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When you’re single and meeting up with a date, you put on your best front. You talk about all your achievements, you wear that new perfume, you talk about the new promotion you got and many more appealing details to show your date, “I’m a good choice.” So what happens when that date turns into a relationship, which turns into being engaged and then results in marriage under false pretenses? And what exactly do I mean by false pretenses?
What I mean is not disclosing pertinent information that enables a person to choose wisely about whether or not they would like to continue dating. As my favorite Police Professor, Joseph L. Giacalone says in his book, The Criminal Investigative Function, when it comes to a person giving up their rights, they must do so, “voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly” (p. 33).
In terms of entering a relationship, you should enter the relationship voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly. What exactly does that mean? It means, entering a relationship knowing key things about that person that could be potential deal breakers, intelligently asking questions to see if you’re compatible, and voluntarily answering your dates questions honestly.
When those three things don’t occur there is room for a cancer to grow in the budding relationship, and that cancer is a Lie. Lies kill relationships faster than anything else, and why is that? Because lies destroy trust, which is the foundation of any healthy relationship.
What constitutes a lie? One might think that’s easy to answer. If you answered changing information to be false, that is definitely one type of lies, but there are many ways to lie.
Paul Ekman writes in his book, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, “definition of a lie or deceit, then, one person intends to mislead another, doing so will deliberately, without prior notification of this purpose, and without having been explicitly asked to do so by the target.* There are two primary ways to lie: to conceal and to falsify. In concealing, the liar withholds some information without actually saying anything untrue. In falsifying, an additional step is taken. Not only does the liar withhold true information, but he presents false information as if it were true. Often it is necessary to combine concealing and falsifying to pull off the deceit, but sometimes a liar can get away with just concealment” (p. 28).
He continues, “If the doctor does not tell the patient that the illness is terminal, if the husband does not mention that he spent his lunch hour at a motel with his wife’s best friend, if the policeman doesn’t tell the suspect that a ‘bug’ is recording the conversation with his lawyer, no false information has been transmitted, yet each of these examples meets my definition of lying. The targets did not ask to be misled; and the concealers acted deliberately without giving prior notification of their intent to mislead. Information was withheld wittingly, with intent, not by accident” (p. 29).
Lying by omission or concealment to the liar may be preferable because it feels less dishonest if they don’t mention a certain thing. The person they are lying to will be harmed either way, but the liar may not see that because they are feeling less guilt over the omission because they can believe that the partner knows what the truth is but the partner isn’t ready to face the truth.
Another way to lie is through half-truths, where you tell only half the story, leaving important information out that they may feel would make the situation worse. Aside from concealing/omitting true information and falsifying information, there are a couple other ways to be deceitful. When you misdirect the individual, possibly by admitting to whatever emotion your partner noticed you feeling, but giving a false reason for that feeling. Telling the truth falsely is another way to throw someone off. You can tell the truth with such sarcasm or over-exaggeration that you make your partner feel silly for ever questioning you (gaslighting). Finally, the incorrect-inference dodge is a way to tell the truth but telling the truth in a way that suggests the opposite of what’s said.
So when entering a relationship and issues like, “Have you ever cheated?”, “Have you ever done drugs?”, “Have you ever struggled with an addiction?”, or “Do you have any medical or financial issues?” are asked, and the person lies so they can keep that person interested, the entire relationship is built upon a lie; a cancer that spreads as time passes, because that cancer can’t stay under the radar forever.
Things have a way of coming out, for example, whether your partner plays detective and finds messages confirming cheating, a friend breaking the news to them, you telling them, or even worse the person you’re cheating on with telling them, it will come to the surface. So why even lie and omit these things in the beginning anyway?
The functions of lying can range from selfishness, shame, to self-protection. But when you enter a relationship under false pretenses, you are taking your partner’s choice away from them. They never had a real choice in entering that relationship. Had they known you are a serial cheater, or have been arrested, or struggle with alcoholism, they might not have entered that relationship for whatever reason.
Lying brings sadness and pain to both parties. Lying for a time protects the liar from the pain they might want to escape, such as feeling that no one would love them if their partner knew X about them, but long-term they might just have that negative self-belief confirmed. Not because of what X was, but because they lied. Across the board, lying is what most people are most distraught about, not whatever the lie was about, even if it hurts. Lying hurts the partner because they then lose trust in the liar. Trust is something that is extremely hard to get back, and if the lies are repeated over years, trust can almost be irreparable if the liar doesn’t abide by living an honest life.
When entering relationships the best thing is, to be honest. Honesty shows respect and gives the individual a real choice in the matter. And when you think about it, wouldn’t you rather enter a relationship knowing that your significant other knows those important things, and still chose to be with you rather than trapping an individual into a relationship, not knowing if they’d be with you if they knew your secrets?