Why We Lie, and How to Get Back to the Truth

We’re going to talk about lies. Why do we lie – ever? And while it’s easy to perhaps scapegoat people who aren’t telling the whole truth – as with anything in relationship – it takes TWO to tango – so how does the person who’s being lied TO help create the dynamic? Most importantly – how do you bring your relationship back into balance, so that you can experience the power created by telling the truth and being in integrity. Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson are two of the world’s leading experts on couples therapy and the topic of honesty in relationship, and their groundbreaking book – Tell me No Lies – explores exactly these questions about how to undo the damage caused by all lies – big and small – in relationships.

Listen below to our podcast…
Why We Lie and How to Get Back to the Truth

with Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson

In this conversation, Dr. Ellyn Bader, Dr. Peter Pearson and Neil Sattin discuss the following:

What constitutes a lie? Lying is not an exact science, rather it occurs on a continuum, with several distinct types:

Equivocations: Giving ambiguous, indirect, or contradictory information

Exaggerations: Overstatements and truth stretching

Understatements: Minimizing or downplaying aspects of the truth

Concealments: Deliberately omitting information that is important and relevant

Deliberate lies: Making up information, or giving the opposite of the truth (no versus yes)

Felony lies: These are the big high stakes ones

Why do we lie? The good the bad and the ugly. Lying always has a purpose, and is often resulting from a need to protect something.  What is crucial to consider is the motivation behind the lie, and what in fact the individual is trying to protect. Is it their ego? Their sense of security? Fear of shame? In some cases, as often happens in the beginning of a relationship, lies may be told in order to HELP solidify the bond and create closeness (“Yum, the dinner you made was delicious!”). In other cases lies are told in order to avoid conflict or tension, or to avoid hurt feelings. We also lie to advance ourselves, enhance our image, protect ourselves, or gain power. While there are minor seemingly loving lies that are told in order to protect the bond, it is almost always more successful to protect the relationship through truth telling, as risky and scary as it may seem.

Lying between me, myself, and I: There is an enormous amount of self deception in most relationships, and let’s be honest, in our lives in general. Everyone, whether currently coupled or not, can take time to ask: Am I really telling myself the truth about my own experience? How well do I know myself? How much am I able to communicate what I know about myself?

These questions are incredibly potent to hold as a relationship begins to unfold. In the honeymoon phase, or what Bader refers to as the ‘temporary psychosis phase’ due to the plethora of neurochemicals involved with falling in love that make us “bonded and stupid”, it is very normal to lie. Mostly to oneself. Amidst the adrenaline and excitement of new love, many people do not pay attention to their own wishes, desires, or needs. Some may forget to ask themselves “Who am I really? What really matters to me?”. This is natural because when people first come together there is a strong desire to try and be the same. They may knowingly and unknowingly minimize differences and emphasize ways they are alike in order to prove compatibility to each other, and find alignment. This can actually be a cute, sweet, profound, and important process, however where it goes from here is the make or break…

Lack of differentiation creates havoc in the long run: While it may be normal to search for commonality in the beginning of a relationship, a couple must begin to welcome and celebrate difference early on in order to avoid getting stuck on “the dark side of the honeymoon”, that petri dish for resentment, fear, instability, and ultimately distrust. Failure to differentiate usually results from one or both partners being conflict avoidant, meaning that they hold the basic fear that conflict will lead to rupture or collapse of the relationship.  Because they are seeking security above all else, they are willing to overcompensate or over adapt for long periods of time in order to keep the illusion of permanence in the relationship. This begins by the conflict avoidant partner not expressing their desires, needs or wishes, and frequently includes lies by omission. This partner gives more and more of themselves, ignoring important parts of themselves, until they either collapse, become depressed, develop secret anger, etc. This leads to the next stage, the “Freedom Unhinged” state, in which the relationship begins to disintegrate. More extreme lying occurs, including the GREAT BIG felony lies (gambling, infidelity, etc). The stakes are high, and as one partner becomes more and more adamant that such and such is NOT happening, the other partner may even begin to question their own sanity. Often at this point trust has been so violated that couples usually separate as it is rare to be able to piece everything back together.

NOTE TO THOSE EXPERIENCING FELONY LIES: It is advisable to get a therapist involved. If you guys want to try to work through it on your own make sure to slow down. Often the partner who has lied is in a hurry to heal and looks to find solutions quickly. Let your partner express their feelings, all of them, and allow them to ask LOTS of questions. Regaining trust isn’t simply a decisional process. It takes a long time and it takes a lot of small things done daily. Do what you say you are going to do.

