For a long time, I had been thinking that “too good to be true” sounded like a compliment. 

That was until my ex-boyfriend used the exact same phrase to break up with me: 

“This relationship seems too good to be true. I just wanna stop.” 

The text was everything. He didn’t give me any further explanation. After that, poof, he was gone from my life for good, leaving me with weeks trying to decode what he meant. 

Soon after, I realized that this phrase wasn’t always as encouraging as it sounded. 

Today, let’s explore ‘too good to be true’ meaning, so next time, if someone says that you are too good to be true, you won’t have to spend much time tossing and turning about it. 

Too Good To Be True Meaning, In A Literal Sense 

When I don’t understand what someone means by a certain word or phrase, I tend to search for it. Yeah, sounds totally nerdy, I know what you think. I do have a bit of a logophile. 

But, trust me when I say that sometimes, the dictionaries can provide new layers of meanings for some terms that you hear often. These alternative implications can totally shift the meaning of a phrase. It is applicable in this case. 

As I looked for ‘too good to be true’ meaning, the Cambridge dictionary only gave a brief definition: 

“So good in a way that is difficult to believe”

Things did get a bit clearer as I read the definition on MacMillan dictionary

“So good that you cannot believe that such a situation is possible or can continue” 

And when I took a look at Collins dictionary, it became more specific than ever: 

“If you say that something seems too good to be true, you are suspicious of it because it seems better than you had expected, and you think there might be something wrong with it that you have not noticed.”

And that’s when I saw the problem. Though having different ways of wording, all three dictionaries agree that this phrase holds a sense of distrust: The thing you are regarding might be too amazing that it seems fake or precarious. 

Too Good To Be True Meaning: A Compliment Or Not?

When something is too good to be true, it seems unreal or fragile – Source: Unsplash

Based on the literal meaning of ‘too good to be true’, as several dictionaries indicate, this phrase originally had a negative meaning and wasn’t meant to be used as a compliment like many of us assume. 

‘Too Good To Be True’ Usage

However, in daily use, you can still hear ‘too good to be true’ being used as a compliment. A notable example is the lyrics of Frankie Valli’s famous “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”:

“You’re just too good to be true

I can’t take my eyes off you”

‘Too Good To Be True’ Usage

Sometimes it simply means “you are astonishingly beautiful” – Source: Unsplash

In this case, the phrase is very close to the meaning we often think of: Something/someone is too great it simply astonishes us. Even though ‘too good to be true’ wasn’t meant to be used this way, words and idioms constantly involve and expand their meanings through daily usage. Hence, even if you want to use this phrase to praise someone, it wouldn’t sound inappropriate. That explains why we tend to forget the negative aspect of ‘too good to be true’ and think of it as a compliment. 

Still, most frequently, ‘too good to be true’ is associated with a negative connotation and bears the sense of suspicion mentioned above. Here are some examples you can check out to fully understand the intended idea: 

  • “I’m not surprised if the offer wasn’t genuine. It was too good to be true.”
  • “While you are searching online, if there is a country that doesn’t import iPods, but they are offering too-good-to-be-true prices, they are probably fake.”
  • “Restriction can also vary, and interested guests should be aware before investigating any too-good-to-be-true offers to make sure they don’t fall victim to fraudulent tickets.”
  • “Consumers should be careful of too-good-to-be-true offers because they can be counterfeit or pirated copies that will not perform properly. In some cases, they might implant viruses or other harmful programs to your computer.”

What Is A Too-Good-To-Be True Relationship? 

The term “too good to be true” can be applied in any situation. Recently, though, it is become more common in describing a relationship. So, what is a too-good-to-be-true relationship, and what is a too-good-to-be-true partner? 

What Is A Too-Good-To-Be True Relationship?

What if a relationship seems too good to be true? – Source: Unsplash

According to Psychology Today, at the beginning of a relationship, when everything is relatively new, we tend to get caught up in the excitement and therefore unable to see the flaws in it. When everything seems to be perfect but underlying are unhealthy signs, it is called a too-good-to-be-true relationship. Just like a common expression says, if a relationship is too good to be true, it isn’t true. 

What about a too-good-to-be-true partner?

This term is used to describe a girlfriend/boyfriend that seems to be perfect inside out. Everything about this person is oddly perfect and they meet all of your standards. Over time,  though, you realize that they were just trying to hide their flaws from you, even by lying. Of course, they cannot hide their true selves forever, and that’s when things begin to fall apart. 

This type of partner is quite common both in real life and novels, with an example being Carola Lovering’s Too Good To Be True Book. The book surrounds Skye Starling who is living in her dream after Burke Michaels – a handsome, wealthy, and more emotionally mature than any man she had ever met – proposed to her after a whirlwind courtship. Soon after, though, Skye realizes Burke isn’t who he claims to be, but instead a typical too-good-to-be-true partner. 

So next time, if you meet someone who is absolutely flawless and are certain that he/she is the one, think twice. Nobody is perfect, and that person might be hiding things about themselves. 

This type of partner is quite common both in real life and novels, with an example being Carola Lovering’s Too Good To Be True Book

No one is flawless, including your partner – Source: Unsplash

Additionally, if your significant other constantly tells you things like “you are too good for me”, or “this relationship is too good to be true”, it might indicate that he or she is having low self-esteem or insecurities. This might be the result of the background or past trauma that makes him or her think they don’t deserve a good relationship. In some cases, it’s an excuse to avoid commitment. 

Too Good To Be True Meaning – Conclusion

As you can see, the term “too good to be true” can be a double-edged sword. Therefore, it might be confusing to hear this term, especially when it is from your crush or partner. Hopefully, after reading this article, you can have your own judgment. Whether the phrase is positive or negative also depends on the situation and your knowledge about the person who says it to you.

Curious about other words and idioms? Our Glossary has what you need! Check these out: 

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