Lying for some people is a deal breaker in a relationship. If you lie, I can’t trust you – full stop. For others, there are degrees of lying. Saying that you left the office at 6pm when you really left at 6.30pm is not a serious lie for many people. Saying that you didn’t have sex with a colleague when you did is a significant lie for most. Exclaiming that you love the gift you received (when you didn’t) would be forgiven by almost all but lying about how much you spent on a purchase could cause problems.
What happens when a couple is made up of one person who has a zero tolerance policy for lying and another who is a little more relaxed about the rules? Fireworks – that’s what happens.
For the person who cannot tolerate lying, saying that you got home by midnight when you really got in at 4am causes extreme distress. That’s because their imaginations can run wild. If you lie about what time you got home, what else are you lying about? The problem is, the stronger the reaction to the lie , the more the “liar” lies to avoid confrontation. In fact, that’s probably why they are lying in the first place. They didn’t want to cop a spray for their late night, so they lied about coming home by midnight.
It’s often the same for children. If the punishment for lying is extreme, they can sometimes start thinking up better ways to lie. I’ve debated with many parents who tell their children that as long as they tell the truth, they won’t be punished. What? So your child steals money from a friend’s wallet but when you asked them about it, they told the truth so end of story. Isn’t it more important to discuss why they stole the money? Wouldn’t it be important for them to return the money and face the consequences?
So back to the couple made up of a “white liar” and someone with zero tolerance for lies, what should they do to avoid the arguments? Many would say that the liar should simply stop lying in any shape or form. And yes, that would stop a lot of the arguments. But it’s also a little unrealistic unless the punishment for lying is reduced and the focus is shifted onto the “crimes”.
Asking your partner why they came in so late when they had promised to be home early is probably more important than focusing on why they lied about it. Discussing why they spent so much money on a gift when you’re on a tight budget is more relevant than fighting over why they lied about it.
And on a final note, if you don’t want your partner or child to continually lie to you, stop using the word “lie.” Instead of saying Don’t lie to me, say Please be honest with me. Instead of saying You’re lying, say I want you to tell me the truth. If all we hear is the word “lie,” our minds think of ways to lie. If we hear “honest” and “truth,” our minds focus on honesty and truthfulness.