Trying to cope with a girlfriend that lied to me constantly

I am struggling quite badly to come to terms with, and reconcile, what happened during a recent relationship that I felt was riven by lies. However, I feel that I have lost sight of what is and is not acceptable in a relationship when it comes to deceit. I have read you site with huge interest and I understand all too well that we all lie in relationships—that lying is a necessary part of being human and so on. But it was the volume and nature of the lies in my most recent relationship that have caused me enormous pain and to behave in ways that I don’t like and don’t feel comfortable with. And I don’t know if my own issues cause my pain and discomfort or whether they are (and were) a proportionate response to what happened. I would really appreciate your advice...

The relationship was short (5 months) and quite intense. I am 45 and she was 37. I have baggage, of course, and have found myself in dysfunctional relationships in the past and I do find it difficult to trust people fully but I work hard to try and ensure that my issues that stem from my past do not impact on those that I love. We met via a dating app and seemed to connect and have a lot in common. When we met she admitted that she had lied about her age (she said that she was 3 years younger on the app) and said that she always does on dating apps because younger women have greater choice. This lie didn’t bother me. I understood. But it was the first of many.

As we got to know one another she became intense very quickly and made quite grand declarations of feelings for me—how amazing I was, how kind and sensitive, how I was her soulmate, how vulnerable and scared she felt about her feelings for me. It was difficult not to get swept up in what was happening.

But it was also becoming clear that she was not being entirely honest about a few things. She would speak about her ex a lot. This didn’t bother me at all. It really didn’t. She told me that they were together from 2009—2011 and have been nothing since. She did reveal though that she lives in his flat and has done so for 3 years. Apparently he moved overseas last year for work but comes back to London regularly. She told a friend of mine that they had also lived together for a year after they broke up in a different flat but as friends. None of this bothered me. I understood that people can have complicated relationships with exes and I trusted her. She told me that she talked to him about me and our relationship and I understood this too. I said that I would like to meet him—that if he was important to her then he and I should get to know one another perhaps.

Over the course of our relationship however, it became clear that they were much closer than she was making out. It was her birthday a few weeks after we met and she said that she couldn’t see me as a friend was coming to London unexpectedly and she was spending the weekend with friends. But that we could meet briefly the night before her birthday. Again, this didn’t seem an issue to me as we’d only recently met. But I was later to find out that she spent the weekend with her ex.

Indeed, whenever he came to London, they would spend time together and she would tell me that she was with friends, they would go for dinners and, again, she would go very quiet and not contact me at all (which was unusual as typically we would text a lot). She would send me photos of her the mornings after that could only have been taken by someone else—of her sitting by her laptop in her bedroom and so on. Even just typing that makes me sound paranoid perhaps. But for some reason I never asked who took these photos... But it wasn’t just secrets about the present it was also about her past.

She told me that last Christmas and New Year she had gone away to Thailand and had had a very quiet and somewhat sad time on her own. That on new year’s day she spent the day alone on the beach, having a glass of wine for the first time in many years. That she felt reflective and lonely—that Christmas was a hard time for her. None of this was true. She had spent Christmas and New Year with her ex in Thailand.

It wasn’t only this ex she wasn’t entirely honest about. When we sharing our pasts she had told me that she had never been engaged. She looked very sad when she told me and asked me if I thought less of her for never having been engaged at her age. I said of course not. But then a few months later when we were out for lunch she told me about the time she was engaged to a married man in New York with whom she had had an affair with. He had promised to leave his wife and children and then, a few weeks later, changed his mind. I was a bit shocked as she had told me that she had never been engaged and had been all sad about it. When I said this she said that she hadn’t said anything, as it was so long ago that it didn’t count. I said that I understood that she might be reluctant to have mentioned it but that I didn’t understand why she had looked so sad and asked if I judged her she became very defensive and said that she resented talking about her engagement and did not want to any further. This confused me as I hadn’t ever brought it up and so I didn’t understand her resentment...

I then found out that on another evening out when she said she’d been with colleagues she had, in fact, been with the man she used to be engaged to as he was over in London from New York. She told me that she hadn’t said anything as it wasn’t a romantic meeting and therefore it wasn’t a threat to us and therefore it, “fell outside of the scope of our relationship”.

There were so many occasions and moments where things felt instinctively wrong—I was aware that I was being lied to. And, in a way, I was complicit in it. I didn’t want to com across as being jealous—about her ex, their relationship, what was happening. I didn’t want to seem controlling. But as time went on and it became clearer and clearer that so many stories were being told that seemed entirely unnecessary and I found things ever more challenging. I would have understood if I had responded badly, if I had questioned her, if I had said that I had an issue with any of these things. But I didn’t. And then we had a crisis—our relationship was intense and there were other issues at play—issues around entitlement and so on and we broke up.

