Relationship Lies are "Too Many?"
By Susie and Otto Collins
There's an old saying that goes: "Fool me once, shame on
you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
If your partner has lied to you in the past, you might think
of this aphorism. The last thing you probably want is to be
lied to again.
Nobody wants to feel like he or she is being made a fool!
On the other hand, you might not feel ready to end your
It can be very confusing to know what to do when your
partner has lied in the past and you now suspect much of
what he or she says because of weakened trust.
You might be asking yourself, "How many lies are too many?"
There really is no specific number of lies that are "too
many." In fact, one lie can be damaging to trust-- no matter
how inconsequential it seems to be.
It is up to you to determine at what point you think you
can-- or can't-- recover trust with your partner.
Alex doesn't want to take steps toward divorcing his wife
Megan, but he also doesn't want their relationship to
continue as it has.
Megan has a habit of lying to Alex. For many years, these
lies seemed to him to be minor.
For example, Alex would inadvertently discover that Megan
had lied to him about the type of foods she likes or her
relationships with particular people in her life.
It struck Alex as odd that Megan claimed to love cheesecake
when he later found out she really dislikes it and "always"
And it was confusing to him when he learned that a childhood
friend of Megan's, whom she claimed to have adored and been
close to, was actually not a friend at all.
Over the years, Alex had become accustomed to wondering when
Megan was speaking honestly about something and when she was
changing the truth.
But then Alex discovered that Megan wasn't actually
attending a women's knitting group every week as she
After bumping into a friend who is in the group at the
grocery store, Alex learned the truth. Megan hadn't ever
attended this group and does not even knit!
Alex is worried about what Megan has been doing instead.
He's starting to realize Megan's lies are not
inconsequential at all.
He wonders who this woman that he's married to really is!
Take an honest look at where you are and what you want.
When you find out that your partner has lied to you again
(or many times), you might feel shocked, stunned-- or
perhaps not surprised at
all. Much of this depends on your situation.
Above all else, when faced with the fact that your partner
lied, stop and create space for yourself. Go within and be
completely honest with yourself.
Listen to what you need right now.
In the past you might have told yourself that your mate's
lies were "minor" or about "unimportant" things so they
But, as you probably already know, a series of "minor" lies
can add up to a whole lot of mistrust and distance in your
After all, it is difficult to feel close to someone who you
second-guess much of the time.
With as much objectivity as you can, take a clear look at
where you are right now. Are there any areas in your
relationship in which there does seem to be stronger trust?
Are there ways that your partner might have been making
Try to get a view of the whole picture of your relationship.
When you come upon a thought or belief that you just aren't
certain of anymore-- due to the lying and mistrust-- set
that thought aside for the moment.
For right now, bring to the front of your mind, what you do
know to be true about how you feel about your partner and
You could even make a list on a piece of paper the things
you know to be true and also those that you are less sure of
and need verification about.
Next, we encourage you to think about what you want in your
How do you want to feel when you are with your
partner? What would you like to happen with the level of
trust that currently exists?
If you can't see yourself having this kind of relationship
with the person you are with right now, focus mainly on what
you want and less
on how it can ever happen.
You might to write down on another sheet of paper a list of
characteristics for the relationship you want to have.
After Alex returns from the grocery store, he sits down and
completes this exercise. His list of things that he is now
uncertain of is very long.
In fact, Alex is having a difficult time knowing
what he can believe about and from Megan.
He knows that he loves her, but even that is beginning to
get confused and unsure. Included on his list of what he
wants from his relationship are: trust, complete honesty and
What is your non-negotiable?
When it comes to trust in your relationship, there can be
If trust has been damaged in the past through lying, for
example, as you and your partner rebuild trust you might
find that when it comes to particular topics there is a
higher trust than in others.
It can be helpful to take a wider view and to also be clear
within yourself about what is non-negotiable for you. This
is a boundary that you can set and then choose to honor.
What is non-negotiable is usually different for each person.
Ask yourself what you will not tolerate in your
relationship. What is the boundary that, if crossed, you
would no longer choose to
continue this relationship in its current form?
This can be a difficult question to ask yourself--
especially if you really want your relationship to work out.
But if you are tired of being lied to, it can be helpful to
gain this clarity.
It could be that your partner has lied to you in the past
and you truly will not tolerate any more lies.
If you decide to take this position, be certain you are
willing to follow through and stand behind it.
If your mate does lie again, you leaving the relationship is
not the only possible consequence. Seeking out help from a
counselor or coach might be the step you choose to take in
Another option might be to take a trial separation.
What is most important is that you are aware of what is
non-negotiable for you.
You can let your partner know about your non-negotiable
using language that does not sound like a threat or an
ultimatum. It is simply a statement of what you will no
When Megan returns home for the evening, Alex tells her
about the conversation he had with the woman at the grocery
store. Alex explains to Megan that he does not feel like he
can trust her
He shares with her that it is a non-negotiable for him to
have zero trust in a marriage.
Alex suggests that they begin to meet--
individually and together-- with a professional who can help
them sort through this situation. And he tells Megan that he
will be temporarily moving in with his brother to give
himself some space to
There is nothing fool-ish about lying.
It can literally destroy a
relationship. Keep being honest with yourself and continue
to be clear about what your non-negotiable is.
Make your vision of the relationship you want your focus and
keep believing you can have it.