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How honest should we be in relationships?

According to Dan Ariely's book, a little bit of lying is normal for us as human beings. Pamela Meyer says we are lied to between 10-200 times per day.

Yet honesty in relationships is the basis of intimacy, trust, and closeness. Should we strive for full honesty with our partners, or is it unattainable or undesirable?

  • Jul 26 2013: My father when I was getting married gave me this advice - Eat what is put before you and say it is good and shut up. Been married for a very long time.
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    Jul 25 2013: I would think 100% honesty, but be diplomatic in the way you do it.
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    Aug 22 2013: Hi Kira,

    What a great question you pose, what a brave question. Except I feel a little uneasy about one thing: reading the answers below, and without disrespect, we all assume that we know what honesty is! Incredible!
    I challenge all of the contributors to investigate this very topic, what is honesty! Without knowing what honesty is, how can we be honest?
  • Jul 27 2013: I think I don't need to worry too much about how honest I am in relationships,as long as I can be conscious being honest to myself as much as I can be,everything goes in natural.
    • Jul 28 2013: Same with you! ( And I like your TED nickname (^^ ) ). When I had struggled to overcome certain problems, my mentor said " You should not blame yourself and be impatient. As long as you are concering your current problems and tries to find a solution, it is half done. "
      Whether be conscious or not is most essential part, I think.
      • Jul 28 2013: Hi Dear Sophia BAE,thanks for the liking my nickname:).I am enthusiastic in education my teaching job.Meanwhile I am ware of being a teacher,the best way is to keep being a good learner.It is the only way to be a real lover of EDU:).
        • Jul 28 2013: What kind of sunject are you interested in? I'm a student and also seek useful information or knowledge for better Education environment. One of my best TED talk is Ken Robinsons' , like "School kills creativity".
      • Jul 28 2013: Hi Dear Sophia BAE:)Are you an university student?which year studying are u in now?I teach middle school students Technology Information subject.I am intersted in all kinds of talks in TED which are about education:).Of course I am intersted in new ideas which are about Tech,inventions...I needed to know more about Technology subject in english.And you?
        • Jul 28 2013: Wow.. interesting! Technology and invention field take a huge portion of our society and they are really important because the world requires creative genius! I'm freshman (^^). I'm majoring in English literature but intested in various things. These days, abstract concepts attract me such as love, life and time. And there are tons of talks in TED. I usually spend my time watching TED talks and writing comments. (^^ ). Are you also paying attention to robots or humanoids?
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    Jul 26 2013: I believe that "complete honesty" is easily attainable, but not as desirable. We often hear that total honesty is the best foundation to build a relationship upon, but I think people are also oblivious to the fact that there are different intentions behind what people see as honesty.

    My policy is that if it affects or relates to your relationship in any way, and furthermore is in what you consider to be the best interests of your partner, be open with them. Otherwise, as Frank said, the principle of "just being honest" becomes used in a manner of contempt and torture. Communication in relationships can be somewhat sensitive, but it's best to moderate what you see as being faithful to someone, as opposed to being careless.
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      Jul 26 2013: Farida,
      I am curious....
      Why do you say being completely honest is not as desirable, and what do you mean by different intentions behind what people see as honesty?

      You say your policy is that if it affects or relates to your relationship in any open with them. I wholeheartedly agree with that. I don't understand your other comments though....will you help me with that?

      Thanks, and welcome to TED conversations
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        Jul 26 2013: Hi Colleen,

        Basically, I think what people see as complete honesty can sometimes not be as progressive as it sounds. Being completely honest means sharing anything and everything with someone, right? That means all that you say, think, do etc. The thing is, if you don't keep some of those things in check, you could actually end up careless and hurtful — especially when emotions like anger and jealousy are involved in the heat of the moment.

        As for different intentions behind what people see as honesty, we're all familiar with the axiom, "the truth hurts." Some people are well aware of this, and often tell their partner inconvenient things (like negative thoughts and opinions) solely to be inconsiderate. It's a cruel thing to think about, but I've witnessed it first-hand.

        Hope this is a good explanation, and thank you!
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          Jul 26 2013: Farida,
          I do not perceive that completely honest means sharing anything and everything with everyone. We can be selective about how much information we wish to share with certain people, can we not? Being aware of how much we can trust a certain person does not suggest dishonesty, it simply means that we can sense how much trust we choose to have with certain people.

