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Lying in a Relationship: Causes, Signs, How to Respond, How to Stop and Everything Else

Lying in a Relationship: Causes, Signs, How to Respond, How to Stop and Everything Else

Updated on Oct 11, 2023

Reviewed by Katina Tarver, MA (Mental Health and Wellness Counseling) , Life & Relationship Coach

Lying in a Relationship - Causes, Signs, How to Respond, How to Stop and More

Lying in a relationship is a big issue for most couples, and for all the right reasons. After all, honesty and trust are the two most important pillars of any bond.

But when you catch your partner lying to you, what do you do? You might be tempted to shout at them or even initiate a breakup, but is it the right decision?

If your mind is boggling with these questions, then look no further because I have just the answers for you! So come on, let’s start!

Is it okay lying in a relationship?

No, No and No. It is never good to lie in a relationship no matter the reason. Some people may argue that white lies are to prevent your partner from any harm but ultimately it will lead to bigger problems.

To be honest, no, it’s not good to lie in a relationship. A partnership is strongest when both parties are honest and open with each other. But when lying enters the relationship once, it can get a bit tricky to regain trust.

However, often the lies are because of the surrounding situations. Your partner might have wished to be truthful to you but somehow, they couldn’t muster up the courage to do so. So, there can be a wide number of reasons or justifications to make the lying seem reasonable.

But at the end of the day, it’s you who can make the right decision. If your partner continues to lie and cheat on you, then it might be best to simply end the relationship.

Are white lies okay in a relationship?

A few white lies may be acceptable but only if you know that your partner’s intent was nothing severe.

White lies or lies that are less harmful and mostly said to not hurt or embarrass the other person. A white liar doesn’t want to hide anything as such from their partner, but they end up lying simply to keep their mate happy.

Here, the intention behind lying is extremely important. If your partner tells a white lie or two and then you find out that they meant no harm and their lies haven’t caused any major dents in the relationship, then it’s okay to forgive them and move on.

But if their definition of “harmless lying” ends up being a big cause of your mental or emotional trauma, then you must tell your partner that it’s not okay.

Why do people lie in a relationship?

Let’s face it- lying is pretty common in any relationship, romantic or not.

You might have often told your friends you’ll be reaching in five minutes even though you haven’t left the house. Or maybe you lied to your parents and said that the pretty dress cost only $40 when it actually cost you $100.

In most cases, people lie to avoid arguments or embarrassment. But there are many other reasons why someone can lie in a relationship, including…

1. Desiring control

People who are pros at lying know that when a lie is said with lots of believable details will result in less questioning. It will eventually lead to lesser arguments and conflicts because the other partner might easily believe them.

One common form of lying simply to gain an upper hand is called gaslighting, where the manipulator twists the truth and makes the victim appear at fault. This is one of the most damaging forms of lying and can even lead to severe mental trauma for the victim.

2. Avoiding Embarrassment

Guilt and embarrassment almost always go hand in hand because they are both associated with the feeling of shame. This is probably the most common reason why people tend to lie in relationships.

The liar wishes to save face and avoid any form of embarrassment after doing something wrong (which can range from something mild to serious things like cheating).

Lies told to prevent shame are often said out of self-preservation, i.e., to make the partner accept the liar for who they appear to be.

3. Acting out of compulsion

Some people have absolutely no reason to lie to their partner and yet do it constantly because they can’t get out of this habit.

People who are pathological liars have developed this over many years, probably due to some traumatic event that happened in their childhood or adolescence. Over time, they become so confident in lying that their lies start to seem like the truth.

Pathological liars do it out of compulsion because the more they lie, the easier it gets for them to continue this behavior.

4. Choosing something else over honesty

Imagine a situation where your boyfriend is addicted to playing video games but you know this addiction is causing problems between you both.

So, he comes home late and tells you that he was simply working when in reality, you’ve caught him playing video games with the boys. This is a classic example of him choosing his games over honesty.

He isn’t disrespecting the relationship but he simply wishes to avoid further arguments and knows that if he was truthful about it, you would have probably made a scene.

5. Hiding ignorance or insecurity

Another common reason why partners lie in relationships is to hide their insecurity or ignorance about something.

