What is wrong with us?
May 27, 2012 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand what goes through a persons mind when they decide it is okay to lie or lie by omission. What is wrong with us?

Some background: My partner and I have been together a little over a year and a half. We do not live together and my partner is going through a divorce that is amicable that involves children. I've felt our relationship to be stable with average misunderstandings and my partner has expressed feeling we always fight and in some areas not compatible. In spite of this, we feel deeply in love with each other.

My partner requested to have some alone time over a weekend on days we normally would see each other. We don't live together and see each other half of the weekend and 1 or  2 evenings during the week. My partner has a lot of stress with work, kids and a divorce going on, so I obliged but unwillingly. I sent an email to my partner to not call me until ready to see me and talk. So, 5 days went by until I got a call. I expressed how upset and angry I was and we decided to see each other over the weekend and talk. By the time my partner got to my house because of a previous commitment, it was late and I didn't have the energy to talk extensively about how the alone time episode made me feel, but I did express my insecurities about what alone time means to me and how it happened to be when past partners cheated on me. My concern being; what could a partner do that they could not do in my presence. We resolved the alone time issue by my partner reassuring me that it was just about not wanting to have any responsibility for anything, doing things around the house and watching marathon movies. My partner acknowledged them in a comforting and assuring way and I felt it was resolved.

When cleaning my partner's place a few days later, I found a receipt for an expensive dinner he went to at night in the next county over on a weekend my partner needed alone time without me. Things were going really well and this made me feel lied to and betrayed and I also felt that I had done something terribly wrong that made my partner lie to me and feel unable to share this information with me. It brought about a lot of insecurities and thinking of reasons why my partner said they could not afford to take me out to dinner or how many other times this has happened and I never even suspected it. I confronted my partner about it in a calm way, I knew there had to be an explanation for this. Something similar had happened several months back when I found a recently written love note from a past partner that was a keepsake and ended up being no big deal once we talked about it. Once confronted, my partner held hands to the head and needed to leave for a few minutes because of the stress. Upon returning we talked and the explanation was my partner had gotten a call from a friend he had not seen in a long time and thought it would be nice to take his friend and daughter to dinner. At that point I knew who it was; a person my partner once had a long distance friendship with and slept with on several occasions. I knew of the person, but thought they were no longer in contact since our relationship felt so serious. My partner feels they could not say it to me because I'd be upset and has been trying to mitigate things in our relationship. I am so confused and hurt. I am deeply saddened and trying to be cool about it because I am not planning on ending our relationship because of this. I don't feel I can talk about with any of my friends or family because I know what they'll say.


Help me understand what goes through a persons mind when they decide it is okay to lie or lie by omission. We are in love, but how does this fit into an equation of a loving committed couple? What insight can you give me into this sort of dynamic? What do you think is wrong with us?
posted by i_wear_boots to Human Relations (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think you're asking the right question, but I also don't have any answer for you. Your so-called partner has no intentions on playing on your team.
posted by sibboleth at 3:12 PM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't feel I can talk about with any of my friends or family because I know what they'll say.

What do you think they will say?
posted by andoatnp at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


People lie when they prefer the consequences of that to telling the truth.

I don't know if you should feel secure in your relationship, but I will say that someone who isn't even divorced yet is more likely to have some issues and less likely to be ready for a healthy, committed relationship. These are just generalities.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:17 PM on May 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't like that, either. I'd also stop cleaning up his place. You don't need to do that for someone who doesn't make you feel comfortable in the relationship.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:21 PM on May 27, 2012


Your partner is looking to part ways, and by whatever means necessary. That's what goes through the minds of people who lie and lie by omission. It's a way to get what you need via self-preservation. See your partner for who they are. If they're doing this now, what's to stop them from doing it to you later?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:33 PM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think what is wrong with you as a couple is that your partner is probably cheating on you. Is that mean to say? Lying is very disrespectful, and leaving the room because of 'stress' screams 'needs time to think up story' to me. Decide if this is the sort of relationship you want to have. Maybe listen to what your friends are saying.

This is harsh but if you want to hear from strangers instead of your friends, then this is what springs to mind.
posted by bquarters at 3:39 PM on May 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


What is wrong with us?

1. He's not divorced yet (he has unresolved baggage).
2. You're insecure and pre-emptively suspicious due to being cheated on before (you have unresolved baggage).
3. He feels the need to withhold information from you (maybe because you are exceptionally needy/overly emotional, maybe he can't handle even low-key discussions because of all the other stress in his life, maybe because he is cheating on you, or maybe a combination).
posted by headnsouth at 3:41 PM on May 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


Best answer: It sounds like there are a lot of "shoulds" in this relationship. You asked him not to call you until he was ready to talk and then you were angry that it took him longer than you wanted it to. Might've been helpful to, instead, ask him to call you in two days. You've also decided that he should want to spend all of his time with you, when he's not busy with the obligations of child and divorce.

