Can Lying Affect the Intimacy of a Relationship?

Lying can affect almost every aspect of a couple's relationship.
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Trust is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. When one partner lies -- whether over small or serious matters -- this can affect the couple’s ability to trust one another, communicate effectively and share affection and intimacy. Although lies can erode a couple’s intimacy, they need not destroy it. With better and open communication and a stronger commitment, couples can overcome the eroding effects of past lies.

1 Fear, Anxiety and Intimacy

A study by Tim Cole of DePaul University found that people may lie to their partners as a way to negatively affect intimacy. Cole describes this as a protective mechanism that people may use when they are anxious about a relationship or trying to avoid intimacy. Moreover, Cole found that although most partners lie to one another at least at one point in their relationship, such behavior almost always has a detrimental effect on the relationship and on the individual partners.

2 Trust and Intimacy

In committed relationships and marriage, intimacy is not just the physical act of being with one another, but also an emotional bond. A lie in any form may start to break that emotional bond and cause you to question your partner’s commitment, trustworthiness and willingness to be open and emotionally close to you. This breakdown in emotional intimacy can also affect physical intimacy, as anger, resentment or mistrust can make it difficult to relax and enjoy time with your partner.

3 White Lies versus Major Lies

Whether your partner lies about minor issues, such as how much she spent on a dress or major issues such as an extramarital affair, it can still affect intimacy, explains Pepper Schwartz of AARP. Although minor lies may have little effect in the short-term, they can indicate larger issues in the relationship, says Schwartz. For example, lying to your partner may indicate fear of your partner’s reactions, lack of respect for the relationship or communication problems.

4 Rebuilding Intimacy

Psychologist Suzanne Phillips explains that intimacy "requires safety, exclusivity and trust.” If there is a pattern of lying which has decreased a couple’s intimacy, both partners must be willing to recommit to the relationship and make an effort to be honest with each other, no matter how difficult it may be to tell the entire truth. Honesty helps rebuild the trust that is necessary for there to be true intimacy in your relationship.

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.