Many relationships are built on trust and honesty - in fact, many relationship counselors and therapists would insist that you have to have a foundation of trust and honesty to have a healthy and successful relationship. What happens when your partner breaks that trust? Do you give them an ultimatum? How do you learn to trust them again?
Dear Dan and Jennifer,
My girlfriend tends to lie about the little things and I’m not sure that she’ll be honest with me on the big things. I know ultimatums are bad, but in this case would it be wrong to tell her that if she doesn’t stop lying, I’m going to end the relationship?
Generally, ultimatums of any kind are a bad idea. Do you like being given ultimatums? Chances are, the answer is probably “no.” Ultimatums often cause more strife and heartache than the original problem did to begin with. If the trust in your relationship has been broken - for example, if you’ve been lied to - and an ultimatum is out of the question, what do you do?
Lies And Learned Behaviors
There are many different types of lies. Small lies, which are considered “white” lies, and the big, black kind that can really get you in trouble if you’re found out. There’s also lying by omission. If your partner lies to you - whether it’s a string of little white lies or a big black one, it can make you feel insignificant, frustrated and even angry. Before you make any big decisions though, think about this: sometimes lying is a learned behavior! Learned behaviors stem from childhood and the kind of environment someone was raised in. If your partner lies to you often, even if they’re little white lies, consider that they may have had to do this as a “mode of survival” in their childhood. Of course, if that is the case, undoing learned behaviors requires some good, old fashioned relationship counseling and therapy.
You Can’t Change People - But Can You Learn To Deal With Them?
So your partner may be lying to you - but how bad is it? Think about the good things in your relationship as well as the bad and make a list if you have to. You can’t change people, but you can change your reactions to people. By really sitting down and thinking about what is great in your relationship and what you love about your partner, as well as what you don’t, you can begin to decide which outweighs the other. Are you prepared to accept the little white lies because your partner is great in every other way? Is it something you can handle? Or are the lies bad enough that you’d rather end the relationship? Think about what you’re willing to do.
Talking To Your Partner
Of course, you need to talk to your partner about how you feel, but you can do so positively and without an ultimatum. If you’ve decided to accept your partner for how they are, let them know that their behavior sometimes does bother you but you love them anyways. They may feel incentive to change how they act on their own. If it’s a break up talk, be sure and let your partner know that you truly care about them, but the lies are unacceptable and it’s not something you’re ready or willing to deal with.