It is common to experience disillusionment as new love matures! Some things just don’t show up in early stages. Realizing truths can come after commitments have been made, and need not incite panic. Oscar Wilde says “the truth is rarely pure and never simple”, and this is incredibly true in relationships.

Inviting truth and how to AVOID becoming conflict avoidant: In order for couples to evolve well and enter into a growthful process from the honeymoon phase, it is key to start substantial truth telling early on. Each partner speaks up about things that are important and matter to them, even at the risk of moving into areas of disagreement. Although the early years of differentiation are not always easy, there are many moments of growthful tension. It takes courage not only from the one who tells their truth, but from the partner who is willing and able to truly listen and hear their partner share!

Lie Invitees: Knowing that lying is often one of those ‘two to tango’ deals, how does the person who’s being lied TO help create the dynamic? Somebody becomes a lie invitee when they do not fully collaborate on the commitment to truth telling. For example, when your partner shares honestly and with integrity with you and you attack them or shame them, they will inevitably think twice about being honest in the future, thus leading to increased deception. So how are you receiving your partner’s honesty? Are you being reactive instead of responsive? Are you being a martyr? Acting above? Playing victim? If so you may actually be encouraging your partner’s lie telling. The BIGGEST self deception that occurs in relationships is the belief that we are victims and not contributors in the distress.

Truth telling is a collaborative process, so always stay AWARE of your participation in what goes on in your relationship. Ask yourself “what would be required of me to bring more honesty to our partnership?”, “What can I do that would make my partner glad to be with me?”, “How can I be in order to increase ease and fluency in our communication?”. Come clean when you need to, and work towards being willing to SEE and BE SEEN, HEAR and BE HEARD by and with and for each other.

According to Bader and Pearson, THE ABSOLUTE FOUNDATION OF MAKING A RELATIONSHIP WORK IS NOT LOVE IT IS TRUST. Explore this, meditate on it, discuss it, play with it, reject it, embrace it, and notice. Notice how you react and respond.

Come clean with grace and generosity. When you become aware of a place in which you have not been totally honest with your partner, do not rush into confession. There is an art to everything, confessions included. If you are going to express a difficult truth, give your partner a loving heads up. Telling lies/not telling the truth can feel so shaming and heavy that there is a tendency to want to unload quickly and release the guilt as soon as you feel ready to share. This is not advised! It is as if you hit your partner with two arrows instead of one, stinging them once with your news, and second with the selfishness of your delivery. So SLOW DOWN (less in time, but more in tone). Say something like “Hey, I want to share something with you that isn’t easy for me to say”, and then verbally honor that your motivation in telling them the truth is to continue to build the trusting foundation you are both committed to creating in your relationship. This acts as a paradigm shifter- from ‘me and you’ to ‘us’, and helps facilitate your partner’s ability to hear the truth.

BE CURIOUS NOT FURIOUS- There is also an art to receiving truth telling. If your partner has shared something with you from a generous and couple centered place, it is good to remember to respond first with “I really appreciate your honesty”. Work together towards a place in which you can respond by staying curious, and saying “tell me more”. When and if you recognize ways in which you are either being a lie invitee, or having difficulty receiving your partner’s honesty, share this. Say something like “Honey, I am noticing that I have been doing such and such and that it might be making it hard for you to be honest with me”. By the mere fact of owning one’s contribution to the patterns, doors will open and fresh air will come into the relationship. You can also experiment together. Say “Look, I know that I have been reactive in the past, and I am really going to try to listen and hear you without demanding anything in this moment”. Then take turns! Give this platform a try and see if it eases or shifts any stuckness in your communication patterns.

Truth is a process and the key is to build a culture of truth telling in your partnership- Nobody is totally honest all of the time, but if you can start talking more openly about how to give and receive honesty before the nitty grittys come crawling out of the closets, the monsters from under the bed, those once upon a time white lies get revealed, it will make all the difference in the world. The more hiding you are doing the less vibrancy and energy is available for the relationship and for your life. So, create a container and a commitment together to being clear and direct, and don’t forget these two rhymes:

IT TAKES TEAM WORK TO MAKE YOUR DREAM WORK

BE CURIOUS NOT FURIOUS

Reposted with permission from Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast.

