In a perfect world, you and your partner would be super honest with each other about everything. But in reality, you both probably fudge the truth a little here and there.
Here’s the thing — on some level, lying in a relationship is normal. Think: Trying to hide the fact that you let one rip in bed or subtracting R500 when you talk about how much you ~actually~ spent on that new outfit. It may even be necessary to lie sometimes to avoid hurting your partner’s feelings.
“Lying is quite common in relationships,” says Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona. However, that doesn’t mean some of those whoppers can’t be damaging. It all depends on the lie and why you’re telling it.
Before you get freaked out about the idea that lying is common in relationships, it’s important to know this: While white lies happen fairly often in relationships, the bigger (and badder) lies aren’t as common, says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?
But, of course, being able to trust your partner — and vice versa — is pretty important. “Trust is the primary connective tissue of a relationship,” Durvasula says. “More than anything, it fosters a sense of safety. Without trust, a relationship cannot grow in a healthy manner.”
Here’s what you need to know about lying in a relationship, how it can impact your bond, and what to do if lying is an issue in your love life.
Lies Can Ruin a Good Thing…
Telling a little fib here and there doesn’t make you a terrible person, but there’s a pretty broad spectrum when it comes lying. People lie in relationships to save face, avoid conflict, protect their egos, protect their image, and just to avoid hurting their partner’s feelings, Durvasula says.
A good way to tell whether your lie is small potatoes or harmful is to try to figure out if the lie is trying to protect your partner’s feelings or if you’re just looking out for yourself, Cilona says. “Lying for self-gain or personal agenda, to manipulate or hide information, and lies that are hurtful or betray a trust are the lies that do damage,” he says.
On the flip side, Cilona says “healthy lies often involve holding back or tempering a truth to protect someone’s feelings or help someone — the focus is on the issues of kindness, manners, tact, respect, and consideration.” A good example: Pretending you didn’t notice that massive zit that popped up on your partner’s face until they straight-up asked you about it.
But, of course, making a habit of lying isn’t good for your relationship, period. “It can destroy it,” Durvasula says. And, she adds, “even small ticket lies repeated day after day can harm a relationship.” Basically, if you keep telling your partner lies, whether you think they’re harmless or not, they can stop trusting you. “The more lies, the more you crack the foundation and the basis of a relationship,” Durvasula says. “It means that partners share less, are less intimate, and have less empathy and compassion.”
…But You Don’t Have To Be An Open Book
All of that said, you don’t have to tell your partner everything, all of the time. “You may not want to talk about an embarrassing moment you once had,” Durvasula says, and that’s totally fine. Ditto for other things you may prefer to keep private, like how often you like to use your vibe when your partner isn’t around. You don’t owe them that info, and keeping it to yourself or not wanting to talk about isn’t the same as lying.
But keep this in mind, per Cilona: “Lies of omission can be equally destructive.” So, “forgetting” to tell your partner that your ex recently slid into your DMs isn’t the same as rightfully to keep details of your convos with your friends to yourself. The former is just as bad as lying about it, Cilona says.
How And When To Admit To A Lie
If you’re being totally honest with yourself, you might realize that “fib” you told was actually a full-blown lie that you really only told to protect yourself. While you can wait to be called out by your partner, you can also just put on your big girl pants and get real with them.“Taking responsibility for yourself is an important element of empathy and self-reflection,” Durvasula says. “Just cop to it.”
She recommends starting with an “I” statement, like “I was not honest with you about who I hung out with last night, and I’m sorry. My ex was there and we caught up. While nothing happened, I should have been upfront with you.” Don’t blame your partner in this, by adding something like, “I lied about it because you’re irrational about this stuff.” “That’s gaslighting and doubles down on the lie in a way,” Durvasula says.
If you’ve kept a lie a secret and your S.O. straight-up asks you if you’ve lied, Durvasula says it’s best to apologise and tell the truth. Otherwise, you risk telling even more lies to try to cover up the other lie — and that won’t end well. Even if you never ‘fess up, it’ll wreck your mental health, Durvasula says.
When you do admit the truth, it’s important to talk to your S.O. about how your lie made them feel and what you can do to make things better. “When trust has been damaged, it’s important to talk to your partner to understand exactly how and why they lost trust, even if it seems obvious,” Cilona says. “There are often many elements to feeling betrayed, and your partner may not feel and think the same way you would in a given situation.” And, if your partner feels like they can’t trust you, it’s unlikely they’ll be open to your attempts to repair the trust if they don’t feel heard in the aftermath, Cilona says.
Keep in mind that you might have to talk about this more than once. “Serious damage to trust is not typically ‘fixed’ after one talk,” Cilona says.
And, after you own up to your lie, you might need to keep proving to your partner that you can be trusted, and not just whee the stuff you lied about is concerned. “Authentic trust only forms when someone’s words match their behaviours over time,” Cilona says. “Even small inconsistencies will undermine trust, and consistency must be evident in everything.”
Choosing To Forgive A Lie Is Up To You
If your partner lies to you, you’re under zero obligation to forgive them right away, on their timeline, or even at all. “It is fine to ask for time to process it and take it in,” Durvasula says. In fact, she recommends that you take some time to think about it. “Perhaps you will have a more measured response to their admission of lying, and that will encourage your partner to come clean in the future or not lie in the first place,” she says.
If your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their lie, call them out on it. “The liar needs to take genuine responsibility and not the nonsensical approach of ‘I lied because of you’ —that’s not taking ownership,” Durvasula says.
It’s also fine to share your feelings in the moment with something like, “Thank you for the apology. I do feel hurt, and it will take me some time to build up that trust again,” Durvasula says. You’ll also want to double down on your need for honesty in the future.
And, of course, you might not be OK with the lie. “Not all lies are created equal,” Durvasula says. “Some lies may end up being unaddressable—but only you know that.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com