“A study of the lies 1,000 U.S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study."
A lie is when we intentionally try to mislead someone. Everybody lies, at least some of the time. My clinical observation, though I don’t have numbers on this, is that those with ADHD lie with more frequency than those who don’t have ADHD for three reasons:
They are often embarrassed by their difficulty following through as promised, so over time develop a coping strategy of covering up mistakes to avoid feeling so unresolvedly bad
They are under a lot of pressure to ‘prove’ themselves by performing better and hate to disappoint those that they care about. Again, lying ‘feels better’ in the moment than arguing about why they under-performed again
They have been told they ‘can’t’ do something they really want to do and impulsively do it anyway, then need to cover up the action
Sadly, lies undermine the trust that is the bedrock of every relationship and so cannot continue if your relationship is to be healthy. To move away from lying, both partners need to empathetically understand WHY the lies are there and create an environment in which transparency is more highly treasured than task completion. It has to be okay for an ADHD partner to say, for example, “I promised I would do X by Tuesday, but I’m behind, so I’m guessing it will be more like Friday.” Ideally, that comment is embraced, not just tolerated, because honesty and owning your behaviors is critical to a couples’ success.
This brings up thorny questions about task completion and responsibilities, of course. Because tasks DO need to get done, and that promise to do it later needs to have some basis in reality. Non-ADHD partners fear that being ‘okay’ with putting something off means that it will never get done…and this fear is often based in the reality of what it was like to live with an undiagnosed ADHD partner. As a result, many come to take on the role of ‘enforcer.’ That is, they believe that if they put enough pressure on the ADHD partner it will force him or her to stay on task.
Sadly, it also encourages lying.
Don't get me wrong. I’m not suggesting non-ADHD partners are responsible for their ADHD partner’s lies. Only that environment does matter, and it makes sense to be aware of that fact.
So getting past lies isn’t just about saying ‘stop.’ It’s about both partners having a full understanding of how ADHD impacts their relationship; of the roles that they each play in the dynamics that encourage continued lying; and about developing skillful responses to ADHD in both partners.
Melissa covers lying as one of the topics in her life-changing couples seminar. 2018 live sessions will only be held in January and October, so register now for the live session that starts January 30.
For those in marriages impacted by ADHD
You can find great resources for couples impacted by ADHD at adhdmarriage.com, including free:
- Online treatment overview;
- Downloadable chapters of my books;
- A community forum with other couples facing similar issues;
- A large number of blog posts on various topics;
Is your relationship in trouble? Consider my highly acclaimed couples' course: ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples' Seminar - This 8-session phone seminar has helped many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships.