Understanding/not freaking out when partner lies (in a small way)
October 11, 2017 9:36 PM   Subscribe

I'd like any ideas that folks have about how to manage my knee-jerk reaction to what is a small and ultimately inconsequential lie.

I've been with my partner for a long time (think double digits.) For the duration of the time we've been together, he has had an issue with trying to avoid confrontation as much as possible (due to his own history), and so here and there, enough that it's a pattern, has told me small lies about things that mostly are not even a really big deal. For example, the latest one was that we were watching a movie together, and he was chatting on an online chat server while we were hanging out together, and then when I saw it out of the corner of my eye and asked him what he was doing, he immediately said that he was just checking his email... but I knew that he wasn't because of the interface/colors/etc.

It confuses me and brings up trauma-related anxiety and suspicion that we have been together so long but these kind of lies keep happening. Due to my own history with folks that lie repetitively (hi dad, thanks for nothing) this is really hard for me to maintain composure about. I tend to freak out, which then makes him not want to tell me things, and on...and on... and on. It makes me feel like, well, if he's willing to lie about something so small, what ELSE is happening?

I must state that in my most-right mind, I 100% believe that there is nothing "else" going on here, and I rationally understand that my partner's history leads him to avoidant behaviors.

So my question is mainly about how I can manage my own freak-out fight-or-flight feeling when he lies about something like this. (Because I know this will be suggested, he is already in therapy and plans to address this in that setting. I graduated from therapy 2 years ago and so far am not sure that I really need to go back in an emotional way, more like I just need some extra skills.)

Any ideas that folks have about how to manage my knee-jerk reaction to what is a small and ultimately inconsequential lie that I don't even want to have an argument about? I would really like to manage this in a way that feels better for both me and my partner. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't see that as small and inconsequential. You may be minimizing what is happening because of your history, as opposed to amplifying it.
posted by shockpoppet at 9:42 PM on October 11 [13 favorites]

I don't know why you feel that you have to manage your own behavior. I think if you tell him that it's important to you that he not LIE TO YOU then that should be on him.

One of your red flags is avoidant behaviors. He knows you're flying this flag - the fact that he ignores it is unsettling.

I believe that every individual has their own red flags and that they need to recognize them and respond in a way that's appropriate for them.

Overall I feel that a relationship should mean that the members are sensitive to the needs of others in the relationship. If this is a red flag for you I think your partner should step up to mitigate that. If they don't? The decision is yours to make.
posted by bendy at 9:46 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]

For example, the latest one was that we were watching a movie together, and he was chatting on an online chat server while we were hanging out together, and then when I saw it out of the corner of my eye and asked him what he was doing, he immediately said that he was just checking his email... but I knew that he wasn't because of the interface/colors/etc.

emphasis added. not going to launch into a defense of reflexive conditioned lies, because lying is wrong. but a question:

You knew what he was doing before you asked; you take care to explain how you knew and why you were sure. What you said was not an actual lie the way his response was a lie, but it was deliberately misleading -- a test, or the appearance of one. You could have said instead, "Who are you chatting to?"

you didn't make him lie, of course, or trick him into it. nobody can make anybody do that. it's a separate thing. but since you know your own mind better than his, what was going on there -- did you think there was something to be ashamed of in having seen his screen and already knowing the answer, so you "had to" pretend not to know? or was it just an automatic reflex to keep to yourself what you knew? if so, this could give you a feel for the irrationality of his sense that he has to lie, even when the truth isn't explosive or shameful.

the other thing I wonder is if you weren't laying out any trap, but instead trying to give him an opportunity to tell a low-stakes truth that you could verify. a trust-building exercise that backfired, maybe. but this will not work, A. because he lies, and B. because pretending not to know things in order to get him to prove he deserves trust is a doomed enterprise.

