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  • Sam DiFranco

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Lying can destroy a relationship, but all lying is not created equally. Some liars use their fabrications to be manipulative — think the worst salesperson in the world, the most seductive person trying to woo you, or the classic narcissist pumping up his own image. These individuals use others as objects, or in the case of pathological liars, do what they do because that is what they do: There’s a personality disorder involved.

But in most everyday relationships, lying is situational. This is what Kara is dealing with. She believes in her heart that Jack is a good guy, and not ethically shady or a sociopath. But this stuff with the ex drives her crazy. This is less about Kara and more about Jack’s coping mechanisms

Problems as Bad Solutions

In most of these situations, someone like Jack lies because he is anxious and afraid. No doubt he has done this before, probably way back in childhood, when it sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, but more often than not it was effective enough to keep him out of trouble.

The problem here is not the ex, but his own anxiety about Kara’s reaction. He lies to avoid those little-kid, getting-in-trouble feelings, as well as “parental” anger and possibly punishment. So he contacts his ex, but doesn’t tell Kara, because he is already wired to fear blowback.

The Cycle

What now happens is the setting up of a dysfunctional cycle. Kara may have her own above-average sensitivity to trust and honesty from her childhood or previous, and possibly unfaithful boyfriends — it may now be part of her mental DNA. Going into her relationship with Jack, she is already wired to this and a bit hyper-alert. She does her best to not be overly intrusive and to take him at his word. But now her worst fears have come to the fore, and she explodes.

When this happens, it triggers Jack’s worst fears. His brain is telling him that he was right all along: Telling the truth is not safe, and he actually needs to get better at being secretive and withholding.

The couple could fight this battle for … forever, with Kara getting hurt, getting angry, and trying to get Jack to change, and Jack ducking and weaving to keep Kara off his back and avoid conflict.

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