gift.
When someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you but greatly misses the mark, it can be tough to know what to do, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Do you tell your new boyfriend that you have no use for a fresh-ground coffee subscription because you absolutely hate coffee? Do you hide the fact that you find teddy bears really juvenile and tacky?
"It's always best to pick out something you genuinely and authentically can tell the truth about, like, 'Thank you so much for thinking of me.'" says clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Dr. Randi Gunther. Plus, when you date someone for long enough, they'll learn on their own what you like and don't like anyway.
Being nice about one-off annoying situations.
Occasionally, being in a relationship means having to do things you're not really into, but that mean a lot to your partner, like going to their awkward office Christmas party or being stuck in a 50-minute convo about pure-bred poodles with their cousin. But overtly announcing how annoyed you are (especially when your S.O. is already apologetic) is not really a kind move.
"These 'one-off lies' are totally okay to use when your goal is to make the best of a not-so-best situation," says Dr. Degges-White. "These are the kinds of 'fibs' that we learn to tell when we are very young—it’s like when your mom reminds you to be a good guest when you’re at other people’s homes."
Hiding something you feel embarrassed about on the first few dates.
If, say, you have IBS and are mortified about mentioning how you might need to find an emergency bathroom on a second date, it's ok to make something up, or simply omit that detail, however big it feels in your own life. "Until you know someone more deeply, you have to be protective about those things that can really hurt if you don't know how they will respond," says Dr. Gunther.
Down the line, you should be open because a normal partner has to accept you, but you shouldn't be too hard on yourself for worrying about some douchebag ghosting on you for something you can't control.
Pretending you didn't zone out during sex.
Regardless of how good the sex is, eventually, your mind will drift at least once to like, how much you can't wait to go eat tacos, and your partner will worry they're the most boring person in bed. While denial is the most natural go-to, Dr. Degges-White also suggests "using a ‘white lie’ that gets you back in the spirit of things is a good option—'Oh, no, sorry, my mind drifted off to a hot fantasy where we were …' and fill[ing] in the blank with whatever you think would be a turn-on to your partner."
Sexting them you're wearing lingerie when you're really in PJs.
It's a rule of law that guys only want to sext at the exact moment you changed into a frumpy t-shirt and put on X-Files. Is it so bad to fudge the truth and say you're totally "wearing lace panties ;)"?
"Lying about what you’re wearing when sending sexy texts isn’t done for your own gain—it’s to play along with the fantasy you and your partner are co-creating," says Dr. Degges-White. AKA, you're fine, girl.
Not telling them that you had a sex dream about your ex.
It's not that you can't ever tell them about a random guy hitting on you during girls' night (who you completely ignored) or that you find someone in the office so physically attractive in a totally non-serious way, but you have to ask yourself why you'd want to. If it is a big deal, they have a right to feel threatened or jealous, and if it's not a big deal, they can be confused as to why you felt the need to mention it at all.
"Words are like emanations that come out of the end of laser beams," says Dr. Gunther. "You point them to heal or to destroy, never without thinking about the effect they might have on the other person before you express them. There is a golden rule here that is helpful: 'Would you want someone to say something like that to you?'"
Acting like you didn't watch ahead for your go-to Netflix show.
"Think about it this way: What’s the probable reaction if a 'white lie' was revealed for the untruth it was?" says Dr. Degges-White. "If he found out you were willing to re-watch an episode of Billions that you’d already stealth-watched, he’d probably be a little disappointed, but not threatened." Note: this is okay maybe one or two times. Saying you haven't seen *any* of this season of Game of Thrones and faking shock at every cliffhanger is just ruthless.
All in all, as your relationship grows into something more serious, you should generally feel the need to tell white lies less and less. "If you are emotionally anthropological, genuinely and authentically interested in someone, they are likely to tell you a lot about who they are," says Dr. Gunther. "Don't be inauthentic, and don’t give yourself away by making false promises or agreeing to things you can't back up in the future."
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*** This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.