Communication — 23 March 2008
Is lying effective in the preservation of your relationship?

Being able to rely on the veracity of your partner’s word is an essential tenet of a secure relationship. Truthfulness breeds security that enables intimacy to flourish. Conversely, doubting the truthfulness of a partner’s messages contributes to distrust, dis-ease and distance between the mates. Yet, many people elect to not tell the truth to their mates.

People wish they could have a way to determine when they are being told the truth and when they hear lies. Researchers are also curious to help the police and security agencies find quick tools to decipher accused individuals’ truthfulness.

Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania studied deception through functional M.R.I. that shows that the parietal-cortex region of the brain. He demonstrated increased activity when people lie. Stephen Rosslyn of Harvard University found that spontaneous and rehearsed lies were responded to by different parts of the brain and thus no lying brain mapping is yet conclusive. Jennifer Vendemia, at the University of South Carolina studied deception through a particular brain wave called E.R.P. (Event Related Potential). She considers detecting the brain’s early response, prior to the person’s verbal answer as “the ultimate invasion”. She maintains that lies are part of our secret interior life that is privileged information for government interrogators or spouses.

Paul Ekman, who studied facial muscles and can detect lying at 95% accuracy, does not use his expertise to spot lies in his personal life. He also finds knowing what another feels and responds to as objectionable: “It takes without permission despite the other person’s permission”.

While scientist struggle with refining detection techniques and argue about moral issues involved, ordinary people desire to know when they are being lied to in order to feel more safe and secure in their relationship. That is also one of the reasons why people lie. They desire to appear more whole in the eyes of their loved one. They opt to lie, hoping that they will not be caught and keep intact the love, admiration and commitment of their partner.

Other people lie to preserve their autonomy. For them, accountability to their mate feels restrictive and even oppressive, so they lie to secure their “independence”.

Some people falsify the truth to get an advantage in the workplace, in business or in their intimate relationship. They lie to their employers by amplifying their noble deeds hoping to gain an advantage by creating an idealized image they wish they had.

Desire for control over others is another cause for untruthfulness. Some individuals present themselves as powerful and capable beyond their abilities and skills in order to engender respect, compliance and servitude by others. This form of lying, accompanied by threats, intimidation or violence are abusive behaviors that should not be tolerated.

And there are other lies that are labeled by Bella DePaulo, of the University of California in Santa Barbara, as: “The kindhearted lies, the lies you tell to protect someone else’s life and feelings” She cites the examples of a genetic counselor who says nothing during a child’s birth defect testing, when she discovers that the father is not the biological dad. Or, the medical doctor who tells a terminally ill patient that the new chemotherapy might work.

Whether lying serves one’s physical or emotional survival, his/her esteem, preserving one’s autonomy, covering up unacceptable behavior, attempting to control others or help them, does matter.

In your relationship:

♦ In spite of the fact that lies are not easily detected, your spouse is likely to sense them.
♦ Before you choose to lie, assess the possible benefits and the harm you are about to inflict on yourself and your mate. Protecting your spouse’s dignity and wellbeing is the only justification to utter lies.
♦ Remember that most lies are eventually detected and the hurt inflicted upon the partner is often insufferable.
♦ Understand that if lying becomes your habit, you are the one who loses esteem, self-respect and integrity in your own eyes.
♦ Partners, who regularly hear lies, lose respect and trust in their mate and distance themselves from the relationship.
♦ Lying shatters the foundation of the sacred connection between mates and harms the safety and intimacy within the union.
♦ Paying the price for lying by losing your love connection is more painful than any admission of any of your failings. Being honest only adds to your personal esteem and secures a healthier relationship.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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