Why do people in a relationship lie to each other? Is it ever okay to lie to your partner, or should you always be honest with them? The reality is people lie to each other all the time for various reasons. The extent of the lies can vary, depending on the invention of the liar and what they want to achieve from this behavior.
Lying is part of human nature, and we all do it. Lies often get us out of precarious situations in life, while others complicate matters. There are seven primary reasons why people in relationships lie to each other, and this post unpacks them.
Is Lying in Relationships Common?
Yes. Lying is common in relationships. We lie to our partners, we lie to our work colleagues and boss, and we lie to people we hardly know. It’s a universal trait in all countries across the world, in every culture, and in every community.
Most people value honesty and claim they never lie, but that’s a lie too. Studies show that the average person lies in around 80% of their conversations with others, so why wouldn’t they lie to their partners?
A survey shows that over 70% of people in a relationship lasting a year or longer admitted to lying to their partner at some stage. During an average week, we lie in around 30% of our interactions with people, some of which are with our partners.
What differs is the scale and severity of the lying between people. Some people tell white lies, while others tell serious lies that could seriously damage their relationship if their partner found out they were being dishonest.
Why People Lie in a Relationship – 7 Reasons for Dishonesty
The motivation behind our lies is what matters. It’s the motive that defines the impact it has on a relationship. Here are seven reasons why people lie to their partners.
Reason #1 – To Protect their Ego
No one enjoys being told they’re wrong; it’s a blow to our ego, making us feel inferior in front of others. You might lie to them if you don’t want to look weak or foolish in front of your partner. In this case, lying acts as a defense mechanism when we feel threatened. The lie protects us from being hurt or having our ego crushed after our partner exposes our flaws.
Reason #2 – To Prevent their Partner from Feeling Hurt
As mentioned, the severity of the lie plays a role in the types of lies we tell and when we use them. For instance, white lies are small lies we use to prevent us from hurting others with our response. If your spouse buys a new dress and wants your opinion, telling them it looks terrible might make them feel awful.
You want to avoid this disastrous situation that may result in a fight, so you tell them they look great in it and leave them to discover the truth. Sometimes, telling a white lie is better than revealing the truth.
We commit white lies to spare hurting the feelings of the people we care about. When we decide to lie in this regard, we make a quick judgment call to shield them from the truth. In this case, our evaluation determines telling the truth isn’t as important as being kind to them to keep the peace. Sometimes it’s better to be tactful in your approach rather than be honest.
Reason #3 – To Prevent Conflict
All relationships experience conflict at some point. Sometimes, we don’t feel like facing it and lie to avoid it. It’s common for us to use lies like, “I didn’t notice,” “It doesn’t bother me,” or “I’m fine.” However, under the surface, we’re boiling with anger or disappointment.
The issue with lying to avoid conflict is that it provides a temporary solution. Leaving it alone and festering on the problem only breeds resentment in our thoughts for our partner. Eventually, it comes to a thread, and we must deal with it.
Unfortunately, when that moment arrives, the situation is a lot worse than when we chose to lie. Being truthful feels scary to admit, and we have the suppressed thought that by confronting our partner, we may lose them.
Reason #4 – To Hide Misbehavior
Most of us learn to lie as children. We tell our parents it wasn’t us that dirtied the lounge walls with paint, even though we still have it on our hands. We take this action because we want to avoid punishment. We take this practice into adolescence and adulthood, and if we become skilled liars when we’re young, we learn that lying offers us a way to avoid being caught for bad behavior.
This behavior can badly deteriorate a relationship. It’s common for people to use this type of lying when they want to cover up infidelity. We’re using our lies to cover up our mistakes and choices in life. As a result, we find it easy to take the cowardly route and lie rather than confront our partners with the truth.
Instead of risking telling our partner, we think it’s better to cover our tracks and lie to them instead. These lies don’t only involve infidelity but other serious actions like drug addiction and criminal activity. Typically, these lies create feelings of guilt, leading to more problems than they solve.
Reason #5 – To Inflate Their Partner’s Opinion of Them
Lying to our partner can make us feel more desirable to them. For instance, you might lie about your weight, height, social status, income, or education to your partner to make yourself feel better about your standing with them.
However, the underlying reason for the behavior is the same in all cases. It’s about bragging about yourself to impress others, in this case, your partner. The motive behind the lie is to make yourself seem more appealing in their eyes and remove your insecurities.
