Can you be too honest in a relationship?

Can you be too honest in a relationship?

by Eunice Chua 31 Jan 2020

The traditional view about romantic relationships is that there should be no secrets between a couple – none at all. When someone loves us for who we truly are, it gives us the freedom and right to share every single thought and idea with them…right? Intimacy is so important that we sometimes forget about respecting the boundaries of our partners, especially in terms of considering what we say to them.


Most of us have, at some point in time, sat through one of those awkward conversations with a couple where one (or both) of them freely offered their honest, unfiltered opinion of their partner. We usually laugh along in good fun, perhaps making a small comment on how cute it is that they’re so comfortable with discussing each other’s flaws. Unfortunately, we also completely ignore the very real possibility that the person whose flaws are being picked out could feel humiliated, or betrayed, or plain hurt by the comments.


Every person has different perceptions of what makes a perfect relationship. Some believe that true love ought to be able to withstand every single ugly truth. But not everyone does, and your partner could be one of them. Realising this and taking steps to establish a line between truthfulness and respect will help your relationship flourish more than pure honesty can.


Why is there a need for a line?

Keeping things from your partner isn’t the same as maintaining personal privacy, in terms of your thoughts or opinions. The former hints that there’s something to hide and has negative implications; the latter is purely an individual’s right. This line is drawn at different proximities for different couples. No matter how fine this line is, every couple consists of two autonomous people with every right to protect their own privacy, even from their partner.


What’s on the two sides of the line?

There are things that you can safely keep on your side of the line and shouldn’t share with your partner, unless you’re sure it won’t hurt their feelings. These include:

  • Details about previous relationships. Memorable ones in particular – these almost certainly invoke jealousy and tension. 
  • Trivial things you don’t like about them, especially when it relates to their looks or habits.
  • Secrets that other people have trusted with you. Your partner isn’t an extension of you and someone else’s secret is not yours to give away.


What you definitely shouldn’t keep secret are things that could be detrimental to the relationship or to your partner. Some examples are:

  • Money-related ones. “What’s mine is yours and yours is mine” is a quick defence to spending your partner’s money, sometimes without informing them. Never do this, even if you’re okay with it being done to you.
  • Unhealthy habits, especially if you’ve promised to stop. Alcoholism, smoking, pornography and gambling are common ones. Hiding such information have serious implications on trust.
  • Having an affair – this is the worst secret to ever hide. First of all, you shouldn’t be having one. Second, if things have gotten so bad between your partner that you’re resorting to this, it’s probably time to end the relationship.


Relationships are beautiful, delicate things. There’s a fine balance to be struck between trust and consideration. When in doubt, always think in the reverse: if things were the other way around, would you want your partner to tell you the truth? If you’re withholding information, is it for their good or for yours? At the end of the day, protect your relationship but also your own privacy and your partner’s.