We’ve all told lies in our lives; little ones and maybe big ones. We’ve all learned the consequences of getting caught. Many of us realize it’s better to tell the truth the first time around than worry about the lie we told and wonder if the truth will emerge eventually.
When we tell lies we hold secrets from the ones we love. We might even think we are protecting them from something that will hurt them. We figure in our mind that not telling them is probably better. Telling them would cause them pain and we don’t want to hurt them because we really care about their feelings. Or maybe we’re just afraid of what will happen to us if we tell the truth about something difficult. Maybe we’re worried that we will be in trouble and people will get angry with us.
Not telling the truth takes skill, and thought. The person telling the lie has to think about making up a story where all the pieces are plausible. They have to make sure there are no holes an insightful person could see through. It can be stressful on the lie teller. He or she also has to remember the lie, and the details, and not forget what order he or she put them in. That’s stressful too.
So that’s one side, the person telling the lie. But what about the person who is lied to? What happens there?
The one who is told the lie may feel angry, betrayed and ridicules, like they’ve been made a fool of. It can be belittling and crazy making. Some people believe that a lie, no matter how small, is a broken trust. Many people believe that trust is one of the cornerstones in a relationship and when trust is broken they are shaken to the core because what they had believed about their relationship as fundamental is now crumbling underneath them. They believed there would be truth between each other. When there is a lie, that truth becomes a joke.
So how do couples heal when there are lies that sit between them?
First, each person deserves to explain and have the other person listen to his and her feelings. It feels terrible to have been lied to. It feels terrible to hold secrets and lie to your partner. Both positions need understanding and compassion. The one who lied has to become aware of the pain he or she caused the other. That doesn’t mean you have to fall on your sword and grovel for the next year. The liars’ job is to realize that his or her actions caused pain. Once they realize this then he or she should begin to cultivate compassion for their mate by understanding the hurt they caused. An apology is part of healing, but it’s more than saying I’m sorry. Without understanding the depth of the injury; the loss of trust, the embarrassment and the anger, an apology can feel meaningless.
When the injured is heard he or she can feel validated by the partner because the partner really gets the pain he or she caused. At that time the injured person may want to try and understand what led the partner to tell the lie in the first place. They may discover that the partner was trying to protect them, only the lie turned out to be a clumsy attempt.
What can develop is true communication, connection between the couple. Lies are an indication that there’s room for improvement. In most cases when there is a lie people react by turning away from their partner. It’s natural to protect yourself when hurt. But turning toward your partner with understanding and compassion could just bring you exactly what you are after… real closeness and truth.
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