A few days later we agreed to meet for a coffee—none of the issues around mistrust and lying had come up as yet. But they were there in the background. But I loved her. Very much. And so our meeting for coffee was hugely important to me. As we greeted one another her phone was ringing. She quickly hid it and ignored the call. I noticed but said nothing. We walked to the coffee shop. As I went to the counter to order our coffees she immediately pulled out her phone. I sat with her and she was on the phone for about 5 minutes. She is Russian and was speaking in Russian so I couldn’t understand what she was saying but she was rolling her eyes to me as she chatted as if to imply that the other person was droning on. We had barely said a word to each other and were meant to be meeting during my lunch hour to talk about our relationship. I wasn’t upset at this point. I sat and waited for her to end the call. She got off the phone and, without my asking who it was, she told me that it was a Russian girlfriend who was always calling her and asking her advice and that it was challenging as she didn’t always want to talk but that this friend was very demanding. I nodded and thought no more of it. We talked for a while and decided that we wanted to continue with the relationship. That we loved each other. She then told me that she had decided to go to Moscow for some cosmetic procedures and so was away the following week. Later that evening we were speaking over the phone and she was telling me about her forthcoming trip to Russia and that the male friend she had been speaking to earlier had asked to meet but that she wasn’t going to. I was confused. I said that she had told me a totally different story about a female friend. Oh no she said—that was a lie. It was a different friend she had been speaking to. I became angry for the first time. And then she revealed that she had been on the phone to her ex—the one whose flat she lives in (who is also Russian). I was flabbergasted. I was so hurt that not only had she lied to me but that, just as we were about to sit down to talk about the future of our relationship she had called her ex instead. She said that he had called her twice and so she was worried and wanted to speak with him. But why make up this big story about this female friend I wondered—when I didn’t even ask who she was speaking to. It just didn’t and doesn’t make sense to me.

I understand that people lie about their exes. That it can be uncomfortable. But I just don’t understand why she told me in great detail about certain aspects of her relationship but not others.... Why she made up stories rather than not saying anything at all. It wasn’t as though I was questioning these things...

Trust was deeply damaged by this point. Whilst she was away my mind went into overdrive. There had been other things. After we had agreed to become exclusive (5 or 6 weeks into our relationship) I went to delete my dating profile and discovered that she had been logging in pretty regularly to the dating app—despite telling me that she loved me and wanted to be exclusive etc. etc. When I asked her about this at the time she’d said that she’d deleted the app but that it had re-downloaded on to her phone and she had to log in to, “check out what was happening”. And yet I couldn’t help but notice that she got a lot of notifications from another dating app. Again, I let this all go because I wanted to trust her but it all built up.

When she returned from her trip I felt I needed to ask about her relationship with her ex. And so i did. I asked whether there was anything between them. She laughed. Of course not she said. They had zero relationship she said. I rarely speak, see or have any contact with him she said. But I knew that this was a lie. And so I did something that I bitterly regret. I checked her phone. It was the first time I had ever snooped. And there were hundreds of texts between them—photos, selfies, hundreds. I only looked very briefly. But to say she had no contact with him with all of the above taken into account... Anyway, I admitted what I had done immediately. She was not upset or angry. I apologized. I asked if we might speak about things but she refused. She said that she felt unwell and did not want to talk. She simply repeated that they had no relationship, never saw each other and rarely spoke. I didn’t push things as she said she felt unwell and so she lay down and slept.

In the morning she said she felt better. And, as gently as I could, I asked if she might be honest with me about the nature and extent of her relationship. She refused again and said she suddenly felt unwell again. She repeated what she had the night before—that they have no relationship of any kind and that anyway her relationship with him was, “her thing”.

I found all of this very difficult. I am aware that I did wrong by snooping. I also looked at her exes Facebook profile and found many of the things that she had been lying about—the weekends away, the dinners and so much more. I am not proud of looking at an exes public Facebook profile or of checking her phone but for so long I had felt that I was being lied to and whenever I tried to ask questions in as understanding and patient a way as I could she would simply refuse to talk to me. Our relationship was coming to an end. We both knew it. And then, a few days later, she was back on the dating app and I finished things.

And yet—I had no answers to any of the things that had gone on. A few weeks passed and I was struggling. So I called her and asked if we could meet. I was hoping that she might talk to me—lay my mind at rest. We met, she said that she would not talk about her ex but that she had seen him since we broke up and they had talked about me. I asked her why she would talk to him about me but not to me about him. She explained that after a year of being together he had said that he wasn’t sure that he loved her. So she left him. They got back together but after another year she met someone else at a party and went on several dates. Her ex had followed her and found her with this other man. She says that she never cheated. She and her ex have remained close and she asked him to be a sperm donor as she wanted a baby but he refused. She then said that she would not speak of anything else to do with him further.