and if he is doing anything to subtly coerce you into feeling like you have to pretend not to know things, feeling like saying out loud what you can plainly see will cause a rupture, that is ten million red flags and scarier than little lies, to me. If you know something, say something. if you see something, say something. you can still confront facts, even if he won't.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:01 PM on October 11 [90 favorites]

Are you a confrontational person in general? As in, if he had told you the truth about the chatting would you have also "freaked out"? If so, it doesn't seem fair (or productive) to ask that he modify his behavior without modifying yours as well.
posted by acidic at 10:49 PM on October 11 [10 favorites]

I'm more reserved and private than most people, plus I don't know if your partner has a history of cheating or just prioritizing other people (like video game or chat friends) over you that would give this a different context, but not only would this not have registered as a lie to me, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to want to know precisely what he was doing either. Like, "checking email" is shorthand for "dicking around on the internet." Again, I don't know exactly what the pattern is here in your relationship, but I think I'm a mostly honest person and I would not be able to meet your standards of veracity and would probably also start trying to placate you all the time rather than fight about it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:30 PM on October 11 [16 favorites]

You seem to be cutting him a lot of slack about his behaviour (you ‘understand’ that his history ‘leads him’ to lie), while piling on the guilt about your own (it’s a ‘freak-out’ reaction you want to learn how to ‘manage’).

What your history of dealing with a liar has taught you is a self-preservation tactic. This is that tactic: you are on high alert for lying and you are suspicious and you worry when someone lies to you. Trying to override a mental survival mechanism by telling it to be more understanding of what he’s been through and what he would/wouldn’t really lie about, that won’t work, because it’s a survival mechanism. It’s going to put you first.

How can you reassure that reflex in yourself? Be honest with it, be honest about what you feel and what you fear. If he lies to you, don’t pretend he isn’t lying, don’t pretend you’re okay with it.

I went through several years of a relationship with a compulsive liar, where I was constantly, constantly telling myself I was overreacting, it was only about little things, he couldn’t help it because of his past, it was probably my fault anyway because I ‘overreacted’ (read: had any emotions of my own) when he told me the truth about things. In retrospect, the main reason I couldn’t ever successfully convince myself to not care about this was because my aversion to lying also did not like me lying to myself, either.
posted by Catseye at 1:15 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]

In a healthy relationship there is no string of white lies looming in the foreground. In healthy relationships people tell the truth, even when it's disappointing. I've had issues with romantic partners lying compulsively, and these were not people I was able to stay with. I don't know about you, but truthfulness is pretty much a basic fundamental standard for me, like they are human breathe air and have a job kind of basic fundamental standard. It sounds like you're settling for dysfunction because that's what you are accustomed to and grew up with. It's up to you to break that cycle. I think telling an occasional white lie to get by in life is normal, when you're not trying to cover up bad behavior and you're hot boxed into a corner by a nosy stranger or something, but a string of lies and a pattern of dishonesty in a romantic relationship is a huge red flag. Scratch that it's a flashing neon sign 60 feet high. With people like this you never know what might end up happening, and you never know if you're getting the truth from them. That's not the kind of paranoid life I'd want to lead.. always wondering if what your partner is saying is complete bull or actually what's going on. Dump him and find someone who is sorted and honest. Stop reliving your childhood. Choose something better
posted by Avosunspin at 2:25 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]

So. The thing he does to make himself feel safe (avoiding confrontation) makes you feel unsafe (being lied to). This is really not a problem you can solve without his help. Couples counseling is not just for dire emergencies- It's can be really helpful to learn how to calmly address and talk out small things that, unchecked, can turn into huge resentments.
posted by dogmom at 4:51 AM on October 12 [19 favorites]

You both have knee-jerk reactions that are feeding one another and creating a pattern that is absolutely no good at all. You've been together a long time and clearly do not have the skills the pair of you need to overcome this. Couples' Therapy is cheaper than divorce and a better investment than bitterness in the long-term health of your union.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:07 AM on October 12 [6 favorites]

I agree with the others that you're being too hard on yourself and too easy on him. Just because you may be mature and insightful enough to understand where he's coming from doesn't mean his behavior gets to be seen as rational and your reaction as irrational, something that needs to be tempered/suppressed, because in the end that just feeds the cycle you want out of.

