White lies are generally believed to be harmless untruths that are sometimes necessary. For instance, if an acquaintance asks “how are you?” you aren’t about to unload your life’s problems on them, so you respond with “I’m fine”.

People who are trained to detect lies as part of their job will attest that everyone tells white lies every day.

“You are totally rocking that outfit!” – White lie.

These lies are often intended to protect the person we are lying to. We understand that sometimes the truth hurts and isn’t necessarily beneficial. In the case of the outfit comment, it is not imperative that the wearer knows how you really feel about the outfit. So in order to protect your relationship and make the other person feel good, you lie.

When you choose to answer “I’m fine” when you really aren’t, are you doing anyone any harm? It wouldn’t seem so. But it is a lie. Perhaps you don’t want to inconvenience the cashier or you don’t feel like you have the time to tell your friend what’s really going on. Whatever your reason is, the truth is this the more you lie, the more you build a tolerance to it. Even though you may tell the bulk of your white lies to protect others, you might begin to tell lies to protect yourself – and that’s where the problems really begin.

In close relationships, you gain intimacy and closeness by being vulnerable with another person. When you lie, you compromise this closeness for all parties: yourself, your partner, and the relationship overall.

1: Lying impacts the liar.

One of the best parts of being in a healthy relationship is being accepted for who you are. When all your faults are laid bare and your partner still chooses you, you can breathe a sigh of relief. When you lie, you can’t be open and vulnerable, and this builds walls between you and your partner. There are other consequences to your dishonesty as well. When you constantly lie you become untrustworthy, and people tend to dislike liars, even if they don’t know they are being lied to.

When you circumvent the truth, you might think it will keep others close to you by not hurting their feelings. However, lies have the opposite effect and create distance instead. Studies show that people who habitually lie feel less committed and less content in the relationship. Additionally, frequent lies will increase your anxiety and guilt – this can lead to paranoia and depression.

2: Lying impacts those being lied to.

When you are lied to by someone that you are supposed to be able to trust, it feels like a betrayal. Your ability to trust your partner will decrease, and you will find yourself questioning their actions and then their motives.

Many people can’t remain in relationships where they feel that they can’t trust the other person. Knowing that they have been lied to will colour all their memories of the relationship as well. They will begin to ask “Was any of it was real?”.

Healing from dishonesty

We often deceive ourselves when we say that we are lying to protect the other person. Truly, we are lying because we want to be liked or don’t want to be seen as the bearer of bad news. We aren’t trying to protect the other person, rather we are trying to protect ourselves from their disappointment or anger.

There is good news! Lying doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. It will take work and perhaps some help, but you can heal your relationship. Take time to learn to be tactful when you present the truth, face the awkwardness of being vulnerable with your partner, and try to understand when and why you are inclined to tell white lies. This will help you cultivate a genuine and authentic relationship that is built on trust.