Your partner might know nothing about the nature of your work but whenever there’s a work-related party, they often try to impress everyone by pretending to know a lot of things about your job.

People might also lie about their accomplishments to overcompensate for their insecurities to not appear weak or less successful in front of others.

How to know if someone is lying in a relationship?

If you’ve started to suspect that your partner is being dishonest with you, then there will be some signs that will prove you right. Yes, it will hurt when your worst fears will come true but let me tell you, you’re not the only one battling this.

1. Their behavior seems different

If someone is lying to you in the relationship, especially someone who’s not that confident about lying, you’ll figure it out by their behavior.

Maybe they’ve become too caring and understanding all of a sudden or seem to avoid talking to you. One moment they seem to not care about you at all and the very next moment, they’re all over you.

2. Their details are vague and keep changing

One way you can be sure that your partner is lying to you is if the details about their actions or whereabouts keep changing or becoming unclear. Too many or too few details are more than enough to arouse suspicions, so ask them specific questions and see their answers.

They might give you unnecessary details to make their story seem authentic or might skip the finer points of the story completely to prevent further questioning.

3. Their body language becomes suspicious

It’s fine to be a little fidgety at times but if your significant other seems to twitch or play with their hair only when you confront them about their actions, it can be a strong sign that they’re lying to you.

Many people even believe that if your partner avoids eye contact throughout the conversation and keeps looking here and there, it means that they’re hiding something important. You should even notice the change in their voice to be more sure.

4. Their story seems rehearsed

Your partner might have thought of the perfect story to try and fool you but if it seems rehearsed and repetitive, then you know you need to watch out.

For example, they might narrate the same incident several times in the same manner. You might think that this is a sign that they’re being truthful but in reality, it’s a lot like telling a well-learned bedtime story- the details are the same and the way they speak is mechanical.

5. They insist on changing the topic

So, your partner has just told you that they worked overtime in the office and when you ask them about the details, they keep saying things like, “Come on, stop asking again and again” or “Let’s drop this subject and do something else”.

If this happens frequently, then it means something is up, and not in a good way! Your significant other’s insistence on changing the topic and discussing something else just proves that they aren’t able to come up with more lies instantly.

How to respond when your partner lies to you?

Some of the most common emotions that you might feel when your partner is lying to you are hurt, anger, and disappointment. But it’s important to not lose your cool and handle things well.

Here are some ways to respond when you’ve caught your partner being dishonest.

1. Call them out (but politely)

The first thing to do when you’ve figured out that your mate is lying to you is to call them out but calmly. Understand that every lie has a reason behind it. Ask them why they lied to you and understand what made them do so.

 Dig around and find out if there’s more to the story. Who knows, maybe your partner was forced to lie to not hurt you? Having answers to relevant questions like how long they’ve been lying and if there’s someone else behind it will give you more perspective.

2. Watch the patterns

Some people, as I’ve said, are compulsive liars. They lie to everyone irrespective of the consequences. So, it’s your responsibility to check if they’re constantly lying to other people too, such as their friends or family members.

If they can’t seem to stop lying, it’s most probably a behavioral pattern that needs rectification. Ask your partner if they wish to go to therapy or seek help from someone to get rid of this habit.

3. Be firm

It’s important to be considerate but don’t make it look like you’re buying their lies. If you give off the impression that you’re ready to be manipulated or lied to again, your significant other will keep repeating this.

You have to be firm and upfront and tell them that they need to stop this behavior once and for all. Even if this embarrasses them, take it as a good sign because then they might not repeat their lying or cheating habits.

4. Don’t think of the worst

If your partner has lied to you once or twice, it’s easy to assume the worst and think of extreme moves like breaking up. But staying calm can be your biggest weapon in this kind of situation. The more paranoid you become, the worse things will get.

If your partner has lied to you about returning home late, don’t immediately take it as a sign that they’ve been out having sex with other people. Most importantly, address the issue right there instead of bottling things within.

5. Decide if you wish to stay or leave

I’m not asking you to pack your bags and leave the moment you find out your partner has lied to you about something minor, nor am I telling you to stay and endure more of such lies. Ultimately, the decision should be yours.

