Met the love of your life, and want it to last forever? Read on to find out the worst fibs, untruths, and downright lies you should never tell.
You say you’re available, but you’re not…legally
You probably already know that if you’re waiting for the “right time” to tell the person you’re dating that you’re married, both of your relationships are probably doomed to failure. And, it doesn’t matter if you’re separated, planning to divorce (someday), or none of the above. “Lying about availability for a relationship is devastating for partners who discover their significant other has been dishonest. Sometimes people lie, and say they are single when they are not, or they may lie about whether or not they have children. This is never fair to the person being lied to, or to the people being lied about,” says Shadeen Francis, LMFT, marriage and family therapist. Francis recommends telling the truth about your external romantic, and familial relationships up front, before you get involved.
You say you’re available, but you’re not…emotionally
True emotional availability requires honesty, to both yourself, and your partner, Francis says. Pretending to be ready to take it to the next level, and then either stopping short, or self-sabotaging the relationship, can be overwhelmingly confusing, and heartbreaking, for someone you probably care about deeply. If you can’t figure out how to make your relationship grow, some honest soul-searching can help. Maybe you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and just don’t want to let the person go, even though you know you won’t go the distance together. It’s also possible that you’re hauling around some baggage that is making it hard for you to fully commit. If so, a therapist can help. Either way, be honest with your partner, so that they can make the right decision for their own life—either with you, or without you.
You’re not fessing up about your past
Relationships thrive on trust. That requires letting go and showing your partner who you were as well as who you are. That doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts about every skeleton in your closet on the first date, but letting someone in, over time, is imperative, if you want to have a relationship that can withstand the bad times that inevitably come to everyone. Remember that withholding the truth can impact upon a relationship in exactly the same way that lying or micro-cheating does. “Things you should never lie about include why your last relationship ended,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a licensed therapist. “It’s important for your partner to know what went wrong for you in the past, and if you’re still continuing the same behaviors. And, that includes cheating.” Hershenson also includes mental health issues in this list. “Knowing if you’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, or substance use is important, because it gives your partner information about potential triggers which might arise for you,” she adds. It’s also important to let your partner know if you’ve done jail time, declared bankruptcy, dropped out of school, or have any other deep, dark secret you’d rather not share. Chances are, once you fess up, you’ll feel a new freedom, and the kind of emotional vulnerability needed to be truly loved, and loving. Here are some tips on how to build trust in a relationship.
“Combining finances takes a lot of trust, and that trust is betrayed in a really painful way, when partners have hidden, or outright lied, about their ability to contribute to financial stability in their relationship,” Francis says. Pretending you have less than you do, is just as lethal as pretending you have more than you do. The money conversation is integral. Without it, you can’t realistically plan for a future together. The best way to tackle this conversation is head on, whether you have debt or wealth. It’s better to come clean, and come up with a pre-nup, or other financial plan, than to lie about your bank account. Getting off on the right foot about your finances can help create a foundation that will enable you to have an honest, shared plan about money, throughout your relationship. How you spend, and what you save, is a lifelong issue.
You really want (or don’t want) kids
This is a biggie. If you know that your partner wants, or doesn’t want kids, and your desire is the exact opposite, you’ve got to fess up about it. That way you can decide if your future should be together, or not. “Sometimes, partners overtly tell untruths about their goals, wants, and needs, in order to be flexible. This form of dishonesty can create fear, resentment, and anxiety in a relationship. When a partner does not feel free to be himself/herself, this builds up frustration over time,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist.
“One of the worst lies couples can tell each other has to do with the single most lethal relationship threat: The Other,” says Wendy L. Patrick, JD, PhD, author of the book, Red Flags. “Lying about spending time with another person is a death knell to a relationship, and a lie partners should never tell,” she adds. Not only do they need to know for the health of your relationship but also for their physical health, as cheating puts the other partner at risk for STDs. This honesty policy applies to emotional affairs as well as physical affairs, she adds.
You’re not ill, and pretending to be
“Couples should always be honest with one another about health. Telling your partner you are sick, injured, or terminally ill (yes, this happens) is cruel and manipulative,” says Francis. “These lies are often told in order to evoke pity or guilt, ultimately with the intent of being nurtured, or taken care of, more than is warranted,” she explains. Francis suggests thinking about your motives for this behavior. “Ask yourself, why am I doing this? What am I hoping to gain? Am I being fair to the other person? If you are struggling to make these decisions, or find yourself telling similar lies in different relationships, recognize that this is a pattern of behavior that can make you an unsafe person to partner with, which likely does not feel very good for you, either. Most people do not lie if they believe they have other options,” she adds.
You’re ill, and pretending not to be
Almost as bad a lie, is hiding your failing health from your partner, Francis says. Many people do this to protect their significant other from the pain of dealing with a bad diagnosis, or from fear about the future. Either motive is ill-founded. Solid relationships are built on trust, and the desire to be there for each other, come what may. Lying about an illness you have, even if it is terminal, robs your partner of the ability to support, and care for you, which may come back to haunt them, creating guilt, later on. It will also help to fill in the blanks they may be wondering about, based on changes in your behavior, mood, or health, that they have noticed, but not gotten answers about. Whether you’re married or not, it’s “in sickness and in health,” remember?
You’re pretending it’s OK with you, but it’s not—especially in bed
“Couples should never lie about anything that bothers them in the relationship, or any topic of significance,” says Marni Feuerman, PhD, LCSW, Lying about your feelings can range from where you want to eat dinner, to where you want to live, to sexual satisfaction. Pretending to enjoy a less than satisfactory sex life is bound to sabotage your relationship eventually. “Lying often becomes a slippery slope that becomes easier to do than telling the truth. Some people may also start to “compartmentalize,” and the norm becomes to keep secrets about certain aspects of their life,” Dr. Feuerman says. If you are lying about your sex life (or anything else), it’s time to get honest with your partner about your needs and desires. If that feels too scary, it might be time to enlist a professional counselor, sex therapist, or relationship coach.
It’s not me, it’s you
Your partner may feel that something is wrong, and grasp at clues, to try to figure out what it is. The lack of communication between the two of you may push them into behaviors such as spying, going through your wallet, or looking for information, any way that they can find it. Lying, especially long-term, about any behavior or action is very wrong, and unfair to your partner, who probably abhors who they have become in the relationship, as a result, Dr. Feuerman says. Even worse, is trying to make them think that the situation is all in their head, and that you are innocent of any wrongdoing, and would never lie to them. It’s cruel to live a lie—any lie. Both of you deserve better. Coming clean is never easy but it’s one of the key ingredients of a healthy relationship.