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Nov 30, 2011

Lie to Me

I was once sitting in class with a bunch of students, and we were debating -along with the teacher -whether lying is a virtue or virulent force in life. Of course, one cannot avoid how this would impact a relationship, especially a marital relationship, and so the topic derailed, veering into marriage territory. So when I commented that I don't really advocate lying to a woman, especially not for the express purpose of pandering to her emotions, she (the teacher) practically exploded with words that will ring in my head for the rest of my life: 

"When your wife asks you 'honey, do I look fat in this outfit?' you'd better lie to her! So help you... if you don't, you'll be miserable. I'm sure of it."

Even the anger and the tone with which she expressed that sentiment was overwhelming, and threatening. It felt like being talked down to, being emotionally blackmailed. Having to act a certain way, to avoid wrath.

The most important message I learned from that experience is that when I feel that way -as though being truthful is wrong, that I need to cater to a person's emotions out of fear for the fallout or the consequences -there is something very wrong going on. A person shouldn't feel that way in a relationship, shouldn't be afraid of honesty. That's genuinely how I feel.

Now I'm sure that if I don't address how I would deal with a question like the one my teacher brought up, I'll have a ton of women jumping to her defense. While I don't particularly believe in obfuscating truth out of fear, especially not when it is a fear for how a woman will feel, I do believe that it's important to address the real concern. Sometimes, a woman may want actual feedback because she wants to look her best. Other times, she wants reassurance; to know and hear and feel her own beauty.

We guys, though, can feel stuck. Mostly because we think in very straightforwardly logical terms. So when we are asked a "yes or no" question we often think only in terms of answering "yes" or "no." In truth, I've found that often enough, women are communicating differently through their questions than I normally think. So I have to stop myself from wanting to answer "yes/no" and think about her point, whether she's looking for reassurance or being nit-picky about something small or actually needs/wants feedback. It's just not so straightforward as my own brain would see it.

Answering a "yes/no" question with something like "I'm not a fair judge, you are simply beautiful to me whether you're all dressed up or sporting a sweater" doesn't actually answer the question logically or literally, but it sure does address something important. Oh, and if I didn't actually think she's beautiful without all the make-up and the heels... then I've got a whole other set of problems to deal with, and lying is the least of them.


  1. First of all, I love the last option on the poll. Love, love it.

    Second of all, the Torah deals with this question. One is occasionally permitted to lie for the sake of sholom. Of course, it's the last resort, but the implication is clear: sometimes you have to tell her that she doesn't look fat when she actually does. Like you said, though, sometimes she wants a fair answer and sometimes she just wants someone to tell her that she looks good. It's a case by case situation, but lying isn't necessarily completely verboten.

  2. If that would be the end of it, perhaps.

    But, often it doesn't end at once. And I'm not convinced that consistently lying is better for the relationship, even if it may lead to a bit more shalom in the present.

    It can lead to a lot more frustration and resentment later.