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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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I have a question on lying. Whenever I have a major issue

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Hello there, I have a question on lying. Whenever I have a major issue with my girlfriend I will consult my friends and family to get a consensus and and try to make the best choice possible. When I am confronted on the question by her " did you talk to anyone " I lie. Then I feel guilty and then it becomes worse. The reason is that she wants me to be direct with her and I am a person who likes feedback and tries to apply the best approach from life experiences and try to approach that in a non-confrontation way... But in the past when I try to tell her what the issue is, it appears to me that she gets defensive. I have lied to her 3 times in two years, but these incidents are happening every 3-4months... Am I a pathological / impulse liar or is our communication skills deteriorating? She has said (once I pointed out what was bothering me and I was a little emotional) that I have now said that is "all her fault" and she has to muddle through this and ask some friends and determine if we can go on. Everything else, I tell the truth on...It just makes me uncomfortable that I can't talk to her directly as she will get defensive. She says this is the toughest relationship she has had. I don't know if we should quits. Any thoughts?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

You can almost certainly find a tactful, diplomatic way of presenting this problem to your girlfriend and getting her to help you resolve it. Let me give you one possible approach. "You know, there are times when we are having a conflict or disagreement, and I have sometimes felt tempted to not be completely forthcoming with you, or feel it is best to not tell you the entire truth, directly; and I do this because I mostly want to avoid your reaction. I do this when I believe you will become defensive or externalize blame onto me. So here is the problem I think I'm facing: how can I be completely transparent and forthcoming, if I firmly believe or 'know' you will react in a defensive and self-protective way? Let me give you an example of this.....[and then you give a recent example; you don't admit to lying to her but you emphasize I"M TEMPTED TO SAY........."]. This approach presents a problem that you are honestly experiencing with her, and invites her to help problem-solve. Let me pause here and determine if you have already tried this approach with her, what the outcome was if any, etc. What do you think?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I think it is a good approach. I think the challenge is that the level of trust has eroded and the bigger question is how can we get through issue of lying because I do not want to be judged...
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
An elaboration of your discussion with your girlfriend would perhaps also include the conceptualization or 'framing' of the problem YOU SHARE here as a 'catch-22' or double-bind situation---sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't. That is, you'd frame this as follows: "I feel like this honesty and trust issue that has developed between us is now like a catch-22 situation; where I feel 'damned if I do, damned if I don't. So I want to be more honest with you because I know it is critical to trust. However, your approach to me about an issue or your defensive reaction makes me want to escape and avoid even broaching the topic with you; as I said, I'm tempted to not disclose the truth, just to escape and avoid the conflict that would follow. But on the other hand, I know that we can't build trust if we aren't honest. On way to maybe deal with this differently would be for me to go ahead and take the risk of being honest, but then you would have to react positively, show appreciation for an honest, direct sharing of what's on my mind. I don't know if we could start doing that, even if it was just an experiment for a week or so. But it certainly couldn't hurt at this point."

I'll pause here and solicit your reaction once again. You want to suggest a way of interrupting what your typical interaction style is, and propose talking to one another and reacting differently, as an experiment. What do you think?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for the feedback... It is certainly the right approach. It would be great to see if the experiment would work... The only concern I have is she willing to try the experiment. Given th fact that the past times have eroded her trust and frankly I am at a point of giving up. I admit the error of my ways and I have admitted it to her... But ihave told her that relationships are a two way street and she needs to own this but she is going to ask some of her previous men that she has dated to she if she is right or wrong...either way I think this will be spun in a negative light
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
I think an unwillingness to try the experiment would be a pretty demoralizing and disappointing sign; it would mean that she isn't interested in being self-evaluative, introspective, and 'open' to the idea that she can change her behavior and thereby, improve the relationship. So her willingness or unwillingness would be a be a big signal to me about whether to pursue this relationship any longer. Also, about her consulting past relations: I think you simply re frame her need to get evidence of her 'correctness' from other men she has dated as simply 'more of the same' defensiveness you have alluded to. "I feel discouraged by this; by seeking out evidence or support from men you've dated, you simply reinforce in my mind the same problem I see, which is your defensiveness and insistence on being the 'correct one' in our relationship. So this is sort of, 'more of the same' thing and I feel you aren't listening to what I have to say. I think the only way out of this is to shift your focus toward showing appreciation for disclosure, honest communication---consistently reinforcing it, instead of reacting by drawing a defensive shield about yourself, fending off what I say by having to prove you are correct all the time.

Good luck with this. I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
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