I've been the man you are describing, when I was young, and a lot of my white lies were connected to a deep-seeded fear of disappointing someone or letting them down. I was lucky enough to have a partner who didn't put up with this, who taught me that honesty—even when the truth hurts—ultimately makes everyone more comfortable. Given how long you guys have been together, and the love you no doubt feel, I'd try to find a way to confront this both bluntly and lovingly. Basically: "Honey, I love you, but this cycle isn't doing either of us any favors and needs to stop."

If he can make that leap with you, great. If not, it's time to move on.
posted by bluecastle at 5:55 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]

I'm going to assume you are telling the truth.

So first off:

It is okay to acknowledge a lie in the moment! For both of you. Not in a yelling screaming way, but in a "I think that was a lie, was it? "Kind of way. Talk about this before you start doing it to eliminate confusion.

2nd you both need to work on this together. He shouldn't make lies. You shouldn't overeact.

3rd Communication is the only way relationships work. Keep talking to each other.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:55 AM on October 12

While I agree that this is really mostly on him, and that either some frank conversations or couples therapy would be good, I do want to relate an experience of mine:

I was in the habit of asking my partner what they were doing when what I really meant was "you are doing something I think you shouldn't" or "I am frustrated with what's happening right now". This created some frustration and bad interactions, including some rude and excessive snapping on my partner's part. On the one hand, I've learned to say, "Don't talk to me like that, it hurts me when you are really rude and use an ugly tone", and things have improved. On the other, I've tried both to be more direct, like "Do you not want to watch the movie? I notice that you're looking at the internet" or "Could you do the chore you said you were going to do instead of dinking around on your phone".

My family background is loving but authoritarian, and as an AFAB person I learned from my mother (who learned it in her home) that women and AFAB people should not state their needs directly but should always be indirect or moralizing. It's not that my partner isn't responsible for being snappish and rude, but we can support each other in being good to each other. I think that's part of how you know a partnership is working - that you can create a virtuous cycle, like "I am nicer to you, this helps you be nicer to me, which helps me be nicer to you" instead of "I am nicer to you, you just take and nothing really changes".

So anyway - if this doesn't apply to you, totally ignore it, but if you are being indirect or moralizing when asking questions as a way to avoid stating your needs and wishes, working on that will probably support your partner assuming he does what he should and commits to not telling petty lies.
posted by Frowner at 6:22 AM on October 12 [27 favorites]

I agree with queenofbithynia and Frowner and wonder if you're being honest with yourself about your own motivations. I think the skill to develop is checking in with yourself about what you really want to say and then saingy it. My ex would look at his phone when we were watching a movie, out to dinner, etc. and it drove me crazy because I got it in my head that he wasn't interested in spending time with me. Maybe that was true, maybe not, but I never said that, instead I "collected evidence" to prove to myself that my feelings were valid. That doesn't work in a subjective situation (unlike "did he cheat or not"). You'll just end up down the rabbit hole and play out this dynamic indefinitely.
posted by AFABulous at 7:50 AM on October 12 [8 favorites]

Can you describe what you mean by "freak out" reaction? I'm confused as to whether that's an internal freak out, or it's more like you show him big negative emotions.
posted by kapers at 8:13 AM on October 12

The example in your question makes me think he was lying to deflect further questions, not to cover up wrongdoing. He might have thought that if he told you he was chatting, you would have followed up with "oh? about what? with whom? do I know them? aren't you paying attention to the movie?" and so on, so he chose the closest thing to the truth that wouldn't invite any follow-up. This is not an excuse for lying, and it's not your fault. But I think there's a cycle here where he deflects, you dig, and he deflects more and you dig more, and both of you end up feeling less secure.

