Dishonesty in Relationships Part 2: Recovering after Lies
Lies can come in many forms: from small, white lies that seem insignificant to bigger lies that have life-altering consequences. Regardless of their size, all lies have the ability to damage and have a devastating effect on a relationship. If you have been lied to by your partner, you may feel hurt, betrayed, and angry.
If you were the partner who engaged in the lying behavior, you may currently be experiencing shame, guilt and frustration directed towards yourself. When we are lied to in a relationship, it can be difficult to afford your partner a level of trust that had once existed in the relationship due to fear of it happening again. When lied to, we may even be tempted to end the relationship altogether.
Lies are not Always Intentional
But before you make any decisions, it is important to remember that lies are not always intentional and, as explored in the previous post, it may be worth understanding the motives and needs behind the lies in order to make an informed decision on the status of the relationship.
When we’re lied to, our trust is broken, and it can be incredibly difficult to rebuild that trust. There are ways to repair a relationship after lies have been told. You may not be able to get everything back to the way it was, but with time and patience, you can build a new foundation based on honesty and trust.
Acknowledge the Lie
The first step is to acknowledge the lie. This may sound obvious, but it can be difficult to admit that you’ve done something wrong or it may be difficult for your partner to formalize an apology out of fear or shame. This step is important, as the acknowledgment and accountability shows that one is not hiding or avoiding consequences, but is in the present moment attempting to show they are willing to change by being honest with themselves and their partner about what happened.
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
If you were the one that lied, it is important for you to acknowledge this and recognize that this was an action that you engaged in that may have had a negative impact on your partner and/or the relationship. Once you’ve acknowledged the lie, take responsibility for your actions. This means admitting that you were wrong, and apologizing for your mistake.
Understand the Motive
Without denying responsibility, we do want to gain an understanding as to why the lie was told in the first place. This is not to excuse the behavior, but rather to try and understand it so that it does not happen again and the behavior does not repeat itself. Oftentimes, people lie because they are afraid of the consequences of the truth or they do not want to hurt the other person. Once you have an understanding of why the lie was told, you can begin to work on repairing the damage that has been done. This will require time, patience, and effort from both parties.
Talk about what happened.
This can be tough, but it’s essential for moving forward. Talk about why the lie was told, how it made you feel, and what you want to do about it. If you were the person who lied, it is important for you to consider patterns in your behavior- was this a one time deal or do you find that you might engage in compulsive lying behaviors? Try to reflect on when you might have the urge to lie and what specifically is being lied about? Consider what it is you might need to feel safe enough to disclose the truth or how you might be able to work on catching in the moment the urge to lie and actively deciding to alter that behavior.
Recognize that timing can be key to healing and forgiveness. Often it can be harmful to the relationship when decisions are made during periods of heightened emotions. It may be helpful to take a break or give each other space once a lie has been confronted. Feelings of betrayal and hurt take time to heal and require that the other partner show changes in their behavior in order to regain a level of trust.
One cannot simply say they will be honest in the future, that behavior will need to be shown consistently over time. Do not force closeness in the early stages of repair. Trust that your or your partner’s actions will be the building blocks to a new foundation in the relationship moving forward.
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