Men lie, they just do – so says Madonna’s character in ‘Basic Instinct’.
(*NB There is one glaring exception to everything which follows – see bottom of the page.)
This is not to say that women are more truthful than men. My point is that men and women are dishonest differently (in this sense men lie more, women do other things) and that this difference causes extra problems in relationships.
It is generally true that a woman will lie only as a last resort, otherwise she’ll employ a range of finessed strategies to not be truthful – these a man may see as sneaky because he’d only use them in order to be sneaky. Likewise, a woman’ll interpret all a man’s lies as a betrayal of trust.
I offer this list of reasons a man might lie, only one of which counts as betrayal proper. (Of course, if he’s constantly doing any of these there’s a problem – just not the problem you imagine. Maybe it’s not that he’s a man to another woman, but rather that he’s not being enough of a man with you.)
1.He’s trying to prevent you knowing an important truth
Let’s get it out there right away – sometimes a man is trying to deceive you big time. Numero uno, he’s trying to hide actual infidelity. You’re right to take this very seriously. How would it be to be with a man who, say, steals from you? Same diff.
2. He’s trying to avoid pain.
No-one likes pain people will use every trick in the book to avoid it – it’s just that a man’s playbook is very thin. There are many male strengths, but each man has his own buttons – get close to pressing one and he jumps. “Why didn’t you tell me that you couldn’t get tickets?” “It hurts me if you’re unhappy.” (Note, several of a man’s buttons have to do with his need to be admired as a man see #7).
3. He’s trying to avoid conflict.
A subcategory of #3. This isn’t always a bad thing; too much fighting is bad for a relationship. But too much of this avoidance is a danger sign. Not because it means he’s betraying you, but because you’ll begin to see him as afraid of standing up to you. There’s nothing sexy about wimpishness.
4. He doesn’t want to burden/worry you.
Here’s a classic example: you’re pregnant and want to talk about your new future. For his part he has several concerns too – how will your relationship change, will he be a good father and provider, and so on. But you hear nothing of this. Instead he lies about what’s on his mind. Why? Well, he’s very conscious of the physical and emotional demands on you of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, so he chooses not to bother you. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m just saying that he’s being gallant.
5. He’s trying to protect you.
A subcategory of #4.
6. He wants to surprise you.
He pretends to have forgotten your birthday, then Surprise! OK, this probably isn’t a biggie, but I mention it just to drum home the fact that not all lies are equal.
7. He doesn’t want to lose face as a man.
Oof, now this is a big one. A man will do just about anything – seriously, anything – not to feel emasculated, including lie. Women will be surprised just how precious men are about this. My advice? Don’t try to fight him on this terrain; he’ll only feel that you’re humiliating him for not being a man. Imagine what it would be like if you were looked upon and treated as a man – worse, as a non-woman. Just as you need to be cherished as a woman, so he needs to be admired as a man. Deal with it.
8. He’s trying hide a bigger lie.
“Sorry, honey, I have to go away for work next weekend”. In reality he wants time away from you and so volunteered for the trip. This is pretty damn cunning: for a man, that is. Freud called it, “confessing to the lesser crime”.
Not only men have these motives. I’d be interested to hear how a woman might be less than truthful about them – without resorting to lying.
(*When it comes to psychopaths, all bets are off. The psychopath lies in oder to get what he or she wants. That’s it. See posts in Nov 2007. Also the lovefraud site.)