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Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years ago

Need help. Losing all my friends over my lying . Everyone now know I am not honest person. I have said to many lies and don’t know how to fix it and me.

shrikant
shrikant
5 months ago
Reply to  Jennifer

simple dont lie onwards

Stacey
Stacey
2 years ago

Here’s an idea… Stop lying. Lying is a choice. Lying destroys trust. Our therapist says that lying is abuse. If you can not stop lying than you are an abuser, and should seek help to stop abusing people. Own your mistakes. Good luck.

Kara
Kara
2 years ago

I lied to a good friend about my age what do I do and how can I keep the friendship

Shannon
Shannon
2 years ago

I want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to Robinson.buckler for bringing back my lover who left i and the kids for almost two months. i am very much grateful to Robinson.buckler. I pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to help more people having similar problem like mine. for help you can reach him on his email address: robinson_bucler@ yahoo. com,, he is very powerful …

Kyle
Kyle
2 years ago

I lied to take the easy way out of relationship and begin a new one. That lied carried into my new relationship and imploded. I didn’t want to be more hurtful then I had to, but because of that, the hurt I am causing now is exponential to what it would have been if I had honest from the start. I now have lost all trust with the one I truly care about and working, hoping to get them back. The first step was admitting the truth, not to just them, but to myself, that I made these lies and I need to be more honest with myself. Telling myself that I need to change who I am, and I am working on that. It reads in this article not to rush into confession and the healing process, that is so true. I’m giving time, as much as a struggle as that is, I’m giving them time to process the truth. The second struggle is keeping emotions in check when your character, your intentions in your lies are questioned. It may feel like you are being attacked, but it’s not that they want to hurt you, but its them wanting to understand. I’m hoping that being honest, truthful to them, and also myself will help us build a stronger relationship, a stronger us.

Laura Blundo
Laura Blundo
2 years ago

Thanks so much for this! I am curious, how does emotional, psychological abuse play into this dynamic? If the spouse who is doing the lying, gas lighting, blame shifting (DARVO) – how is the partner a part of this dance?

Luna
Luna
1 year ago

If a boyfriend lies because he thinks you would be hurt from knowing that he spent time with his dying ex girlfriend overnight at the beach to be there for her as a friend…does that make him a caring guy? Or a liar and someone you cannot trust again?

Jack
Jack
1 year ago

Very glad I found this.
Had a “feeling” for years about my spouse.
Knew inside the truth.
The way it came out and the justification for lying drove me to find any resource to make sense of why people lie and how hard it is to leep the lie going on even for decades.

I want to heal myself and will continue to look for help.
Thanks

Jeanne
Jeanne
1 year ago

I have lied to my husband since we first got together, and continued lying for the 17 years that we have been together. I always told myself that I was lying to protect him and to avoid making him angry. I thought that I was protecting my husband for the lies that I would tell. In reality once the walls caved in and the lies were started to be exposed, he felt betrayed. The fact that I keep lying makes things worse. I have always been a conflict avoider, so if I think something will upset him I will lie first. That makes things so much worse. He can’t trust me, and I don’t blame him. I don’t trust myself most of the time. I have tried most things to work on lying, but I always just go back to lying. I have ruined my marriage and even relationships with my children because of it. If I am not lying I shut down because I am not good with handling my husband’s justifiable anger. I don’t want to be a liar the rest of my life, but it has become a habit so ingrained I am not sure how to change it.

Dana
Dana
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanne

Hello Jeanne,
I am also going through this myself. You are lying because you know the reaction that you are going to expect from your spouse which is typically anger. So you avoid it. But i learned the hard way that regardless if he found out now or later he’s going to be bothered. However, the difference is coming clean with yourself. Not only feeling less guilty but he will get over it faster when you told him yourself rather than him finding out on his own.

Hilary Waters
Hilary Waters
1 year ago
Reply to  Dana

For relationship reunion, on getting back an ex lover after separation kindly GOOGLE DR AMIGO AN ONLINE LOVE SPELL CASTER TO REVIEW HIS ARTICLE

HEATHER GREER
HEATHER GREER
8 months ago
Reply to  Hilary Waters

How can I prove myself when there is no proof or evidence to show that I’m not lying and no he doesn’t have faith that I’m just telling him the truth no matter how much I SWERE or how many times I tell him over an over that I’m telling the truth

benita
benita
7 months ago

Am Benita I and my partner used to fight a lot like everyday, we loved each other but our likes started changing, I almost let go buy something happen when I sat down and had a review on how I can bring back peace ‌into our relationship on a site seeing a lot of people discussing about solution temple who help with the same problem I was passing through I contacted him and had a chat with him for peace restoration because I was really tire of fighting, A spiritual prayer was done on my partner by priest Adu which totally restore the peace back to normal that I have praying over a long period of time. thank God everything worked out again we don’t fight anymore since the intervention of priest Adu. am out here to show my gratitude and share his contact as-well {solution-temple.webnode.com}

