Ask an Expert: I Caught My Partner Telling Lies, What Should I Do?
Lying is detrimental in any relationship, but it’s especially hurtful in romantic ones. Catching your partner in a lie can feel like a total betrayal! Every healthy relationship has a solid foundation of trust, and when it’s broken, it can be hard to restore it.
Why do people lie, exactly? One of the biggest reasons, of course, is infidelity. Research has shown that 15 to 18 percent of married couples have affairs during their relationship. (Yikes!) Other reasons someone might lie include:
- Feelings of insecurity
- Avoiding accountability
- To be manipulative
- Out of self-defense
- To be liked
- Money issues
- To spare feelings
- Out of spite
- To protect others
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So, if someone lies to you in a relationship, how should you handle it? Do you call them out? Break up with them? Let it go? The short answer: it depends. If you’ve caught your partner telling lies, here are five tips for dealing with it:
Determine if the Lie Is Worth the Trouble
Everyone tells little white lies sometimes, especially if it’s to protect someone else’s feelings. Maybe your partner told you they loved the dinner you made (when they didn’t) or complemented an outfit that they didn’t particularly like.
If they are telling little lies and it’s starting to bother you, the best thing you can do is explain that lying to you, even when it stems from good intentions, actually does more harm than good. After all, you should both be comfortable enough to tell each other the truth, even if it’s not exactly what you want to hear!
When it comes to bigger lies, it’s not as easy to let them go (and for good reason). Maybe they lied about how many drinks they had at the bar or tried to hide a big credit card purchase. In more severe cases, maybe they lied about infidelity, their past, or something much more significant. The bigger the lie, the bigger the damage it can do, and it’s up to you to determine whether their lies are a deal-breaker for the relationship.
Don’t Immediately Think the Worst
If you think your partner is lying to you, or you’ve caught them in random lies here and there, don’t immediately assume the worst! The more paranoid you become, the more you’ll start making up unlikely scenarios in your head. Not to mention, you’ll start snooping through their phone and other belongings, looking for “proof” that likely doesn’t exist.
If you’re concerned and believe your partner is telling lies, it’s important to address it, rather than keep it bottled up inside. Maybe your instincts will turn out to be right, or maybe you’ll be relieved to find out there’s nothing to worry about.
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Calmly Call Them Out
The moment of truth! (Pun intended.) When you are positive your partner is telling lies, call them out — but stay calm about it. It’s easier said than done, we know! But if you come at your partner in a rage, you’re bound to get into a pretty big argument. Here are some tips for staying calm:
- Try hard not to yell since it’s typically seen as disrespectful (not to mention it’s incredibly unhealthy)
- Check your body language. Unclench your jaw, unball your fists, and uncross your arms. Try to release all of the tension from your body before starting the conversation
- Take full, deep breaths
It’s hurtful to find out your partner is telling lies, and addressing them isn’t easy. But if you keep your cool and be as direct as possible, it helps the conversation go a little smoother. It’s also important not to be overly accusatory right out of the gate.
Explain to your partner that you believe they lied and how it has made you feel. As tough as it can be, you should try to show a little empathy too! Practice active listening (i.e., not thinking about your response while your partner is talking), keep an open mind, and thoroughly focus on what they have to say.
Ask Why They Lied (And Pay Attention to Body Language)
If you’ve confronted your partner about the lies they told, a big question to include is “why?” What would motivate them to lie to someone they care about? When they’re giving their explanation, pay close attention to their body language. Unfortunately, there are times when people lie about lying (a vicious cycle!). According to body language experts, here are some signs someone is lying:
- They make quick head movements as soon as you bring up a certain topic (jerk back, tilt to the side, etc.)
- They start to breathe a little heavier
- They stand unusually still
- They repeat certain words or phrases over and over (for example, “I didn’t...I didn’t”) as a way to convince themselves the lie is true or to buy them more time while they come up with what to say
- They may share too much information, especially little details that you didn’t ask about
- They touch or cover their mouth
- They start shuffling their feet
- They try extra hard to maintain eye contact as a way to control or manipulate
Remember, you know your partner better than most people, so if your gut is telling you something is off, it probably is.
Decide Whether It’s Worth Staying in the Relationship
In most cases, lying is not okay. When someone lies to you in a relationship, it can cause a lot of emotional and physical turmoil. Even little lies can add up and cause a relationship to crumble. If your partner regularly lies to you, you’ll need to decide whether staying in the relationship is the best thing to do.
Betrayal trauma is an unfortunate effect of constant lying, which can lead you to feel devastated, alone, hurt, and angry. When trust is broken, it’s hard to rebuild it, but if you and your partner are committed to staying together, a relationship coach or therapist can help you work through your issues and restore any lost trust.
Lying might be common in romantic relationships, but that doesn’t make it right! Knowing what to do when someone lies to you can help, but you’ll also need to make some improvements in your daily life. If you and your partner want to work it out, communication is key! Check in frequently with each other to make sure you’re both happy and on the same page. Sharpening your communication skills and addressing lies as they come up is the best way to maintain a healthy, honest relationship.
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