Figure out how much their lies have affected you and what you can do to improve things. If your partner seems to change and become honest, then support them. But if their behavior continues to bother you, you should say goodbye.

What to do when someone lies to you in a relationship?

If you’re reading this section, I’m assuming that your worst fears have been confirmed and you have understood that your partner has been lying about something for some time. After the initial shock and hurt wear off, you might be confused as to how to handle things.

Here is a list of five things to do when your significant other has lied to you.

1. Show them evidence

If the lying and/or cheating has become unacceptable, it’s high time you confront your partner with evidence. Not only will it make them feel guilty but will also show them that you’re speaking facts.

However, before you go ahead and provide proof, make sure you have all the facts in place and that you’re sure. Don’t wait for the right moment to strike; simply walk up to them and say that you wish to talk.

2. Plan how to proceed next

The first thing you must identify is whether you’re trying to mend a relationship that can’t be mended.

See, just because your boyfriend or girlfriend has lied to you, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Maybe they are completely in love with you but they simply didn’t know a better solution than to lie.

Determine if you’re ready to overlook their mistakes and give them a second chance or if it’s better to walk away and not look back.

3. Trust your instincts

A harmless little lie might not really affect your relationship in any major way but small steps lead to bigger problems later on.

If your partner tells you that you’re overreacting or being paranoid, don’t let them fool you. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve to process the grief of discovering their lies in any way that makes you comfortable.

If your gut is telling you that your partner has been hiding a lot more things, then it’s probably right.

4. Don’t lose your integrity

Often, the biggest mistake that someone can make is to “get back” at their partner by doing the same things that their partner has done.

If your boyfriend has lied to you by cheating on you with someone else, it won’t make things better if you revenge cheat on him. Just because your significant other has stooped low, you don’t need to do the same. In fact, if you wish to save this relationship, you need to rise higher.

5. Determine the intensity of the lie

Before you try and take any drastic steps, it’s important to determine how intense and hurtful the lie was.

For example, if your partner has lied to you about something trivial, such as the amount of money they spent on shopping, you can simply ask them to reflect on their spending habits.

How to confess your lie to your partner?

Coming to the other side of the story, let’s now look at the situations when you lie to your partner. Even though confessing this might seem hard, it’s best to own up to your mistakes. Here are five useful ways in which you can confess to your partner about your behavior.

1. Don’t keep waiting

For starters, let me tell you that it’s best to tell your partner the truth as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more hurt they’ll be when they find out about your lying. And who knows, maybe they’ve already realized your dishonesty.

Don’t test your partner’s patience and expect the right moment to simply appear. I know it might be embarrassing or humiliating to say the truth, but hiding it for a long time will only worsen things.

2. Get straight to the point

Once you’ve started confessing to your partner, it’s best to get straight to the point without beating around the bush.

Instead of weaving intricate stories and confusing the listener, simply admit what you did wrong and why you did it. While confessing, try to give minimal details that are important.

The shorter the story is, the better it’ll be because if you keep blabbering, your partner is more likely to get irritated or upset even further.

3. Convince your partner that you’ll improve

Once you’ve admitted your mistake, you’ll probably be able to see and understand how it has hurt your partner. And this should be enough reason for you to change and improve yourself.

I know you didn’t lie out of anywhere, you must have had a good reason to do so. But if you constantly keep lying, then it’s waving goodbye to your relationship. Do everything possible to make the other person regain their trust in you.

4. Don’t be too harsh on yourself

Look, everyone makes mistakes. It’s human to mess up once in a while. But if you keep fixating on the problem instead of finding a solution, you’ll never be at peace. This is why it’s important to seek forgiveness from your partner.

Even if your partner forgives you, you might still be haunted by your mistakes. Try to move on and heal yourself but make sure you never repeat the same mistake again in the future.  

5. Never blame your partner

One of the worst things people do is to shift the blame on their partner (or someone else) for their own mistakes. Never say things like, “I had to lie because you wouldn’t let me do this!” or “You’re taking things too far! It was just a harmless lie!”.

You have to realize that you lied not for your partner but yourself. One great way to make things better is to say things related to yourself, such as, “Honey, it’s my fault I wasn’t honest with you.”

