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November 21, 2012

The Consequences of Lying

People lie because they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth. But the consequences of lying are much worse.

Martha doesn't want to have children. But she agrees with her fiance when he talks about how great it will be when they have kids, because she is afraid of losing him. Emily worries that her husband will be upset if he finds out how much she spent on new clothes this week, so she hides the receipts and tags at the bottom of the garbage and shoves the new items to the back of her closet. Mark wants to go out for drinks after work with an old college buddy, but he thinks his wife won't approve, so he tells her he is working late.

All of these people are lying to save themselves from some short-term pain. But they are setting up themselves and the people they love for long-term misery. It would be better for Martha to have some frank discussions with her fiance now, to find out whether the issue of children really is a deal-breaker for them. She may discover that he isn't as committed to the idea as she believes, or that having a family is more appealing to her than she previously realized. Or they may decide that they would both be better off ending the engagement and finding more suitable partners. Either way, a dishonest and disastrous marriage will be avoided.

Emily is creating a situation that can only get worse over time. If her husband is a petty tyrant who unfairly limits her spending, this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with directly, perhaps in counseling, but not by subterfuge. If she is addicted to shopping, spending more than she can afford, that is also a serious matter that can't be ignored. It may be that the shopping problem exists only in her imagination, but the only way to find out is to be honest about it.

Mark is on a path which will only lead to distrust and distance in his marriage. Already, he doesn't trust his wife enough to tell her about an innocent meeting with an old friend. She may figure out the truth when she smells beer on his breath, or when she calls the office and he isn't there. Even if that doesn't happen, she probably already senses something wrong. Thinking that he has avoided a confrontation, Mark will be motivated to lie again, more often, and about bigger things. Eventually he will get caught, and his wife may never trust him again.

Love thrives in an atmosphere of trust. When we feel safe with each other, we are able to reveal our deepest selves. By knowing each other more and more truly over time, we develop a precious and deeply satisfying relationship. Lying forces us to hide a bit of ourselves. With each subsequent lie we are forced to hide more and more. Instead of growing closer, we grow more distant. Instead of feeling secure and intimate, we begin to feel unsettled and lonely. A good marriage is the source of our greatest joy in life. It is meant to be the safe haven where we receive our deepest comfort. Without honesty and trust, marriage can never fulfill its potential.

1 smart person said something:

  1. I agree. Lying is an easy way out - a way to avoid conflict in the short-term, but it hurts the relationship in the long-term.


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