Tag Archives: lying

Contempt, Lying & Outside Relationships

“Song of Maui” by Mimi Stuart ©

My boyfriend is texting, calling, and attempting to meet up with his ex or another new girl every time we have a (terrible) fight and he lies about them. I know he’s sick and tired of our constant fights and we have issues such as contempt/disrespect from my side and communication/withdrawal/leadership issues from his side.

Should I just be a big girl and ignore these behaviors as there is no physical cheating yet? Are these behaviors harmless?


Dear M,

The behaviors you are each engaged in are very destructive to the relationship.

Contempt and disrespect

You say you treat your boyfriend with contempt and disrespect. No relationship can withstand contempt for long. Often people are disrespectful because they blame their frustrations on their partner and don’t know how to effectively express those frustrations.

Let’s focus on you. You obviously do not feel good about yourself and your behavior in this relationship. Consider John Gottman’s research that shows that if 80% of communication is not positive between a couple, that relationship will disintegrate. As you really only have control over your own conduct, eliminate your disrespectful behavior and your life will improve whether or not you stay with your boyfriend.

To sustain a good relationship, you need to clearly and respectfully communicate your needs and expectations, while actively listening to your partner’s point of view. You need to learn to communicate effectively and respectfully, through counseling or effective communication classes, such as Marshall Rosenberg’s “nonviolent communication,” where you learn to express your desires without putting the other person on the defensive. It is very self-empowering to be able to clearly express yourself without judgment, contempt, or manipulation.

Seeking outside relationships and lying

I can see why your boyfriend would want to seek validation from others if you are treating him with contempt. But pursuing others without breaking up first and then lying to you afterwards shows that he is willing to deceive you and deny you your own life choices for the sake of his convenience.

You cannot trust someone who wants to continue a relationship while secretly exploring new ones. You cannot enjoy a committed relationship with someone who does not have the courage to be honest with you.

Thus, I suggest leaving this relationship to the realm of life experience and learning, and instead focus on the way you handle yourself in future relationships.

What now?

If I were in your situation, I would start by taking responsibility for my own behavior. If you find yourself treating anyone with contempt, apologize immediately and show a willingness to stop that harmful behavior. Find a positive way to express your needs and desires.

In the future, the main thing is that both partners learn to listen to one another without judgment and argument. You should be able to discuss anything, including hurt feelings and even breaking up while treating the other person humanely. Focus on speaking candidly in a compassionate way in order to make the relationship work.

Good luck.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Lying: “I am a coward and I am dishonest. I have been hiding my true feelings from my boyfriend. I wanted my doubts, fears and insecurities to disappear. I felt no love from my overbearing father who just liked to tell me what to do.”

"Power of Pink" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Power of Pink” by Mimi Stuart ©

Learning to lie

Often children of overbearing, controlling or critical parents learn to hide their true feelings and intentions. They put on an obedient mask, keep secrets and tell lies. They hide their real feelings as a survival technique to avoid being bullied, rejected, or verbally and physically abused. This defense mechanism serves a child to survive a difficult environment.

When children must focus on putting on an obedient mask to hide their vulnerabilities and anger toward their parents, they often lose touch with their own feelings and needs. Moreover, feelings represent a real threat to the child because if they are exposed they may trigger a dangerous reaction from the parent. The child subconsciously thinks something as follows:

“If I show my anger, fear, disgust, sadness, or need for love, affection, or acceptance, my parent will reject me or yell at me. So those feelings are bad. I must repress them.”

Hence, such feelings go underground and become tainted with excessive anxiety. An ongoing sense of anxiety grows within them as they grow into adulthood, particularly when it comes to close relationships.


Later, as an adult, it is difficult to talk about feelings, let alone understand the nuances of them because they are stigmatized with extreme anxiety. Hiding feelings has become a habit ingrained in the neural pathways of the brain. Repressing feelings has become second nature. Lying to avoid revealing any “dangerous” feelings has become second nature as well. Such deception is rarely intentional and not meant to hurt others.

These defense mechanisms developed as a child no longer serve an adult well. In fact hiding feelings and lying will destroy most relationships.

Time to change

Now is the time to start paying attention to your feelings and desires and expressing them when appropriate. As your ability to understand your own feelings improves and becomes more nuanced, you will gain the following benefits:

• You will take responsibility for your feelings and needs, rather than blaming others and making them responsible for your fulfillment,
• You will feel greater peace because you will lose excessive anxiety,
• You will become more self-aware and less confused,
• You will become more empowered,
• You will become more empathetic of others,
• You will communicate better with others and enjoy better relationships.

When you learn to identify your feelings and vulnerabilities and understand them, you’ll be able to express them appropriately in an empowered way. Confrontations, which are based on miscommunication and blame, will be mitigated. As you become more conscious of your feelings and the meaning they convey, the anxiety you experience around them will gradually disappear and you will learn to accept yourself.

You have demonstrated that you are not a “coward” by putting this question out there. The first step to dealing with your “dishonesty” is to acknowledge it and to understand why that worked for you a child. The next step is to avoid reacting as usual with hiding or lying. Instead clarify or write down the ambivalent feelings and desires you have and then try to express them if appropriate.

You might get the book or CDs “Nonviolent Communication” by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. In them you will find effective ways of expressing your feelings and needs, as well as lists of numerous distinct feelings and needs, which will help you develop self-awareness and an appreciation of other people’s feelings.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen



Read “Lying: ‘I get so mad that my family lies to me all the time.’”

Read “Manipulation: ‘I value honesty and can’t stand dealing with manipulative people.’”

Read “Keys to Improving Relationships”

Lying: “I get so mad that my family lies to me all the time.”

"Lie to me" Jonny Lang by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Would you have lied to a Nazi during WWII if you had been Jewish? Most of us probably would have, because the consequences of telling the truth would have been deadly.

This is an extreme example, but take it down dramatically. People often learn to distort or hide the truth when they fear dire consequences or over-reaction.

People learn to react to emotionally-dangerous circumstances in different ways. These ways include being rebellious, disappearing physically or emotionally, and being compliant, which may lead to lying.

Part of being compliant is adapting to what we think the other person wants in order not to arouse an adverse reaction. A compliant person might hide the truth or distort it in order to avoid hostility or to gain connection.

You won’t stop lying by pounding your fist on the table or by seething with anger. You’ll just cause others to avoid you and become more astute in their deviousness.

So if your family members hide the truth or lie to you in order to please or appease you, it’s worthwhile for you to look at whether your reactions have something to do with it. Consider whether you tend to react with a lot of drama, criticism, or hostility.

Ask yourself whether you can handle the truth.

Although you can’t guarantee truth-telling, the way to promote it is by being compassionate and reasonable. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be consequences for bad behavior. But if you generally respond with reasonable discussion and suitable consequences, people will be more willing to be honest with you.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Manipulation: I can’t stand dealing with people who are manipulative.”