How to stop lying in a relationship?

We all know that lying isn’t a good habit. But we do it for so many reasons. Some people lie due to childhood trauma while some others do it to spare themselves from shame.

Whatever the reason may be, being truthful is always the best option. After all, honesty is the best policy, isn’t it?

So, if you’re struggling with how to stop lying to your partner, these tips can come in handy.

1. Identify why you lie

The first step toward making yourself a better person is to identify the root cause of your problems. Are there situations where you’re more likely to lie? Getting to know your lying triggers can be a great step to start.

If you find yourself lying more to certain people, ask yourself why that happens and what do you gain by doing that.

Let me tell you, asking yourself these questions and finding honest answers to them isn’t easy but once you start doing it, you’re much more likely to stop lying.

2. Say no more often

Many people often lie to please others – this is known as people-pleasing behavior. And if you’re one of them, then it might be time to start saying “no” more often.

For example, if you lie to your partner about your spending habits, tell yourself that you won’t spend on unnecessary or expensive items the next time you’re out with your friends. Even if you feel your friends will judge you, stay firm on your ground and don’t give in.

3. Learn to cope with negativity

Some lie to their partners to prevent negative feelings from clouding their relationship. If you’re one of them, you might lie to your boyfriend or girlfriend to avoid further fights.

But ask yourself, do the likes make you feel better? Trust me, more often than not, you’ll not find a convincing answer. So, instead, be truthful because it will ultimately make you feel better.

4. Seek help

Seeking help from a licensed therapist or counselor can prove to be extremely useful. But if you’re hesitant to go to a therapist, you can always talk to your friends or family members. Ask a trusted one to support you and figure out how you can heal.

Alternatively, you can even keep a journal and write down your thoughts in them. People often lie because they aren’t in tune with their emotions. Keeping a diary can help you make sense of your thoughts.

5. Think about your partner

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, or understanding your partner’s pain and anger can also be a good way to improve yourself. Whenever you plan to lie to them, first think of how they would feel when they found out.

If you love your partner, you’d not wish to see them hurt, right? And when you figure out that you’re the cause of their hurt, it will make you feel even worse. So always think of the other person and their emotions before taking a wrong step.

Most Common Lies in a relationship

People lie about several things throughout the day. While some people lie about their previous relationships, others lie about their financial status. But there are a few lies that are more common than others, including…

1. Lying about their past relationships

If you’ve recently found out that your mate was lying to you about being single previously, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are a bad person.

People have different reasons for lying about their past relationships, such as not wanting to trigger the trauma they’ve experienced or trying to avoid comparisons between their past and present partners.

So, comfort your partner and allow them to open up about their past issues so that your present relationship can thrive.

2. Lying about their spending habits

How many times have you caught your partner lying about their spending habits or buying things secretly? Well, let me tell you that it’s a much more common lie than you might think.

People lie about finances and money because everyone wants to appear well-off and financially stable. Further, if your partner has bad spending habits or bank debts – it is more the reason for them to lie/

3. Lying about how their partner looks or behaves

“Honey, your figure looks great in that dress!” or “Wow, you look absolutely dashing in that suit” are also very common lies told by people to their respective partners. In most cases, this is a harmless lie told not to hurt the other person’s feelings and make them feel good.

You might have subconsciously lied to your partner about how amazing their latest startup business idea was or how great they are at cooking! But it’s important to keep these white lies in check, or it may turn harmful very quickly.

4. Lying about their sex life

When it comes to the big O or orgasm, women are much more likely to lie to their boyfriends or husbands than men. Even when a woman hasn’t had an orgasm, she’s going to tell her partner that he rocked her world (and the bed)!

Again, this is considered a white lie told by most women to make their partners feel good about themselves. But when it comes to your sex life, it’s always best to be honest. After all, sex is something both of you should enjoy!

5. Lying about not checking out other people

Come on, you know you were checking out that gorgeous lady while you were out with your girlfriend. Well, trust me, your girlfriend already knows that!

…the same goes for me.  

But you knew you had to save your head (and the relationship) by telling her, “Honey, I wasn’t checking her out! I was simply admiring her dress!”.

