Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Romantic Relationships Are Hotbeds for Serious Lies

The biggest liars in our lives are romantic partners, spouses included

A while back, when most of my research was on the psychology of lying, my colleagues and I asked college students and people from the community to tell us about the most serious lie they ever told to anyone, and the most serious lie anyone ever told to them. What we found was that romantic relationships - both of the married and the unmarried variety - are hotbeds for serious lies. When we categorized the lies according to the topics that people were lying about, we found that more serious lies were about infidelity than about any other matter.

The people in our studies lied to their partners about lots of other things, too. Money, for instance, as in the story of the man who promised his wife that he would not invest in the stock market the money they were saving for a down payment on a house; he did and they lost it all. The participants also lied about their relationships and marriages; one woman, for decades, lived the lie of pretending to be married because she did not want anyone to know that she wasn't. How sad is that!

My colleagues and I published the results of our serious lies research in an academic journal a few years ago. In journal articles, though, there is no room to relate the stories of people's most serious lies in any detail, nor to speculate at any length about what it all might mean. So now that I'm in my Amazon-book mode (I described my collection of essays on single life, Single with Attitude, in my last post), I decided to make some of the back-stories of the serious lies available, too. The book is called Behind the Door of Deceit: Understanding the Biggest Liars in Our Lives. The Kindle version just went live yesterday. The paperback is available now from my e-store. The paperback should also be available on Amazon in the next week or so, and eventually the picture of the cover and other information will show up, too.

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It is a very short book, and I hope you find it engaging. Below is the Table of Contents. Keep reading after that; I'll explain that romantic relationships are not hotbeds of the little lies of everyday life.

BEHIND THE DOOR OF DECEIT: Table of Contents

PART 1: Stories from the Dupes

1. Lies about love and sex
2. Deadly lies
3. Lies that are a matter of honor
4. Whose flesh and blood? Lies about kinship
5. Lies about fortune and livelihood

PART 2: Deeper into Deceit

6. The why and how of serious lies, and what happens afterwards

PART 3: Stories from the Liars

7. The most primitive lie: Avoiding punishment and blame
8. Entitlement lies: Lying for what you think you deserve
9. Instrumental lies
10. Lies about passions
11. Identity lies: Becoming a different person
12. Taking a fall: Lies told to cover for someone else
13. Living a lie

PART 4: Lessons for Liars and Dupes

14. Tips for turning down the heat on deceit

So that's the book about serious lies, Behind the Door of Deceit.

Now a word about lies that are not serious at all. In other research, my colleagues and I recruited college students and people from the community to keep diaries every day for a week of all of their social interactions and all of the lies they told during those social interactions. The 147 people turned in more than 1,500 lies, which we typed up into what we call our Pack of Lies. Most of them were small stuff - for example, lies the participants told to make themselves look better and feel better. Interestingly, though, our participants told relatively fewer of those little self-serving lies of everyday life to the people they cared about the most - whether they were spouses or close friends. If you can't tell someone that you didn't do as well as you had hoped on the test or the project at work, then you probably don't have such a close, trusting relationship with them.

I wish I could say that I've written a reader-friendly book about the little lies of everyday life, as a counterpart to the book about serious lies described above. But I never got to that. What I have done, though, is to put together a half-dozen of the professional papers I get asked about the most. They are the papers I published in academic journals about lying in everyday life, the personality characteristics of people who tell the most lies in everyday life, and the patterns of lying in close and casual relationships. There are also papers on cues to deception, on nonverbal behavior and self-presentation, and the lies we tell in those difficult situations when telling the truth would be hurtful. The book is called The Lies We Tell and the Clues We Miss: Professional Papers. The paperback is available now at my e-store and should be available on Amazon, along with the picture of the cover, in a week or so. There is no Kindle version because I could not figure out how to make the 38 complicated tables look right. I'm not pushing this book - the results sections are full of statistics and jargon - but just wanted to let you know it is available in case anyone actually likes that sort of insider-language, or wants to read the other sections (introduction, discussion) that actually are moderately readable.

[To read other Living Single posts, click here.]

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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