Friday, December 08, 2006

Lying in Adult Loving, Romantic Relationships

A big issue for many people in an adult loving relationship is trust. “Can we trust each other?” is a question frequently considered. A large part of trust is lying – “When we speak to each other, do we tell the truth?”

Firstly, let’s visit the question, “What is a Lie?” According to Wikipedia, “A lie is an untruthful statement made to someone else with the intention to deceive.” ( Fittingly, it is typical for people in an adult loving, romantic relationship to occasionally ponder, “When we speak with each other, do we make untruthful statements to each other in order to deceive?”

In my 2005 contemporary romance novel, My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days (, the heroin (and the hero) grapple with various aspects of trust, honesty and lying. Likewise, in my next, soon-to-be-published contemporary romance novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, early in her relationship with Jack, Marcia obsessively struggles with a worrisome concern: “Why did he lie to me?”

Lying can be by commission or omission. As I discuss in my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships (, a person can lie by telling an untruth (e.g., him saying “I haven’t spoken to my ex-girlfriend in months,” when in fact he spoke to her two days ago) or a person can lie by omission (e.g., even though he had promised never to talk with his ex-girlfriend again, he spoke with her two days ago and doesn’t say anything about it). Either way, by commission or omission, a lie is a lie! Nonetheless, it also is important to consider the extent to which a lie in an adult loving, romantic relationship is functional or dysfunctional.

As I discuss in my book, Adult Loving Relationships, a dysfunctional lie ultimately causes harm and is a cancerous element in a relationship (e.g., when she finds out that he actually did speak with his ex-girlfriend, she’ll not only be upset about it him speaking to her – she’ll be equally and possibly more upset because he lied about it). However, if he lies to her when he says, “No, I have no plans for tomorrow night,” yet in actuality he has made arrangements for a surprise dinner party in her honor for the following evening, he’s still lying. But when all is said and done, it probably will not cause harm or be cancerous. It may even be perceived as a loving and wonderful act on his behalf. This would be an example of a functional lie.

I’d appreciate knowing your thoughts and/or experiences. And that’s the truth… Bill


Anonymous said...

I don't have any great insights into lying. But I do think we lie to our partners all the time. Usually to keep them from getting angry. Or to make them happy..

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello "Happy and Blue 2",
Thanks for the comment. I have to say though that if a person is lying "to keep their partner from being angry" or "to keep them happy," that person is doing a lot of walking on eggshells and spending a lot of energy on unfortunate things (like worrying, feeling fearful, keeping peace, etc.). I hope that's not you.
With best wishes and regards,

Anonymous said...

Lucretia here:

Thank you for including lies of OMISSION as lies. I can't tell you how many people I've run into (including my mother!) who "lie" by not mentioning crucial things. They try to evade guilt by telling themselves that "just" not saying anything isn't REALLY a lie. But it is.

Oh-- and, as a comment to a comment-- everyone does not lie to their partner all the time. It's odd how often people assume that what is normal in their relationship is normal for everyone.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Lucretia,
Thanks for underscoring the importance (and sadness) of lying by omission. Yes, as you well said, it is so unfortunate that some people do that. (I even know one guy who has it down to an art form.)
Saddest part about people who repeatedly lie to others by omission is that they're also lying to themselves!
Keep the shiny side up!