A Good Chat Therapy & Counselling

Lying & Relationships

woman and man wearing brown jackets standing near tree

By staff writer Luci, Blogger, counsellor

Lying. Everyone does it. Sometimes to not hurt someone’s feelings, sometimes to avoid a situation, or as a way to anticipate and head off a reaction. 

Lies are normal. Most are called white lies: non harmful little tales that don’t impact greatly and often serve a valid, or perceived purpose. A poor salesman might lie to get you to buy an item. You might tell Karen those jeans look great.

But they can become harmful and destructive very quicky. They compound and grow, they can shatter relationships and destroy others, and our own, confidence. They can stem from narcissistic personalities, be used to manipulate, control and hurt. They can stem from serious personality disorders, be a sign of trauma or be a result of anxiety. The reasons for habitual lying are many.

Lying is not the same as being a compulsive or pathological liar. That’s a psychological disorder that is not in the scope here. If you believe someone is a serious pathological liar, that person has a mental condition that requires intervention by a professional. That’s not this discussion, we’ll go into that later. 

Lies in relationships are one of the biggest issues faced by many people. They can turn a relationship toxic really quickly, destroy trust and ruin otherwise great relationships. 

Lying is often a trait that comes from childhood. At some point they learned that lying headed off and helped avoid an anticipated reaction. They feared a reaction, and the lie helped avoid this reaction, and thus, a tool was created. One that is convenient, easy and hard to put down.

The problem is that lying and fear of reaction is often parallel in relationships with trust issues that stem from the other partner being lied to.  Or it creates them. You can see how. They may have had experiences of being lied to and this has created their own fear-based reactions. This may stem from abuse, abandonment or just being hurt in the past by someone lying: or it develops as a result of them being lied too now

Lying becomes a fear-based solution; it certainly is not ideal and it sets up cycles in relationships. 

Here, let us look at Jack and Diane. 

They’ve been dating exclusively for six months. They both feel invested and think the relationship has a long-term future. 

Diane asks jack about his ex-girlfriend, Becky, and if they still speak to each other. Jack says no, they haven’t at all.

One day, not long after this, jack leaves his phone on the table and it lights up, right in front of Diane, with a text message from Becky. She doesn’t open the message, but from the brief bit she saw, it’s a continuation of a conversation. 

Jack has clearly been caught lying. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Diane Confronts Jack, who denies he has been speaking to Becky. Diane becomes hurt, which escalates her emotions, she becomes angry and frustrated the more he denies this and tells him she saw the text messages, and jack doubles down on the lies, saying he didn’t know she had messaged, it’s the first time and both become escalated as the emotional state become more and more charged.

This erupts into a fight, where both parties bring up other issues as a mask for the current issue and the whole scenario degrades into an emotional mess that helps no one. Jack is using lies as a fear-based solution to avoid a confrontation or an expected and anticipated reaction from Diane. Clearly, this did not work on this occasion.

Let’s look at the cycle of what’s occurred here.

There are two cycles of reaction that overlap.

Here’s Jacks cycle:

And here is Diane’s Cycle:

See the overlap of Jacks lie? That intersection is where the whole cycle can be broken, or perpetuate.

To break the cycle, both parties need to manage their reactions. This is the only way to break the pattern and create a new and much more positive, sustainable communication pattern in the relationship.

To break the pattern and manage their reactions, they should absolutely seek the services of a counsellor. A counsellor is a trained mediator, a neutral third party who can teach tools and resources to use to break the cycle and iron out any kinks that have formed over time. Both parties can benefit greatly and learn to understand where their own reactions come from, how to manage them and how to create new positive reactions and move forward.

Without counselling the process is still doable, but it is arguably much harder, but let’s explore the process.

Diane needs to learn to base her reaction on even communication. She must learn to manage her emotions and become honest with her communication style and requests: 

“it’s not the fact that you speak to her, it’s the fact that you lied about it. That makes me feel hurt and untrusting and I don’t feel secure when that happens. I am trying to not be so hurt, but I am, and I can’t live with that in a relationship”

This is honest, open and states the issue. Diane has presented what the problem is and how she feels. If she can do this without anger or presenting her emotions as a challenge, jack has the space and opportunity to respond in a healthy manner.

“I don’t like cutting people off, so we do chat occasionally. She texts me, and I answer. It’s mostly about her family; we got on really well. I’m sorry I lied to you, I thought you’d be angry and it’s not like I’m in love with her. I’ll be honest with you next time”

This explains jack’s reaction, what the situation is and what he plans on doing going forward. Of course, Jack needs to keep his word, and not lie again, and keep Diane informed and be honest with her, or he is showing that his habit is either very ingrained, and he requires counselling by himself to undo it, or he is being deceptive deliberately.

This is the point where you need to either make big changes, maybe with a counsellor, or decide to call it off and break up. Without some form of intervention, the person who is lying is not going to stop at that point and you need to be aware of that. Fear based solutions can be very hard habits to break as adults without professional help, and you need to use your own power and know how much more worth your own mental health has, because without trust, with active reason to distrust someone, the relationship is doomed to be a perpetual cycle of hurt, anger and fear-based reactions, and before you know it, you’ve picked up your own fear-based solutions and then you’ll need counselling. 

Probably best to use your own power and avoid that, isn’t it?

you can watch our video on this topic here:


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