Why sometimes people aren’t honest with us and sometimes we’re not honest with ourselves.
This one’s written for a person who contacted me who’s newly single and dating quite a bit. He has a few different partners and has had a lot of difficulty saying he is doing so because it goes against everything he wants in the moment.
I want to talk about honesty and dishonesty and how it comes into play in relationships. So if you’re the type of person who dates and doesn’t tell the other person where you’re really at – or if you’re super jealous and suspicious about your partner and it drives you mad, this is for you.
Just to be clear – this is not about the trivial niceness lies that don’t come up often – like telling someone you love the pie they made, or saying you have to cancel plans because of work when it’s really because you don’t feel like going out. This is about emotional honesty – the habits and ways of being that seem small, but actually create who you are and how you form bonds with others. Because the simple act of being honest can change your life in awesome earth-shattering ways.
I am not covering sociopaths and pathological liars – you’ll see that pathological liars lie incessantly to exaggerate their own importance. But if you are wondering if you’re with a pathological liar or a sociopath, please buy the book, “Women Who Love Psychopaths.” Even if you’re a man or your situation is different, this book will be highly educational.
What I’m talking about is kind of like emotional lying – it’s subtler and therefore insidious in how it hurts your life – and it’s tied a struggle with acceptance. What I hope to offer is insight into why either you are “shielding” others from the truth or why others are doing this to you. I’d also like to sell you on the amazing and powerful benefits of being honest and letting go of control. Because that practice has amazing benefits in your life. Without further ado – three parts: what why and how!
Part 1: The What
Emotional Honesty – with yourself and with others. Meaning, authenticity in your way of being. When it comes to relationships – honesty is a sign of wholeness, confidence and self-love. I think of honesty as a synonym for trust and intimacy. It’s powerful in what it does because when you’re totally honest, it immediately makes you closer to others – you show up as all of yourself. A lack of honesty can taint your relationship just as powerfully. Some refer to lying as ‘relationship termites.’
In my opinion, the importance of emotional honesty isn’t quantified by the individual instances or the specifics of one lie, it’s all about the connection you have to your inner compass. It relates to the hierarchy that’s guiding you and your decision-making throughout your life. Everything in life down to a character choice you make as you live now, today in your present moment. Emotional honesty can be tackled by thinking of it as a simple way of BEING. It’s not the individual instances that you must address, it’s your approach to being yourself – who you choose to be and the values you decide to embody. Your values are like the decoder ring for every individual instance you might encounter. Once you practice owning your own truth and values, everything in your life will arrange itself perfectly. You don’t have to try to fix a situation or struggle with how to make things work, anymore. The fear evaporates and everything just gets super simple. It’s a relief – because there’s only ever one truth. It just is, and you don’t have to do anything about it but move through it.
Once you approach your life with honesty, you will begin to confront things as they arise. They won’t be pushed to the side or “managed,” they will just be. You’ll know that things will be difficult or they’ll hurt, and that will just be what it is. Without the make-shift solutions, what happens is your life becomes a purer expression of your truth. Guided by who you are and what you want: in love and all your relationships. Just by confronting things as you need to vs in two years from now when you can’t fix them any longer, you become empowered as the author of your life. That’s the only change that needs to get made: your approach to your present day. Today, right now.
Part 2: The Why
We usually lie or hide from our emotions for one of five reasons:
To protect someone
A fear of abandonment
Control what someone else does
Control how others perceive us
To avoid conflict or punishment
When we’re dishonest in our relationships, often it’s a sign of something bigger at play – it comes from a lack of acceptance: of yourself, or what you’re feeling, of what you might need to confront. It’s a way to avoid the truth. A way to CONTROL and ALTER what must be done, so we don’t have to face it.
Dishonesty is the system of controlling what scares us. A fear of loss, a fear of betrayal, a fear of being hurt, of being seen, of being controlled and owned.
When it comes to love, the fears and ties are very primal because they’re linked to our first intimate relationships: those of our family. The fears we feel are encoded by the bonds we formed with our parents. They also change based on the stage we’re at in a relationship because each stage triggers a different element of how we learned ‘couples’ exchange love. I will go through some of the lies we tend to tell during courtship, committed relationships, and marriage.
