Although we all value honesty, research on deception in close relationships shows that deceiving a partner is an innate response designed to keep us on good terms with our partners. Omitting the truth sometimes helps people avoid conflict, hurting each other’s feelings, and getting drawn into time-consuming conversations. We aren’t saying that misleading a partner is the right thing to do, but it happens more often than we think.

Deceptive behavior begins early in life; children as young as three years old begin lying in order to avoid some type of disapproval. For example, in one study children were seated in a room full of toys that were hidden from their view. The children were warned not to look at the toys, but when they were left alone for a few minutes, they, of course, took a peek. When later asked if they had done so, most of them lied. Not only did they lie, but they were really good at fooling others, including their parents.

In fact, misleading others comes so naturally that most people don’t realize they’re doing it. Most lies, whether big or little, are not rehearsed or planned; they happen on the spur of the moment—an automatic, reflexive response.