People who adopt this approach in their relationships have low self-confidence and believe they aren’t good enough to attract their partner, so they lie. It’s easier to reinvent themselves than tell the truth because they feel that being honest makes them seem boring or unattractive to their partner.
The issue with creating stories when lying is that the brain has no physical memory of these events. So, we can’t recall the same lie months later. As a result, our story changes, and our partners catch us out in the lie.
Reason #6 – To Hide Shame
We use lying to protect ourselves from our partners at times. Lying prevents admitting something embarrassing, and we choose to cover it up instead. Some people use this strategy to cover up their drug use or debts. Shame is a powerful motivator; we’ll even lie to people we care about to avoid them thinking less of us.
Even if our behavior doesn’t adversely affect the other person or our relationship, we lie to cover up some we feel ashamed about. It feels too confronting to admit the behavior to the other person, so we keep it in the dark.
Reason #7 – To Manipulate Their Partner
Many of us have experienced lying to someone to get what we want. This behavior is somewhat sociopathic, and we do it without considering how it might harm our partner. We feel so motivated to achieve an agenda or satisfy an interest that we look past what the other person wants in order to satisfy these motives.
Narcissists in relationships will lie to control their partner’s decision-making process and control them. They might lie to get attention, sex, power, or money from their partner. Or they might lie to gain their partner’s sympathy or get the upper hand in an argument.
Is Lying to My Partner a Coping Strategy?
Some people use lying as a coping strategy in their relationships. We’ll lie to cope with the feelings arising from anxiety, stress, fear, anger, trauma, shame, and other uncomfortable emotions we experience.
People lie to their partners when they feel scared, angry, confused, guilty, sad, or just when they feel bored. They’ll re-enforce their lying behavior to protect their self-image and self-esteem without considering how it affects their partner.
Some people may get so comfortable with their lies that they start to think they’re true. It’s a coping strategy we cling to in order to feel better about ourselves and our status in our relationship.
How Do Lies Damage a Relationship?
Now that we know why people lie in their relationships, let’s look at the effect they have. Lying affects our relationships in three spheres, communication, commitment, and trust.
One of the most significant issues arising from lying to our partner is the breakdown in communication is causes between us. This interruption in open communication leads to problems involving resentment, hurt feelings, and conflict. As a result, it can drive a wedge between us, resulting in the inevitable breakup of the partners.
If we feel resorting to lying behavior gets us out of complicated scenarios, we’re more likely to adopt this behavior as normal. Since most relationships rely on effective and open communication, introducing lying into the mix causes massive problems between partners.
Lying also makes it harder for us to commit to our relationship. If your partner thinks you’re lying to them, they won’t trust you. as a result, they won’t fully commit to you because they don’t see a future between you. They assume you’re less likely to keep your promises to them and suggest you’re unreliable.
However, the biggest issue with lying in a relationship is the breakdown of trust between partners. If you lie to your partner and they suspect you of being dishonest with them or catch you in a lie, it undermines their trust in you.
After your partner loses their trust in you, it’s almost impossible to rebuild it, and you may as well call it quits between you right then and there. They won’t know if you mean what you say or if you’re hiding something from them. As a result, they feel betrayed by you and feel a strong sense of disappointment in your actions.
What Do I Do If I Think My Partner Is Lying to Me?
Some level of lying behavior will always be present in a relationship. However, the scale and magnitude of the lying behavior can vary, depending on the situation and the people involved. If you think your partner is lying to you, it’s a good idea to sit them down in a private area and talk with them about your suspicions and concerns.
Don’t take a defensive stance right away. Try and talk through your problems in a calm manner before flying off the handle at them. To understand why they lied to you, you’ll need to understand their motivation for doing so and the emotions causing these motives. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Try to put yourself in their position and understand why they lied instead of being truthful.
Don’t jump to conclusions; there could be a real reason your partner is hiding something from you. For instance, they might think it was the best course of action to prevent you from getting hurt emotionally.
You’ll need to evaluate the scenario and determine if you think the lie is significant or worth letting go of.
Should I Ask My Partner to Take a Lie Detector Test?
If your partner continually lies to you and won’t admit their behavior, or you think they’re hiding something from you, the best strategy is to talk it out. However, in some scenarios, talking doesn’t work. Your partner might insist that they’re telling the truth and that you’re acting paranoid.
If that’s the case, and you suspect the lie is severe, with terrible intentions, it might be worth asking them to take a polygraph test. The polygraph helps you uncover if they’re acting deceptively or telling the truth. However, if you reach that stage in your relationship where the polygraph is the only solution, you might want to consider whether you’re with the right person.