Relationship deception and how to avoid itA recent writer to an advice column on TODAYShow.com admitted she never loved her husband, purposely broke up his previous relationship and only married him for financial gain.

The woman, who described herself as a "good, moral Christian lady," said her husband recently found out her tricks and now wants to divorce her. Geez, no surprise there.

Obviously, this is an extreme case of dishonest behavior in a partnership. But we spoke with psychologists who say even the faintest of fibs can lead a relationship down a bad path.

Even White Lies Can Be Bad


In movies and media, a woman's lies are often something to laugh about. Who can't think of a wife who hides her shopping sprees or how much she charged on the credit card? A recent Wall Street Journal story revealed one woman who made takeout look like home cooking while still a newlywed and another who hoards the cash her husband gives her for a maid and does the cleaning herself.

But really, even these little, laughable lies can erode the sense of trust and honesty in the relationship over time, says Boston couples psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum, author of "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay."

"It can start as a harmless-seeming résumé inflation: Your job is made out to seem more important than it really is, you make yourself out to have more money than you really do," she said.

"We think that these exaggerations and deceptions won't matter once we're deeply in love, once he sees how wonderful you are, he won't care. Or, more coldly, once he's in, it will be hard for him to get out. But a deception like this is a message saying, 'You don't count, only what I can get from you counts. The love you thought was real was really a lie.'"

All of this matters because bouncing back from a betrayal is difficult. And once the seed of distrust or doubt is planted, it spreads.

"There is an angry, chill distance," Kirshenbaum said. "People live like angry roommates, not intimate friends. It takes a long time to heal a betrayal. You can say you'll never lie again, but years will have to go by for me to believe it."

How to Deconstruct the Deception


Nancy Dreyfus, PsyD, a psychotherapist/couples therapist outside Philadelphia and author of the upcoming "Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love," says at the heart of these lies is the feeling that we won't be loved, found attractive or accepted if we tell the truth. The key to tearing down your trickery is putting yourself in your partner's shoes and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

"Most people are good at knowing how they are feeling on the inside and how the other person is looking on the outside, not how they're feeling," she explained.

Because a lot of how we learn to interact with romantic partners is rooted in how we grew up with our parents, Dreyfus says it's essential to tell your partner why it's scary for you to tell the truth.

For instance, maybe you had a father who yelled when you told him you did something wrong, and you're afraid your partner might react the same way. It's true that he might not react the way you hope he will; but in the end, he will probably forgive you.

"Sometimes when you tell the truth, you create a mess," Dreyfus said. "It's wonderful to learn you can clean up the mess."

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