The five days he took to call you was useful information. Rather than putting him in the position to be "in trouble" you might decide whether the is going to work for you.

I think you're acting as though this is the relationship as you wish it would be, and getting angry at him when it isn't, rather than seeing the reality of the relationship, and asking yourself whether it's the relationship you want.

For example, you state they you're both deeply in love--speaking for both of you. At this point, I might be questioning how in love he is with me. But you've decided to focus on his decision to omit some of what he did in his alone time. The easiest answer is that he didn't tell you because he knew you'd be upset. Meaning, he did something he knew would upset you if you found out. I have no idea whether you're overreacting or whether he sees this friend as a potential love interest. But I do know that the two of you are doing more "managing" of each other and less loving and supporting and enjoying each other.

I dont know who started it, but i know it's not supposed to be this way.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:43 PM on May 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm not certain he's I'm love with you. He must be in a confusing place and he might feel like you're the mistake worth making in the short time until he's in a better place.
posted by discopolo at 3:49 PM on May 27, 2012


From one of your (many?) other questions about this guy -- he's also told you that you're high-maintenance?

What I think is going on, immediately, is what he's told you -- he wants some time alone and away from you. Less immediately, I suspect he is gearing up in his mind to get ready to leave you because the relationship has run its course and he thinks you're incompatible.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:52 PM on May 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Help me understand what goes through a persons mind when they decide it is okay to lie or lie by omission.

In this particular case I'm guessing it's some version of, "By lying/lying via omission I am able to have both a loyal, dependable girlfriend AND get a little on the side".
posted by The Gooch at 3:53 PM on May 27, 2012


Generally speaking, people don't tend to like to go from one highly serious situation (divorce) to another highly serious situation (a committed relationship). They tend to not be great at being wedged in the middle of these two things when the latter is usually an escape from the former. And that's when they start having flings and hiding stuff.

I am also going to say that he's more than likely not in love with you or if he is then he wants it to be more fun and casual because he's going through a divorce.

You seem to want something more serious and committed. What you both want appears to not be compatible at the moment.
posted by mleigh at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Best answer: My partner feels they could not say it to me because I'd be upset and has been trying to mitigate things in our relationship.

There you have it. It's easier for him to lie instead of be truthful with you because the latter would add even more stress to his life. Note that I'm not saying he's right or wrong or that you are either.

But the dynamics is one that he feels its easier to lie and keep things peaceful for himself, rather than deal with drama or what he perceives as drama.

You two need to talk about that, not the individual instances of lying, which are just symptoms of the problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're making a big assumption, which is that this person is under obligation to tell you everything they are doing at every moment.

The way you mention cleaning this person's place and "finding a receipt" and "finding a love note" suggests to me you're putting a lot of pressure on this person and that the pressure is not too welcome.

I recommend you back off, both for your sake and for the sake of the person you call your partner.
posted by zadcat at 4:30 PM on May 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're deeper into this person's life than he's ready to handle.
posted by hermitosis at 4:38 PM on May 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Help me understand what goes through a persons mind when they decide it is okay to lie or lie by omission.

Some people really don't consider a lie by omission a lie. In fact, they see it as the opposite of a lie and when confronted would say, "But I didn't lie to you!", as if they did a good thing. They really didn't lie to you....they just didn't tell you everything and technically that isn't lying. Some people rationalize it that way.

As others have said, it's all for self preservation; to keep getting what he wants.

And I don't mean to be harsh, but if he cheated on his spouse to be with you, the odds are quite high that he will cheat on you to be with someone else.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:42 PM on May 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


The answers you will get here will be all over the map. Everyone will have an opinion based on personal experiences and observations.

In general, when someone lies to you about taking someone else out for an expensive meal...

Oh, fuck it.

This person has very little respect for you, although it is clear you have a connection and he does value some things he gets from you, as long as it is on his terms. Hence, the lying by omission.

This person has a weak character. Weak characters make for poor relationships.

Why are you placing yourself at such a disadvantage?

