It is assumed that in partner relationships there is no room for lies. Although saying small and innocent lies is a human characteristic (yes, do not shake your head disapprovingly – according to surveys most people tell lies at least 2-3 daily), in partner relationships there are many who tend to say emphatically that ” I can’t stand liars”. Having heard many times people blaming as unworthy of trust a partner who does not meet the stereotypical profile of a “liar”, I have repeatedly wondered whether in some cases lies are not generated by the character of the person who lies but by the way both partners are related with. If you feel that your relationship is suffering from lies or suspicions and neither of you or your partner is a pathological liar, it might be good to think about the below.
Are you extremely critical, rigorous or demanding? In partner relationships a frequent reason for not telling the truth is the fear that if you tell the truth, your partner will become aggressive or reject you. Before condemning a lie, you should consider what would be your reaction if you knew the truth. Are you a person with understanding? Does your partner trust you that you would not embarrass, blame or reject him if he tells you something you do not like? Before accusing someone for telling lies, you should always ask yourself if you allow him telling you the truth.
Are you indiscreet? There is a thin line in the questions we are entitled to pose to our partner and if we cross this line, our partner might perceive our curiosity as interrogation or as invasion of his personal space. “What are you thinking; Who were you with; Who else was there? Why did you take so long to arrive? What have you done; Why did you do that?”… When our partner becomes annoyingly curious or inquisitorial, it is extremely likely to feel that our independence and our personal space is violated. People who have not learned or are not able to define this kind of behavior may feel they are losing control and their autonomy and to resort to lies. In these cases, lying can be seen as an indirect or passive way to say to your partner “that’s it” or “leave me alone”.
Another parameter that one should take into account when investigating the reasons that partners may lie each other is the power allocation between the couple. In a relationship – especially in a marriage – none of the partners have exactly the same power. The power vary by sector or situation. For example, one partner has more power in relation to children or family in general and the other partner has more power in economic sector. It is important to identify these differences because when these are great, it is possible to affect the sincerity of the person who is in the “weakest” position. When a person believes that he lacks of power, he may feel that he has no control over the decisions made. Since no one likes feeling weak or letting others decide for him, it is possible some people to resort to lies in order to feel that they are able to influence indirectly (since they cannot do it directly) the decisions of the most powerful partner. Lies due to the power imbalance are frequently recorded in parent – child or employer – employee relationships.
Perhaps it would be useful for those who condemn even the smallest lie within a relationship to think it over. The temptation to believe that our relations would be better if we could always say and listen to the truth is great, but life seems to have taught to most of us that the indiscriminate honesty can hinder our relations with those we love and make our relations to collapse. Frequent or big lies might be a huge obstacle in some relationships, but are you sure what you want to hear is the truth? And one more thing. How many are the relationships that can handle “the truth and nothing but the truth?”. Let’s be honest.
Do you have a problem that concerns you? Our resident psychotherapist Zeta Stravopodi is willing to address any personal matters. E-mail her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Stravopodi-Gianno works as a psychotherapist and offers advice to individuals, couples and families. She also coordinates groups interested in achieving self-awareness and personal growth. In 2012, she established “Parents School” to give parents advice as to how to navigate the choppy waters of parenthood regarding the healthy emotional growth of their children.