While it’s fine to look at people of the gender you’re attracted to, make sure things don’t go beyond that.

6. Lying about life goals

Another very common area of lying is life goals and ambitions. However, lying about what you wish to do in the future can create a turbulent relationship soon.

If you wish to maintain a wholesome connection with your partner, you both must always be honest about your life goals.

Yes, your goals might change over time, and even your perspectives on how to attain your goals can change but it’s important to check in with each other at all times to make sure both of you stay on the same page.

7. Lying about personal values and beliefs

Personal values and beliefs can also evolve with time. What you might have thought was morally incorrect during childhood might change after becoming an adult.

But as with life goals, it’s important to ensure that both your beliefs and those of your partners are in sync.

If your partner keeps lying about their personal beliefs and you feel that is against your ethics, you have to take a bold step.

8. Lying about who they went out with

This is also a really popular lie most people say to their partners, especially when they’re cheating on them with someone else.

If you’re always suspicious and your partner keeps saying, “Babe, I was simply out with my friends!”, you can cross-check with their friends.

Even though getting to know that your partner has been cheating on you can be a horrible thing to digest, this lie is also a very common one to catch.

9. Lying about liking their partner’s social circle

For many people, this can be considered as a lie told not to hurt their partner or their friends and family. But down the lane, the truth is bound to pop out.

If you see that your partner feels uncomfortable, ask them where the problem is. If you see that their dislike is genuine, embrace their point of opinion. But a partner who seems to hate everyone else around you but acts extra-sweet in front of them is a red flag.

10. Lying about their addictions

Along with cheating, this is also one of the worst (but the most common) lies people say. Are you tired of hearing phrases like, “Come on, I only had two drinks” or “I promise I won’t smoke again” but see that they’re doing the exact things they said they wouldn’t? Well, you’re not alone here.

However, if your partner is struggling with addiction and keeps lying to you about quitting it, you should take them to a psychologist for help.

Things you or your partner must never lie about

Lying is never good. But not knowing which lies are relatively less harmful and which ones are damaging is even worse. If you’ve just stepped into a new relationship, here are some of the lies neither of you should ever tell each other.

1. Marriage

Your partner is available for you both emotionally as well as physically. The only problem? You’ve just discovered that they’re not available legally. In other words, they’re married to someone else, and now you’re the third person in the relationship.

Lying about either of your marriages or keeping it a secret is not only dangerous to the relationship but can also cause legal troubles. Similarly, lying about your children is equally damaging.

2. Exes

Another major pitfall of a relationship is when one of the partners catches the other one still talking (or even flirting) with their ex, even when they said they have “no contact at all”.

This isn’t simply a violation of your trust, but it can also arouse suspicions that your partner might be getting a bit too close to their ex. Staying in touch with your respective exes isn’t always a bad thing but being honest about it is what matters the most.

Consent is the most important thing that you both need to understand. If your partner seems to respect your boundaries initially but then starts violating them, it’s time to either remind them of how disrespectful they are becoming or call off the relationship altogether.

This especially applies to your sex life; both of you should understand the phrase “no means no” irrespective of your gender. Lying about keeping your boundaries in check and then forcing yourself on your partner can result in a big mess.

4. Hookups

As I’ve told you earlier, one small lie can lead to ten huge lies later. Hooking up with someone else while still dating your partner and then making up a bunch of lies to cover up your mistake should be a huge “no” on your relationship checklist.

First of all, keep your desires in check and never cheat on your partner at all. But even if you’ve done it in the heat of the moment, be honest. Not only will it make you see the future of your relationship but also warn you both about possible STDs.

5. Physical or mental health

No, if you’re having a bad day, you shouldn’t be lying to your partner about it. Keeping a track of your physical and mental health is very important and your partner should be one of the first people to understand if something is wrong with you.

Similarly, make it a point to urge your partner to open up to you about their health issues, if any. Further, if you have any underlying medical conditions that can flare up over time, tell them clearly.

Effects of lying in a relationship

We all keep saying that lying is detrimental to any relationship. But if you look deeper, you can figure out how lying can affect the entire chemistry between you and your partner.

If you’re ever tempted to lie to your significant other, these reasons will remind you why you must not.