If you have a habit of asking small truth-testing questions about "hey, what are you doing?" type things that don't really affect you, he might find those intrusive, especially if he's the kind of person who values alone time or likes to hang out in his own head. Ease up on those. But if he's definitely lying about things like "did you pay the phone bill yet?" or "what time will you be home?" that's a little more concerning.

I agree with the suggestion of couples' counseling. This is definitely an issue that you're both contributing to, and it'll help to have someone to guide each of you towards the middle.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:23 AM on October 12 [10 favorites]

It makes me feel like, well, if he's willing to lie about something so small, what ELSE is happening?

This is the correct response.

Also, why does his trauma background get more weight than yours? He's not worried about tripping off your bad memories, but you're stuck worrying about accommodating his? That's not cool at all.

Counseling and a real effort to fix it, or get out because he's not treating you as an equal. If he's lying about little shit, there's likely something bigger.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:29 AM on October 12 [8 favorites]

If he's lying about little shit, there's likely something bigger.

Sometimes, this is true! Sometimes, it is not! You can't find out without an honest conversation with him that is preceded by a bare naked internal dialogue where you parse out:

1. What you feel.
2. Why you're asking these questions.
3. What you want the answers to these questions you're asking him to be.
4. What your ideal outcome is, and why, exactly, you want that dialogue
5. The degree to which social expectations and your past trauma inform not just the way you feel, but the way you frame the question to yourself.
6. What degree you're comfortable with your trauma/social expectations informing 1-5.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:47 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]

Hmm. Well, dealing with the specific example you gave, when I'm wasting time on the internet and my kids ask "what are you looking at" I often say "checking my email" because that is boring to them and doesn't lead to any more questions. If my wife asks me what I'm looking at (I often surf the internet on my ipad when watching teevee with her), I just say "surfing" or "checking my email" if I don't feel like talking about what I was looking at, unless she asked a specific question. My wife does the same thing to me all the time when I ask what she is doing on her computer or phone (she usually goes with "checking my email"). We're not hiding what we are doing from each other, sometimes we just want some time to chill on the internet. We've been very happily together for 15 years.

Anyways, in response to your question, if you really want to know you need to ask specific questions. Open communication is the only way to go.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:12 AM on October 12 [9 favorites]

The example you've used here is kind of an odd one if you're trying to illustrate a pattern of untruthfulness.

"Checking email" is a perfectly reasonable description of the whole category of "mindlessly dicking around on the computer to see what's going on" activities that people tend to engage in while online and which often includes answering instant messages. So it's a bad example to use to illustrate lies. Either you're setting the bar for truthfulness here way too high, or - more likely - you behavior you object to here isn't untruthfulness but rather that he was dicking around on the Internet instead of being present with you.

Is this the sort of thing you mean -- that you ask questions, when what you really mean is a request? It sounds like you need to be more specific about your requests to make communication less ambiguous. "Babe would you please put that away, I feel like you're not really here with me when you're doing Internet stuff" would work.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:54 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]

The fact that you freak out when he lies is not a reason at all (or even a solid excuse) for him to lie to you. You're freaking out because he lies, not because he tells the truth. That is a reason for him to tell you the truth, not to lie.

He's putting the responsibility on you for his lying behavior. This is pretty common in people who want to lie. They blame other people and don't take accountability. I don't know why he's lying, but he is demonstrating that he does not think it is important to be truthful to you when you have not only explained how important it is to you but also that you have a history of trauma and it is triggering to you (not to mention that honesty should be the default in relationships).

