By Lindy Earl
While I can’t stand lies, I believe we like the way lies make us feel, especially lies like “I love you.” Who doesn’t want to hear that they’re loved?
In discussing lies we believe, I think we need to begin with why people lie. As children we lied to avoid getting into trouble. It didn’t work. In fact, as a parent I had a rule: twice the punishment for lying, to encourage the truth. It would often, but not always, work. So we lie to avoid trouble.
That trouble may be real or imagined. It’s real when we did something of which we are ashamed or for which we’re sorry. In adult life, it could be stealing or cheating, far different from our petty childish crimes of hitting our siblings or calling them names. So rather than own up to the poor decision and behavior, we fib about it. What a gentle word that is . . . fib. Really almost nothing at all.
Then we lie because our imaginations are just too creative. You did nothing wrong, but your significant other just invited you somewhere you’d rather not go, and you can imagine that they will be sad, maybe even angry, if you refuse, so you say you would love to go. Lie. Now you need to either keep your word (do we really expect liars to keep their word?) or get out of it. We may find the easiest way to wiggle out of it is at the last minute with a created illness. More lies.
In fact, your partner may be disappointed if you decline their invitation, but I promise you, they prefer the truth over a lie. If you can’t stand the opera, never pretend you enjoy it. I stopped pretending years ago. When a ticket was purchased for me, as a gift for speaking, I gave it to my driver. Others in the group were thrilled to attend, but I had a better time taking my translator out to supper. What a perfect solution to what would have been a miserable night for me. All because of honesty, followed by good communication.
Yes, choosing to not lie requires tact and consideration. If you don’t love the person who just said the words we all pretend we want to hear, then don’t lie. Just find a gentle way of saying something like, “I’m fond of you and maybe it will grow, but maybe it won’t” . . . or, “I greatly appreciate your feelings. They mean a lot.” Your partner would rather hear this painful truth now than the lie that you love them.
And some truths can be left unsaid. We don’t need to say everything that pops into our heads. The point is to never tell a lie. So there is no reason to ever tell someone that you find their clothes ugly if they didn’t ask. If they do ask, be kind enough to find a gentle way of phrasing your answer, such as “Maybe that’s not the most flattering outfit on you.” Also acknowledge that half-truths are whole lies and don’t use the excuse of little white lies either. If it doesn’t need to be said, leave it unsaid.
So why do we choose to believe lies? Shouldn’t we believe someone when they say they were under the weather, or had to work late, or that they love us? Well, this is all great in a PollyAnna world, but unless you live within a Disney movie where good always triumphs and evil characters fall off cliffs, it’s just not reality. The truth is, people lie, so, without hardening our hearts too much, we need to look at what are called Context Clues. While the person is saying they are working late, do you know that they are? I wasn’t checking on my ex when I took the kids and a picnic supper to his office, but that’s one way of checking. Basically, believe but verify (with a nod to an ex-President).
Again, why do we choose to believe lies? The most obvious reason is that we don’t want to face the truth. We love this person and want to believe that they love us, as much and in the same way. So we believe their lies, even when all evidence points to the untruth of the words. We want them to be true, so we accept them at face value. I have too many examples of this to choose only one, and you have enough examples of your own.
Also, we believe lies because we want to show that we believe in our significant other. It’s important to trust, and by believing what we’re told, we show our loyalty and belief in them. The challenge, of course, is when the person is lying.
In fact, I was working on a troubled relationship the first time I learned that women want to be loved and men want to be respected. So I started telling my guy how much I respected him. That I appreciated him and all he did. The result? It bred contempt. Seriously. He knew he was cheating on me, but I didn’t yet know. When I told him I respected him, it made him think that I was a fool. How stupid must I be to respect someone who was cheating? He could have fixed the situation by not cheating, but instead he chose to build a hatred of me for being so stupid to love and respect him. I thought I was helping the relationship! I was destroying it, because there were lies I hadn’t yet found.
Sometimes we choose to not ask the questions, or say the words, because we don’t want to know the truth. I know my last beau didn’t love me, so I never asked him. I knew my ex was cheating on me, so I never asked him. Why didn’t I ask the question? I didn’t want to hear a lie, and I didn’t want to hear the truth. It was easier for me to pretend. I told myself things like, “He may not say it, but he must love me,” and “We’ve been married for years and have three children, he would never risk all that by cheating.” So, in fact, I was lying to myself.
Oh my, when we fail to face to truth, when we accept the lies even though in our hearts we know they are lies, and all outward evidence shouts that we are being played, we are lying to ourselves. We remain in bad and unhealthy relationships. We settle for second best. We agree to let ourselves be treated poorly. All because we have gone from being lied to, to lying to ourselves . . .
“He didn’t mean it.” “She wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.” “He doesn’t realize how that makes me feel.” Do any of these sound familiar? These are all lies we tell ourselves. Why?
We tell ourselves these fabrications to help ourselves through the night and through a bad relationship. Why? Because, as sad as it is, some of us prefer to be with anyone, even the wrong one, rather than being alone. Sometimes there are financial reasons. I had been a stay-home mom and simply wasn’t able to see how I could afford to live if I left the marriage. Five years later, I’m unsure how I’ve managed to afford to live. My work can be sporadic and clients come and go. It’s a painfully volatile financial existence, so I understand why I was willing to tolerate lies. Even so, ignoring the lies, tolerating the lies, and lying to myself were all bad ideas that left my confidence and self-respect in shambles.
How can we stop believing the lies? What should we do in future? First, make a decision to be totally honesty and request, even demand, total honesty. I’d like to think there are positive truths out there, too. Don’t harden your heart so much that you can’t believe a sincere compliment. Don’t be so wary that when you find a good person, you don’t chase them away with your unbelief. Don’t be afraid to put your heart on the line again. Yes, it takes a lot of faith, but you can have faith in yourself if not the other person.
You are strong enough to try again. You are smart enough to ask the right questions. You are determined enough to verify any questionable activity. You are also open enough to risk being hurt, but not through lies. You will have good communication and honestly share that you prefer truth over lies, even if they fear the truth will hurt you. It will, but the lies will hurt more, and for longer.
We have all been willing to believe lies, for a myriad of reasons. No more. Now is the time to demand honesty from ourselves, our friends, our significant others, and our relationships. It’s time to look at our situations and get rid of the liars and replace them with honest and good people. We are ready to move forward, offering and requesting honesty. We choose to be alone rather than with a sycophant who is using us and lying to us. We will no longer accept lies.
That’s Life After Divorce.
Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant. Contact her at LMEarl@EarlMarketing.com or find her on Face Book.