In Courtship and Dating
- When courting, people aren’t honest when they’re afraid others are not going to like their truth. People might compartmentalize their relationships and the information they give others so that they can maintain control over them and how they’re perceived. It’s a way of maintaining control over the source of love and or pain: they get to choose whether or not they’re liked. It can also be because a person wants to maintain autonomy – not be fully controlled or known.
- However –it’s bad to do that because when you control the experience someone else has of you and the truth, you create a separate reality. Suddenly it’s a bond created in a separate world. In doing this, you remove your intimate experience of that bond, and you remove your trust in someone else and their ability to love accept you. You also put something between the two of you – so you remove some aspect of your own participation in your relationships. It is this effect that keeps you from fully participating in your relationships and enjoying them to the utmost. So not being honest is like a tiny death. You remove some access you have to your full participation in the simple act of choosing to control it. It’s also a way to stay “outside the ring” and protected from being hurt.
Why would someone be afraid to be honest? Here’s a short that my friend Steve Moore made that speaks to this idea nicely. (It pertains to men and women, alike.)
- Sometimes emotional dishonesty comes from a lack of trust in oneself – that what you want is wrong and won’t be accepted. When we think what we want is wrong, it’s usually unconscious and therefore guides us without us knowing.
- Sometimes the dishonesty is simply self protective: a person is so vulnerable and sensitive, the anxiety is unbearable.
- Pervasively dishonest people are usually detached from what they are thinking and feeling altogether. If you find yourself lying often, check in with yourself to see if maybe you have NO idea how you feel – at all. I was like this in high school – I had no idea how I felt about anything because I was totally numb. If this sounds like you, then I believe you have some unaddressed experiences that are painful and scary. It means the connection you have to your inner compass is blocked off from something unaddressed, like an old trauma. You might even remember your trauma and think it’s not affecting you at all – but it actually is working beneath the surface of your subconscious. It’s all a subterranean cycle of running from a secret truth. I highly recommend you investigate further with a therapist!
- We lie about our story to control others, but ironically we are also doing it for ourselves. We want to believe what we’re saying because part of us wants the false reality to be true. So what happens over time is your brain has a natural inclination to believe the lies you’ve told, and eventually you can’t tell where the truth ends and the lie begins. Your own memory gets hazy. This is something you might have done as a child: made up an alternate version of a story and now it’s a blur because your brain has paved over the true history. Lying distorts your view of reality – burying is something your brain is trained to do.
Everyone rationalizes their own dishonest behavior –most of us lie “just a little bit” – just enough to feel like we’re still good people. It’s when those rationalizations take over the majority of your behavior that you get into trouble. It’s in that grey area that we lose sight of what we truly want. We just “become” this cycle of behavior. Instead of choosing in favor of the highest goals, life is built by what we’re afraid to accept or too sad to know. It’s a path that goes in circles, forged by a resistance to what is.
Emotional Honesty is vital to dating for several reasons:
- Misleading people makes you feel like a bad person who has to hide their true self. Not to mention, it makes other people feel like they’re going crazy – and it’s cruel and unfair to remove someone’s ability to make choice in the situation.
- The contrast inherent in your person is what makes you beautiful and sexy. Your darkness and your light. Polarity is the prime ingredient for passion – so to “middle” yourself or react to someone else’s ideals is a waste of your personal gold. To experience a rich relationship, you need someone real: who knows who they are and who they aren’t. Who can push and pull you – who loves and hates. The more someone who will say and be whoever you want them to be, the less of anything you will feel, in return. You need contrast and friction, in love especially – you want someone complete so you can share your full self with them, too. So you can both play different parts and learn from one another. Otherwise, what you get is neutral: a platonic friendship.
Relationships are built around simultaneous and yet opposite needs to be autonomous and intimate, and therefore this is where all couple-conflicts arise. It’s a power struggle between these two needs, hashed out and decided for the first time between two individuals, with two separate ideas of the world, as they come together to form a bond. In a relationship, there’s a constant power struggle between these two ideas and these two opposing needs, as they merge into one story, that is, their relationship.
