Let Your Partner Be There for You


🖊 Mark D. White, Ph.D./Psychology Today 📸Beliefnet

We generally should not lie to our partners, but most people would agree that some lies are worse than others. Self-serving lies told to cover up an affair, for example, compound a betrayal with deception, prioritizing the cheater’s interests over the partner’s and denying the latter the respect he or she deserves.

So-called benevolent lies are a different matter. But there is a class of benevolent lies that, however well-intentioned, can be corrosive to a relationship: lies told to withhold or disguise what partners truly need.

Suppose Harold and Sally have been married for 10 years, and fairly happily, but recently each has been dealing with different personal issues. Sally suffered medical problems that caused changes in her body she fears have made her less attractive to her husband. Harold has been arguing with his brother about their parents’ long-term care, which has dredged up some emotional issues from his past and eroded his self-confidence.

Harold’s problems have caused him to withdraw from Sally physically exactly when she needs his attention more than ever, and her feelings about her body have made it harder for her to reach out to Harold just when he needs someone to talk to about his family. Each knows basically what’s going on with the other, but they are unwilling to tell the other what they need. Instead, motivated by a sincere reluctance to burden their partner, they say, “I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”

When we are suffering, we realize how much we need a partner to be there for us. This essential purpose of relationships is defeated, though, if we withhold our needs from them. We may think we’re being kind, but our partner wants to help us, and rejecting that compassion can be hurtful and damaging. Although it may feel selfish, opening up about what you need from your partner is a truly benevolent act.