Q: I have been with my girlfriend for a few months. When I first started dating her, she was dating someone else at the same time and lying to me about it. When I found out, I broke up with her, but she begged me to reconsider and promised to be monogamous and committed to me. I don’t have any proof that she has behaved otherwise, but lately I always seem to catch her in lies. They are usually harmless (such as lying about where she had dinner or how much money she makes at work), but it makes me wonder if she isn’t a trustworthy person. These lies occur on a regular basis, and it has gotten to the point where I take everything she says with a grain of salt. How can I get her to stop lying to me?
A: I’m sorry to say this, but it sounds to me like your girlfriend is not to be trusted. People who lie about incidental or unimportant matters often have no issue with lying about larger things down the road. While most people are guilty of telling white lies from time to time, someone who continually lies to impress people or to get out of trouble is quite deceptive indeed.
People who lie compulsively often do so because they feel they have to protect themselves or those they love. Most of them began this behavior in childhood when lying was the only tool they had for protection. For instance, children with abusive parents might lie to try to cut down on the amount of abuse and torment they suffer. Years later, the abuse might have stopped but the compulsion to lie and self-protect is still there.
I am not sure why your girlfriend lies about things big and small, but I do know this: There is nothing you can do to make her stop lying to you. There is never anything anyone can do to change someone else’s behavior. If you want to salvage the relationship and give her one last shot, I suggest doing what family and friends of addicted people do. Have an intervention and let her know that either her habit goes or you go. I think this will be quite fitting as it seems to me that your girlfriend might have an addiction to lying. And, while there might not be a rehab for lying addicts, therapy can help her figure out why she lies so much and why she can’t trust people enough to be honest with them.
The bottom line is that no one can make your girlfriend be honest: It is a decision that she alone must make. And certainly there are a number of red flags here, including the fact that she was unfaithful to you at the start of your relationship. All things considered, it might be time for you to consider breaking up. You can’t ever feel happy or safe in a relationship that is built upon dishonesty and deception, so if your girlfriend can’t be honest with you, it might be time to hit the road. Good luck!
— Dr. Laura Berman
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