What makes some people lie in relationships? Why do they do it? Is lying ever okay?
People lie for various reasons, but lying has always been a part of human nature.
Lies can get us out of some sticky situations in life, but they also cause problems.
There are various reasons why people lie in a relationship.
Some of these reasons are common, while some are rare. Read on to discover the top ten reasons why people lie in love.
Is lying common in relationships?
Yes, it is. In fact, lying, in general, is common. It doesn’t matter who you are, lying is a universal trait.
No matter how much we may value honesty, studies suggest that the majority of us tell lies in our relationships.
In fact, one survey found that 73.4% of people who had been in a relationship for at least a year admitted to lying to their partners.
Psychologist Bella DePaulo’s research shows that we lie in around one-fifth of our social exchanges that last over 10 minutes.
During an average week we’re telling whoppers to around 30% of people we’re interacting with.
What is perhaps more significant is the frequency with which someone lies, and the scale of those lies.
Not all lies are equal, and the motivation behind the lie is likely to impact how destructive that lie can be.
What causes people to lie in a relationship?
1) To avoid hurting others’ feelings
You may think that lying is never okay, or you might think that it depends on the situation. Many of us feel that so-called “white lies” can sometimes be kinder than the truth.
It is natural that we want our partners to be happy, and so we can fall into people-pleasing lies.
For instance, if your partner asks whether you like the dinner they have lovingly prepared for you, but you don’t. Or if they want to know what you think of the gift they bought you for Christmas, and in actual fact you hate it.
On these occasions, plenty of us tell fibs in order to spare the feelings of the people we care about.
We make a judgement call to shield others from the harsh truth in an attempt to protect them. Sometimes the truth isn’t as important as keeping the peace and being kind.
For example, if your partner has a particular insecurity, is being honest more important than being tactful?
If you don’t like their new outfit or haircut should you tell them? A lot of us decide it’s better to err on the side of caution and lie instead for the sake of being polite.
2) To cover up bad behavior
As children when we learned how to lie we figured out that lies can help you to avoid punishment. And this is a running theme that follows us into adulthood too.
Sometimes we lie because we’re afraid of getting caught out doing something bad. Perhaps the most classic example in the world of romance is infidelity.
In this way, we use lies to try to hide our mistakes.
Taking responsibility for our own actions can feel like a big ask. The brutal truth is that the cowardly route often feels easier.
Rather than run the risk of losing a partner by coming clean, many people will try and cover their tracks and tell lies instead.
These bigger lies may involve covering up cheating, addiction, or even criminal activity.
When we lie to cover up bad behavior, we often end up causing more trouble than we solve. We may lose trust in our partner, and damage the relationship beyond repair.
Keeping big secrets within a relationship can quickly lead to its downfall.
3) To avoid conflict
We all know that conflicts are inevitable when two people are together. However, sometimes we choose not to face up to this reality.
If you’re afraid of conflict, then you might resort to lying simply to avoid confrontation. You may say things like:
“I’m fine,” “It doesn’t bother me,” or “I didn’t notice.”
But underneath, you’re actually feeling anxious, upset, and uncomfortable.
The problem with using lies to avoid conflict is that they only work temporarily. Eventually, you’ll need to deal with the issue head-on.
The truth feels scary to admit because you are fearful of losing your partner when you reveal it.
But if you’re terrified of rocking the boat in your relationship, you can end up burying relationship problems that are bound to resurface again.
It’s important to be able to express our needs and wants to our partners, and if you are too scared of conflict, often this doesn’t happen.
4) To make themselves appear better than they really are
Lying can also help people to feel more attractive.
People may lie about their weight, height, age, job, education, salary, or social status.
But the underlying motivation is the same. It’s about bigging themselves up in the hope they will seem more appealing.
The aim of the lie is to impress. But deep down people who tell these kinds of lies are usually insecure in some way.
They aren’t confident that who they really are is good enough. And so they stretch the truth or invent things that they think are more desirable.
Online dating can be a hotbed for these types of lies.
People may lie about their age, turning back the clock in the hopes of attracting more suiters. They might lie about their body type and figure or their job and financial status. Plenty also lie about their relationship status too.
Whatever it is, as many as 57% of people admit to lying to each other on their online dating profiles.
5) To hide something they’re ashamed of
Lying is like a shield that we use to protect ourselves.
Often that shield is to prevent embarrassment. And so if you’re embarrassed about something, you might try to cover it up.
In fact, many people lie to hide embarrassing secrets such as drug use, debt, or alcohol abuse.
Shame can be an incredibly powerful motivator that causes us to hide the truth from the people we care most about. We worry our partner will think less of us.
