Honesty with your partner builds trust and intimacy—and we all value honesty in our relationships. We also expect that in trusting relationships, both partners are totally honest and open with each other. When one partner has secrets or withholds information from the other, it violates those expectations of trust.
And yet studies show that most of us tell at least one lie per day. These lies may be small and harmless or they may be big and serious, but even minor ones can destroy a relationship if they become sufficiently frequent.
To start, it's important to know why we might lie to a partner. Most of the time, it's because we don't feel safe telling the truth. We fear their disapproval or rejection, so we think it's easier just to avoid the truth. We may also lie out of embarrassment or guilt at having done something wrong, especially something we know violated their expectations of trust and commitment in our relationship.
How Can You Tell?
Is your partner telling you lies? There isn't one sign that always indicates that a person isn't telling the truth, but there are some identifiable behavior patterns. No one is telltale, and most of us are not as adept at spotting liars as we think. If you discover one or two of the signs below in your partner, for example, it's as likely as not meaningless. But if you see enough of them, and repeatedly, it may be a significant pattern. (Some studies show that women are better at detecting lies than men, as they tend to be more likely to pick up on the nonverbal messages or signs of deception.)
Here are some signs that your partner might be lying to you:
What should you do if you suspect that your partner is lying? First, try to understand the possible reason behind the lie. Most of the time, this is at least as important as the content of the secret or the fact of the deception itself.
Then, have a conversation with your partner—a "trust chat." Pick a good moment, without the distractions of children, television, or work. Go to your partner without judgment or shame, and talk to him or her about honesty, trust, and secrecy. Share your concerns and see your partner responds. His or her reactions could speak volumes.