You can do better. RUN.
posted by jbenben at 4:47 PM on May 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


When cleaning my partner's place a few days later, I found a receipt for an expensive dinner he went to at night in the next county over on a weekend my partner needed alone time without me [...] I confronted my partner about it in a calm way, I knew there had to be an explanation for this. [...] Once confronted, my partner held hands to the head and needed to leave for a few minutes because of the stress. Upon returning we talked and the explanation was my partner had gotten a call from a friend he had not seen in a long time and thought it would be nice to take his friend and daughter to dinner. At that point I knew who it was; a person my partner once had a long distance friendship with and slept with on several occasions. I knew of the person, but thought they were no longer in contact since our relationship felt so serious.

I don't know what really happened, of course, and I apologise in advance for presenting a theory that you won't like—but my immediate thought was that your boyfriend told you he needed some time off because his old fuck-buddy was coming to town for a few days and he wanted to enjoy a pre-arranged tryst with her. Later, when you asked him about the dinner receipt, he had to leave the room for a few minutes in order to compose himself and fabricate a plausible cover story.

In short, this sounds less a lie by omission than a straight-out lie.
posted by hot soup girl at 4:56 PM on May 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


He explained why he lied: he "[felt] [he] could not say it to [you] because [you]'d be upset and has been trying to mitigate things in [your] relationship."

So. He though you'd be upset. And in fact you are upset. The mystery of "why he lied" is now solved. The bigger mystery is: what's actually going on? I'd find that out and then decide if you want to be in a relationship with him.
posted by salvia at 5:05 PM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is not the behaviour of a "partner". Start be re-arranging your mental map of this relationship - partners are "together".

Sorry - but this is not going to end well based on your description of the situation.
posted by jkaczor at 5:06 PM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


From your prior questions, it looks like you want to make this relationship move a lot faster than he's been willing to. His divorce is not moving as fast as you'd like, you are thinking about babies and meanwhile he thinks you're high-maintenance. And it does sound like you are probably more needy in this relationship than he is, note:

My partner has a lot of stress with work, kids and a divorce going on, so I obliged but unwillingly. I sent an email to my partner to not call me until ready to see me and talk. 5 days went by until I got a call. I expressed how upset and angry I was and we decided to see each other over the weekend and talk. . . . My concern being; what could a partner do that they could not do in my presence.

Your partner needed some alone time. It's OK to need some alone time, especially when people are stressed. It's OK to want to see friends and not always the person you're dating; if this was regularly the case that would be one thing, but if this is something he wants once in a while that's OK. Sometimes people just need recharge time away from their partner, and like it or not having your boyfriend/girlfriend around can be a source of expectations and stress--especially if the boyfriend/girlfriend is someone who expects you to be present and attentive at all times. Maybe this is not your thing, but it is something a lot of people really need (I certainly do). 5 days is a while though--is this something he does regularly, or is this new? It may have been building up for a while. You say you see each other maybe 3-4 times a week total, but how often do you expect contact (texts, phone calls, emails, etc)?

If you were going to be mad at him for not calling after 5 days, then you should've asked him to call sooner. Telling him to call when he wants, then getting mad when he doesn't is passive-aggressive behavior.


At that point I knew who it was; a person my partner once had a long distance friendship with and slept with on several occasions. I knew of the person, but thought they were no longer in contact since our relationship felt so serious.

First: it is OK to want to see old friends, even old lovers. It isn't OK to lie about seeing them. But I am guessing your guy already felt under pressure from your greater need to "together time", and this chick seemed like a pleasant escape from that. He didn't tell you because it was going to add additional neediness and stress and drama. If he did tell you--said "Hey, I would still like some time away from each other, but am going to see this old friend" would it have gone over that much better? Is there any situation where you'd be OK with him seeing a female friend without you there, or is that situation a no-go no matter who she is or the nature of their past relationship? Do you allow him to speak with any other exes of his?

I don't think the guy cheated on you, but it sounds like he is getting pretty frustrated with your differing needs of contact. It does not sound like you two are compatible at all in how much time and attentiveness you want from the other. He's got a lot on his plate plus you, where it sounds like you've just got him and want more than he's able to give you right now. This is something you gotta have a serious talk about if you want the relationship to continue. But from his comments about you being high-maintenance plus this dinner, I would guess he's already having second thoughts.
posted by schroedinger at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


He's married to one woman, taking another out to expensive dinners, and avoiding you for days at a time. He's lying so that you won't realize you're being taken advantage of.
posted by anildash at 8:35 PM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Best answer: I'll first try to answer your question straight up.

One of the wisest things I ever learned from anyone is this: People won't tell you what they think you're not ready to hear.

That's what's going through people's heads: "S/he isn't ready to hear this." Or, "She isn't going to like hearing this."

