By Dr. Joyce Brothers for Reader's Digest.
The topic of trust is an important factor in all matters of the heart—and here's why. Men lie to women. Women lie to men. And most people agree that some lying is even necessary—to avoid petty squabbles and to grease the wheels of a relationship.
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But there are crucial differences in the lies women and men tell. A study by psychologist Bella M. DePaulo of the University of Virginia found that when women lie, they tend to focus on making others feel better—such as the woman who tells her hostess that dinner is "simply delicious" even as she cringes with every mouthful.
At the heart of many men's lies, however, is the male ego. Men lie to build themselves up or to conceal something, DePaulo says. According to psychologist Michael Lewis in the book Lying and Deception in Everyday Life, men are more likely to lie to enhance themselves than women are.
But consistent lying—even about minor matters—can unglue a marriage. Women need to know what kind of lies to watch for, when to accept the lies and when to call a partner's bluff. Here, from my own experience and surveys, are some of the most common lies men tell women:
1) "Me? I graduated top of my class."
This is a classic case of the runaway male ego, designed to present a man in the best light and impress a woman. When the lies continue into marriage, it's not long before the truth will out.
Playwright Neil Simon recalls what happened after his first hit play, Come Blow Your Horn. Every morning he'd leave for his office, telling his wife he was writing his next play. In fact, Simon had become so engrossed in a dart game he'd devised that he had not written a word. "For two months I lied to Joan," he wrote later. "I told her the new play I was feverishly working on was coming along nicely."
Men have a hard time admitting failure. How our culture defines success is important to a man, so he assumes it's important to his partner.
Normally, as trust builds, a man drops these types of lies. If he doesn't, his spouse needs to be careful. A man who can't be honest about his failures—at work or elsewhere—may end up blaming his wife when the going gets tough in their marriage.
2) "Of course I like your friends!"
The lies to make a woman fall in love or stay in love account for many truth-stretchers. In one study, psychologist William Tooke and an assistant at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh asked 110 students at the university to look at 88 deceptive tactics—such as inflating one's accomplishments and wearing designer clothes to appear wealthy—and reveal how often they were used in their own relationships. Men were significantly more likely than women to use such deceptions.
A man I know told his girlfriend, "You're a great cook—much better than my mother." In fact, his mother is a chef at a well-known New York restaurant. Fortunately for him, by the time his girlfriend discovered the truth—when they dined at his mother's restaurant—she was so in love that she forgave his overzealous compliment.