1. Lying erodes trust

Well, this is pretty obvious. No matter how much you might try to fool yourself, lying and trust cannot coexist. If you’re holding on to one, you have to wave goodbye to the other.

Once your partner has figured out your lies, they’ll never look at you the same way again. And the bigger the lie is, the more trust issues it will create later. In a few months, you might even see your partner slowly withdrawing from you.

2. You lose your self-respect

Another huge loss that happens when you lie to someone you love is that you not only lose their trust but also the respect that they have for you.

For any individual, maintaining self-respect should always be a priority. So, either you need to stop this behavior or you’ll end up losing this relationship.

Because no relationship can survive without mutual respect.

3. You make your partner look foolish for trusting you

Imagine finding out a heap of lies that your partner has been telling you all along. Wouldn’t you feel like a fool for believing them and loving them?

In most cases, victims are left with a void because they keep telling themselves that only if they had been more careful, they could have figured out the truth sooner.

Moreover, many partners might have already understood the truth but still turn a blind eye because they don’t have to face what comes after.  

4. Your partner starts being close to someone else

Well, this might be a hard pill to swallow, but if you keep cheating on your partner and lying to them, they won’t stick around for much longer. Slowly, they’ll start maintaining distance from you and ultimately cut off.

While your partner’s relationship with someone else might not always be a romantic one, they are very likely to seek help or comfort from someone they are close to.

5. Both of you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop

Once you uncover your partner’s lie once, things won’t ever be the same again. Even if they seem to work hard to improve, you’ll subconsciously wait for them to slip up again.

Trust me, this is a very natural reaction. You will always be on high alert and behave jumpily whenever you’re with them. And the next time your partner says “I was stuck at work”, you’ll inevitably feel that they’re lying (even though this time they might be telling the truth).

6. Lying leads to emotional trauma

Lets not forget about the intense emotional and mental turmoil lying can cause. In so many relationships, the person who was repeatedly lied to develops an immense distrust and mental blockage that even stops them from dating anyone else long-term.

If your significant other has lied to you about major issues like finances or has even cheated on you, you might think that everyone out there is a liar and will break your heart again. This trauma might take years to heal.

7. You end up lying to yourself too

Yes, you heard that right. The liar ultimately deceives their own soul too.

The moment you attempt to hide something from a loved one, you’re also fooling yourself into believing that lie. And with time, your actual wants and needs start to fade away and you’re left with only yourself to blame.

You’re denying yourself the happiness and peace that you deserve by pretending to be someone else. And no relationship can survive this way.

8. The relationship becomes imbalanced

If you want your relationship to last in the long run, both of you have to give equal time and commitment. And for this, it’s important to be truthful. A healthy relationship thrives on balance and integrity but when one of you lies, the balance gets disrupted.

All of a sudden, your partner has to bear the pain and anger while you have to fight against your conscience. Any sort of lying is bound to disrupt the natural equilibrium of proper chemistry.

9. The truth is bound to slip up sooner or later

You can only run from the truth for so long. Sooner or later, it’s going to catch up with you and make you pay for your wrongdoings. Even if you try to spin a web of a hundred lies to cover up one simple lie, you’ll forget the track of your own story and this is when your partner will catch you lying.

Even a lie that once seemed harmless can cause an entire avalanche of problems because you have to make up more lies to conceal the original one.

10. People stop empathizing with you

Along with losing your partner’s respect for you, you will also lose out on other people’s empathy and kindness. Your social circle might get to know about your deeds and stop maintaining any kind of contact with you altogether.

And the next time you’re faced with a genuine problem, maybe nobody will be there to help you because they’ve already lost faith in you (quite like the story of the shepherd and his lies of a lion attacking his herd of sheep)!

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

So dear reader, now that you’ve understood the consequences of lying and being lied to, it’s now time for you to reflect on your relationship and see if lying has caused any cracks in it or not.

If you’re tired of your partner’s lies or are guilty of lying to your partner, it’s advisable to visit a therapist as it will help you cope.

Are you interested to know more about ‘Relationship Anarchy’ then click here?

Are you interested to know more about ‘How to Stop Wanting a Relationship’ then click here?