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How can I tell if my partner is lying to me?

The Oracle Answers:

    When your partner says something you're not sure is truthful, pay attention to your IMMEDIATE, visceral (rather than conscious) reaction.  Did you:

1.  Know this is total BS.  If so, your girlfriend is lying to you.   Really.     This is especially true if, the instant after you had this reaction, you (or especially they) react with denial, trying to convince yourself that they're not really lying, even though you know, (often from long (-denied) experience) that they are.  Don't feel bad (well, OK feel bad, just don't let that feeling stop you from doing the stuff below).  Everyone has done this, many, many times, however extremely difficult and embarrassing it is to admit to yourself.

    If this sort of thing happens only rarely in your relationship, it may be because this issue, whatever it is, is for some reason a very sensitive one for your partner.  If so, then unless the lie is over an issue so big that it can't be overlooked (and often even when it is), I usually forget about the lie per se and try to talk to your partner about the underlying issue (if you don't know what the issue is, that's OK.  Just say something like "This seems to be a sensitive area for you and I'd love for you to tell me what's going on with you".  That will probably get things going). Sharing and talking through our painful issues (and having our partners care enough to ask and to listen to them!) is one of the best parts of a relationship.  This, like most problems, can be a golden opportunity to improve the relationship, if your partner is able (which she might or might not be. Either is OK).

    If, however, like many of us, you're in a relationship where this sort of lying and denial is common, and especially if it is a big part of your relationship, there's an additional lesson here:


    Whatever you're getting out of this relationship, it's not worth it. The person you're involved with is really, really, fucked up.  They have hurt you, and they'll keep doing so, badly, over and over until you leave. And nothing that you ever can or will do is going to change that.  Nothing. Ever.

    This doesn't mean that they're a bad or evil person (they may be, or they may not), but that doesn't matter. You will not be happy, you will shrink, rather than grow, as a person, and they WILL find ingenious, terrible ways both to fuck you up and to convince you that it's all your fault.  If you have self esteem problems now, by the time you get out they may have crushed you.  Alone is MUCH better than this.  Trust me.  Get out. Now.  Really, right now.  Now.

2.  Feel like what they're saying rings false.  Not the total BS of 1, but something in you really says; 'hey, that's not true'.  This can be a subtle feeling, and should not be confused with "that seems odd and confusing, but they're being sincere", or 'I don't understand that at all/that doesn't make any sense', which are described below.  This is not always an easy judgment; paying close attention to how you feel, and how often you get this sort of thing helps a lot.  A pretty darn good rule is that if things they do keep making you intuitively wonder if they're lying, they probably are.  If, however, this sort of thing happens fairly rarely, there's a couple of things to keep in mind:  1.  They may be lying, they may be not.  You might want to wait a while longer  for a clear intuitive answer.  2.  You can ASK THEM.  Say something like, "That seems odd to me.  (I don't understand how that could be, for ____ reason)."  Then listen carefully to what they say. If they seem sincere or confused, this is some kind of misunderstanding, and if you listen carefully, you can often learn something important about your partner, which is a great thing.  If they seem evasive or are attacking you, then they're lying.  If this sort of thing doesn't happen too often, well, then, you caught them lying and that's a problem that needs to be addressed. Note that if they are lying, this could be one of those sensitive areas I described in #1.  If so, treat it as I described above.  Or you may get the sense that they're just unrepentant pond scum, in which case, LEAVE NOW!

3.  Feel like what they're saying makes no sense, without an other reaction. This is generally an indication that there's some sort of misunderstanding going on between the two of you, rather than any lying.  Very few people really appreciate how common, indeed pervasive, this sort of thing is in relationships.  The simple truth, intuitively known to everyone who cares to look but really appreciated by only a few of us, is that all of us, INCLUDING OUR PARTNERS, see the world in very different ways.   This is a very frightening fact, and one which takes years to really integrate into one's view of the world (which is why so few of us do it), but it is one of the fundamental truths of human existence, and we ignore it at our great peril.  These are wonderful opportunities to learn something about your partner (i.e. their novel-to-you perspective), to have them learn something about you (ditto), and to learn something about relationships in general (that there are perspectives different from yours, how to understand a different perspective, and how to have a relationship with someone whose perspective is different from yours [Note: converting them from their wrong way to your right way is NOT,NOT, NOT the answer.  NOT.  Their way is not flawed simply by virtue of being different from yours.  This is an extremely hard lesson for most people to learn, but is one of the most important lessons there is.  Instead, you must try and learn what their world looks like from their perspective.  This is generally unbelievably difficult, especially for beginners, and requires mind-stretching of the first order. But is the most important (and in the end, one of the most enjoyable) things that you can do with your partner (or, indeed anyone else), so if you want your relationship to be a good one (and who doesn't) it is something you must do, and do constantly.]).

4.  Feel like what they're saying seems odd and confusing, but that they're being sincere (often, they're also obviously confused by the fact that you don't understand what they're saying).  This is an excellent indication that your partner is NOT lying, and that there is simply a misunderstanding, as described in #3.  All the advice I gave in #3 applies to this case as well; follow it.  :-)

    In summary, there's a part of you that generally knows whether your partner is lying; the trick is to quiet all of the other voices in your head (denial, what you want to hear, what you need to hear, etc.) so that that voice can be heard over the noise.  Then, once you know the truth, you must act appropriately - with understanding, compassion, deep interest in your partner, distrust, or getting the hell out of there as appropriate.

    Doing the stuff above requires a lot of effort and a great deal of personal honesty, often under very difficult circumstances.  But the reward in the end is a much better relationship (either your current one or one with someone else), and, in my experience and that of my friends, you get back from this effort 100 times what you put in, both in joy created and pain avoided.  100 to 1 is pretty good payback, so...

Do, and be well,


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