I met a woman who had recently gone through a bad breakup – yes, there are less-than-bad breakups – who was still trying to parse what happened. Being no stranger to the breakup phenomenon, this gave me food for reflection. CAVEAT: This is an examination of truths and lies in a certain kind of relationship, not a male-bashing. Never having been a man-done-dirt-by-a-woman, I can’t write – in this milieu – from that POV.
Throughout their relationship, they had resonated, loving the same seasons, craving the same foods, having the same artistic aesthetic. Perfection. Until he cheated on her. You know the story, recriminations, forgiveness, the promise never to do it again – and, of course, more cheating.
In an effort to solve the relationship-turned-friendship’s ongoing problems, she tries to understand his behavior. She struggles to know why he’s still lying to her, particularly when, in her mind, he no longer has a need to lie, they’re not “together” any more. And there’s the crux.
I look at this type of woman, intelligent, creative, successful in her field, likable, generous, and my effort is to understand how one gets into such destructive relationships. Easily, it turns out. The first thing he says after the first intimacy is, “I will never hurt you.” What an amazing line. Even if one deflects it with, “Just don’t ever lie to me,” it vibrates its way into the tiny place in one’s heart where old hurts are stored. It effects, if not healing, at least hope.
Another thought on that very well-crafted line. If that’s the thing he thinks you need to hear at that declaratory moment, why aren’t your alarm bells going off like crazy? He’s presaging pain as soon as there is pleasure! Simple answer, you’ve just had lovely intimacy – this type of man is very good at private intimacy – so you are disarmed. And another: the line sets you up defensively, implicit in it is that YOU will hurt HIM, not the other way ’round. Ergo, you’re no longer thinking of defending yourself, but of protecting him. That feels so good, being needed and trusted, doesn’t it?
Things go along deliriously well for a time, the two of you giving and receiving the best that love has to offer. Yet, for all of the private lovingness and synchronicity, he behaves differently in public. The intimacy flees, he flirts openly with others and treats you as a mere acquaintance. You make excuses, fortified with every beautiful mutual moment and – you guessed it – he shares that rush of “falling in love” with others. So, of course, they must also share physical intimacy.
Two thoughts. This man is an endorphin junkie, not just any old endorphins but the mother-of-all, the falling-in-love endorphins. This is a realization I arrived at when parsing my own not-too-long-ago hurt. The second thought is what I’ve learned by looking at such an alarmingly similar situation from the outside.
He was lying during the good parts, too.
Not just that well-crafted, primed-for-relationship-failure line, but since the feelings he craves only come when he says “yes,” he manages always to say “yes” to intimate things, creating resonances the way a good singer does, by choosing where to focus the sound of an emergent note. Take it from me, the body has many sweet spots, depending on the register or timbre of the note you’re singing. When that simple logic – that he’s likely always lying – would carry the day, not to mention, carry you away from this person who seems too good to be true*, you cling to him because of your wonderful intimacy. It would be illogical to walk away from so much pleasure, wouldn’t it? Until you tot that up against his in-the-world behavior.
Make no mistake, leaving hurts. But. Letting him go, letting go of all that hope – and don’t get me started on what hope can do to your psyche in the long-run – will ultimately hurt far less than admitting that the parts you loved to hear and experience were also likely lies of a sort. The feelings of intimacy were not a lie, I hasten to add, none the feelings were false in the least. You really felt them, much the way an actor in a role really feels her/his character’s emotions which, by their very definition, occur in the actor’s same body. It was simply that you and he had very different goals: You wanted to build on what appeared to be a firm foundation of love. He wants to feel the falling-in-love endorphins. Of course he meant what he said in those moments. Especially the ones filled with mixed messages. But if what comes out of his mouth is inconsistent, either alone or in public, you’ve got to consider that along with the things you don’t want to hear, the ones you do might also be lies.
This woman swore to me that the guy is a “good person,” so she doesn’t understand his behavior. I asked if a cheater is a “good person,” somehow I didn’t get an answer for that, and that’s where I dropped it. Endorphins are powerful persuaders.
Why do people lie? Because it gets them what they want. How often do people lie? All the time. Do they lie to themselves? OF COURSE. They can’t get you to believe a lie unless they at-least half-believe it. Do they lie to themselves about lying to themselves? You don’t need me to answer that, but it leads to the other thing about liars. THEY ASSUME THAT YOU’RE LYING, TOO. It never occurs to them that you’re not. Never. So when you say, “Just don’t lie to me,” it has as much truth in their ears as their “I will never hurt you.”
Why is our society such a mess? Because in the face of behavior, people choose to believe feelings. The world seems far less brightly colored, far less pleasurable when logical observation rules the equation. But. By leaving behind the good/bad pain/pleasure paradigm, perhaps there’s a different way to experience the world. One in which pleasures aren’t dependent upon others’ lies.
The small voice, yes, that hopeful tiny heart-of-hearts voice is saying, “From your mouth to God’s ear.”
* bonus observation: when something seems too good to be true, it usually IS. in other words, it holds some implicit lie, otherwise it would simply BE true.
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