Is Honesty in a Relationship Always the Best Policy? (Asking For a Friend...)

Seven honest truths about honesty—from an expert.
couple looking at view from mountain
Photo: jacoblund / Getty
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Aug 28, 2023

Honesty is the best policy, right? The tried-and-true slogan has been said time and time again. But when it comes to always fostering honesty in a relationship, some may wonder if it's always necessary or if there are some gray areas where it might be better to hold back from your partner.

Regardless of how you personally feel about being honest in a relationship, we've all gone through times of questioning our own morals and values. Let's face it—we're all human, and we're not perfect. It's okay to seek guidance in the honesty department.

To help us with this sticky, controversial topic, we've brought in Shan BoodramBumble's Sex and Relationships Expert—to help cast some light on the question you might be too nervous to ask your closest circle: How important is honesty in a relationship? She even helps us to understand why there might be a lack of honesty in a relationship, below.

In this article:

First Off, What Is Honesty In A Relationship?

Honesty is an important fixture in any healthy relationship (the key word being healthy) because it is what allows your partner or partner(s) to feel safe and secure in your connection and partnership. But what does it mean to be truly honest in a relationship?

"When it comes to honesty in a relationship, it's important to remember that it isn't just about telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Boodram reminds us.

"It's about making a commitment to share your past, present and future self with someone else to the best of your knowledge without oversharing things that aren't constructive or cruel. Honesty is also about not withholding anything that might be considered crossing a line."

7 Reasons Why Honesty Is So Important In A Relationship

Being honest with your partner isn't just about being morally correct—it's also one of the most important aspects of creating a long-lasting, healthy relationship. Here's how the six-letter word can impact any relationship positively in seven ways.

1. Honesty creates an excellent foundation

"Honesty creates trust between partners that can then lead to the intimacy and closeness we desire in a relationship," explains Boodram. "Without it, you won't have the foundation you need to deepen that connection with the other person and grow together in ways that will be mutually beneficial."

2. It signifies a special relationship

Here's the thing: Honesty creates a unique distinction between the ordinary relationships in your life and the more special ones. "The less we know someone, the less we expect for them to be honest with us," Boodram says. "So as intimacy deepens, so does the hope that there is more authentic, constructive communication."

3. Honesty allows you to grow as a human

According to Boodram, the ongoing practice of honesty provides the opportunity for both personal and shared growth. "No one is perfect and sometimes we do things that require having tough conversations," Boodram says.

"If you're able to own up to a transgression—and if it's one your partner is able to forgive—it will help reinforce the importance of the connection you are building, your commitment to the other person and your impression as an honest person in general."

4. It's what most people are looking for in a relationship

If you're dating and looking for a relationship, chances are that you're looking for someone who can be honest with you—and most people who are dating are, too. In a recent Bumble survey, a majority (87%) of respondents in the US agreed that kindness is the most important quality in a potential partner, and 65% of them cited honesty as one of the most telling signs of a kind person.

5. Honesty goes hand-in-hand with intentionality

Honesty and intentionality are best friends. "If you're upfront about what you're looking for in a connection with your romantic partner, it will make things that much easier down the line," Boodram says.
If you can communicate what you're looking for (whether that's a life partner or a short-term relationship) right off the bat, there's a higher chance for success and happiness.

6. It encourages vulnerability

Honesty is also a great way to foster an environment where vulnerability is your partner is encouraged to be vulnerable with you and vice versa. According to Boodram, if you are open about your feelings, this will only further establish the relationship as one that has the potential to stand the test of time.

7. Honesty builds trust

"Honesty builds trust," says Boodram. "Trust will also grow in a relationship when you routinely make good on your promises, which can include small things like arriving to dates on time or bigger things like ensuring your partner feels confident in you."

If you can't make good on your promises, it's also a way to be realistic about your ability or capacity to show up for your partner. As Boodram explains, when you're honest about what you can deliver (and consistently follow through), your partner will be able to trust that you do what you say—which can lead to trust in other parts of your relationship as well.

What Happens When You Don't Practice Honesty In A Relationship?

We know that practicing honesty in a relationship is a great way to build a healthy foundation, reassure your partner, establish trust, encourage vulnerability and be intentional in your search for love. But what does a lack of honesty in a relationship do?

"When you don't practice honesty in a relationship—you're not in a relationship, your representative or alter ego is," Boodram warns.

When we don't share the constructive parts of our truth, it can:

  • Prevent us from sharing ourselves with the other person
  • Can create a mental preoccupation with maintaining the facade you've built
  • Hinders you from being present and enjoying your relationship
  • Prevents authenticity

"Authenticity is flow, deception is a construct that requires constant supervision," Boodram shares. "When authenticity isn't at the foundation of a connection, it's a ticking time bomb until the other person learns the truth (or truths) you're trying to conceal."

Without honesty in a relationship, there isn't room for it to grow and prosper. That's why even at the dating app level, Boodram suggests sticking to being the real you. After all, the real you is genuinely the only you—so stick to that.

Remember, There's A Difference Between Privacy And Dishonesty

Lastly, don't forget that there is also a difference between privacy and dishonesty. To remind yourself of the difference, Boodram suggests thinking of it like a lockbox versus a secret room.

"A lockbox is in plain sight and you can talk about the box without revealing what you have inside. A secret room is designed to give someone the impression that what they see is all there is, even though that's not the truth." she explains.

"Privacy protects the person whose information it is to share—the only person who will be affected by the revelation of that information. Dishonesty involves withholding information that could ultimately hurt someone else."

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