It is believed Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Half a truth is often a great lie.” While we agree that telling the truth is the best bet in a relationship, most often, partners do keep things from each other or lie to each other. Additionally, lying by omission often becomes a major issue in relationships.
So, when is omission of certain details considered lying? Is telling a white lie harmful? Does lying by omitting a few details have the potential to destroy an otherwise happy relationship or does it not matter that much? Are you also wondering how to get over someone lying to you this way? Read on, as our expert psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples counseling, helps us explore ‘lies by omission’ and their potential consequences and tells us what to do to address this issue in relationships.
What Is Lying By Omission?
Nandita explains, “In general terms, lying by omission, meaning lying without giving a false statement, is withholding information in a relationship deliberately. It’s the same in any kind of relationship, whether romantic or not. It’s when we don’t fully disclose the real or actual facts or information intentionally.” Is it detrimental to a relationship? Well, yes, it can be. In fact, an article on The Cut states how people generally view telling lies by omission as equally toxic as paltering, or focusing on selective truths to mislead people, just like politicians often do. In fact, some believe lying by omission is worse than lying by commission.
However, omission may not always be considered lying by some. A Reddit user says, “It’s only a lie of omission if the thing omitted changes the truth as the person understands it. Otherwise, it’s just a lack of detail.” Another Reddit user believes there’s no such thing as a lie of omission, as there could be a vast number of things that we probably don’t mention to others.
However, this user is probably talking about instances of honest omission without any malice or hidden agenda. After all, the intention matters. But why do people omit important details? To find the answer, let’s look at some reasons why people would lie by omission:
● To avoid conflict: People often lie by omitting crucial details that may cause conflicts or differences of opinion
● To avoid hurting someone’s feelings: People also lie by omission so as not to hurt someone close to them
● To protect one’s self-image: Nandita says, “When people start keeping secrets, it could be to maintain a positive self-image or to not lose face.” Hiding their flaws seems to be a good idea for some
● To gain respect: Nandita adds, “When people lie by omitting some details they could actually be concerned about gaining respect in the eyes of their partners.”
● Because of past trauma or emotional baggage: One partner can lie by omitting details about their life because they may have been ridiculed or been at the receiving end of hostile behavior for speaking the truth in the past
● To be in control: Omitting certain details about one’s life is a clear way of gaining control of the relationship dynamic. Some people like manipulating a situation by not giving their partners access to complete information about themselves as a power tactic
Lying by omission can stem from a number of reasons, ranging from one’s own insecurities to external elements, such as a loved one whose feelings you don’t wish to hurt. We’re sure you’re now wondering how lying by omission affects our everyday lives. Read on to find out.
7 Everyday Examples Of Lying By Omission In Relationships
Now that you have a clear idea about the reasons behind telling lies by omission, let’s look at some everyday examples of this deception in relationships. Yes, lying by avoiding talking about the unpleasant aspects of one’s life is a common phenomenon. And lying by omission examples are found aplenty in our everyday lives. Here are 7 things from our daily lives which people tend to omit details about:
1. Professional details
Often, people tend to lie to their partners by omitting details related to their jobs or careers. A few instances of such lies are:
● Omission of details about what one does at work: This involves lying about the type of work one does, especially when one is lying at the beginning of a relationship. For instance, a person can say he works at a Michelin-star restaurant, to make it sound like he holds an important post, while in reality, he may just be waiting tables there
● Omission of details about job loss: People often keep news about losing their jobs, be it due to layoffs or dismissal. Nandita adds, “If a boss has fired or made a bad case of one partner, they may not want to come home and say it. This could be because of the fear of their partner’s reaction or their supposed loss of prestige.”
Related Reading: How To Watch Out For The Relationship Red Flags – Expert Tells You
2. Financial status
Talking about money is often the most crucial thing in a relationship. And the trouble begins when one partner withholds significant details regarding their financial status, as life goals may suffer. Nandita adds, “Not revealing details about one’s financial status or money problems is a serious issue that can affect the relationship in the long run. And yes, it amounts to lying.”
3. Past relationships
People also often omit facts about their past relationships to avoid conflicts or unpleasant topics. Nandita explains, “Not telling your partner about your exes, even though your partner has asked you about them, is definitely a lie. And such omissions can cause a permanent relationship breakdown in future. While it’s okay to not get into the absolute minutest details of a partner’s past relationships, both partners should have some idea about each other’s previous dating lives, as the past can catch up with us eventually and cause a rift.”
In such cases, a person tends to lie about:
● How long they had been with the exes
● How intimate they had been or whether they had had sex with their exes
● The reason that led to the breakup. People lie about this because the actual reason could reveal some flaw at their end, such as abusive behavior or substance abuse
● Who ended the relationship
Related Reading: 12 Signs Of A Lying Spouse
4. Family or personal history
Quite often, people also withhold details or facts about their personal history. Some even hide facts about their families. Some instances of such omissions are:
● Not revealing all the details about one’s criminal record, even if it’s about spending a night in jail for a student rally in college days
● Not revealing the professions of one’s family members. So, a person who’s not particularly proud that his father is a janitor may not reveal the details of his father’s profession to his potential girlfriend
● Withholding information about a mental illness or physical disability of a family member
5. Health conditions
A classic case of lying by omitting details is withholding facts about one’s health issues. One may have been diagnosed with a rare illness in the past or may even be suffering from a terminal illness. But not revealing that to a potential partner amounts to lying. A relationship can only grow when there’s transparency regarding all issues, including major medical conditions, such as cardiac issues or infertility.