I asked her if she was still active on the dating apps and had met anyone. She said what kind of a person did I think she was and of course she wasn’t. I said ok. A few minutes later as we spoke about other things she said that she had found a quote that she liked on the internet and would I like to see it as she’d taken a screenshot of it. Sure I said. She pulled up the photo on her phone and handed it to me. It was a photo of a guy’s tinder profile. A quote that this guy had used. I was hurt. I didn’t understand why she would show me this. Especially after the conversation we had just had. She admitted that she had been active and chatting to other men but hadn’t given them her number. We talked further and, for some reason, we declared that we loved each other and wanted to try again. I said that, if we were to, then I would need her to delete her dating profiles, as she appeared to have been active throughout our entire relationship. She refused. She said she didn’t want to. I said it was non-negotiable. That I couldn’t continue if she didn’t. Perhaps this was wrong. I made her delete them...

The next few weeks were hell. She went straight back on them. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Many things happened and the lying became even worse. And things ended very badly. When I asked her, at the end, why said so many amazing things to me about how much she loved me and wanted to have my children and so on and then lied about things she replied, but how on earth could I have meant all of those amazing things that I said to you—I don’t even know you. This hurt. A lot. And so I asked why on earth she had reconciled with me and she said, but I didn’t even want to get back with you...

I am aware that this is a long and rambling email. I hope it makes some sense. On your site you talk at length about everyone lying about their exes and about how important it is to create a safe environment for people to tell the truth. I feel as though I have never known this extent of lying about an ex, not to mention other things besides. At first—I was patient and kind and understanding. But at the end—I became suspicious and demanded to know things and did not create a safe environment at all. I was angry and hurt and, on one occasion, I shouted at her to please tell me the truth. Whatever I said—whether I begged, or asked, or told her how much it was hurting me—she would sit there in silence and simply refuse to talk to me or she would say that she felt ill. She has never talked to me about any of these things. I have never known anything like it. It is very hard to have someone sit in front of you and simply refuse to speak.

But is this typical? It didn’t feel typical. And reading your site I feel filled with doubt. That perhaps she was hiding things that many people hide. That perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal after all. What did it matter that she was away last Christmas and New Year with her ex. They’re friends. Does it matter that she made up a totally different story? I get her not wanting to mention she was with her ex—it was the whole being on her own story that bothered me. Did it matter that they spent weekends together? Did it matter that she was engaged and lied about it? That she would send me photos of her taken by another? I don’t know. It felt at the time like a betrayal. But again—on your site you talk about the fact that we all do this. Although I remain on good terms with some of my exes and see them occasionally I have never lied to someone like this. I don’t necessarily think she was cheating on me—I believe that she and her ex are just friends. But I do not understand the lies—because there was no reason for them. None. I just wanted to understand.

Please—in your opinion, am I some jealous, possessive man or is it justifiable to feel betrayed by all of this? To feel so hurt that I am writing long, rambling emails that I fear make me sound slightly mad, especially over a relationship that lasted only a matter of months. I have lost all perspective and, as this email is probably a testament to—I am going round and round in circles. I need your help, if you will offer it....

Thank you for reading this and for any advice you might have.

Response:

Sorry you had to experience a consistent pattern of betrayal in your relationship. While it’s true that everyone lies from time to time, the extent of the deception you uncovered is not typical.

Most people lie to a romantic partner—occasionally. Most exchanges between romantic partners are truthful while deception is the exception, not the rule.

From the description you provided of your relationship, deception far outweighed the truth. It’s possible that your ex suffers from an extreme form of anxious attachment—a tremendous fear of not being loved (see attachment styles). If she does have an anxious style of attachment, her fear of rejection and abandonment could have caused her to try to appease everyone she has feelings for (such as doing things with her ex, lying to you about such behaviors, seeking attention from others, and so on).

Also, the fact that she fell in love with you so quickly and intensely, while maintaining (and hiding) her involvement with her ex from you, suggests that she has anxiety about not being loved. Ironically, people who strongly fear rejection and abandonment, often behave in ways that bring about their worst fears.

It’s also possible that you may have some anxious tendencies as well. You mention trust issues from past relationships, have made generous efforts to keep a troubled relationship afloat (by trying to be understanding and not controlling), and are deeply concerned with trying to make sense of what happened (rather than simply acknowledging that the relationship was a mistake). If you do have some anxious tendencies, it would explain why this relationship lasted as long as it did. People, who are more secure in their attachments, would have most likely moved on when a serious betrayal first came to light.

If this interpretation of your relationship seems to fit with your experience, our best advice is to focus on taking care of yourself. If you don’t already do so, focus on taking care of your physical well being through exercise, your mental health by practicing meditation, and your relational well being by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Despite feelings of love, is the way I’m behaving toward my ex good for me?
  • Despite feelings of love, is my ex (or future partner) treating me with respect?

 

Love is never enough to make a relationship work. Relationships require being valued, respected and cared for. Always ask yourself, if you’re behaving in ways that demonstrate respect for yourself and never accept less from a partner.

We wish you the best.

 anxious attachment | confront lying | lying girlfriends | snooping

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