Let’s talk about how lying hurts us
I had an experience recently with a woman who said something to me specifically because she wanted me to to contradict what she said . The trouble was I didn’t disagree with what she said. Now she has interpreted my failure to contradict her as evidence that I hold an assortment of negative opinions about her. As you might imagine I find this incredibly frustrating.
My earliest memories of encountering this sort of behavior was in 4th grade when just about everyone started having a crush on somebody. The thing that baffled me then was the fact that every last one of my peers pined for their crush in secret, but either studiously ignored or were actively mean to that person in public.
It goes like this: Say, I have a crush on Ichigo, and more than anything else I want him to like me back. BUT! if Ichigo knows that I have a crush on him then he might start liking me just because of that. Then I’ll never know if his love is pure, because it only counts if he started liking me all by himself. So I can’t do anything that might let Ichigo know how I feel, lest I inadvertently destroy the pureness of our potential love.
As a kid this totally baffled me. Because in my head I imagined what would happen if two people liked each other but used this same sort of reasoning, and so, kept their feelings private. They would end up suffering, longing for each other in secret while wasting precious time that could have been spent together, being happy.
The reason this baffled me as a child was because I hadn’t internalized the key idea: “it only counts if he does it all by himself.” The idea that my input would taint the result didn’t mesh with my uber-practical mind. To me if the guy you like starts liking you, who cares what made him start. And hey! If I can get the guy I like to like me then why the heck not take advantage of that?
Now, as an adult I continue to find myself frustrated by things some of my peers are doing. Certainly they’ve moved beyond keeping school-yard crushes secret, but they’re still holding on to the idea that some things only count if they had nothing to do with making it happen. This thought pattern is most often demonstrated in situations where one spouse wants something (a valentines day gift, an anniversary party, etc), but refuses to tell the other spouse what they want.
Certainly when one part of a relationship isn’t engaged in maintaining that relationship it is perfectly reasonable to be upset with that sort of imbalance. For example if your husband forgot your birthday because he just can’t be bothered to pay attention to that sort of thing (even when he knows it’s important to you), then that is pretty terrible, and you are totally right to be upset about that sort of thing. But that isn’t what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the sort of thing where you deliberately mislead someone about how you feel, and about what you want specifically because you want them to see through your charade. The best words I can think of for that sort of behavior are manipulation and lying.
I can understand the appeal (puts on wistful, romantic voice), the tragic romance of suffering in silence, of not wanting to burden anyone, and yet having someone who is so close to you, so attuned to your needs that they see through your facade, they see past the brave face you’re wearing and see the real you underneath it all. It all sounds very exciting, but that is no way to treat people in real life.
It is also, in my opinion, distinctly anti woman and anti feminist. I can’t think of a better example of the way that power in women is discouraged than by this idea that it is somehow wrong for a woman to do something that directly leads to her getting what she wants or needs from a relationship.
In relationships between men and women this sort of behavior creates a dynamic where nothing a woman says about her own wants or desires can be trusted to be accurate. If I can’t be trusted when I say that I don’t want a valentines gift, then can I be trusted when I say that I don’t feel having sex tonight? Even if doesn’t end in spousal rape, it still fosters a belief that everything a woman says is up for debate. If I want the men in my life to respect and listen to what I have to say, then I have to be honest with them even when it isn’t very exciting or romantic.
It is because of those reasons that I feel the need to discourage this sort of manipulative behavior whenever I see it. Doing so diplomatically is easier said than done. Because of that I try to lead by example whenever possible. So while it may not be very romantic to know that my husband is going to get me a crockpot for Christmas because that is exactly what I asked for, it is healthy for me to know that my husband loves and respects me, and believes me when I tell him how I feel and what I want or need. I also feel that one of the important ways that I show love for him, is by making it easier, not harder, for him to make me happy.
1. She said that she was ‘giving up’ on getting married. I felt that this was a healthy step because her focus on marriage has not led her to make the best decisions for herself. She has been reporting to other people that I think that she is unmarriable, and that no one will ever love her.