Related Reading: 13 Sure-Shot Signs Someone Is Lying To You Over Text
A friend of mine, Linda, who suffered from vitiligo, a rare skin pigmentation disorder, would often put on concealing makeup before going on dates, to hide her condition. This ruined her relationships later, when her dates eventually found out about her condition.
Omission of details is what any cheater resorts to hide their tracks from their partner. For instance, one of my friends, Susan, once went on a girls’ trip with us. We went to a club, where she got drunk and hooked up with a guy. They got cozy and shared some intimate moments too. We were all worried how it would impact her marriage. But when she went back home, she apparently told her husband about everything except the hook-up. This is how affairs begin and this is where it should stop if you want a healthy relationship.
Related Reading: How To Tell If Your Partner Is Lying About Cheating?
7. Family’s opinions of you
Another great example of lying by omitting details is when your partner doesn’t wish to share information about what their family thinks of you. Picture this: your boyfriend called you home to meet his parents and he’s dying to pop the question to you. You’re all excited too. But his mother apparently didn’t like the way you dress. He withholds this from you to avoid unnecessary bickering or to avoid hurting you. This is a classic case of lying at the beginning of a relationship.
9 Consequences Of Lying By Omission On Relationships
Now you know that lying by omission involves intentionally omitting details about something. We’ve also given you an idea of how omitting details about our lives actually works. So, let us look at a few ways in which this form of lying affects relationships. Here are 9 effects of lies of omission on relationships:
1. Lack of trust
Lying by omitting significant details about something may affect the trust quotient of a relationship. Nandita says, “When a partner is caught intentionally omitting information or not disclosing certain information, there’s bound to be a loss of trust between the partners. This lack of trust can lead to a huge issue in the relationship in future. It also has the potential to break the relationship entirely, as the partner who has been lied to may never be able to
trust the other partner even when they’re not lying.
Related Reading: Trust Issues – 10 Signs You Find It Difficult To Trust Anyone
“Over a long period of time, even if the lying partner decides to mend their ways, the other partner may lose faith in them. So, one should never reach the point where one’s partner stops believing in them altogether. It may be difficult to start afresh”
2. Feeling of being betrayed
Omitting information about certain aspects of life is betrayal even if there has been no obvious act of cheating. Nandita says, “Some people try to dismiss the impact of omission by saying that it’s not lying if you’ve been told partial truths. Some also believe not all lies are toxic. But a lie is a lie. And withholding information in a relationship can come across as a huge act of betrayal.”
3. Lack of self-esteem
In many cases, if one partner finds out that they have been lied to by omission of major facts, they tend to feel they were perhaps not important enough to be told the truth. So, the partner who’s been lied to may feel lost and disillusioned. Nandita adds, “They may feel they aren’t worthy enough to have the full information. This creates self-doubt and low self-esteem.”
Related Reading: What To Expect When You Love A Man With Low Self-Esteem
One of the negative consequences of such an act of omission is stress for both partners. So, while the one who has lied may feel guilty for lying this way, they may also feel stressed to keep up with the lie, since one lie is never limited to itself and often leads to more lies. Likewise, such lies, if discovered, may also cause the other partner to be stressed. They may not be able to be vulnerable with their partner anymore.
5. Permanent emotional damage
Lying to your partner by omission may cause them to suffer from permanent emotional damage when they discover the lie. In fact, they may turn overly suspicious in future and may stop trusting other people altogether.
Nandita explains, “Omission brings out the suspicious nature of the liar’s partner. The other person will always be suspecting the lying partner of withholding crucial information. They may overreact too. In fact, there will be friction on many other fronts, not limited to the issue that is being lied about.”
Related Reading: How To Trust Someone Again After They Hurt You – Expert Advice
6. Lack of growth
Hiding major details of your life from your partner may stunt the growth of your relationship. For relationships to grow, apart from love, there should be trust and the scope to be
vulnerable and to confide. A relationship should be a safe space where both partners can lay their hearts out. Omitting significant facts only helps in stopping growth. The relationship may never reach the depth it requires and may eventually fizzle out.
7. Lack of honest communication
Hiding crucial details from your partner results in lack of open and honest communication. And in any relationship, communication barriers give rise to emotional and physical distance.