- Common lies are to gain power in the relationship, for example – you might lie to a partner to support your rightness.
- Emotional dishonesty is also a tool that people use to control behavior of the partner, often these acts are borrowed from their parents. Like withholding information to milk a certain emotional reaction.
- Other common lies are ways to retain autonomy in the face of someone demanding more intimacy. If one person wants to know every intimate detail of your mind and your emotions and you withhold that and intentionally keep it mysterious or confusing – this would be a tactic to protect yourself from being “owned” by this other person. You don’t want to be seen because part of you thinks you’ll lose autonomy and/or that you’ll be revealed as a disappointment. You might intentionally keep your private experiences vague and unknown. On the other hand it might be experienced as a very uncomfortable and confusing communication from your partner – if you can sense that they are not wanting to be seen and known. This might trigger a feeling of deception and a lack of trust.
- Often dishonesty comes into play when a couple goes through a life-stage shift that triggers a conflict in one or both individuals: the roles must change with the state of their life. Some life stages trigger old family dynamics, almost like picking up a parent’s script from an old play. If someone had a family conflict at a certain age, they too might replay the parent’s actions when they reach the same age. Weird, right? Sometimes the person won’t even know their parent did the same thing – it’s almost like it’s encoded in their DNA.
In a marriage, there are some major changes cause the dynamic to change – here are a few, roughly: the end of the fantasy, which is within the first few years of marriage, the beginning of child-rearing, and the end of child-rearing. So these are times when a couple might be most vulnerable to affairs because this is when they experience the most stress – change is traumatic because relationships have to organize around them.
- Often a lie will be a way of distracting focus from the real problem: the anxieties over the relationship. The real problem is a threat to the emotional bond itself, which is too scary to examine for both parties, so a lie is a way for a person to lessen the tension. A lie will be a point to focus on that’s removed, and therefore less intense. And the lie can be about anything, not just an affair. It could be a secret habit – like smoking, or having secret pass times, a secret purchase. What matters is it’s a thing that this person can fixate on as separate – it takes on the label of “the problem,” to obsess about or even fight about, without looking at the relationship. BTW! This is all inside the book, “Intimate Partners” by Maggie Scarf – I highly recommend it. It’s all about family dynamics that repeat. Writing another blog about it – coming soon!
- Cheating is a way to avoid facing a potential problem with the bond of the relationship – it often comes about as an attempt to relieve the tension one person feels around the relationship. It’s an unconscious strategy of coping with overwhelming anxieties that the partner cannot face. The reason this would ever become the most viable solution is because all they feel is the relief that comes from the affair. They don’t see it as tied to the fear or even know the fear exists. When we bring someone else outside of the relationship in, it’s a way to triangulate our problems to something outside of the bond – even if that’s a focus on how they’re raising the kids, or conflicts with money. You have terms to fight and therefore vent.
- When people in committed long-term relationships find connections in others spontaneously, the “emotional affairs,” it likely relates to the role they have cast themselves in and their partner in – based on their upbringing. They look for this other cast member to help they define their identity, to themselves. The role they’re casting for is their ideal match: the person who can see them and complete them, who embodies all their ideals. All relationships start with the fantasy stage – when you don’t quite know each other yet, but you view the other person through your imagined ideals. When the stage is over, the person finally sees the reality of who the person is, and sometimes that causes them to feel betrayed or disappointed – like they were somehow sold a raw deal. “You duped me into falling for you!” When in reality, it’s their perception of an ideal that has finally worn off.
A person can perceive their role so strongly that they seek out another person to help them validate it. This is when a person seeks out an emotional affair or suddenly falls in love with someone they barely know. If their role is “rational, strong and emotionally mysterious” and they seek someone “emotionally bountiful, free-spirited, fawning,” they will resent a partner that suddenly has other facets that aren’t affirming to them. We seek others who can reaffirm our parts. When a person goes through a “mid-life crisis” they often seek to buffer their self-image by casting an opposite role.
