“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
WARNING: In this article the words “men” and “they” are not meant not include all men, just those who do what I’m accusing them of doing.
There’s no denying, men lie. Not all men, but the ones who do, lie a lot. (Women lie, too, but we’ll deal with them later).
The lies men tell vary from the mundane and ineffective – the ones other people see through immediately, men and women – to the truly creative. The odd thing is, they never seem to learn which lies work and which don’t. I’ve often wondered if there isn’t a book they all secretly own, and choose their lies from: Lies that Work, I always thought it might be called.
I was once contacted from an online dating site by a foreigner who claimed:
He represented his country at the UN.
He was both a doctor and a lawyer.
His net worth was counted in the 100s of millions.
He was young, good-looking, and would love to meet me.
I wrote back (borrowing a phrase from Dorothy Parker): “Sure. And I’m the Queen of Romania.” I had to laugh, wondering if this guy actually thought a woman would buy this story. No doubt he was hoping his message would fall into the mind of some 18-year old chick – no, better say 15. Eighteen-year-olds are pretty smart these days (and so are some 15-year olds, of course).
My friend Sally (now 84), was married to a colonel in the army until he died a few years ago. His car was marked “Colonel XXX.” Her daughter is married to a man who claims he spent 40 years in the army. Sally knows better than that, because she’s known her son-in-law for years and years and there’s no gap of 40 years in his history. Besides, her daughter told her it was a lie. Nevertheless, when this man drives his wife and Sally to the army base commissary to shop, he allows the guard at the gate to salute him and call him “Colonel.” The women go along with it, but he would probably be shocked to know how they laugh at him behind his back.
Some experts say men lie more than women do; others claim the opposite. Everybody lies. But why do men lie so much? Here are the top ten reasons men lie:
1. To get sex.
Men will definitely lie to get sex. I once saw an apparently homeless man on the street, with a signboard that read: “Will work for food. Will beg for sex.”
Some men are so desperate that they’ll tell outrageous lies that a 2-year old retarded deaf mute wouldn’t believe. Some examples:
“You are so beautiful I can’t believe it.” (To a plain girl who has known what she looks like for years. Even given the fact that beauty is subjective, this isn’t going to fly very often. And although he’ll brag to his buddies that he scored, he’ll also lie and claim you are a real beauty, otherwise, no points).
“I would love to get married to some nice girl.” (Yeah, but he’s not likely to. He’s 48 and NEVER has been married. You have to ask yourself: Why now? Why me?)
“Married?! Who, me? Of course not, would I lie to you?”
The most critical lie men tell is, beyond doubt: “I’ve been tested, and I’m clean.”
Number Two: “You can’t get pregnant, I’ve been fixed.”
2. They love to, and in many incidences, they don’t believe there’s anything “wrong” with it. They don’t believe they’re really “lying if they withhold some of the truth.”
Men are so accustomed to lying to other men (I’m convinced this starts in childhood) that it just seems natural for them to lie to women, too. Men lie to their co-workers; they get together in bars to drink and to lie to each other about their role in “the war,” about their income, the amount of their debt, what their car will do, etc., etc. There seems to be some unwritten rule that “I won’t call you on yours, if you don’t call me on mine.”
Some men feel it adds something to their appeal/image if they can put something over on someone. With women, it’s part of the “chase,” the “challenge” (“I told her she was the nicest woman I ever met, and she tipped right over backward – har! Har! HAR!”) It’s useless to hold this against them, or try to make them stop. Many just can’t.
Men don’t seem to think it’s a lie if it’s for a good cause: to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, for example (especially their own), or to get sex (they believe they’re entitled), or to get out of sex.
3. Despite their love of fighting and war, they will lie to avoid conflict.
Many men love nothing better than to play war-like video games, to watch or participate in sports, where violence and competition rule; they love the idea of going to war, especially when young (of course there are exceptions, some old men would still sign up if allowed to), but if their wife or girlfriend catches them in some nefarious activity, they’ll lie like floor polish to save their own behinds.
Down at the level where they live, though, men hate conflict. One reason may be that most of them face enough stress and competition at work that when they get home, all they want to do is relax, eat, watch a little TV or play with the kids, go to bed, have sex and segue into sleep before the next breath is drawn. Wise women will bring up the broken oven, the next telephone bill and other unpleasant news in the morning, when the man is fresh and rested.
4. They will also lie to get out of an unpleasant task, or when pressure is put on them to do something they don’t want to do.
Pressure must feel to men like a noose slowly tightening about their necks, they react so negatively to it (is that what made “nagging wives” such a cliché?) Women often react negatively also, but they are less likely to react violently. No one likes pressure put on them. It would certainly be helpful if men felt comfortable expressing their feelings in the first place, and secondly, in a non-destructive way. Many men act as though feelings are almost alien to them – something that women were born with, but they weren’t.
