Honesty is undeniably a foundational requirement of a solid marriage but there are occasions when it is a kindness not to divulge everything to your mate. Lying is clearly deceitful, and no one likes being deceived. In fact, when your mate discovers that you have been dishonest, it erodes the ability to believe and trust you in the future.
With that said, there are two types of information that could be better kept from your spouse, even at the risk of being found out:
Mother’s admonishment that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” was more than good manners, it was the type of wisdom that helped marriages of previous generations last beyond the golden years. Temporary anger doesn’t need to be vented with hurtful and often un-retractable words. Even truthful opinions don’t need to be shared. It’s okay to skip filling him in about rude or unflattering comments made about him by others, including your family. What would that serve except to perpetuate bad feelings?
Past lover comparisons
Only those with the strongest self-esteem can withstand haunting thoughts of their mates’ past loves. If your mate is shaky in that department, it’s better not to bring up the past—no matter how much he or she pesters you about the details. Having integrity suggests that one doesn’t kiss-and-tell anyway. Honesty and kindness would have you say genuinely, “You are the one I love, and you make my heart flutter and my earth move like no one else ever could.”
To tell or not to tell?
If you are unsure if it is okay to withhold some information from your mate, ask:
1. Would your mate want to know the truth?
2. Would he/she be upset that you had not shared the info with him/her?
3. Will not knowing this information affect his/her life in a positive way?
4. Will anyone get hurt by withholding this information?
5. Would he/she or anyone else consider this a serious rather than a benign (unharmful) matter?
6. If the situation were reversed, would you want to know?
7. Is the truth important to your spouse’s ability to live an authentic (not false) life?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes” then let the truth out. If withholding information misleads your spouse or causes him or her to live an inauthentic life (a sham), it is important to be honest. Ask yourself what your motive is for keeping mum. Self interest? Kindness?
My self-esteem is too low to live with guilt and my memory is too poor to remember false stories to maintain any lies. It is far easier for me to be completely honest with my spouse but we do have this unspoken “don’t ask” rule if neither of us wants to know the answer. So, he doesn’t ask how much things cost and I don’t ask if he thinks I’m getting more wrinkles. Even if honesty is the best policy, discretion can be a kindness and an act of love.