Often with affairs, people are seeking to replace the first stage of a relationship: the fantasy stage. This is their golden standard of a person, whom likely doesn’t exist because they are an ideal manifested in their mind. It’s the fantasy that they perceive – not the reality of the human being, so falling in love becomes a very short loop. Meet a person, see their ideal, get to know the reality, freak out and break up. The neediness is tied to childhood, so they’ll feel so angry and resentful and cannot reconcile that this ideal doesn’t exist.
In all committed relationships there’s a period of getting to know the truth of a person minus your idealizations. It’s just like when you grow up and you realize how far it is to the store. That’s just a part of growth – growing to know and going deeper than the surface. A relationship based on what you want and they want and what you’re both capable of is what you build together, with love as your glue. The bond evolves between two people, together: you write it as you go, define it as best you can while battling old ghosts of your family relationships. We all choose people based on our fabric, almost via telepathy: we sense in the other a missing piece of ourselves. When we feel comfortable with our partner, we work out our remaining childhood issues. It’s our path to return to ourselves.
Part 3: The How – The Tools!
There’s a little bit of everything in here – for dating, for a relationship, for trying to be more honest.
TOOL 1: Hear Between the Words
Listen for what someone is not saying. This is a tool for those of you who are dating. A lot of the time we get clues and signs from people, but we don’t interpret their meaning accurately because we don’t want the truth to be so. As a habit, listen to what people are NOT saying. Everything is usually pretty evident when we’re not on the path that leads to our happiness, but we just can’t look at the answer. Ask yourself: are there statements that you want to hear that this person is not saying? Are there basic understandings that are not being spelled out? Are you confused but hopeful? Are there terms that you think are implied, but have never been made explicit?
Often when we don’t like the truth, we don’t read to the signs – the body language, the subtle avoidance of certain topics, the gaps in what we know. We want to hear the answer that we are not hearing, so we blind ourselves to the truth by highlighting what gives us hope. All that habit does is cheat you out of years of time that could be spent getting closer to what you want.
When people don’t want to say the truth because it threatens what they have, they usually avoid talking about it. Omission is a way of passively lying. A way to not upset you and also keep you where they want you, knowing that they’re far from stating their truth. It’s the same as lying but it’s much more tolerable because it requires doing nothing: a person can simply avoid taking action vs. actively creating the deception. Also, they can rationalize the sin as not their fault. A lot of people choose to omit/avoid the truth because it’s a way to deny that they’re controlling others – therefore it keeps the guilt at bay.
Push yourself to look at what you don’t want to see, especially when you’re dating. Assume nothing and remain open to all possible outcomes, for better or worse. Don’t wish things to be different or hold out hope that someone will change: this is just a temporary way to avoid pain that causes you a thousand times more pain later on. If a person isn’t where you are and they don’t want what you want, move on and cut your losses. When someone shows you who they aren’t, listen.
TOOL 2: Jealous of a Ghost
The ghost is a metaphor for an ex who still lingers in the mind of your partner that makes you feel threatened. The ghost isn’t active in your lives, yet somehow this topic inspires all kinds of feelings of jealousy and insecurity. If you’re the jealous type and feel constantly threatened by your partner’s ex’s, even though they don’t hang out with them anymore, this is a tool for you and your significant other to use. It’s to help you create a safety zone in your relationship so these kinds of not-so-fun topics don’t destroy what’s great about your bond.
It might be awkward to facilitate, but if you can both commit to trying this, it works! Make this one issue into a “Task” – basically, reserve a weekly hour of time that you use to focus solely on this icky topic. For example, let’s say it’s Sunday nights at 8 pm: each Sunday, you and your partner sit down and for one full hour you say everything that’s on your mind related to this issue. Your partner must sit and listen to you intently and not say a word back. For the rest of the week outside of this one hour, you are not allowed to bring up this issue in any shape or form.
Here’s why this works: one person gets to be heard completely, the other gets to feel safe from attack while you both go about your romantic life. Tasking also works because it removes the issue from play – therefore it can’t exacerbate a random fight. Again, this issue truly represents the push/pull needs dance that is intimacy and autonomy. In other words, it’s not about what it’s about. It’s a power struggle that has taken on a face and a name.
