Deceptive Communication

Tim teaches a course on deceptive communication, and as part of that course, he has his students keep a journal on their deceptive behavior. After every conversation they have throughout their day, his students are asked to reflect on whether they told the truth. Before starting this exercise, most students are unaware of the extent of their deceptive behavior. While doing this assignment, his students are surprised at how often they lie and how easy it is to do. Tim’s students’ experiences are consistent with published research findings: when telling the truth is likely to result in hurting someone’s feelings, disapproval, or other negative reactions, concealment, for the most part, is an automatic, natural response.

Piecing Together the Paradox

When you consider all the dynamics described above, the paradox becomes clear: Honesty is essential to a romantic relationship because it allows partners to grow close. But this closeness brings with it many expectations and constraints—expectations that partners sometimes struggle to meet. Ironically, it’s the fear of disappointing a partner that ultimately leads to a betrayal of trust.

Our romantic relationships are incredibly complex because of this paradox, and this dynamic plays itself out in countless ways. Partners share their lives with each other, but they may also conceal their latest shopping spree, their flirtatious behavior at work, or the fact that they are attracted to someone else.

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