by Gwen Randall-Young
I’ll never tell a lie. I’ll never make a misleading statement. I’ll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. – Jimmy Carter, former president of the US.
Why is it so hard to be truthful? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every marriage or commitment ceremony included those same promises that Jimmy Carter made?
Yes, there is a difference between a tactful sparing of feelings, for example, by not commenting on how much weight your friend has gained and a lie that is meant to deceive or mislead. People lie because they have something to hide, they feel guilty or they want to avoid confrontation. In other words, they do not want to own up to or deal with something they have said or done.
In my work as a psychotherapist, it seems the most damage done to relationships is by lying. Children hurt when a parent consistently does not follow through on a commitment. They are more hurt by the fact that a parent promised to show up and didn’t than by the fact they missed an outing. If you cannot trust a parent, who can you trust?
It is also deeply painful to find out you have been deceived.
Even in poker, eventually the bluff is revealed when all the cards are on the table. Those who lie to others bank on the hope the true cards will never be shown. Good luck with that.
We know how a lie affects the one lied to, but what about the liar? If you can lie to another, what does that say about you and how you value others?
To lie splits you into two people: the one others think you are and who you really are. This can only be comfortable for someone who sees life as a game and who is in it for himself, or for the one who loves and wants to keep their partner, but still wants more from outside the relationship.
Lying to someone you love impacts trust and can shake the foundation of a relationship. Many relationships don’t survive a lie, especially one that involves sex outside the relationship.
One of the worst things about lying is that it takes the choice away from the deceived person, which often leaves them feeling humiliated. They have been going along under one assumption about what is happening in the relationship only to suddenly realize they’ve been wrong. In addition to simply feeling hurt, they often feel naive or downright stupid.
Lies about fidelity and money are the two most common lies that affect couples. It is almost impossible for the one lied to to ever feel real trust again in the relationship. If lying is a consistent pattern, it would be hard to ever establish trust again. The partner can never relax in the relationship, but instead just waits for ‘the other shoe to drop.’
Can relationships survive lies? Only if the person lying has the strength and commitment to put an end to all of their lies. First, however, it is important for both people to understand why the lies happened. Couples’ therapy is the best way to go on this, as the process can be very difficult and may increase the pain.
Ultimately, the real healing comes when there is mutual understanding and empathy about why the lie happened.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.