[Mind] Games

Lies and Deception in Relationships

Have you ever been in a relationship where the communication was lacking? Either one of you or even both weren't being truthful with each other? You're supposed to care for the person you're in a relationship with.... right? So why do people constantly lie, cheat, and manipulate? What effect does this have on their bond? These are the things we wanted to find out.

While most people generally want to be in healthy, truthful relationships, that isn't always the way it plays out. First we have to think about human nature. We may not realize it, but lots of the decisions we make are based on ideas and instincts that were passed down to us from our ancestors. For example, why do most women prefer to date a man taller than herself?  She may be mature, successful, beautiful and independent and capable of dating anybody she wants... but her first choice would be a man who's taller than she is. This would have been helpful back in the days when all men needed to be big and strong to hunt to survive. Nowadays, even though many men are involved in professions that have nothing to do with physical activity, this natural instinct is still coming out. This shows that our evolutionary background affects the way we behave and react.

Lying is part of our human nature because most of the time the decisions we make are based on our emotions. As we get closer to another person, we both intentionally and unintentionally share with them information about who we are. This is because as humans, we have a fundamental need to be understood. While it is absolutely necessary to trust your significant other, this also lays the ground for deception. After all, who makes a better victim than someone who is eager and willing to trust everything you have to say?"

Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that sometimes they can feel trapped. Even if it is a happy and healthy relationship, it can feel constricting to certain people. For these types of people, lying helps them relieve the stress of feeling constricted. It's an "effective" way to pursue activities behind someone's back while at the same time still benefiting from the rewards of their romantic relationship. For example, if a man wants to hang out with a friend that he knows his girlfriend doesn't like, he may end up telling her a little white lie to avoid a fight. He could have explained that he really likes this friend and that she should give him a second chance, but he figures lying will put less of a strain on the relationship (that is, unless she girlfriend finds out). This is an example of people lying to spend some time doing the things that they really want to do – the things they value doing. If the man didn't really care about this friend he would not be deceiving his girlfriend. Most people who lie do it carefully, so as not to put a large strain on their relationship. If the lying started to cause problems -- it wouldn't be worth it and most people would stop.

The Effects that Lying has on a Relationship: Pros and Cons
"Being less than honest destroys trust. You might even doubt those whose motives are honourable, because you figure that if you are lying, then they probably are too."

Most people would assume that a person lying to their significant other ALWAYS has a negative outcome. However,  minor deception can sometimes be healthier for a relationship than the truth. Below you can see we have explained the pros of lying and then the more obvious cons after that.

1) The Truth Hurts
In theory, all couples want their spouse to be completely truthful to them. However, the fact is that the truth can sometimes be used a "weapon of destruction". There may many who prefer brutal honesty, but many more  would rather their feelings be spared. You can't get around the fact that there are just certain things that some people don't want to hear. For example:
  • You are not as attractive as you used to be.
  • I sometimes think about someone else.
  • I sometimes wonder why we are together.
  • I have a little crush on someone at work.
2) Avoid Unnecessary Conflict
For a relationship to be successful, there has to be 5 positive, loving, supportive encounters for every 1 negative, hostile encounter between partners. In other words, a 5:1 ratio. This come from the logic that if people can't be happy more often than they are angry or upset, what are these two people doing together anyway? This is where small scale deception comes in handy. If the relationship is generally a happy one, it is not a crime to occasionally just tell the other person exactly what they want to here. This will help avoid conflict and negativity. It simply isn't necessary to fight to the death about every single issue. Unless it becomes a frequent thing, lying to a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend may simple be easier in order not to start a fight about every minuscule problem that couples encounter day to day.

3) Maintain Privacy
    As human beings, our independence and sense of freedom is vital to us. Like we mentioned before, lying helps some people keep from feeling trapped in their relationship. Telling little lies now and then can maintain a person's sense of control over their own life. It is a means of asserting one's individuality. It is kind of self preservation that has a secret thrill.

1) Lying about yourself
     If you meet someone and make up things to impress them and make yourself seem more desireable, this starts the relationship on a fake foundation. Successful relationships need strong foundations in order to work. You can't get serious with someone who thinks you are something you're not because it's not fair to either person. The liar will most likely be tortured as time goes on. As they get closer to the other person they will want them to know the truth. However, they will be scared for two reasons. One, they won't want the other person to leave them now that they know they're not all they originally said that they were. Two, they will be afraid that the person will be upset that they were lied to and the relationship will be ruined.

 2) Lying is only a temporary cover up:
    Sure, lying will usually be immediately successful when trying to cover up a situtation. However, it doesn't erase what really happened. Lying may be a quick fix but it won't be able to permanently settle the situation.

3) Lies are hard to contain: 
    Many lies happen in the spur of the moment to cover something important up (if it wasn't that important it wouldn't be worth the trouble of lying). Once a person tells a lie, especially if it is to cover up something significant, it usually becomes necessary to keep adding on more lies to keep the original one from getting out. As the person strugges to support the original lie with even more lies, the damaging effects increase with each added untruth. The best solution to dealing with a lie is coming clean about it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more complex the web of lies gets and the more damaging the situation becomes to the relationship.

4) Lying destroys trust:
    The best way to destroy trust is to find out that your signifigant other is deceiving you. When one person becomes aware that they are being lied to, it becomes difficult to begin to trust the liar again. Healthy relationships depend on trust, so it is very common for a couple to break up because of a lie that was told by one person to the other. Even if the lie doesn't come to light, it still creates a distance between the two people. For example, "the more we lie to others, the less we trust them. We project our own deceptive tendencies on to others. If you think that your romantic partner is being less than completely honest – it can be a reflection of your own deceptive behavior" (taken from www.thetruthaboutdeception.com). Discovering that you have been lied not only destroys your trust towards the liar, but it also leaves you feeling vulnerable. This is one of the main reasons why so many people are scared to open themselves up to another person because they are scared of getting hurt. It is easier for some people to hide behind their own wall of emotions and never let anyone in. [This concept is further explained in our Game Theory section...click the picture below to view it!]