Lying in a relationship. One of our gravest upsets. When I was twenty-four, I opened the trunk of my husband’s Buick and my mind fell into despair. Stuffed behind the scuzzy spare tire in a crumpled bag, a brand new pair of L.L. Bean rag wool muk-luk slippers languished.
What?! My husband told me he liked them, very much. Such a nice gift from his mother-in-law, he had said.
And with no shortage of a dewy-eyed lover’s naive drama, I thought, “I can’t believe he’s a liar! How could he?”
Early on in love (and late in love too), we fancy we are special: There’s no lying in our relationship. We’re different than others. Our partner would never lie to us.
You Want The Truth?
This is a noble goal, but the real truth is this: We lie at least once daily.
To be human is to be deceptive, and this is a hard truth for us to accept because we don’t like to feel open to injury anymore than those slippers belonged in an old car’s trunk.
In big ways and small ways, we lie with ease ~ to strangers, office-mates, friends, and loved ones.
We’ve all sorts of reasons. Most of the time we are bending the truth in order to protect ourselves. Check out the outer left rim of the chart below.
If not, then we’re mostly lying to promote ourselves (43% of all lies). We do it for economic gain, personal advantage or to just plain appear better than we really are.
As National Geographic suggests, “Sociopathic individuals, those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders, tend to tell manipulative lies, while narcissists may tell falsehoods to boost their image.” And by the age of four, children lie as a kind of developmental milestone, to begin autonomy from others.
Obviously, there are degrees of severity too. Take, for instance, Bernie Madoff or Frank Abagnale compared to, say, a worried-looking four-year old who swears he didn’t knock his bicycle into your car door.
And journalist Bhattacharjee’s science-based summary gives us something more to contemplate as well:
“Our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental to us as our need to trust others, which ironically makes us terrible at detecting lies.”
The Science of Lying In A Relationship
Still there’s inevitably the raw realization of How could you?!
Likewise, in painful scenarios of “How could I end up in this extramarital affair? This is so not me,” neuroscientists will answer by explaining how our brains get accustomed to the emotional discomfort that happens when we lie, making it easier to tell the next fib.
Experts on why extramarital affairs occur in even healthy marriages agree: The betraying partner’s mind not only gets lit up the same way an an addict’s mind does (the pleasure zone of the brain), so they are not thinking clearly, but the betraying partner finds themselves slipping into further and further indiscretions as the brain attempts to overcome each guilty lie, and then alas, the brain acclimates to the undesirable behavior.
This is to say, the area of your brain that manages emotions, the amygdala, gets progressively weaker with each lie, even as the lies get bigger. So, a guilty conscience gets worn down as well.
If We’re Being Honest Here
Armed with this knowledge and, let’s face it, unlike in my twenties, I’m much less offended by deceit anymore. My ego is not injured. Rather, I feel bad for the liar that this is their way. I also know that I can make my own choices based on discoveries of hitherto non-disclosures.
For that matter, if deception and dishonesty are part of being human, I’m guessing I could have chosen to be humored by the demise of those dismissed Muk Luk slippers.
And if we’re being really honest here (Another curious phrase in itself), I’m pretty certain that my own bygone youthful behavior of righteousness, probably provoked my husband, making it a co-created negative situation.
Turns out, honesty is the best policy: They were ugly sock-slippers.
Reference the entire National Geographic article here >>