TOOL 3: Listen to the Baby Ouch
This is a tool for those of you who are currently not honest in your relationships and that bothers you, because you can’t seem to see why you’re doing it. This tool is really about starting to be honest with yourself. Right now, you likely can’t tell what is right or wrong in any given relationship, because the terms are confusing. Maybe you don’t really want to deal with someone else’s emotions, so in your mind, dishonesty is easier for everyone.
There is such a thing as having your private self, and you don’t have to bear that to everyone as soon as you meet them. That’s not what this is about. This is about the part of you that feels guilty when you’re misleading someone you like. It doesn’t feel good – it hurts. What is the rule for when you should be honest with someone? It’s defined only by you – an inner compass of sorts, but right now you’re unable to read it because the feelings you have are conflicting and therefore confusing. The emotions are vague because you haven’t been able to identify them inside yourself, therefore you can’t read your own emotions. This is a tool to help you begin to understand what you feel good about, and what makes you happy.
When something conflicts you, and you get that inner voice that fights with something, rationalizing it back and forth – like, “Maybe I should say something.. but no, I didn’t lie – I like this person, I hope they don’t find out that I’m xyz…” That inner conflict – when something doesn’t quite sit right – let’s call that The Baby Ouch. That tiny, uncomfortable, fearful feeling is a sign that something in your actions is hurting YOU. Your acting out of alignment with who you really are. The discomfort is something in your own being is saying, “This doesn’t feel like me.” THAT Baby Ouch is what you have to start acknowledging, respecting and aligning your actions with – because it means you are betraying yourself and your true values. When you’re not acting in alignment with WHO YOU TRULY ARE, you are abusing yourself. When you abuse yourself, your confidence is lowered and you create feelings of depression. Plus, it perpetuates the behavior that’s not really you.
I briefly want to say thank you to my latest sponsors! Liz on Patreon! You are awesome and I love you! It’s amazing to me that I can create something from my own mind – and books, and post it and then real people like you give me donations. That sounds weird but it’s very humbling to me. A part of me thought that it’d be crazy to post a donate link or make a Patreon page. But I feel very valued and it inspires me to make more content and always give you my best. So thank you so, so much. Back to the blog…
In order to really be the person you aspire to be, you must act according to what you know are your issues. Meaning – you have to take control of them and build the paths you need, so that you can always act from the right place. I think a lot of the most successful personal growth is about seeing your big bad issue and choosing to build a staircase around it so that you can be kind and loving to others. When it comes to emotional baggage, sometimes you have to override what’s built in so that you can grow in the direction of your choosing. Like you’re building an Ewok village of new systems that are healthy and positive around the trees and triggers of the past. Honesty is how we own where we are and confront our truth– and it leads to understanding what we truly want.
When you can see that there’s a misalignment in your life– between your actions and your values, or what you want and what you have – that misalignment highlights the place you have to grow. This is how you spot a change that’s meant to grow you. As soon as you keep your eyes open and accept that sometimes you’re going to have to hurt, you grow into a Super You. As you practice being honest about where you are and what you want, and say no to what isn’t in alignment with that truth, you begin to get good at moving through the pain and fear. Suddenly you realize it’s all going to be okay, and you’re handling it like a champ. You also grow and change each time you move through a challenge or a loss, and each time you gain a new muscle. Very soon after practicing this brave honesty, you become supremely confident – because you know you can and will survive anything, and you will take care of yourself. You also let go of what is not in your cards, and everything becomes so simple – the resistance is what makes life hard. Not the truth.
Best of all, what happens when you choose to accept things honestly, and not hide from them – no matter what – is your life is guided to what it is you’re truly looking for. You take your need to control your fate, out of the equation and you allow yourself to change and hurt and grow where you need to. And that’s when life gets AMAZING.
I send you my love and I hope that this registered and that it helped somehow. I’ll put the related reading on the blog version of this post. Smile lovely friends!! I also wanted to let everyone know about my new podcast with Ellen Huerta of Mend– Love is Like a Plant, our teaser episode is up so hit subscribe if you’re interested in checking it out. Here it is on Soundcloud and iTunes.
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