          When we "know" our "self", we choose how we want to act/react with a person....yes?

          People tell their partner "inconvenient things"....negative thoughts and opinions soley to be inconsiderate. That doesn't seem honest to me.....does it to you?
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        Jul 26 2013: Ah, well I think this all depends on what we define as honesty to begin with, which can admittedly be subjective.

        The truth is, we are all flawed. Technically speaking, if someone were to constantly point out our flaws to us rather blankly, they could be seen as being honest. Although their intentions behind such "honesty" might not in themselves be honest, I do think situations like these fall under what people call total or complete honesty — as opposed to being selective with what we observe and say to people.

        So, to me, complete honesty infers both the good and the bad associated with honesty. It doesn't mean the same to everyone (as I believe we're discussing here), but I think this makes for an interesting premise overall.
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          Jul 26 2013: I agree Farida...first we need to be honest with ourselves, to be able to be honest with another person.

          Honestly, I don't perceive a "good" and "bad" honesty, and I agree that it doesn't mean the same to everyone:>)
  • Jul 26 2013: I agree with the fact that complete honesty is attainable! It takes longer, but when truly desired, it is possible. It must be a choice, both partners discuss and agree upon.
    Initially it comes with its own down side, as few people have stated that sometimes we lie in order to protect the other person from getting hurt. But, if this person finds out later, it becomes worse, because now he/she would feel let down, that we chose to lie, when we could have said the truth. There may be delicate situations, where we will be tempted to lie, just to avoid a bad scene, but I guess it does no good if ever found; It only gets worse.
    So, by mindfully training ourselves to tell the truth, even if it leads to momentary pain, we tend to become more trustworthy and we gain respect in our own eyes, which motivates us to be honest and true to ourselves, just the way we want our partners to be.
    It is simple, we only get what we give, so if we chose to hide certain details, you never know, your partner would be doing the same. Initially the situations would be bitter, but we must be prepared and embrace it with faith and hope that we can make it better. With time, it all gets better and our partners will understand our true intentions, even at times we make bad choices. I'm going through this phase of transformation and am being very mindful and constantly taking efforts to be honest. It makes me feel so good about myself and also has made things so much better and peaceful. Good luck to those ready to start living an honest and loving life!
  • Jul 26 2013: i think if we really want a relationship then we should do accordingly..littlie lies for saving the partner from worries for example about your safety during a journey etc.unnecessary things should be concealed as if your partners close friend trying to flirt with you.this does not mean you are not loyal or only means you want to save the relatioship.
  • Jul 26 2013: Always put the interests of your partner first. That is honestly loving.
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      Jul 26 2013: I like what you say, Barry, but as I think deeper into it, it turns blurry ...

      Lets imagine a couple having a closed relationship, in which sexual loyalty is essential for both.

      Now, for whatever reason, one of the parter made a mistake by having a one night stand with another person and the other partner doesn't know about it.

      So what is now 'honestly loving' and 'Always put the interests of your partner first.'?

      As a core value has been broken, would it be in the interest of the other partner to know about it, or not?

      One could argue, that to be hurt by this knowledge could not be in the interest of the other (it won't trouble what one don't know AND comfy to get away with it ). And also it could not be in the interest to be lied to, as it takes away the freedom of the other partner personal evaluation.

      So what to you is 'honestly loving' in this example and why?
      • Jul 26 2013: This seems to be a very popular question.

        First, as you said, a core value has already been broken. That was not honestly loving. So now, once this 'mistake' has been committed, how to proceed in a loving manner.

        At the risk of appearing to duck the question, I must say that it depends very much on the individual relationship. I have never actually faced this situation and do not know anyone who has. It seems to me that someone who would make this 'mistake' would not consider this a very tough question, but just stay quiet out of self interest, with the ready rationalization that revealing the deed would only cause more pain.

        Personally, I think it is unrealistic for young people to expect someone to have only one sexual partner for the rest of their life. This does not necessarily mean that every relationship should be completely open. Being realistic about relationships is a nearly impossible task today, due to the influence of the entertainment industries.

        So the answer to your question depends very much on how much or how little the couple has talked about this possibility. If they have never discussed the possibility of one of them making a mistake of this sort, I suspect the relationship has little hope of lasting very long in any case.
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          Jul 26 2013: Thank you very much, Barry.