This happens when a truth is difficult or uncomfortable or highly personal and is likely to cause pain to the listener. It's not a good experience to say something truthful but hurtful directly to a person only to watch them shatter, get angry, break down, flip out, throw things, collapse, storm off, start hating themselves, stew over it endlessly, or have any other strong or out-of-control emotional reaction to the truth.

It could be that he just thinks you're not able to understand the situations he's in, or be fair about them, and doesn't want you to drive yourself nuts over them or make scenes about them with him, or indulge in further mistrust.

Or it could be that the truth he's omitting is, in fact, actually much more painful to you than that, and the result would be that you would be very angry, angry enough to leave him and/or make his life really unpleasant in the short term.

None of us really know why he's not being honest and transparent, or why he's getting upset, but we can be sure that he's not talking to you about it because he thinks it's not information you're capable of handling well at this point. That might be because of you, or it might be because of the nature of the information.

If I were you I really would wonder what that information is. Yes, you're pressuring him, but yes, he's also acting pretty fishy. You're definitely not on the same page about your intimacy level, and as others have noted, the communication problems are an issue too - I agree that creating invisible boundaries in your head ("Five days is much too long, but I'm not gonna tell YOU that! You should KNOW that!") is poor communication.

So the reason someone is lying to you is that they don't think you can manage the truth without a strong reaction. That's probably not enough of an answer, because you still don't know for sure what the truth is that you're being protected or "protected" from.
posted by Miko at 10:05 PM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


So. He though you'd be upset. And in fact you are upset. The mystery of "why he lied" is now solved

QFT.

No matter how authoritatively people on mefi will tell you exactly what was going on with him and what he was doing, most of them will be wrong.

My take on what happened (which is of course one of many possibilities): His life is very stressful at the moment, his girlfriend is insecure and needy so he needs some space so he takes off for a week for some 'alone time'. Coincidentally a friend he was once close with decides to reconnect. He doesn't want to miss out on the opportunity to see an old friend but thinks you'll be mad at him if you know he spent some of his 'alone time' out with a friend, particularly a friend that was once more than that.

Nobody tells their partner everything, its just not possible (or desirable) and one person's "lie by omission" is another person's "too trivial to mention".
posted by missmagenta at 1:37 AM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coincidentally a friend he was once close with decides to reconnect.

Oh please.

I don't care how much time they want to take alone, but taking time alone + dining out with old fuck buddy when they were too broke to go out with me = ridiculously suspicious. I'm just saying, he happened to need time alone and the old friend happened to be in town, and call him, and have time to see him for dinner while he doesn't have to deal with his gf, sounds a little bit too good to be true, right?
posted by Tarumba at 3:28 AM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't say what was going through your partner's mind, but I can say that this sort of lie-- not really by omission, more just a lie-- doesn't fit with my idea of a loving, committed couple. Lying in this circumstance was to avoid the obvious consequences of asking for time off to go to dinner with a former (current?) lover.

You say your relationship feels so serious. Does your partner agree? Is this one of the things your partner has tried to mitigate?
posted by RainyJay at 7:27 AM on May 28, 2012


It sounds, from this question and your previous one, like this relationship isn't really working. In both cases, what you've asked for is help understanding. But maybe the problem is that you're trying too hard to understand. Don't get me wrong, wanting to see things from someone else's perspective is a great impulse. But it sounds like you're bending over backwards to try to understand where he's coming from in a way that makes it very easy for him to take advantage of you.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I sent an email to my partner to not call me until ready to see me and talk.

I don't meant to unfairly rag on you when you are going through a hard time, but this reads to me like a reactionary and passive aggressive move on your part.

But yeah, if I were in your shoes, I would also feel really uncomfortable about this dinner he had with his former FWB. I also think it is a red flag that you feel that you cannot talk about this incident openly with your friends and family members. If I were you, I would exit this relationship because staying in a relationship that makes you feel so uncomfortable and emotionally stifled is a recipe for disaster.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to sound unhelpful, but you're unsure of how to deal with what is clearly a complicated situation based on your own (intimate) knowledge of the situation. On the basis of just a few paragraphs with no prior contact with you or indeed anyone involved and no quality understanding of your dynamics, I think it will be difficult to offer meaningful advice. That is to say, any advice you are offered you will still have to measure up against your own understanding of the situation, which is your problem: you are here because you cannot do that.

Sit down and talk. Only you two are able to deal with this. If you start outsourcing your problems, you won't really be dealing with them yourself, which will do more harm in the long run.

Just my two cents.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2012


I can't tell if you're asking what's wrong with the two of you as a couple, or what's wrong with people in general, but if it's the latter, you might be interested in Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.
posted by amarynth at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2012


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