So, in such cases you may witness the following:
● The liar doesn’t talk freely for fear of exposing their lie
● The person at the receiving end of such lies stops asking questions and grows distant
Related Reading: Expert Talks About 9 Must-Try Couples Communication Exercises
8. Lack of problem-solving
Most often, liars withhold important information for fear of judgement. They are afraid that after knowing the full truth about them, their partners might leave them. But what if the partner in question is empathetic and understanding? There’s a chance that the person being lied to may have pitched in to help, had they not been told half-truths by their partner, be it about financial issues or family problems. Lying by omitting certain details thus actually acts as a barrier of potential problem-solving in a relationship.
9. Lack of balance
Lying by omitting crucial details of your life can also create an imbalance of power in the relationship. Here’s how:
● It makes you more selfish: When you lie by omission, you tend to focus on your own needs or what you think is right, giving less importance to your partner’s right to know the truth
● It makes you more manipulative: Omitting major facts lets you manipulate the relationship according to your will
● It gives you an unfair advantage in the relationship power dynamic: Lying by omitting details shifts the power in the relationship to you. So, you know something that your partner doesn’t and that is unfair
How To Deal With Lying By Omission
Lying by omission, meaning lying by hiding certain information, is detrimental to the relationship. But just like other relationship issues, it’s not the end of world if a partner omits or withholds certain details. In fact, there are effective ways to handle this situation. So, how
to get over someone lying to you by hiding facts? Well, we’ll look into a few ways to deal with such cases of lying. Here’s want you can do to deal with this issue:
1. Acknowledge the problem
Nandita says, “To solve a problem, it’s important to ditch denial and start accepting that the problem exists. So, be honest with yourself and accept that you’ve been lied to by your partner.” No more trying to hide their flaws to save your face and theirs.
Related Reading: Top 10 Lies Guys Tell Females | Lies Men Tell
2. Identify the reason
To understand the situation better, get to the reasons that must’ve made them lie. Dissect their story. Nandita suggests, “Locate why they are doing this. Is it because they fear something or because of shame or a sense of guilt associated with disclosing certain facts? Are they suffering from cheaters’ guilt or are they scared they might lose you if they tell you the truth?”
3. Have an open communication
An open heart-to-heart talk can solve most relationship issues, and this is no different. Nandita explains, “Once you identify the reason behind their lies, it’s important to be open, honest, and vulnerable with your partner. This goes for both partners. One should create a safe space for communication and allow their lying partner to admit their faults or own up to the issues they want to hide.”
But be prepared for difficult conversations, because if they’re hiding something, it’s an emotional wound that needs to be addressed and not a place to play the blame game. Focus on the present and not the past.
Nandita suggests, “One of the ways a lying partner can mend their ways is by practicing empathy, or trying to put themselves in the other person’s shows. They should try and realize how they would feel if they had been lied to.”
On the other hand, most people lie to their partners because they feel they might be judged if they speak the truth. Of course, there can be other reasons, such as hiding a crime or a manipulative act. But if you’re being lied to, it’s important to introspect and ask yourself, “Am I being judgmental?” Loosen up and be easy-going for your partner to accept themselves as they are, so that they don’t need to lie to you by hiding information.
5. Set firm boundaries
Nandita says, “A healthy relationship is built on the pillars of trust, honesty, and integrity. While we all tend to lie sometimes, it’s crucial to have boundaries.” Thus, when you find out your partner has been withholding key details, you need to set clear and healthy boundaries. Be kind but firm in your demands. If they start dismissing you, saying you’re overreacting, tell them that you need them to be honest to go ahead with the relationship.
Related Reading: How To Maintain Your Sanity If Your Partner Is A Compulsive Liar
6. Consult a counselor
Lastly, if all your efforts to make your partner stop lying by withholding key information fail, try going for couples counseling. There’s no alternative to expert advice when it comes to relationship issues. If you’d like to explore this option to deal with lying by omission, skilled and licensed therapists on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
- Lying by omission involves intentionally withholding some information or facts while
communicating or not telling the whole truth. But it doesn’t involve honest omission
- Such lies have multiple reasons, such as protecting self-image, avoiding conflict, and
gaining control of a relationship
- Lying by omission examples include lying about one’s personal history, family, past
relationships, financial status, or health conditions
- You can deal with such liars by focusing on the reasons behind their lies, opening
channels of honest communication, showing empathy, setting boundaries, and
consulting a counselor
Though some people still feel that there’s no such thing as a lie of omission, we’d like to believe that lies, be it by omission or commission, have the potential to hurt the person who’s being lied to. More so, if that person is a long-term partner. Trust is the basis of any relationship, and being transparent about oneself is the best way to go forward. Hope this article helped you understand how telling lies by omission destroys relationships and how you can manage such situations. So, don’t let petty lies spell the end of the beautiful bond with your partner.
Yes, very much. Lying is lying, whether you actively tell a lie by providing false information or lie by withholding certain information. Both have the potential to destroy relationships. Some believe lying by omission is worse than lying actively, as it’s all about not telling the whole truth and can be a tool for manipulation.
Some people justify lies by saying ‘white lies’ that don’t harm anybody are
justified if they are a means to a positive end. For instance, though you hate
the French toast your wife cooks every Sunday, you tell her it’s tasty so that
she isn’t hurt.