Even if he lies reflexively, he knows when he is lying and could, even if a lie popped out of his mouth before he was aware of it, acknowledge it, apologize and correct himself. That should clear the whole thing up without you freaking out (I'm guessing you'd be relieved and appreciative of the honesty) and he's not expected to be perfect but just trying and caring. But that doesn't happen. My guess is that he's lying not because you always freak out but because he really does want to hide whatever he's doing (no matter how stupid or insignificant you might find it) or doesn't want to discuss it with you. Are you, on a rational level, okay with that? Because if you aren't I don't think you can just change your emotions so you don't react to being treated that way. I understand that you want your reaction to be less severe, but it's probably that severe because he is routinely doing this. Your defenses are up. If he were routinely honest I don't think you'd be as hair-trigger panicky over a seemingly small lie.
posted by Polychrome at 11:26 AM on October 12 [4 favorites]

Polychrome has it. The problem with trying to have an emotionally honest discussion, a la joyceanmachine's suggestion, with a lying partner is that they will (wait for it) lie in those stressful discussions as well.

Trust is the bedrock of a healthy relationship. Liars can't have healthy relationships.

Add my voice to the chorus that says trying to minimize your concern is exactly the wrong thing to do here.
posted by Sublimity at 11:48 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]

I used to be married to someone who was really into little white lies - especially ones that made him look smarter or more interesting than he was, or could get him out of minor squabbles. He would lie about the stupidest things, but didn't care if he was caught. It really eroded my respect for him over time - which I told him, and begged him to have some integrity for the sake of our relationship - but he didn't change. He didn't even care when his friends told him they all knew his stories were BS.

The white lies had surprising side affects - like it affected our ability to have a conversation because I was always internally fact-checking him. Did he really read an article about giant otters, or was that another lie? Did he really read that new novel that I'd never seen him read, or did he just read a blurb about it online and was making up the plot to make it sound like he'd read it? Etc. It made it very hard to take anything he said seriously, and definitely contributed to the divorce - despite the fact that I was fairly certain he would never lie about anything *important.*

Which is all to say - if he understands how important honesty is to you, and you communicate it to him and he still doesn't try to change - that is the reddest flag I know. It's not you who needs to change her behavior.
posted by egeanin at 12:19 PM on October 12 [5 favorites]

I'd like to pick up on the contrast between what you demand of yourself in semantic-pragmatic terms, and what you demand of him.

As pointed out, you asked your husband what he was doing, but you already knew the answer. Therefore, it wasn't the denotation of your question that would have been the important part of the message, to him. It must have been the connotation.

To explain:

WHITE: There's someone at the door.
BLACK: I'm on the phone.

What is going on here? If you look only at the denotation, White and Black are giving status reports, and now Black knows that someone is at the door, and Black knows that White is on the phone. The next line of dialogue could be something like:

CHARLIE: The sun is very hot today.

However, if you're like most people, you will actually have understood the conversation in terms of connotation:

WHITE: There's someone at the door [and I want you to answer it].
BLACK: I'm on the phone [therefore I can't answer the door].

So when you asked your husband the question "What are you doing?" you BOTH knew that you weren't asking for information. Therefore, you can't actually be upset that your husband is misinforming you about the facts.

Most people in your husband's position would have understood your question to mean "please don't be on your phone while we're watching a movie" or "I am concerned that you might be talking to someone I disapprove of" or any number of other things, depending on the myriad details of your relationship with him, which are unknowable to us.

And I for one - I cannot speak of "most people" given the wide bandwidth of opinion already expressed here - would have understood your husband's response to mean "I am doing something innocuous the details of which are not worth expanding on, and will stop in a moment".

Or tl;dr:

WHITE: I am confronting you.
BLACK: I am deflecting the confrontation.

Describing this as "a lie" is either a misunderstanding of semantic-pragmatics on your part, or it is a misunderstanding of your own contribution to this dynamic.

There is one scenario where it could be reasonably described as "a lie", and that is if you suspect your husband was talking to someone he's doing something illicit with. If that's the case, then when you say you "100% believe that there is nothing 'else' going on here" you are lying.

So - do you suspect there is something illicit going on?

If not, the remaining two choices are that you have semantic-pragmatic problems (as you can probably tell, my underlying assumption is that that's not the case) or you are being controlling and, yes, confrontational, by demanding a higher than common-sense standard of "truthfulness" from your husband.

