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Relationship and sex therapy | Counselling

Would I lie to you?

If honestly really is the best policy, why do we lie? No use pretending you don’t. We all do, to varying degrees. How many times have you heard (or said), “If I told the truth, it would break their heart”, “It’s better that they never know the truth” or, perhaps, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them”?

Lying is part of our biological make up. Studies have shown that children start practising deception from about six months of age – fake crying or laughing to get attention – although we don’t become accomplished liars until we’re at least four or five!

Lying is also a conditioned behaviour. We learn early on that lying can get us what we want so we keep doing it.

Broadly speaking, we lie for two reasons:

  • To gain something – either material advantage or to raise our self-esteem
  • To avoid something – usually punishment or embarrassment.

We convince ourselves that ‘fibbing’ is ok. White lies aren’t really hurting anyone. Or are they?

Ultimately, lying undermines trust, no matter how big or small the lie might be. And trust is the cornerstone of a positive relationship – personal or professional, friendship or love.

When you catch someone lying to you or about you to someone else, it makes you question the authenticity of your relationship. What else have they kept from you or lied about? You become paranoid and doubt that their motives are genuine.

What if you’re the liar? We tend to forget little lies but big lies eat away at you. They trap you in a cycle of excitement, fear and shame – particularly if you’re cheating on your partner or lying to cover up an addiction.

I’ve told some whoppers in my life and I finally cleaned up my mess 15 years ago, after participating in the Landmark Forum. I hurt people when I cam clean – people I love – but it was worth it. When an ex said to me (on confessing to the lie that had ultimately destroyed our relationship and cost me something very precious), “Thank you, I can now take you off your pedestal”, I knew I’d done the right thing. Cleaning up your mess is not only liberating for you, it releases the person you’ve deceived from a relationship based on lies.

You can rebuild a relationship once you’ve come clean. You can rebuild trust, although it takes time, continued integrity and, above all, open and honest dialogue.

I’ll be honest(!), I still lie to my mum when she asks about my health. If you know my mum, or have read any of my other blogs, you’ll know she suffers from severe anxiety. If I told her about every niggle, she would worry herself sick, and she’s in poor health as it is. See, I’m doing what we all do, justifying lying to myself!

What about other people’s secrets? What if you’re asked a question about someone and you lie or are evasive to avoid sharing their secret? For quite a few years, I’ve carried the burden of someone else’s secret, and it’s a heavy burden. But I don’t believe it’s my secret to tell. Is that lying?

If you think I’ve come over all self-righteous or holier than thou, I make no apologies. Having integrity, being authentic and honouring my word really has changed my life.

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