How Easy Is It To Lie To Someone You Love?

Unfortunately, lying comes very easy for many people. In fact, a lot of research suggests that people lie to those they love quite often (see how often people lie).

Not only is lying fairly common, but for the most part, people are good at it. Most of the lies people tell to their romantic partners, never get discovered. In fact, the odds of getting caught in a lie are very low. It is estimated that people get away with almost all of the lies they tell (well over 95%).

Why are people so good at lying?

First, the evidence suggests that lying is a natural skill which people learn to do very early in life. Starting at about age 3, it is normal for kids to lie to get out of trouble. And the same studies show that by the time kids reach age 5, lying to avoid punishment is very common (see Lewis).

New research suggests that children may start to mislead their parents by the time they are six months old (see babies are not as innocent as they pretend to be).

Not only does lying to avoid punishment come very naturally for kids, but they are also good at it. Again, studies show that parents cannot accurately tell when their 3-to-5 year olds are lying (see Lewis). While parents think they can spot their kid’s lies, in reality it is more difficult to do.

It is interesting to note that it takes children a lot more time and direct instruction to learn to lie to protect other’s feelings (i.e., "Tell grandma you like the book she gave you.").

The fact that children have a more difficult time learning how to lie to protect another’s feelings, only highlights how natural it is for people to lie to protect themselves from harm. Parents do not have to spend a lot of time teaching their children how to cover their mistakes (for advice on dealing with a lying child, please visit compulsive lying in children or american academy of child psychiatry).

Not only does lying come naturally, but it often happens with little awareness, thought, or planning. In fact, people are often surprised at how often they lie when asked to pay close attention to their deceptive behavior (see challenge yourself).

Second, it is easy to lie, especially in a close relationship, because most people do not really want to hear the truth. The truth is often very unpleasant and painful (see truth hurts). So at the end of the day, people will go out of their way to believe a lover’s lie rather than dig for the truth.

Lying to a spouse or lover is easy, because loved ones make it easy.

Finally, lying is easy because there is no accurate way of telling when people are being honest or not. People do not consistently give off the same nonverbal cues when lying. As such, it is difficult to catch people in their lies because there is no full proof way to tell when it is happening.

And if you are not likely to get caught when lying, it makes more sense to lie. In fact, many people experience very little guilt when lying—rather people are more likely to experience guilt not because they have done something wrong, but because they think they might get caught. But when out of the danger zone—feelings of guilt fade away.

Along the same line, research shows that doing something simple—a symbolic act such as washing one’s hands—works to reduce feelings of guilt (see Macbeth Effect – Zhong and Liljenquist).

Overall, the evidence tends suggests that many people lie to their husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, simply because they can.