There are few things more damaging to a relationship than deceit. Many people believe trust either exists or it doesn’t. In actuality trust is earned overtime and fragile once it exists. If it’s broken, it can take a lot of time and work to rebuild. Despite that there are still people who seem to have a loose relationship with the truth and routinely hurt their partner and damage their relationship by lying.
If you are in a relationship with a person that you have a hard time trusting it can be nearly impossible to feel confortably happy and secure. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them though. So, what can you do if you’re dealing with deceit in your relationship and still love your partner?
Deceit vs. Lying
Many assume that lying and deceit are the same thing when they actually aren’t. Lying is a form of deceit, but deceit is the larger, overarching act of encouraging or allowing someone to believe something that isn’t true. If you lie you are being deceitful but being deceitful doesn’t always include lying. In fact, some of the most painful acts of deceit may not include outright lies at all.
Lying is the actual act of making untrue statements. Saying, “I didn’t drink any beer last night” when you actually did is clearly lying. Cleaning up all evidence of the drinking and not owning up to it when your partner says, “I’m so happy you didn’t drink any beer last night!” is being deceitful.
Although it’s very common for lying and deceit to go hand-in-hand, they don’t have to. Master manipulators, for instance, make a point of never overtly lying but use deceit in order to get what they want. Manipulators often imply things without stating them directly leaving victims thinking they heard something that was never actually said. This can lead to gaslighting and emotional abuse.
So, the first thing to do when you feel there is deceit in your relationship is to understand what it is you’re truly dealing with.
Understanding The Reasons For Deceitful Behavior
As with any problematic behavior, understanding why it’s occurring is an important part of correcting it (or getting away from it if needed). Often the reasons for behaviors are deeply embedded in a person’s past experiences. In some cases, they may not even realize what they’re doing or why it’s wrong.
People lie for many reasons and some would argue that certain kinds of lies are okay, the little “white lies” for instance. These lies are often positioned as selfless and done to protect another person from being hurt.
Although a person may have good intentions, I don’t agree with the idea there are acceptable lies. In my counseling experience lies and deceit are never really ultimately for the benefit of someone else. They are selfish.
The reasons for lying typically fall into one of 4 categories.
• To protect the person lying from experiencing discomfort.
• To keep them from getting in trouble
• To help them get something they want but haven’t earned.
• To allow them to get away with something they shouldn’t be doing.
That being said, the psychological motivation for being deceitful can vary. While some people are deceitful with intent to harm, others may believe they’re behaving out of love.
Those who lie and deceive but feel truly convinced they are doing it for “good reasons” may have grown up in an environment where that behavior was common. They may not understand how to communicate in a truthful and honest manner because they were never taught. Or they felt the only way to protect themselves from pain was through lying.
Others may suffer from such low self-esteem that they feel lying and deceit are necessary in order to convince someone to love them and then to keep that love.
Understanding the motivation for your partner’s behavior, whatever it may be, doesn’t make being deceitful acceptable. No matter how you slice it, lying and deceit damages trust and prevents having a healthy and happy relationship. And depending upon the motivation and what the deceit is covering up there can be even larger issues to contend with.
But behavior that isn’t addressed doesn’t get better on it’s own, so you will need to find a way to begin the conversation. This can be tricky, because when dealing with deceit conversations can easily devolve into accusations, defensiveness, and additional lies very quickly. All of this can make it difficult to have a productive conversation regarding the damage the deceitful behavior is causing.
It can be much more productive to focus on creating a unified and clear goal to improve the general health of your relationship. Once you agree on that as the focus you can discuss the things that need to be done in order to achieve it – including the importance of honesty.
Depending upon your partner’s history and reasons for the deceit, this is a process that may need to be repeated. It’s also quite possible that true change will require the assistance of a professional counselor as the drivers for the behavior will need to change as well.
Regardless, change doesn’t happen overnight and your patience will be required. But achieving that change is crucial since there is no way for a relationship with a deceitful partner to be a healthy, successful, or long-lasting one.
This post is republished on Medium.
Photo credit: iStock