People lie in relationships for myriad reasons, some of which are more egregious than others. By understanding the motivation behind their mistruths, you have some insight into their thought process and a sense of the likelihood that they will continue their deceptions.
6 Reasons People Lie in Relationships:
1 – They Are Ashamed of the Truth
I find this motivation to lie quite sad. As a former teacher, this is one of the more common types of lies I saw in my classroom. Kids lied because they were ashamed of their financial situations, their home lives or their performance on an assignment. The lie was an act of self-preservation, projecting the person they wanted to be.
This is the type of lie that I believe got my ex in trouble. As his professional life began to fall apart and he began to struggle with addiction, instead of being vulnerable and admitting to his internal battles, he instead pretended to be ever more successful. And the problem with these type of lies is that the more they are told, the more the person moves away from themselves and sometimes they are lost forever.
With this type of fiction, if it is caught early, more is to be gained from a gentle approach rather than a punitive one. They need to feel safe before the fallout from the lie can be addressed. Shame can wreak havoc on relationships; it’s important not to ignore its impact.
2 – In Misguided Attempt to Protect Others
It’s such an unexpected response when you discover that you’ve been lied to – “I just wanted to protect you.” The impulse is good, but the horrible execution has had the opposite effect, hurting you instead of protecting you. This type of lie has two layers to work through – first, the realization that they have not been honest with you and second, the sense that they do not trust that you can handle the truth.
There’s a lack of respect inherent in this kind of lie as they believe that they know what is best for you. In fact, you may realize that this power dynamic is even more concerning than the lie itself. In order for a relationship to function as a team, BOTH partners need to have access to the same information. If one is acting as gatekeeper, the other is inevitably a prisoner.
If you find yourself in this type of dynamic, it’s important for you to examine your own responses. Maybe you have a tendency to overreact to difficult information (raising my hand here), you are inadvertently telling your partner that you can’t handle the truth. Work to manage your own emotions and responses so that they feel comfortable having those hard conversations.
3 – So That They Can Continue Their Behavior
This is the classic selfish lie – they want to continue doing whatever it is they’re doing and they know that telling you the truth would prevent them from being able to do it. They are not directly trying to hurt you, but the impact on you is less important to them than their own happiness in the moment. As long as the lies benefit them, they are unlikely to change their ways.
One of the ways to identify this sort of dishonesty is by their reaction when they are caught. The selfish liar will be angry rather than contrite, painting all of this as your fault. After all, before the fabrication was revealed, everything was perfectly fine in their world.
4 – They Enjoy the Thrill of Getting Away With It
These are the scary ones, the people that lie because they enjoy manipulating and controlling others. They have no consideration for the impact of their deceptions. In fact, they may enjoy looking back at the destruction left in their wake.
You will often first see this when your partner pulls a fast one on someone else and can’t help but share their “victory” with you. I remember my ex delighting that he convinced some guy running a survey at the mall that he had diabetes and therefore couldn’t participate in the study. The interaction was minor and of no consequence, but I should have paid more attention to his reaction at his lie being believed. If they will lie to others, it’s only a matter of time until they lie to you. Furthermore, these lies will continue to escalate, as a bigger and bigger “hit” is required in order to get a rush.
5 – They Believe Their Own B.S.
If someone lies often enough, they begin to confuse their fabrications with the truth. It’s a snowball effect, as one lie begets many more downstream. At some point, the lies and the half-truths become so entangled with reality that it becomes impossible to sort them out again. As a result, these lies are not only told externally, but also believed.
What is so wild about these types of people is that on some level, they are aware that they are lying. Yet they have spent so much time living in the fiction section, they no longer know how to navigate reality.
6 – Their Lives Are Compartmentalized
This is another situation where they may truly believe that they are not lying. They convince themselves that one aspect of their life has no consequence whatsoever in other areas. A classic example of this type of liar is the person who only cheats when they are traveling for business. It doesn’t happen at home, so they believe that it has no impact at home.
Confronting this type of liar can be crazy-making, as they will seem legitimately confused about why you are so upset. Asking them to understand requires for them to confront their own cognitive dissonance head on, which is unlikely to happen.
3 thoughts on “6 Reasons People Lie in Relationships”
Great analysis! I think my ex actually fit into 5 (and possibly all 6) categories. He was a master at his craft.
When I’m trying to understand lying it is easy to think these things happen in isolation or a vacuum.
Which of course, lying and secret keeping doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Frankly, while pathological lying is a thing it is helpful for me to remember that only 6% of people are pathological.
It’s easy to imagine if a person is lying about one thing they must be lying about everything. Which isn’t true but depending on the lies and the moment can feel like it is.
It took me a lot of work to recognize my behavior around this area of the realtionship wasn’t about my identity but rather how I was coping in a specific area of the relationship. Infidelity, and the supporting behaviors, are coping mechanisms.
I found these two article really helpful in understanding my behavior and the behavior of the people around me –>
Bella DePaulo Ph.D., Why Do People Lie to You?, PsychToday
Really insightful article!