In my last post I wrote about 7 reasons partners lie, hoping this might help you better understand the lying that you or your partner might be doing…and even that lying can be rational, even as it is not healthy for the two of you. Now it’s time to explore a more nuanced understanding of the ways that lying hurts you and your relationship. My hope is that once I lay this out for you, partners who are inclined to think lying is ‘not such a big deal’ or that they only tell ‘little white lies’ will reconsider. Lying, as it turns out, hurts THEM as much as it hurts the relationship.
First, a definition – when I write about ‘chronic lying’ what I mean is that a partner sometimes or regularly: covers up; makes excuses that aren’t completely honest; lies by omission; hides or overtly covers up something big (an affair, an addiction, financial malfeasance); or regularly ‘fudges’ in order to feel more comfortable. Sometimes those lies are justified as ‘none of my partner’s business.’ More often I note that they are engaged in simply to make the person doing the lying feel more comfortable or not ‘get into trouble.’
The Problem with Lies
Even small lies add up. And, ominously, the person who gets hurt the most is often the person doing the lying. Here are 4 reasons why:
Chronic lying stresses out your partner – and boomerangs right back at you. Perhaps the most damaging part of a series of lies is that over time your partner loses faith that you will take ownership of what you are doing, or follow through on what you have promised. This leaves your partner ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ ALL the time – a very uncomfortable and high stress place to be. That stress inevitably boomerangs right back at you in the guise of increasingly controlling behavior from your partner, anger, frustration and little flexibility. Your ‘little lies,’ as it turns out, really do hurt YOU.
Lies interfere with the forward progress you would like to make. As long as your partner cannot trust you, he or she is unlikely to take the leap of faith s/he needs to take to greatly improve the environment of your relationship. It’s hard enough to put aside past hurts and memories in order to be kind and supportive of a partner who may have hurt you in the past. It’s harder yet to do so when you fear your partner’s facility with lies will mean s/he will cover up something important, even after you’ve made that leap of faith. A history of chronic lying begets fear of change and that fear remains until the lying partner commits to changing the pattern of lies. Again, your lies hurt you at least as much as they hurt your partner by interfering with repairing your relationship.
Lies reinforce parent/child dynamics. Of all of the patterns that ADHD encourages in relationships, one of the worst is parent/child dynamics, where a non-ADHD partner becomes the (overly) responsible ‘adult’ in the relationship, while the ADHD partner becomes the (irresponsible) child. Lying and covering up is behavior that is generally associated with child-like behavior. ADHD partners who use lies to cover up have all that much more difficulty moving away from the hurtful ‘child-like’ under-dog position in the relationship. Not where an ADHD partner wants to be…
Lies destroy friendship and respect. You would probably want to drop a friend who regularly lied to you because, quite frankly, you wouldn’t respect that friend any longer. Why wouldn’t your partner feel the same way about you and your lies? Friendship – the ability to truly enjoy each other – is an enduring and critical part of any romantic relationship. Ditto for respect. Your partner wants to spend time with someone whom s/he admires and respects… If you destroy the most important friendship of your life with lies, how hard will it be for your partner to feel love towards you again?
I don’t write all of this to depress you. Rather, I want to shake you up a bit. People have reasons for lying (see my other blog post on this) but that doesn’t mean that lying is in their best interest. YOU get hurt EVERY single time you lie.
So it’s time to get out of the lying business. Doing so will take effort from both you and your partner (it’s unlikely you can do this alone!) Next time, I will write about specific tactics partners use to move away from lying.