So really, your husband could have written an equivalent question in which he says he knows he's irrational but his wife has a history of being confrontational and he knows it's her traumatic past that causes her to behave like this but he has a traumatic past too, and, etc.

tl;dr perhaps you should follow the advice to seek couples counselling.
posted by tel3path at 5:19 PM on October 12 [12 favorites]

Completely de-link your reaction and his lies. No one should be serially spouting white lies to their partner and expect a happy relationship. If you are in constant doubt about his truthfulness, serious issue or not, it will fry your nerves and your relationship.

Having said that I agree with an earlier comment that it's a curious example about lying. The phone is the third (and fourth) person in practically every relationship now, and that shouldn't be normalized. The problem, however, it seems to me, is greater when actual people elsewhere are, through the device, getting the attention we need in person. So does that chat room bother you? Would a news site bother you less? Does he have trouble regulating his behavior?

My ex was incredibly tethered to his phone and would get really defensive if that was pointed out. His inability to get off the phone and his overall defensiveness, I now realize were both signs of not having sufficiently entered an adult framework. He told a lot of white lies, all of which had to do with him preserving his comfort zone, his son/brother relationship to his family and resist truly being responsible in our relationship. Vommitting requires a shift in behavior be(and loyalties) you say your partner behaves the way he does because of his past, but that is not a static condition. He can work to towards bring an equal rather than avoidant partner to you and getting over his past. How is it that you are able to reasonably function given your history with lies? Is he being extra careful to not lie to you?

My ex and I went into double digits too before I realized that I was with manchild who did not truly recognize his role in damaging our relationship. He spotlighted my reactions as the cause of our break down and his white lies. And if I didn't have issues with his constant distractions, phone and otherwise, we might have been happy, but I'm not wired to live on emotional scraps.

Therapy helps to raise issues in a controlled environment and definitely try it, but be on the look out for how much is truly changing. Read what you wrote. You're being incredibly understanding of his behavior, is he capable of talking like that about your foibles? Because you deserve that too.
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 5:55 PM on October 12

Sorry I meant committing where I said vommitting. ( These phones are really a problem)
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 6:01 PM on October 12

I echo others who are encouraging you to be more honest, not less. I always think questions about "partner's lying" are opportunities to check in about your own lying and your own commitment to telling your truth -- both to yourself and your partner. I say this as someone who once dated a serial liar. I tried to overlook their "white lies", but then realized they were lying in multiple ways, about inconsequential things and serious things. But most of all, I was lying to myself about many, many things in that relationship -- and when I finally found the courage to listen to and honor my truth, I left.

So.. I don't think you should "try not to freak out". You should accept that you do freak out and communicate this to yourself, first, and then your partner. And yes, attend to all the advice upthread about saying what you actually mean, rather than creating "truth tests" or dancing around subjects or walking on eggshells. You are entitled to feel massively uncomfortable with a liar's lies. You are also entitled to realize that this discomfort is so deep-seated and legitimate that it crosses your boundaries of what's acceptable in a relationship. I suspect, based on your history and trauma, that you are lying to yourself about the acceptability of your partner's lies. If, beyond the "checking email" lie, he really does lie as a matter of course, that would be unacceptable for the vast majority of people who value honesty in a relationship.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:17 AM on October 13

My husband was exactly like this. We're divorced because his little white lies graduated into big gnarly lies about an affair. Like your partner, mine reacted defensively when caught in a lie, and when the lies were small the defensive maneuvers were small. But when the lies got big, his reactions became violent — behavior completely and totally out of character for him. He was the calmest, steadiest, least volatile man I'd ever known, until defending his affair became so important that he was willing to try to strangle me, and twice hit me so hard I fell to the ground and blacked out, both times in front of our daughter. (And I'm sure part of that was defending his right to deceive and not be called out on it.)

