The weekend after the last wedding experience I wrote about, I was fortunate to attend a second wedding. Much like my last post on the topic, I want to reflect a bit on something the officiant said during the ceremony.
Warning: philosophical thoughts ahead!
Midway through the service, the officiant was offering some words of advice and wisdom for the couple. He was discussing values that make for a strong, lasting relationship, and he commented that honesty is an important value to hold. However, he speculated that beyond honesty, trust is something worth considering as a higher value.
His message was a little tongue in cheek, alluding to the impossible questions a partner is faced with, such as “does this make me look x,” but he also meant it in a more sincere way. He was driving home the idea that the partnership can’t rely on honesty and transparency alone, but it also requires both partners to recognize the union of their lives, and that they must trust their partner in the journey.
While I won’t say I fully endorse the idea that trust must always be placed above honesty, it nevertheless gave me food for thought. I mulled over what trust means to me in a relationship, and whether you can have deserved trust paired with deliberate dishonesty. I donned my philosopher’s cap and thought about it.
For instance, (hearkening back to Kantian ethics), should we always tell the truth? Certainly, I’d prefer to live in a world where I’m never (maliciously) deceived, but I can imagine cases where deception can be useful. If my partner deceives me in order to seek to surprise me in a way that would bring me pleasure, then I think that kind of dishonesty can be permissible (Christmas and surprise birthday parties hinge on this being permissible). Setting aside considerations about the differences between deception and omission, so long as the deception is for the benefit of the deceived, and that revealing the nature of the deception results in increased happiness, then I think in most instances this can be thought of as a good thing. On the other hand, deception that is used to maximize the pleasure of one person while building harm at the expense of the other person (especially if the deception is revealed) is likely to be uniformly wrong in all cases. Feel free to check my thinking in the comments down below.
The implication I realized during the ceremony is that it is possible to knowingly be deceived by your partner and be fine with it if you trust your partner explicitly. That is to say, if my partner chooses to be dishonest with me (or, to a lesser degree, if my partner is not fully transparent with me), and I suspect them to be as much, then the only instance where I would be fine with this is if fully trust my partner.
This is not to say that I think this gives license to one’s partner to be deliberately deceitful if a full trusting relationship is present. I still believe that honesty and transparency ought to be the norm in a relationship; that the relationship is built upon its foundation.
But, if my partner judges that deceiving me is in my best interest (however temporary that might be) and it is indeed in my best interest, then full trust is the only way that it could be managed. Of course, there would need to be some sort of resolution to the deception. I don’t think a state of perpetual deception or ignorance is possible while being in a person’s best overall interest – the two run contrary in my mind.
Then, if it is the case that the thought of my partner deceiving me causes me discomfort or some other negative associative feeling, then it cannot be said that I fully trust them (or, that honesty and transparency are not things I care about – but how would a relationship work in that case…?). A breach of trust and a breach of honesty would both transgress the relationship.
It’s an odd sort of thought experiment to run, especially during a wedding. I had a lot of fun at that wedding, and I’m glad to have gotten some interesting philosophical thoughts to mull over while I celebrated more friends starting a new chapter in their lives.