Have you heard the expression “It takes two to tango?” It rings true in dance – and surprisingly often in lying.
We’re all familiar with the pain of being lied to. And perhaps with placing blame on the liar for doing “the wrong thing.”
Fewer of us are aware of how often someone behind the scenes is orchestrating the lies.
I call this partner the Lie Invitee.
The Lie Invitee is unwilling to handle the truth. This often stems from growing up in a family where manipulation, evasiveness or conflict avoidance were common.
It can be hard to diagnose, because the Lie Invitee often presents themselves as harmless, or as a caring member of the duo. Their scorpion-tail questions parade as innocent ones, like:
How do you want to spend the holidays?
Do you want me to go with you the next time you visit your parents?
Do you like how I look in my new outfit?
But what lurks beneath the surface of many common questions is much more ominous. The unspoken innuendo is:
I want you to tell me how you feel … but watch out if you tell me something I don’t want to hear.
I want the truth … but if you tell me I’ll make you suffer.
How can you be so insensitive … and give me an opinion that is so hard for me to hear?
The subtext to the questions above might look like this:
How do you want to spend the holidays? (It better be with me.)
Do you want me to go with you the next time you visit your parents? (You better include me or I will accuse you of being more loyal to them than to me.)
Do you like how I look in my new outfit? (You better say I look great.)
Because it’s so hard for the Lie Invitee to tolerate or embrace the truth, they inhibit differentiation and retaliate by crying, sulking, or attacking. Worse still, they may become a character assassin, a blamer or a martyr.
These partners interact in a way that prevents effective differentiation and keeps the couple stuck in a symbiotic struggle.
This demand for symbiotic compliance creates anger, distance, and shutting down.
This pattern is lethal to healthy growth and development for either partner or the relationship.
And when this behavior lasts for a long time, it can evolve into one of the most snarled and challenging dynamics you can face: the Lie Invitee married to The Felony Liar.
The Felony Liar lies, hides and deceives over a period of time. Then when questioned, they get evasive and challenge the sanity of the Lie Invitee. They’ll say things like, “You’re crazy. You’re too jealous. You’re making things up.” Suspicious questions are met with aggressive attacks. The Lie Invitee even begins to question their grip on reality.
To be effective with these cases takes strong challenges to each partner. You will be insisting on individual accountability and facilitating differentiation.
In the transcript I’ve attached below, you’ll read a session I had with Bart (a Felony Liar) and Francesca (a Lie Invitee).
Francesca just became aware of Bart’s affair. She’s hurt and wants Bart to take accountability for his lies and personal attacks. Bart wants a quick divorce -- he hopes to run away from facing up to the pain he caused his wife of 20 years.
You can follow along and see how I elicit their lie inviting pattern and confront the husband’s conflict avoidance.
You’ll learn what to look for in the subtext of what a couple says.
You’ll get clarity on how to define your role.
You’ll learn to see the red flags that will make your work easier.
Be sure to read it when you have time to fully digest the session and my discussion. I give it to you as just one example of many cases of betrayal we address in my online training program.
Comment below: How hard or easy is it for you to recognize lie inviting dynamics?
Starting soon! In my Developmental Model Training Program, I teach therapists how to stretch their clients so they become more comfortable with the truth. When this happens, you can sit back and witness emotionally compelling moments without working hard. To see what my program can do for you, go to www.couplesinstitute.com/developmentalmodel.