Boyfriend has lied once, maybe twice, three times at most

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for six months. We are exclusive with one another. We live 150 miles away from each other and see each other for about one weekend a month. We talk on the telephone almost every day. Two months into the relationship, he lied to me about going to an event (who he went with, supposedly ‘a friend that is a girl’). He told me it was his sister he went with. I found out a few weeks later by accident and accepted this because the relationship was new and he has independence issues. Everything seemed to be going well until this past weekend. He called and said he had to go to a work event, but didn’t want to. He texted me from there. He texted me a couple hours later to say he was home. I asked him to call me before bedtime to say good night. He did at 1 am, but I heard him shut his car door as we were on the phone and his house alarm go off when he opened another door. I did not confront; I was just normal and said good night. He has been distant ever since. He has been busy with work this week I know, but I don’t feel right somehow. I try to believe the best scenario, but I keep going back to the bad scenario since this time is so similar (what he said, how he acted) to the prior lying episode. Do I ask him outright? Am I being untrustful? I do have trust issues related to a 14-year marriage in which there was no trust. I just don’t know what to do, but I feel very upset inside.

A. You must take what you learned in your 14-year relationship and put it to use. The lesson from your marriage is to deal with things sooner rather than later. The chances are good that you have chosen someone who is better than your ex, but who will also challenge you with the same issue of being untrustworthy. Regardless of what he may or may not be doing, your emotional wellbeing is at stake if you do not speak up. You are not whole if you are biting your tongue. Suspicion and mistrust are likely to dominate your thoughts as you try to move forward in the relationship. The nagging sense that you can’t trust him will linger. In other words, you would be lying to yourself about how you really feel.

Use facts and be direct with him about what you are experiencing. Rather than being accusatory, speak about what is not okay for you. It would be a description of your experience communicated for the purpose of you having a voice and informing him of your reactions. He may get angry, he may be surprised, he may be glad you spoke up. Whatever he does there are two things that are very important for you both: you need to say it, and he needs to hear it.

“I” statements, talking about your feelings and reactions, work best. You are the world’s best expert on your feelings and the work here is on finding the courage to express them. What you could say might sound something like this:

I had a very uncomfortable reaction the other night when we spoke because you texted me to say that you were home, but then later called and I could hear that you were getting out of your car and going into your home. It makes me feel like I can’t trust you to be honest with me. I have already had to confront you about not telling the truth and this causes me concern about being lied to and our future.

As strange as it might sound, this isn’t about trying to change his behavior. That may or may not happen. What it is about is learning from your marriage that you have to be clear about what isn’t okay and what you are willing to accept. If you don’t say something about your concerns it gives him tacit approval to treat you in a way you find disrespectful. Not calling him on it gives him permission to continue.

My experience has been that similar issues will emerge in relationships after a breakup, particularly after a long-term relationship. If you note the problem early and express it directly there is a much better chance the other person gets the memo on what is and isn’t acceptable. I would rather see you lose a 6-month relationship than sign up for another 14 years with the same issue at the core.

If you do end the relationship you will be more prepared for the next. The man you want to be with is someone who doesn’t make you feel betrayed.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Boyfriend has lied once, maybe twice, three times at most. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/13/boyfriend-has-lied-once-maybe-twice-three-times-at-most/