Robert Feldman in his book, “The Liar in your Life”, authored a famous study that found strangers lie to each other about three times in the first ten minutes of meeting each other. And that the average person lies up to 200 times a day. And intimate partners lie, prevaricate or conceal the truth in various ways, from little white lies to major deceptions. Peter Pearson, and Ellyn Bader, authors of “Tell me no Lies”, have this to say:
If we habitually avoid conflict, this is a type of lying too, because we are avoiding the truth. Our distancing is a kind of lie. Hiding from others also means suppressing and hiding your best and real self – your best self will be unrealized because you have settled for something less. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” That which matters above all is living your potential, living the truth of yourself.
A most dangerous form of lying is when we create an entirely false persona. Here we want to manipulate the world, to mould and shape it to our own preferences. If we have only a narrow range of what we consider to be valuable and acceptable, we will spend a lot of time and energy trying to fit our lives into that narrow range. But even worse, we will want those around us to adhere to that narrow range. We get so buried in lies that we can no longer find the truth. Our whole life is then a lie. You definitely need to read “Projection: the Smoke and Mirrors of Relationship.”
There is a gap between our ideal self and our real self. Often we try to bridge that gap with a lie.
Many lies are told under the guise of protecting the feeling of others. People who are chronically conflict-avoidant are very invested in protecting another’s feelings. When you are avoidant, rather than stay with the discomfort of your own perspective and feelings, you move, psychologically speaking, into the life of the other. You then take up residence there, presuming to know what psychological house-keeping your partner needs. You avoid conflict by knowing more about what they want or need than about your own wants and needs. In so doing you lose sight of yourself. If you imagine a relationship as a game of tennis, you are both on the same side of the net and no play/relationships can take place. Read “Tennis Anyone? Keep the Communication Ball in Play”.
When we are hungry for something we can be hoodwinked quite easily. Like love for instance. If you are hungry for love, and someone comes along promising love, you want to believe them. Your family or friends, however, might be better judges of what is going on, because love-hunger is not making them vulnerable.
In another scenario, you are shopping for a new car, and you can’t decide between two models, so the salesperson stretches the truth a little so you will buy his. You sort of know that his spiel is not quite honest, but you buy the car anyway because you want it. This sounds like political parties before an election – we are so used to being lied to.
Another way we invite lies is by being critical and contemptuous. If you always flare up when your partner tells you something challenging, she will shy away from telling you anything that she knows will upset you. You invite her lying (or not telling the truth) because of your harshness. Openness and transparency are not possible in this relationship.
Telling the truth does not mean oversharing, or giving inappropriate detail. Oversharing can conceal the truth, because, simply, there is too much information. Telling the truth can often mean paring things back and removing the padding.
Pay attention to what you say and what you do; is what you just said actually true? Try again to articulate more clearly what your truth actually is. Do you comply when you actually don’t agree? Or say yes, or maybe, when you really mean no? Do you feel pleased with yourself when you get away with deception and lies? Or enjoy pulling the wool over the eyes of your partner, because you want to get your own way? And you think it won’t matter? Well, firstly you have lost respect for yourself, and that matters. You also show disrespect for the person you lie to, and that matters. Lying brings unbearable complexity to your life. Life is complex enough without lies!!! Honestly really is a value worth cultivating.
Do you say, “I can’t put forth my needs right now, because my partner has had a hard day” or “I can’t say I need something because my partner needs something more.” These are lies, based on wanting your partner to love you because you are compliant, not because you are you. You do not want to take the risk of displeasing them, because … what? Do you think the relationship will end? But it is already over! There is no relationship here!
If you really stay in your own perspective, if you say what you need, there is a chance for two real people to engage. If you tell your partner what effect their behaviour has on you, there is a chance for a real relationship. But do you hide rather than reveal yourself?
The electronic age proves many opportunities to tell lies, or at least bend the truth. What would Facebook be without lies? On the other hand, do you hide correspondence, sites you have visited or online hookups that might not please your partner? Clarity is important here. Have you created an agreement with your partner about the limits and boundaries around social media, whether you share the contents of your phone or emails? Is it OK with you that your partner is friends with previous partners?
You might imagine that I am going to advise against this. If your relationship is very enmeshed or in the symbiotic stage, then you have probably created those kinds of boundaries already.
On the other hand, if you are secure in yourself and know your partner well, and know you are honest with each other, then you probably are not interested in checking up on them and monitoring their behaviour. You trust their integrity. You trust that they will not do anything to damages the relationship. And you, too, are busy doing your best to grow, develop and expand your talents and skills with the utmost integrity. You trust that you will both be dedicated to truth-telling.
Surprizing thought it may seem, with our paths strewn with lies, we long for people who will tell us the truth. A friend once had a bad haircut, I mean seriously bad. So she asked her husband, her friends – no, they all liked it! Must be something wrong with their eyesight, she thought. Then her 4-year-old niece came for a visit, and immediately gave her a penetrating look and said, “You don’t look right!”. My friend immediately felt better – she was being reflected truthfully. This is a trivial example but the principle applies for the weighty issues too.
As in the example above, the truth might be painful but it heals. The biggest problem about the tangled net of lies between a couple is that there is so little open ground left to play in. There is so little freedom, so many topics are off-limits.
This is one of the precepts in Dr Jordan Peterson’s, “12 rules for life.” Here he speaks on how important truth is in a relationship. Other reading on this subject is by the Couples Institute founders Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, “Tell me no Lies”. This book charts the ways our lies change as our relationship progresses.
Practice being absolutely truthful, for a day. Too hard? Can you at least not lie for half a day? OK, 10 minutes.
10 minutes a day?
For a lifetime!
Remember that honesty is a value worth cultivating.