You’ve been in this situation before. Dinner is overcooked. The chicken is dry. The rice is a little crunchy. The broccoli probably should have been turned off a few minutes earlier. Whatever part of dinner that isn’t quite right, your dad leans over to you and says “Thank your mom for dinner. Tell her it was delicious.” We are taught incredibly young to lie in our most intimate relationships.
Here’s another one. We tell our girlfriends that we’re fed up doing everything around the house. We throw our hands in the air and complain, “How the hell does he not know how to load the dishwasher yet??? We’ve been here 10 years! Is he doing it on purpose??? I don’t get it!” Yet, when we go home, do we tell our partners that we’re fed up? That we can’t take re-doing a chore again when we already do all the rest and that their helping is not helping? Of course not. We wouldn’t dare damage that fragile male ego anymore or drive them into the ever-enabling arms of their overbearing mothers. (I think that’s 2 other blog posts there) We carry on this “family tradition” of straight up LYING to our most intimate partners.
Why do we, as a society, do this? How can we stop? I know it might seem ridiculous to think about it this way, but we can just stop. We can simply no longer accept the lies. The lies become a way that we are not only not truthful with the closest people to us, but ourselves as well. Before long, the lies make it so that we are living full-out lies of lives. It is not a good or healthy way to be.
So, why do we do it? There are a few very compelling reasons that we do it and it is hard to fight them. The first one that comes to mind for me is trauma-induced fear. If you have ever been abused or attacked or been in a home situation where someone was prone to lash out at you, it is no wonder that lying seems like the best option. Nothing will keep you from telling the truth like a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response you may not even be aware that you have. If you notice that you are lying frequently to yourself or other people you are intimately involved with on a constant basis, you might want to explore some talk therapy or perhaps a somatic therapy approach to get to the root of this response. If you are still living in the traumatic environment, if it is possible, seek help from trusted supports to see about an exit plan. I want you safe before the lies run out.
Avoiding conflict is high on the list of reasons as well. You know that if you say how you really feel about what your spouse is eating or what your boyfriend wants to do this weekend or where your wife wants to go on vacation, it’s going to start a fight. Now, part of me says, “Suck it up buttercup.” because the alternative is being dishonest. Another part of me completely empathizes with your plight. I am a person who has lived most of her life as super-accommodating; even to my own detriment, and then to the point of playing the victim. It’s a slippery slope, so if you feel yourself be mindful of those little lies piling up.
You might think that by avoiding conflict you are doing your partner a kindness, but in reality, you could be furthering some bad behavior that needs addressing. Think about it this way, if you are not telling your partner that you don’t like their cooking for fear of hurting their feelings and starting a fight because the one time you did say something they threw the dishes in the sink and said, “Fine! I guess I won’t cook anymore! You do it!” that is not okay. That is a totally out of proportion response and you need to be able to talk to each other with confidence that if you are honest, you will move forward in a positive manner.
Another reason we lie in relationships is we are scared to hurt another person’s feelings or we think that our true thoughts or desires would push them away. I recently had a client say to me that their friends and family had counseled them to not share too much right away since they are kind of weird. First of all, fuck people who say things like this to you when you are in a time of deep self-examination. Second, I think this is TERRIBLE advice! You are only putting off the inevitable. You are basically emotionally catfishing someone by hiding yourself. Am I saying you need to share your deepest fears, wildest fetishes, and most motivating goals and values on your dating profile? In a perfect world…yes! But in our society, where I’m writing about how do we stop lying to the people closest to us, mmmm, maybe just tone things down a bit, but stay true to yourself as best you can. And once you and someone else are invested in each other, please don’t pretend to be someone you are not; like it is in their best interest, or the the best thing for your relationship, to be other than you are. It may not happen for years, but one day, the posturing, posing, and pretending will run out. You will not be able to maintain and you will show your true nature. It is not only unfair to you, but to your partner(s).
For our purposes here today, I’m not even talking about the whoppers. I’m not getting into lying about finances or cheating because that is a whole other post. So, the last reason I have for today is because it is a learned behavior. We were taught to do it as kids. We watched our parents do it and now, here we are. We are just accustomed to it being our go-to for “easy” communication. Ever hear that saying, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Well, that’s how I feel about deleting lying in our intimate relationships as a societal norm.
Think about how much tension would be released in your body today if you were free and safe enough in your relationships to just tell the truth. I am not telling you to go on a mission to hurt anyone’s feelings or to scream intimate secrets from the rooftop. I am telling you to start today. Be mindful of how much you are lying in your intimate relationships and make a choice to stop or bring that number down. The next time you are asked about something or you are supposed to comment and you feel yourself about to lie, stop, take a breath, and think about how much more you honor yourself and show that person how much they are worthy in your mind by telling the truth. Let’s burn this social norm or being dishonest to those who matter most down to the ground!