My brother was once married to a lovely woman he adored. But after several years, she left him. He was devastated, shocked (“How could she?!”) and angry, and came to me to cry on my shoulder. He couldn’t understand why Leslie had left him. “I thought we were happy!,” he cried. I questioned him about what he wanted out of the marriage, and he told me. It appeared that Leslie had met all his needs. “So what did Leslie want?” I asked. He looked blank. It turned out that he didn’t know what Leslie wanted, had never known, and I suspected, didn’t much care. Men who suppress their feelings cut off a wide avenue of connection, and when it happens they have no one to blame but themselves. Feelings are universal: the most isolated pygmy tribe in Africa or wherever they live knows what anger is, what it feels like, and sorrow, jealousy and the other major emotions.
5. A man who is insecure is more liable to lie, or do worse.
Insecurity is awful for anyone, but men in particular seem to be vulnerable to it. I know a man who is terribly insecure; he needs to know where his wife is every moment of the day. He doesn’t get angry or violent over her activities; he just needs to know. If he lapses and does something he feels is wrong and will reflect badly on him in her eyes, he is apt to lie about it. Women also lie for this reason. No one enjoys being busted. I know another, single man who lies all the time, but only about one thing. His age. He is actually 54 but tells the women he dates that he’s 45. Some of them believe him. These men put pictures of other men on the dating sites (and think they can get away with it!); they may even go so far as to doctor their driver’s license, or cut 5-10 years of their history away like pruning a bush.
6. They lie online because they think no one can hold them accountable (they’re forgetting their wife, and that there’s software available that will tell her exactly what sites they’ve been visiting, what they’re saying in their emails, etc.)
The great thing about the Internet is that you can disguise yourself easily and tell any lie that appeals to you (that’s also one of its great detriments). Men have been known to engage a teenage girl in a chat room in order to try to persuade her (1) that he’s about her age; (2) that she’d be perfectly safe with him; and (3) she’ll be missing a lot if she refuses to meet him. This is execrable behavior but despite the fact that there are severe penalties under the law, they continue to do it.
7. They’ll lie if they feel trapped, or that someone is trying to trap them.
No one likes feeling trapped, but again, men are likely to react more…shall we say intensely, especially if they suspect someone’s trying to manipulate them into marriage. The old, tried-and-true method of claiming pregnancy doesn’t work any more – men know about birth control, too. I know a woman who met a man on Wednesday, and moved in with him on Thursday. In the first flush of love (sex) he allowed it. Now, while she’s telling everyone they’re getting married soon, he’s trying to figure out how to get rid of her, and in this case, he’s sure to feel justified in lying to her.
8. They’ll lie if you bust them, and they see war coming.
This is closely aligned with #3, but there are slight differences. Men seem to feel more of an obligation to be truthful with their wives, less so with their children or bosses, but almost none with everybody else. If the man has done something he knows his wife won’t approve of, he’ll lie extravagantly to ward off her anger, or worse, disappointment in him. The stories they come up with are in the very back of the book, labeled “If all else fails…” These include “I had a flat tire,” “I met an old friend from college” (he’s never been to college), and “I was out all night because I got drunk and fell asleep in the car” (he doesn’t drink, and doesn’t own a car). Doesn’t matter, he’ll still lie and expect his wife to believe him.
9. They’ll lie because their wife or girlfriend is stupid, or they think she’s stupid.
A friend of my husband’s nearly every night would stay in town after work instead of going home to his wife, sometimes until midnight or one or two in the morning. When my husband asked how he could get away with this, he laughed. “My wife is so stupid,” he said, “she thinks Superman is a real person. She believes everything I tell her.” He’s now divorced.
10. They’ll lie maliciously, for money or some other gain.
Some men don’t care who they hurt with their lies. Two men in Florida recently conned a local business owner out of $50,000. They told him treasure was buried on his property.
They’ll lie to get access to your savings, making you think you are the woman he’s been looking for all his life, etc., etc. His money is tied up in investments, blah, blah, so he needs to use yours. Some of these guys are married to two or three other women they have bilked. If you find yourself embarrassed, feeling defensive or meeting ridicule when you tell your girlfriends about him, that’s the time to tie yourself to a lamp post and think this over. If he really loved you, you wouldn’t have to tell your friends, they’d already know. A man who is really, truly interested in the woman herself is difficult to get rid of.
How can I tell if a man is lying?
My friend Gloria says, “Look at his lips – if they’re moving, he’s lying.”
Seriously, though, there are a couple of ways to tell: you can watch his body language. If he has his arms folded across his chest, he’s expecting trouble and will probably lie to avoid it. His feet point to the way he wants to go, so if he’s pointing at the door, stand back. Body language is useful, study up on it.
But mainly, pay attention to what he does. “Actions speak louder than words,” and they also speak more honestly. When you first meet a man, he’ll show you his best side, describe his accomplishments (sometimes borrowed from others), and shower you with attention, or even gifts. This slowly fades the longer you know him, and sooner or later he’ll show you his shabby, under-the-rock side. This is the time when you’ll make the decision whether to go on or not. With some men, it will take a year, with others, a few months will do it. Don’t be home if those call back (and they always do).
The more you know about how and why men lie the better prepared you will be to deal with it when it happens to you!