Where do you draw the line on lying in a relationship?

Special to The Globe and Mail

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The Jungle is a column that uses connections through social media to explore the fault lines in adult relationships.

Lying and being lied to is eternal, especially within the structures of a relationship. But contorted versions of the truth, misrepresentations ballooned to Jeff Koons proportions and straight-up lies have apparently become so common that I’ve been out with men who neglected to mention a) a long-term, live-in girlfriend, b) a wife, and c) a baby. A baby!

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There are lies of omission (like just not mentioning a serious girlfriend); lies informed by some sexual magical thinking (like “I have a girlfriend, but it isn’t serious”); and straight-up lying (like “I’m single”).

Sometimes a new-relationship lie is for self-preservation; sometimes it’s motivated by embarrassment. A friend of mine DM’d me on Twitter about a lie he once told: “I pretended I wasn’t living with my parents.” He writes “I would get dropped off at an apartment I ‘picked,’ then go inside, then wait, then take cab home.” He says “It went on for months. I played the ‘I have a demonic roommate’ card, for why they could never come up. Worked like a charm.”

This kind of lie is pretty typical of an early thing. Sometimes, lies can challenge whether an early thing is a “thing” at all. @AbbyCarney tweeted me about a guy who, after much “I'm into you” stuff like flirting, cuddling in bed, cooking, road tripping and movie watching, said that he couldn’t meet up because “he was going on a date. Later I went to a party where I was introduced to his lady.” She added later: “We were clearly at the start of something. … He played with my hair, stroked my arms, spooned me.”

It gets way darker when the lies are about someone’s very identity. “Meredith” e-mailed me about her ex-boyfriend, an accomplished fabulist whom she was already living with when she found out that he had lied about almost everything, to her and everyone else. Her boyfriend’s university degrees, work history, lake house, financial stability, and relationships with famous people (that one, maybe she should have seen coming) were all fabricated.

Meredith says: “I’m not sure why he felt compelled to tell half-truths; in his own right he was pretty successful.” It seems like maybe liars are more often trying to make their reality more appealing – as a single person, or a better person – than to purposefully deceive. The truth hurts; lies do too, though not at first.

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