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White lies are common in relationships and we often tell lies to avoid unnecessary conflict. Here are some ways to keep yourself in check. It’s time to take a step back if your little secret jar is spilling over. 


The “I” should still exist

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Individuality in a marriage is definitely something to be championed, agrees life coach Kenneth Oh. “There are always things about ourselves that we don’t want anyone to know, or certain individual traits that we love about ourselves. And retaining this sense of self is closely tied to keeping little secrets to ourselves.”

Don’t feel obligated to give up the little quirks that make you who you are in the interest of forging a unit – the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. As long as your secrets aren’t hindering building a future together, you can keep your 12-hour binge on One Direction music videos to yourself.

Your cooking is as good as my mum’s.

Okay, so some white lies are fine – but where do you draw the line?

Oberdan suggests you take a reality check by asking yourself what you need to be accountable to each other for: “When exactly should I be sharing with my partner? Should this be the case in all situations, or is there a certain degree of importance? Are there times when I have the right not to account for something?”  Once you have an idea of where you stand, bring it up with your partner.


The danger zone

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There are lies we tell at the spur of the moment, and then there are the lies that have become almost second nature. We may convince ourselves that it’s totally justified, but life coach Kenneth Oh of Executive Coach International advises to look out for how quick we turn to falsehoods.

When lying becomes the first line of approach, this can become a slippery slope – especially when you’re getting away with it. The danger, Kenneth says, is that people not only continue in the lie, but may start justifying other tendencies to embroider the truth.

Oh, my ex and I don’t talk to each other anymore.

Another tell-tale sign is who you’re sharing the secret with. Common justifications like “I just want my privacy” or “Why can’t I keep some things to myself?” are totally fine – if you’re being honest with yourself.

The tricky part is discerning whether you truly prize that privacy or just evading a difficult situation. If the secret is something you share with everyone else but your husband, it could be a problem, says Kenneth. 


The time bomb

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So if you’re ticking the boxes of 1) lying being your default option, 2) telling everyone but him, 3) falling back on “I don’t want to hurt him”, abandon your ostrich mentality. Burying your head in the sand is a short term solution that Kenneth likens to a ticking time bomb. 

Another reason besides the anxiety of being found out? You’re also going to cause long-term problems on how you communicate with your partner, says Vanessa. “If you prefer to avoid conflict, this suggests that this will be how you communicate in your relationship permanently,” she cautions. Once you get into the habit of omitting facts and keeping track of what information was hidden, “it could encourage unhealthy, dishonest communication.”

Not only will you have to confess to lying, you’ll have to explain why you felt it was necessary and how you’ll be moving forward. But once you’ve started the conversation, you’ll have to see it through. If you’ve attempted to be honest and decided it’s too hard for your husband to come around, unfortunately the advice is to stick it out.

Lapsing back into lying only “deepens the vicious cycle and incurs inertia,” says Kenneth. “If one party thinks, okay I tried and I failed, he or she will be resigned to a lack of change.”

So if you don’t want to take two steps forward and one step back, grit your teeth and start being honest even if it kills you. White lies are like weeds – no one cares about the odd few, but too many and your garden gets overgrown. You’ll need to start yanking.  


Start the conversation no one likes to have

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There’s no outcome that doesn’t involve hurt feelings, but here’s how to minimise the fallout.

1. Pay more attention to your thoughts, says Vanessa. “If your first thought is ‘I shouldn’t tell’ or ‘he doesn’t need to know’, assess why you’re thinking this.” You’re only going to commit to the conversation if you’re convinced there’s a problem.

2. Figure out the starting point. There’s always an initial moment where your husband reacted badly, or you felt a negative emotion that made you want to fib. Think back on what the trigger was, and you’ll get to the heart of the problem.

3. Plan the best time to have The Talk. You’ll both need time and be in a comfortable environment. Don’t talk before bed, advises Vanessa. No one’s in the mood to have explosive discussions after a long day.

4. Hold your tongue and try not to come across too defensive in explaining why you lied. You definitely have your reasons, but they should be said with tact.



This story was first published in the October issue of our magazine.