          Although the blurriness didn't vanish, it was interesting to read your answer.
  • Jul 26 2013: Frank, you make a good point. If you're "just being honest" with someone to hurt or insult them, it doesn't serve the relationship.

    Hi Deepak, I think it's wonderful when you have a partnership where both people are honest with each other - and they know it. It gets rid of all the worries and suspicions and second-guessing.

    If any of you are interested in being more honest with your partner, check out the Honesty Experiment for Couples:
  • Jul 26 2013: Complete honesty always works best. But it has to come from love not say a desire to hurt another or "get one over on them". Some people use honesty as a weapon that way. Also sometimes being quiet, not saying anything is better because people need to undergo experiences in order to learn even if another already knows the answer and tries to relieve the suffering.
  • Aug 23 2013: a very great question but I'm sad to say lying is the way to go

    senario 1: how does this dress look on me? you look great, knowing very well that she look like a sosage
    senario 2: does these colour match? they are looking great knowwing very well you dont care less
    we lie to keep our love ones at easy mostly to gain trust
    if don't lie you don't speak truth anyway without the ather neither exist

    my answer you doom if don't, you doom if you do lie
    The secreate don't complecate your lies
    Don't lie uneccessary
    you only lie when you what to get of some trouble or get advatage of the situation those are my rules
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    Aug 9 2013: being honest is so easy, but it can be very painful. So the real issue is how we respond .
  • Aug 7 2013: you have to be totally honest about everything,no matter what
  • Aug 5 2013: I have learned that if full honesty is difficult and does not come effortlessly in a relationship, it's a sign that we are not only lying to our partner but also to ourselves about what the relationship truly means to us.
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    Jul 30 2013: Radical honesty is attainable, desirable, and sustainable in any genuine relationship. Without it, there is only a charade. Many utilize charades to get something. Thus, a charade is a manipulationship.
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    Jul 29 2013: Reminds me of the Jim Carey movie "liar liar"...
    What if we could only give answers and tell things that are true (to our given knowledge)?

    I think we should strive for it, as it is a good maxim. Even if it is unattainable, being open an honest is a value to strive for.
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    Jul 29 2013: I've read about those statements about lying and the only thing I can think of is that they live another world than I do.
    To be honest isn't only preferable but is the best for yourself as well.

    I know some children find out that lying is a strategy to help them reach their desires but to maintain such strategy through life is childish.
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    Jul 29 2013: We all agree that honesty is important to a relationship. But 100% honesty, in my personal view, is quite unattainable and not necessary. Because complete honesty means sharing and exposing everything right. But then in a relationship, you should always keep some secrets left for yourselves so that the partner still retain the interests in discovering you, and seeing everyday a new aspect that he or she hasn't known before.

    There is a saying that "in love, it is always better to know and get hurt than be comforted with a lie."

    We can't really blame people for lying because sometimes people do have good intentions for lying. The thing is that the good intention is often easily taken as bad because of general assumption which we do all the times, or due to our different perception. Sometimes one person's happiness under another person's eyes is considered as misfortune.

    By the way, lies are not that bad. You have heard of a white lie, beautiful lie but what is the first adjective you can think of to describe truth? I think the most common one is the ugly truth.
  • Jul 28 2013: Totally be honest to someone or something is quite difficult since we, sometimes, get impulse to tell lies. Every moment we face those kinds of situations. I'm not telling that being dishonest is bad. Kind of white lie make people feel good and safey, and it is worth telling white lies if someone could seek consolation with lies. But HONEST is one of the essential factors to keep and flourish our relationships. So it would be better to be honest, depending on each situation.^.^
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    Jul 26 2013: Hi Kira! New to TED conversations? Welcome:>)

    To me, honesty is desirable and attainable. How honest do you want a person to be with you?
    Do unto others.......?

    Once a person is dishonest, trust is compromised, and one has to continue covering up the dishonesty. I have no desire to do that to myself or anyone else, so for me personally, honesty is the best policy.....much easier and contributes to GREAT relationships.
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    Jul 26 2013: You should always be honest with a few white lives
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    Jul 26 2013: .
    We should be 100% honest within our symbiotic group.
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