Why So Many People Are Dishonest In Their Relationships

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couple looking serious outdoors

There is not a single person among us who has never told a lie. It's a common behavior that some practice intentionally while others do it in an attempt to protect themselves or someone who is close to them.

How is it that one determines when lying is beneficial or when we should admit the truth? What stands behind our decisions? 

Are we lying to protect ourselves because we are afraid the truth will hurt us or someone else? 

Is there ever a "right" time to be dishonest?

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Dishonesty as a defense mechanism

Dishonesty sometimes is a defense mechanism. The person telling the lie might logically believe, "If I tell the truth then I have to explain why I did what I did and why."

The truth is we all (or at least most of us) know when we are being deceitful. Some people have lied for so many years that it is all that they know — it's who they have become. For others, they may come to a point where even they don't realize what they are doing because they have done it for so long. 

Some people lie so often that they begin to believe their fibs.

The fact remains that we can always remember the truth, but we can't always remember a lie.

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Protecting those we love

Sometimes it's easier to tell a fib than to tell the truth because we just don't want to hurt someone important to us.

An example may be, "I won't be able to come to the wedding because I have another commitment." In reality, is the other commitment about not having money for a gift or perhaps feeling like you won't know anyone there. 

Maybe it's because you don't have anything to wear and can't afford to buy anything. It could be a number of reasons, but why does one feel that he or she can't be honest?

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How we justify lying

How do we justify in our own minds when it's OK to be dishonest or tell a half-truth? How does this affect our friendships or relationships? Does it hurt less to tell a lie than it would if we were honest and transparent?

One client came to me with this story:

My partner and I had been dating and living together for less than a year. One evening while having a few drinks he let it slip to his best friend that he was mad about getting a speeding ticket a few weeks before. 

What he forgot to mention to his partner was that it had ever occurred in the first place. If someone tells you they got a ticket, it's not something you typically forget. 

So she said to him, "Oh, you didn't tell me you got a ticket." He said, "Sure I did." She then asked, "Where were you at and where were you going in such a hurry?"  

His answer was, "I don't remember." Who doesn't remember where they were going or where they were when they received a speeding ticket only a few weeks earlier? It's just not plausible.

About twenty minutes later, he backtracked and told her his location. He claimed he must have been going to his mom's house on his way to work. 

Again, he knew where he was going and he knew it the moment that he was asked, but he needed time to come up with what he believed was a reasonable-sounding excuse because he was not willing to tell the truth.

In my practice and beliefs, while it may be uncomfortable, we must ask ourselves why we feel we can't be honest. This immediately made my client question why he wasn't willing or able to tell the truth. What was he hiding and why was it so important to him? 

Who was he trying to protect?

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Why can't we just be honest?

Another client came to me with her story. For the sake of privacy, we'll call her Maggie:

My boyfriend and I were away overnight for a weekend. He had just asked me that morning if I wanted to join him and I accepted. 

We had been having a great afternoon and he was getting ready to leave for a bit when he pulled his phone out of his pocket. We were both in the same room as he brought the phone up to his ear and said, "Hey. I must have butt-dialed you." 

He repeated this several times. He then went on to say he was just walking out the door. The party on the other line (clearly a woman because I could distinctly hear the sound of a woman's voice) kept on talking through all of his attempts to get her off the phone.  

Once he got off the phone, Maggie asked, "Who was that?" He responded, "Oh that was just Bob. Sometimes that guy doesn't want to shut up!"

Maggie had heard Bob's voice more than once in previous conversations when he had called to speak with her boyfriend. Furthermore, he had been to their house on numerous occasions and she herself had talked with him on the phone before. 

He had a very distinct voice and way of talking. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a woman who had called — but who? Why did her boyfriend feel like he couldn't tell her the truth? What exactly did he have to hide?

In fact, Maggie realized the woman must have known he was planning to be gone for the weekend without her. 

If he had nothing to hide, then why was it a secret?

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Deny, deny, deny — doesn't work

In both of these cases, the men never did admit to the truth. As is often the case, they believe, "As long as we deny, we don't have to admit to anything." 

Denying doesn't make the truth any less real. It does mean that you don't value your relationship enough to be truthful.  

Of course, admitting the truth may be hurtful but if you have nothing to hide then you should be able to get through it. You can move forward without carrying around a monkey on your back. 

You will also have a partner who knows they can count on you to be honest. 

Which of these is more important?

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Trust, once lost, is difficult to regain

The issue of lying isn't just connected to men — plenty of women are dishonest as well. Admitting the truth requires some difficult conversations but it also means that we value the importance of trust in our relationship. 

Having trust in our important relationships is worth its weight in gold. It allows us to develop a closeness and a place where we feel safe.

Every lie has the ability to create a wedge or a hurdle. Your partner may not know about all of the lies you have told but it only takes one to create doubt or hurt. 

When trust is broken in our relationships, it can become extremely difficult to rebuild. It will require a lot of tough conversations and hard work.

Wouldn't it just be easier to tell the truth in the first place?

The relationships I value the most are those in which I know I'm being told the truth — even if I don't like it or even if it does feel hurtful. 

This doesn't mean we have to or will always agree with what is being said, but we can trust that our friends, relatives or co-workers value us enough to give us their honest opinion.  

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Kathy Thielen is an energy healer and life coach who focuses on happiness, self-care, psychic healing and relationships.