Nearly everyone has lied to a partner — either openly or by omission — at one time or another. Sometimes the deceit is rendered consciously or unconsciously. And lies range in relational significance: One partner may not want to divulge personal concerns about a close friend’s trials and tribulations. There may be no point in telling the truth in such a case. No harm, no foul. But other lies can have a devastating impact, such as those often generated by an extramarital affair or an addiction.
The intent of this post is not to advocate for human perfection — there is no such thing. Rather, the goal is to address those individuals who are chronically sneaky, particularly in the context of their relationships. The following are seven suggestions on how to avoid partnering up with a deceiving individual:
Beware of prospective partners who never seem to be where they say they are going to be. What they might be translating is a resistance to being committed to the relationship. These individuals might defend their behavior by insisting that you are a “control freak,” when in fact their definition of control might be normal closeness and basic trust. It is true that things do not always go as planned, and a partner may be diverted for a plausible reason. However, I am referring to an individual who chronically avoids detection and therefore begs the question: What is he/she up to?
Pay attention to seemingly insignificant lies. If you consider small lies unworthy of concern, you may be missing the big picture — that some partners have learned that lying is an acceptable way to cover their tracks. These individuals may believe there is little difference between big and small lies.
Poor Relationship Credit.
As best you can, ascertain your prospective partner’s behavior in former relationships. Was there cheating? Some people have a history of affairs. Was there stealing? Some have stolen money from their former mates. Were secrets held? Some people lie about having ex-spouses, or even children, in other parts of the country.
Consider your partner’s family of origin. Some people were raised by parents who routinely role modeled lying as a mode of problem solving. A common example is when one parent cajoles a child to promise to keep a secret from the other. Putting a child in this type of bind is both disturbing and enticing to the child. It is uncomfortable because most children have loyalties toward both parents. It is enticing, because it can make a child feel special to their detriment: “I have a secret that only Daddy and I know about.”
Broadening the Process.
Partners who lie to or deceive others outside their romantic relationships are prone to do the same within their intimate relationships. Do not believe that you will necessarily be treated differently.
Inability to Accept Responsibility.
Assess your prospective partner’s ability or willingness to take responsibility for their behavior. Partners who cannot accept their contribution to relational difficulties might justify any type of behavior, including deceit.
Failure to Deliver.
Some people make promises they never intend to keep. Others may intend to follow through, but never seem to do so. In your time with a prospective partner, ask yourself if promises were kept? It may have been the date you were promised, an engagement ring, a pet, or money owed you.
The reasons for deceit vary. Again, some people have learned that it can be a way to problem solve. Others prefer avoidance rather than dealing with confrontation. Still others are replicating a parent-child dynamic in which the deceitful one plays the rebellious child to their partner’s controlling parental type. And let us not forget those with passive-aggressive or sociopathic traits or tendencies. Whatever its origin, deceit can kill a relationship. It has been said that extramarital sex per se does not necessarily destroy a primary relationship, but betrayal often does. Finally, partners of the sneaky need to consider whether they are enabling deceit. If you are overreactive or difficult to negotiate with, you may be encouraging your partner to take the sneaky approach. This is still no excuse for deceitful behavior, but the less assertive may in fact find you too intimidating to confront directly.