Even when we haven’t directly done something bad towards our other half, we still feel the need to lie about things we have done to ourselves that we are ashamed about.
It is too confronting to admit, and so we keep quiet.
6) To manipulate someone or a situation
Lying may be dishonest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sometimes get us what we want.
And so, sometimes people lie motivated by satisfying their own agenda and interests.
Narcissists within a relationship for example often lie to get their own way and control you. They may lie to get attention, money, sex, or power over others.
Some people lie to gain sympathy or to win arguments. Others lie to trick someone into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do.
Sometimes people lie to manipulate others in a way that serves them. Another word for this might also be using somebody.
7) To protect their ego
Nobody likes to be wrong.
We can find ourselves reaching for a lie within a relationship in order to save face and protect our fragile ego.
You don’t want to look foolish or be seen as being weak. So you’ll say anything to avoid looking stupid.
It’s a form of self-protection and defence mechanism whenever we feel threatened.
The lie is there to protect them from being hurt, their ego from feeling crushed or their flaws from being exposed.
8) For the thrill of it
If the thought of lying being a thrill seems pretty strange to you, then you may be surprised to hear there is some logic behind it all.
For some people, particularly pathological liars who seem unable to help themselves, lying can trigger the risk and reward center in the brain.
It’s similar to the way some people get a kick out of risky behavior.
When this happens, telling lies can become habitual and difficult to control as it’s almost automatic.
Lying becomes like second nature to them. They lie because it feels good to.
9) It’s just easier than dealing with the truth
Sometimes people resort to lying because they lack the skills to communicate effectively about difficult subjects.
What on the surface can be justified as sparing someone else’s feelings is actually less about protecting the other person from the truth — and more about protecting themselves from the discomfort of the truth.
Lies at the moment we tell them feel easier than facing up to reality.
Many people excuse lies in relationships telling themselves they are being kind, but actually they are being weak.
They don’t know how to tell someone they no longer love them, so they keep quiet. They don’t know how to raise a tricky issue, so they don’t.
But sadly, these sorts of lies by omission aren’t going anywhere. At some point, we need to find the courage to say what is on our minds, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.
10) It’s a coping strategy
People use lies to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, anger, fear, shame, loneliness, and many other uncomfortable human emotions.
They lie when they’re angry, sad, scared, confused, upset, guilty, ashamed, afraid, overwhelmed, or even bored.
They lie to make themselves feel better and protect their self-esteem, self-confidence, or other emotions.
Some people can get so attached to their lies that they even start to believe them. Lying is one of those coping strategies we can cling to in life and in relationships.
The damaging effects of lying in a relationship
We’ve established that most of us will lie occasionally within our relationships, the types of lies we tell, and our motivation for it.
But what about the consequences? What impact do lies have on our relationships?
Well, there are three main areas where lies can deeply affect our relationships:
- In communication
- In trust
- In commitment
Let’s take a closer look at each area.
One of the biggest problems caused by lies is that they can lead to misunderstandings and a deterioration in healthy communication.
This can cause conflict, hurt feelings, resentment, and ultimately break down your relationship.
We can feel like lying gets us out of difficult situations and makes life easier within a relationship. But learning how to effectively communicate tricky conversations is an important skill we need to know how to navigate.
Most relationships will live or die by the level of their communication, and lying can seriously hinder this.
Another problem caused by lies is that it undermines trust.
If you lie to your partner about something, then they won’t necessarily trust you anymore. Once lost, trust can be difficult to regain.
They might question whether you really mean what you say, or whether you’re telling the whole truth.
If they suspect you’re keeping secrets, they might end up feeling betrayed and disappointed in you.
As a result, they might stop trusting you completely.
Once trust has gone in a relationship it is far harder to be open and giving, and we may find ourselves becoming more closed off, jealous and protective.
Finally, lying also makes it harder to commit to your relationship.
When you lie to your partner it shows them that you’re not trustworthy, which means you’re less likely to follow through on promises you make.
It also suggests to them that you’re unreliable, which isn’t something many of us are looking for from a committed partner.
What do you do when someone lies in a relationship?
Nobody likes lies, yet we all do it. That means some amount of lying is perhaps inevitable within a relationship.
If you suspect a partner of lying, you should always try to talk things through first before reacting.
Try to get to the bottom of the lie, understand why they lied, and ask them plenty of questions to explain it to you.
Don’t immediately jump to conclusions. Not all lies are created equal. Some are bigger than others. Remember that sometimes people just don’t know what to say.
It’s up to you to decide if the lie is significant or not.
Not only will the lie itself often determine whether it’s a deal-breaker for you, but perhaps the intention behind the lie.
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