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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I have had the same boyfriend for 3 years now, and every few

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I have had the same boyfriend for 3 years now, and every few months when I go out with friends I find myself lying to him. I either lie about where I am staying or who I am with or what we are doing because he does not like most of my friends. I do this mainly to avoid conflict with him, but the opposite happens and it causes more conflict. I am wondering if you have any advice on how I can break this cycle? I keep telling myself I wont do it again, but it keeps happening.

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating and confusing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a sensible and caring person and your lying because of your boyfriend's dislike of your friends and the company you were keeping is causing you to have this seemingly obsessive behavior and so it seems to you that it just makes no sense.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. It is a bit obsessive. However, it is unclear whether there is a problem of obsessive lying or a relationship problem. Here's what I mean:

You state you lie only in this one situation. And it has to do with your boyfriend's condemnation of your friends. Yet, you clearly feel these people are worth your time and caring for them that you have. Either these people are selfish users who take advantage of you or lead you to do things that are self destructive (so he's right). Or, they are nice people who may not be sophisticated enough or whatever, but nice (so you're right). I assume they are not leading you to do bad things. If so, you inside, somewhere deeper inside yourself, are resentful of his lack of support for you (they are your friends, after all). And so you do something that will not openly criticize him but does in a backhanded way show you do want to keep them as friends. And the arguments begin. This picture is not a healthy one for the relationship and would need the two of you to work on it, either in counseling or talking it through.

But you seem to feel that it's a lying problem. So, let's discuss that. Lying is most often not so much an obsessive disorder as it is a problem of self-worth and self-image.

Interestingly, I just finished a month ago working with a man in my office who came to therapy with the problem of lying. His wife met with me first so that I could hear the symptoms from her perception. Now in his case it was not a question of hiding contact with certain friends. He would lie about whether he did something she had asked him to do earlier in the day--even though she would eventually find out anyways. That's one example of his lying. The lying was this need my client had to create an image of competence and of doing whatever his wife wanted that is the same as your boyfriend. What do I mean?

If you look "as a psychologist would" at lying, you will see that these type of lies have a common purpose: to avoid criticism, to look good in her eyes, to seem competent, to be the guy she'd want him to be, etc. See the problem that is emerging here?

That problem is one of not feeling able within himself to make himself be the person he thinks she wants him to be and that he wants to be. Yes, it's a self worth problem. And it does indeed relate to his youth experiences. In fact, my client was bullied (not sexually) very much in middle and high school as well. Interesting isn't it?

I can't recommend the things we did in therapy because you're not in therapy. But one step you can do on your own:

Take some time and feel what you feel when you need to lie. You have to get familiar with that feeling and need. And when you feel that feeling, you need to tell yourself to hold on and not speak. To take a minute, a full minute if you need, and breathe and not do the automatic lie to make yourself look better. Just that. Get to know the feeling and then not make the lie automatic. Take a breath first and choose how you want to answer.

The second step is a self-worth building exercise for self help since we're not in therapy session:

And in our society the best tools we have for popular consumption when it comes to confidence in self and building self worth is the motivational speakers. Here's a simple YouTube search I put together on "motivational speakers":

Some like Tony Robbins are the classic big guys. Some are newer. There are now wonderful women speakers as well. Watch them all. Get inspired. Buy a book or two.

This book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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