I’ve been watching two shows recently. One of them, Poker Face, is a new show. The other, Lie to Me, is a decade (or so) old and is new to me. Both shows are about the protagonists dealing with people who lie to them. In Poker Face, the protagonist has the gift or superpower of knowing when someone is lying. In Lie to Me, the protagonist is an expert, based on research and skill, on reading faces and body language and is able to determine whether someone is telling the truth or being evasive. Poker Face is the better of the two. But my wife and I zipped through its one and only season within a few days, and I was inspired to find similar shows. Thus, I discovered Lie to Me.
My interest in these television shows and what I consider my ability to find something worthy of writing about in the most peculiar places, led me to bring you into a conversation I have had with quite a few people over the years.
We all lie. I do. You do. If you open your mouth, you lie. With that underlying belief and understanding, I’m not interested in levying judgments around lying . . . since we all do it. Further, I’m not saying or suggesting that a person who is lying is wrong; and if you have been lied to (and we all have), I am not saying or suggesting that you have been scorned.
Over the course of a relationship, we will get to know our partner and they will get to know us. It’s a beautiful and traumatic experience. Some fun. Some pain. Both come with the territory. Along that journey, we learn some of the things our partner will tell the truth and lie about, and some of the things they won’t. We also learn how they will respond when caught in a lie.
I have taken the liberty of dividing our responses when we are caught in a lie into two general categories of reflection. Reflection that leads us to:
- Improve ourself—or to
- Improve our lying.
There is only one reason to discuss a lie our partner has told us: to heal. If discussing the lie is not meant to heal, or if we don’t believe our partner can heal when discussing their lie(s), then let’s not discuss it.
If we believe our partner is prone to or invested in improving their lying once caught in a lie, it is pointless to talk about it. If we are invested creating a loving culture in our relationship, and we do not believe our partner will be able to discuss a lie they told us in a loving manner, let’s avoid doing so. If we believe they will digest the issue in a defensive manner, there is no point in discussing it.
Many of us see catching our partner in a lie as the holy grail for being able to beat up on them. If we prove that they lied we are assuredly better than they are. We can call them “a liar” and can banish them as bad people. However, that’s not loving, and it may not and probably won’t get us what we ultimately want: a better relationship with better relating.
When we talk to our partner about what we believe to be their lie, let’s do so with the understanding that they may either continue the same behavior or they may change. We know our partner, so we have some history to use as our guide. At some point we get to figure out what the point is of talking to them about the lie. Is it to catch them and prove them wrong? Is it to promote more ethical behavior? Is it to improve the relationship? Or perhaps it is to demonstrate that they can’t get one over on us.
If we are not interested in healing an issue or the relationship, if the goal instead is to prove that our partner is wrong or a deceitful or bad person, then our partner will reasonably be defensive. Afterall, we are being offensive. I would not blame them for getting better at lying, as they have a partner who demonstrates that they are invested in hurting them or at least making them uncomfortable.
Instead, let’s make detecting our partner’s lies secondary to demonstrating to them that we are loving partners. If we can’t make being a loving partner primary, then we are creating a cat-and-mouse dynamic that serves no one who is invested in creating a loving relationship. Let’s avoid making the detection of the lie the goal (and with that the belief that once the lie is detected, we can go gangbusters on them).
What should I do if my girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or partner lies to me? What do I do when my girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or partner lies to me? It depends.
Admittedly, few of us like being lied to, it often leads to us feeling taken advantage of and even insulted. However, few of us like being caught and chastised either. Let’s put those two seemingly competing sentiments together and figure out how to create a loving relationship. It starts with us going first. Hopefully, they’ll give us the same love when we lie to them.
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Frank Love coaches individuals toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.