Man telling an unpleasant truth to his friend

It’s that sickening feeling of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. You feel it in the pit of your stomach, and the stress it can cause leaves you in a state of misery. Your instincts tell you to say one thing, but your brain tells you to say something completely different, something that will keep the peace so that everyone can continue on happily in a blissful state of denial. You’re faced with one of the toughest decisions to befall mankind: should you lie to your partner, or should you be honest?

Why do we avoid telling the unpleasant truth?

We’ve all done it. We don’t really want to do it, but it comes almost naturally. That’s probably because we would prefer not to hurt the ones we love.

If you have a husband or wife who wants to sing but is a terrible singer, you might be inclined to encourage them to sing; despite their apparent lack of talent. That situation can be applied to countless other scenarios where one person in a relationship lies to the other in order to maintain the happiness level. After all, most people don’t really enjoy conflict, especially if the conflict begins with something that one party could take as particularly insulting, like telling them their voice is terrible.

When we lie to those we care about, are we really doing the right thing? It may seem that we’re saving them from pain. For any person, being in a relationship means that we don’t want our partner to be hurt.

The problem is that by pretending that everything is okay, we are merely postponing the hurt. And when the person finally learns the truth about what you’ve been telling them, they may never trust you again.

“Why do my boyfriends always leave me?”

I knew a girl who was extremely beautiful. She had an exotic look to her that any magazine would have loved and she had the smile to match. Her personality was equally as attractive, so I really enjoyed hanging out with her whenever I could.

One night, she and I were talking about the various guys she’d been dating over the course of the last few years. She couldn’t understand why none of her relationships had worked out. The guys seemed to like her, and everything always appeared to be going fine. But inevitably, the guy would break things off with her almost out of the blue. Each and every time, she was blind-sided by the breakup.

When she asked me what I thought the problem was, I honestly couldn’t say at first, because I didn’t know. So, I asked her a series of questions to get to the root of the issue. The line of inquiry went through every possible avenue I could think of: How were their conversations? Was the chemistry good? Were there any indicators that something was wrong?

Then she mentioned one thing. She said that initially the guys were really into her and always wanted to kiss her. But as the relationship progressed, they seemed to kiss her less and less.

An idea hit me. Maybe she had bad breath… But I couldn’t say that. And I actually didn’t know. Plus, I didn’t want to be the one to test it out. That was something I would rather let one of her girlfriends tell her.

I went about carefully laying the groundwork for building up to the possible solution to her problem. I told her it could be one of many things. I listed several items that might have been a turn off to guys, bad breath being one of them.

She asked me point blank if that was an issue, to which I responded that I didn’t know, but maybe she could ask some of her other friends about it.

Telling the truth: There’s spinach in your teeth

When it comes to telling the unpleasant truth, none of us wants to offend someone else’s personal air space and none of us wants to look like an idiot.

I have become a much more upfront person in the last few years, and am usually willing to be brutally honest with friends who ask me questions with potentially hurtful answers. I never found out whether my friend actually had bad breath or not. But if I were her, I would have wanted to know.

Have you ever gotten something stuck in your teeth? I have. This happens to most people, especially if they’ve eaten spinach because you can’t always feel if there’s spinach wedged between your pearly whites. And if someone doesn’t let you know about it, you will walk around for the next few hours with something green sticking out to everyone you smile at.

Not telling the unpleasant truth does more harm than good

When it comes down to whether or not you should be telling an unpleasant truth in a relationship, you have to ask yourself a very simple question. Would you want to know the truth? Inevitably, you are doing far more harm than good by lying and delaying the foreseeable. How would you feel if someone you cared about told you that you were good at something, only to find out everyone else thought you were terrible? It would be way worse than finding out you had some spinach in your teeth.

Are you afraid to know the truth about something in your life? What are the consequences if you don’t know the truth? Or are you afraid to be honest with someone you care about because you don’t want to hurt them? Ask yourself the simple question. Would you want to know?

This was first published in the August 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
Ernest Dempsey
Ernest Dempsey loves talking to strangers. He writes because he enjoys helping and entertaining people. He is author of the Sean Wyatt series. Contact him at


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