From an early age, we’re taught that lying is bad; that it can ruin someone’s sense of trust. But a recent study shows that telling “little white lies” may actually be a good thing, and strengthen the bonds between people. But does the same hold true in romantic relationships?
Many experts agree that when it comes to sparing a loved one’s feelings, there is nothing wrong with bending the truth a little.
Think about it. If your wife asks, "Do I look fat?”, being too honest can lead to hurt feelings and defensiveness, which will eventually lead to an argument, saysCupid's Pulse founder Lori Bizzoco.
"24/7 honesty may work for some, but some things are better off left unsaid," adds relationship author and speaker Jenna McCarthy. What it comes down to is whether you are lying to protect yourself or your partner, she says.
The aforementioned study agrees. When you lie to protect someone, it's because you want to stay close. When you don't, you're doing it to protect yourself.
“If my husband hates my new purse, how does it help me to know that? If I tell him the reason I don’t want to stay at his parents' is because I’m allergic to their cats — when the reality is I just can’t stand his parents — I’m doing it to spare his feelings,” says McCarthy.
Other instances where lying may be warranted: You get a gift you hate, but instead say you love it; you avoid detailing the amazing sex with a past lover to spare the current one; or you refrain from telling him you can't stand his friends because you know they're important to him.
That's not to say, however, that lying is always OK. Experts agree that you should never lie about the bigger issues like money, addiction, past marriages and criminal records. According to psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, you must also avoid lies that can set up your partner for ridicule or criticism, like if she/he is wearing a ridiculously loud outfit.
But, tread lightly when it comes to lying; what may seem like a “little lie" to you may be a huge deal to your significant other. "Over time, [little lies] can add up, and your partner notices," says Gardere. "If it becomes a habit, small lies may snowball into bigger ones, damaging the trust in the relationship."
Also, you don't want lying to be the basis of your relationship. Sooner or later you may not even know how to tell the truth, says Bizzoco.
So what happens if you get caught in a "little white lie"? Own up to it. "The only thing you can do is explain why you did it, but without attacking or pointing fingers," says McCarthy.
Bizzoco agrees. "This will show [your partner] that you are still very committed to the relationship," she says.
This article originally appeared on Fox News Magazine