Neil Rosenthal: In Order to Trust, You Need This
Dear Neil: My boyfriend of 18 months continuously lies to me. He’s lied about going places, about sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, about smoking, about drinking and about spending versus saving money. In the beginning of our relationship I got hold of his social media, and discovered he was flirting with other girls and talking trash about me. The trust in our relationship is not there, but I love him. What can we do to fix this problem? Will I ever be able to trust him again?
My Boyfriend is a Liar
Dear Boyfriend is a Liar: It’s interesting that you ask if you will ever be able to trust him again, because as far as I can tell, you’ve never been able to trust him. That does not inspire confidence about his honesty, honor or integrity in the future. In order to be able to trust someone, you need for him to be truthful over time about matters both large and small. He would have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who he’s with, where he’s going, what he’s doing and who he’s sleeping with. He would need to say exactly what he means and mean exactly what he says.
If he did that, you would know what kind of relationship he is trying to establish with you. (A casual relationship with no assumptions, or a committed relationship that is building toward a future?) He would not hide access to his phone or computer because he would have nothing to hide, and you would know his security codes or passwords — unless he worked with highly sensitive or confidential information. But you would have virtually no need to verify what he said, because you would have no reason to suspect that he had been misleading you. (Birthday presents, surprise jewelry or spontaneous weekend get-aways get a free pass).
Words mean nothing when they’re meant to deceive. Therefore, always believe someone’s actions instead of their words. An habitual liar is likely to remain a liar when he’s trying to hide something, and habitual liars have a lot to hide. But if you stay with a liar you will never trust him, and you’ll find yourself questioning almost everything he says. As a result, don’t be surprised if you find yourself snooping around in order to verify what he tells you. But that presents a new problem: you won’t like yourself when you’re snooping around. You may be able to justify it, but your self-esteem will lessen.
I wouldn’t give your boyfriend chance after chance after chance if I were you. If he has lied over and over again, an agreement with him isn’t likely to be effective, because you’ll fear he’ll say one thing and do another. So the answer to your last two questions: “We” cannot fix this problem. He is the only one who can, and it doesn’t sound as if he is terribly motivated. Second, unless he sees the light and has a complete reversal of his behavior, you are unlikely to trust him into the future. You might love him, but it doesn’t sound as if he is good for you.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit neilrosenthal.com .