Adam
Adam
7 months ago

I’m also loosing friends and people I love over my lying. I lie so much that sometimes I believe in my own lies. When my lies get exposed I lie more and never admitt my lies. What can I do about it?

linda
linda
7 months ago

I never thought I will smile again, My husband left me with my child for a year, All effort to bring him back failed I thought I’m not going to see him again not until I met a lady who told me about a spell caster priest adu She gave me his web address to have a review about him which did I contacted him and he assured me within 72hours my husband will come back to me, In less than that 72hours my husband came back saying it is the devils work for abandoning me, i am full of joy and happiness to be with my family again after all i went through thank God of the universe for using the priest to restore love back. for more information and help contact him via: solution-temple.webnode.com

Child of God
Child of God
5 months ago

Jesus saves guys. I was a professional liar, it was like a “sweet” cancer to my bones, by that I mean I enjoyed it but yet it ruined my relationships. But I just couldn’t stop. But once I gave my life to Christ Jesus, He set me free from the spirit of lies, to the point where everytime I lied, I couldn’t sleep at peace unless I confessed the truth. The lie, no matter how big or small would hunt me down, and I could only be set free once I confessed it. The Lord changed my heart, and renewed my mind. Try Jesus, He will never fail you. By His Spirit, He will turn you into a new creation, made in His likeness, and lie and deceit won’t ever be found in your dna again. God bless you all.

Mona
Mona
2 months ago

Hi, my husband and me are married 20 years. We have three children two adults already. My husband lies delete staf he does online than lies. Make me feel like it’s my fault that I’m judging him for lies. I’m tired and don’t know what to do ?

Louise
Louise
1 month ago

Hi, I lied to my husband when we met about how many men I slept with and that I was a complete and total flirt with everyone. He said when we met he has a past he slept around and used to be a drug addict etc etc… He just came out of a marriage as well that failed, till now I don’t know all the reasons I just know she packed up and left. He then said to me that he wants someone pure that has not slept around or has been with other men and all that… I was already ashamed of my past, and him saying that I didn’t want to lose this relationship as I truly adored him. I told him I slept with 3 men and had to provide reason as to why. We eventually got pregnant then married and 4 kids later, he found an old Facebook account of mine, seeing that I was like that and I had to tell him about all the men I slept with. I apologized for it time and again, and was remorseful etc. I changed all of what I was to be with him, and became a mother also, and didn’t ever even think of going back to what I was. Before he even found the truth, he started using drugs again, to a point where he got arrested, and also costing us items we had in our lives… It’s 8 years later, he has been continuously online chatting with other woman, phoning in to these hookup numbers for phone sex, sending woman dick Pics, commenting on woman’s videos etc to marry him and STILL using drugs, when I confront him about this, he always points back at the lie I told in the beginning of the relationship, like what he does is justifiable… This has gotten to a point where it tears me to pieces seeing all this and knowing it. He has access to all and every account I have so he can see and know what I do etc. But I’m not allowed to have access to his accounts not even his phone. It always happens that I find it by accident when I have access to his phone. Am I truly to blame for his constant disloyalty and drug use? Is this just something I should accept as my punishment for that one mistake, even after all the apologies and trying to fix it in all the ways I possibly can… I don’t want to grow old like this neither do I want my kids around this drug abuse of his anymore. Am I in the wrong for feeling betrayed? I look nothing like the woman in all these pictures he wants or the woman he constantly has sex chats with… Please advise me on this please!!! I am in desperate need of help!

Empathy
Empathy
26 days ago
Reply to  Louise

You are not to blame. Your husband seems to be a person who wanted to control you from the beginning. He wanted you to be something he was never (pure, chaste). He held you to an unrealistic idea that he could never amount to. Yes you lied. You deceived him to get him to take you seriously. However, at some point once you’ve come clean he has to accept you for who you are now or move on. To stay and be self-destructive is not okay. From the sounds of it he was self-destructive before you were honest.

Peter Pearson, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple. Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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