His lies started small ... He'd pretend to his colleagues to have read a book that I'd read, based on what I'd told him about it. He'd claim to need an adjustment in his schedule because he had a meeting out of town, when it was so he could have lunch with me. Both of these made me feel a little special, like I was on the inside. But they were practice, basically, for when he was lying to keep me on the outside. And he also lied to me, which was even more hurtful, about small things and medium things and then eventually big things, big marriage-destrying things.

Your spidey sense is being triggered because you can see that he's willing to lie to you, the most important person in his life, which (a) is really bad in any committed relationship and (b) is really, really bad when you've made it clear that this is very upsetting to you. You are not overreacting. You are underreacting.

Each of your freakouts is triggered by his continuing to lie. This pattern will get worse unless he has a complete come-to-jesus moment, and it's unlikely that it'll be your urging that brings him to that moment. It'll likely come, if it comes at all, from something completely unpredictable.

FWIW, I disagree with above commentators that your question to him was a problem; you gave him the respect to tell you what he was doing, without accusation. And if you were testing him, that's not an unreasonable test given his history. And then he failed the test.

I also disagree that his answer was even partially truthful. Chatting is not the same as checking email, and anyone having an affair could tell you that. That's why he lied: It's well known that online chat boards are fertile grounds for messing about — cheating, having weird kinks that would upset the partner, feeding addictions, etc. If he were chatting with his golfing buddies, he'd probably have said that.

Lying is fatal to trust. Lack of trust is fatal to a healthy relationship. After my experience, I wouldn't put up with what your partner is doing for five minutes. I'm still deeply wounded by the profound disrespect he showed to me, the one who loved him more than anyone else in the world, with each lie, big and small. I encourage you to see him for who he is, and get out.
posted by Capri at 10:25 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]

It's not easy being completely honest when you feel like you're being judged.
posted by ovvl at 7:54 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

I have had this conversation before. It's gone a bit like this:

Me: What are you doing?
Partner: Checking email.
Me: But that looks like a chat.
Partner: Oh, yes.
Me: Why did you lie to me?
Partner: Why did you ask if you knew the answer?
Me: I'm sorry. But are you talking to someone you don't want me to know about?
Partner: No, here, look, see. (Shows me screen). See the whole thing.
Me: Ok, sorry.

The end.

I think those here who are calling you out are being very hard on you. For the record, I also don't think the type of lying your partner did is necessarily malicious, but my vote is he should be able to grasp the sense of disconnection it causes for you, and mend that gap without too much of a fuss.

I will say that sometimes if I'm looking at something embarrassing or personal (related to health, or sex, or a topic that I know triggers my partner's insecure behavior), I will definitely lie to my partner about what is on my laptop, though later of course I will tell them what is on my mind. Like you, I will also definitely ask questions I know the answer to sometimes, just to make sure my partner loves me. That's my view of little lies or evasions in daily life. Neither of these things has ever spelled doom in my relationship, nor do I feel they indicate either person is a bad person. But it depends on the spirit it is done in. Sometimes people need a breather from telling their partner everything they are thinking, but that breather can't go on indefinitely.

Presumably you can't ask "why did you lie to me?" for fear that your partner will withdraw or get upset. Why is that? To me, that is the snarl in communication that is the problem. You want to be close. He should want to be close. Honesty is what makes that possible. I think couples' therapy would really help, at least a session to talk about that.

But to me at least this doesn't read as a moral issue. In other words, I don't think you should be that deeply concerned. It's a miscommunication. I don't think what you are describing means AT ALL that your partner doesn't love you (as one person who is reading this and going off limited information).
posted by karmachameleon at 8:47 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

It's not easy being completely honest when you feel like you're being judged.

Intimacy means that your partner is going to see you and, yes, judge you. This is an attractive prospect when the judgement is favorable; that's the whole mechanism of validation that a relationship provides (that you're attractive, a good person, funny, whatever.)

Generally people don't lie to escape judgement about those things. They lie to escape judgement about the things that are likely to result in a negative appraisal.
posted by Sublimity at 2:43 PM on October 14

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