Guys, here’s something to consider the next time your partner asks a question like: “Does this outfit make me look fat?” New research shows that when it comes to keeping the peace in relationships – honesty is NOT always the best policy. In fact, a growing number of studies show that the more open and honest couples are with each other, the less happy they are.

Surprised? Sean Horan is a professor of communication at DePaul University. He says there are actually some cases where avoiding the truth – or even telling a white lie – is the key to maintaining a happy and successful relationship. To be clear, we’re not talking about lies to protect yourself – like telling lies to cover up an affair, or hide an addiction. Horan’s talking about the harmless lies that couples sometimes tell each other to protect their partner’s feelings.

A good example is when you avoid telling your partner that you can’t stand their family – because you know it’ll lead to a fight. Or, when you lie about how they look in a new dress, because you know the truth will hurt their feelings. Horan says that type of lying is known as “protective buffering.”

It’s something both men and women do, and according to a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships a little bit of protective buffering can go a long way to improving your relationship.

How do you know if a lie qualifies as “protective buffering?” Our expert says a simple test is to ask yourself this question: “Will the information be more harmful to the relationship if it’s disclosed now or discovered later?” If a discovery down the road has the potential to destroy intimacy, then you’re better off facing the truth, and being honest now.