Lying is a part of the human condition. It’s built right into our language systems – and it doesn’t matter what language you speak. According to psychologist, Paul Ekman, the average person lies 3 times per 10 minutes of conversation.
Your mother told you “always tell the truth”. When you testify in court, you are sworn to tell only the truth. Your partner expects total and complete honesty.
Here’s the problem: you’re a liar.
I know this without even knowing you. The fact, hard and cold as it may be, is that we are all liars. Everyone (and I do mean everyone!) lies. You do. I do. Your significant other does. Your parents do. Your politicians do. Your pastor does and even (according to recent studies) your pets do!
On the flip side however, nobody wants to believe that they are liars themselves.
Lying is a part of the human condition. It’s built right into our language systems – and it doesn’t matter what language you speak. According to psychologist, Paul Ekman, the average person lies 3 times per 10 minutes of conversation. I even recently had a friend that was caught in a lie, tried to turn the lie into something someone else did and lost not only a bunch of friends because of it, but a hobby he loved.
In relationships, we expect our partners to be absolutely honest with us. We even tell them that is a requirement of the relationship.
I recently saw a show where a couple was engaged to be married. The girl didn’t trust what her boyfriend had told her about the bachelor party and insisted he get a lie detector test to prove his innocence – which he was more than willing to do. (Frankly, if things had come to this point, a lie detector test wasn’t going to solve the real problem in this relationship!)
We all know that lie detectors are both highly fallible and easy to beat (right?) which is why they aren’t used in courts where facts are king. Consider too that if you hire someone to administer such a test, they are instantly predisposed to finding a lie – any lie. That’s their job, right?
Long story short, the test was administered and he passed, but part of any lie detector test is the “post-test test”. This is the chance for the test administrator to squeeze out some additional information the detector couldn’t find.
The guy’s fiancé knew there were strippers at the bachelor party so that wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was that one of the girls gave the guy a lap dance – something the girlfriend didn’t even ask about. When the administrator asked, “was there any inappropriate sexual contact between you and a stripper?” the guy responded, “I guess – in a way”. In other words, it wasn’t exactly appropriate, but it wasn’t sexual intercourse either.
When the fiancé was brought back into the room to learn of the results, the test administrator started by saying, “He wasn’t caught in a lie during the test…” (notice how the he didn’t say “he was honest”???) “…but admitted to inappropriate sexual contact”. The fiancé started crying and threw her engagement ring at the guy before storming out of the office.
Therein lies the problem with lies. Was the administrator being “honest”? Sure. Was there really something that warranted cancelling a wedding over? If you think so, please do the rest of us a favor and don’t get married – ever!
So too with relationships. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on our partners to be “totally and completely honest” with us. However, why we do this is a critical part of the story. The fact is we fear embarrassment and humiliation. We believe that being lied to makes us look like an idiot and somehow undermines trust between people.
I’m sorry to tell you, that isn’t the case. Yes, I know you want it to be true, but it’s not.
By shifting my responsibilities (to be mature and aware) to you, I can create a situation where I’m justified for having my feelings hurt by you. What’s even worse however is that since everyone lies, I get can dodge my lies by substituting yours for them.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t trust you anymore!” due to a lie that was discovered? It’s almost an adage, right? Here’s the problem: my trust isn’t about what you do or say or think. It’s about my ability to deal with what you say or do or think!
For example, if I tell you that I’ll get some bread from the store on my way home, do you “trust” me to get it? What if you ask me to pick you up from the airport? Do you “trust” me to be there? Of course you do.
Why? Simple: you can easily get your own bread from the store or get a taxi home from the airport. In other words, you “trust” yourself to handle a failed situation.
With relationships however; where our feelings can easily get hurt or we can wind up looking foolish, we don’t want that much responsibility and instead, try to offload it onto our partners by demanding “total and complete honesty”. Since we know that’s impossible, as soon as any little indiscretion happens, we can shout at the top of our lungs, “See! I TOLD YOU I couldn’t trust you!!!”
Here’s a better way to live and to love:
Stop putting this sort of pressure on your partner and your relationship. Accept that everyone (including you) lie and thus, stop making that the standard for whether you’re comfortable and validated in a relationship. Strive to own the responsibility for your trust and when you get a lie (or get caught in one!) own up to it and work to find the solution instead.
The real question isn’t whether a lie has happened; it’s how to deal with it. More to the point, why do you have a relationship where your partner feels he or she can’t be honest with you?
Yes, I know that’s not easy, but trust me, it’s worth striving for.