You want to know the truth? Guys lie — occasionally, compulsively, desperately. We certainly don’t have a monopoly on lying, and I’ve seen women pull off some whoppers, but we men, over centuries of tinkering, have developed hardy, scrutiny-resistant strains. In the interests of furthering intergender understanding, I talked real guys into identifying, and explaining, their biggest lies.
“Sure, honey, that dress looks fine.”
Why he tells it: Hassle avoidance
Men employ these “forgivable fibs” not just to avoid hurting you (“Of course you don’t look fat in that outfit”) but to make their lives easier (“I think that wallpaper looks great”) and to steer clear of trouble (“I guess Cindy Crawford’s ‘sexy’ in a conventional kind of way, but she’s not my cup of tea”).
“Lies at this level are a way to cushion the shock of two individuals interacting with each other,” says Arthur L. Kovacs, Ph.D., a psychologist in Santa Monica, California. It’s not that your man doesn’t care what you wear or what the living room looks like The Top 10 Lies Happy Husbands Tell he does. It just doesn’t matter as much to him as it apparently does to you, and often he’ll decide that voicing his real opinion’s not worth the cost of disrupting an otherwise pleasant car ride or spending another half hour at Home Depot.
The bottom line: We lie because we love you. (If one of our buddies asked us to help choose wallpaper, we’d say, “Why don’t you Xerox my butt 500 times and put that up?”) In the interest of truth, you can ask him if he wants to weigh in, then simply let him off the hook if he doesn’t.
“I can fix it.”…Why he tells it: Ego protection
Whether it’s home repair, barbecuing or wiring stereos, there are certain domains guys feel compelled to know everything about. If a man cannot fix his own power tool, he must lie and declare it beyond repair, because if he admits defeat and lets his wife fix it, he’s officially banished from the Regular Guy club forever. That’s the way it feels, anyway — and that’s why, every year, perfectly competent certified public accountants get their fingers cut off in circular saw accidents.
Being visibly proficient at the guy basics cuts to the core of our identity. These “I can fix it” lies tend to lessen with time, as couples start to divide tasks and responsibilities along realistic lines of personal strengths and weaknesses rather than traditional gender roles. But take it slow. “Reassure him that he’s lovable for who he is, and that he doesn’t need to solve every problem,” advises Kovacs. “There’s no shame in realistically evaluating each other’s skills and sorting out who should do what.”
“I was not looking at her boobs.”…Why he tells it: To achieve a delicate balance between marital harmony and 4 million years of biological conditioning
No matter how long you’ve been together, I guarantee your man hasn’t stopped being attracted to other women. You can’t promise to stop liking chocolate — only to stop eating it. When a good-looking woman walks by, he notices. If her skirt is momentarily caught in a crosswind, even a legally blind man will get whiplash.
Guys are responding to millions of years of biological conditioning. Why bother lying? Because it’s obvious our looking bothers you. “This is what I call a ‘blessed lie,'” says Kovacs. “Men are given more license to acknowledge a wandering eye, but at the same time, we have to always treat our woman as if she’s the only thing in our field of vision.”
I once dated a woman who discreetly pointed out the awesome cleavage of a girl standing next to us. I was thrilled, and not just by the view: With that one self-confident gesture, my date relieved my subconscious worry of being caught checking out other girls. She’s now my wife. (Okay, she did a lot of other cool stuff, too.)
“Nothing’s wrong.”…Why he tells it: To lick his wounds in private
Sadness, depression, disillusionment: Correct me if I’m wrong, but for women, a man’s loneliness seems to offer an ideal consoling/bonding opportunity. If only men felt the same way. For us, your heartfelt concern only confirms that our personal weakness is now blatantly visible. And that’s why, when pressed by a loved one to unburden our souls, we quickly poke our heads back in our shells. Remember that for men, to bleed is noble, to refuse a Band-Aid, divine. In the psychological realm, this sometimes means lying and dissembling to avoid The Dreaded Talk.
Should you ever offer a shoulder to cry on? Yes. “If I think there’s a solution to be found, I’m glad to talk to my wife about it,” says Jared, 31. “She’s pretty insightful. But if I can’t change the situation, for God’s sake, just let me go out to the garage and bang some boards together or something.”
“I tried to call you.”…Why he tells it: Self-defense
All men secretly think they’re saints — or exceedingly nice guys, anyway. We can’t understand how women could ever be disappointed with us, given the glorious single life we’ve willingly given up. So when you get angry because your husband didn’t call, or he showed up late, or he forgot to pick up your insulin before the pharmacy closed, the excuses kick in. You’re complaining about a small, specific crime; his lie is his way of saying, “But doesn’t it matter that my intentions were pure?”
“Whenever I do something wrong, my wife totally overreacts and gets hostile,” says Jay, 34. So essentially, lying is damage control: When we sense undue distress, we assume our petty crime can’t account for it all. Rather, your complaint must be the tip of an iceberg of criticism, and a simple apology may be admitting to more than we bargained for. If we confess to forgetting to call you when out with the boys, will you take it to mean we didn’t think about you once all evening, or that we were glad to be away from you? Far safer to simply pretend the phone went inexplicably dead.
“I don’t want to have sex unless you want to.”…Why he tells it: To avoid seeming like a sex-crazed monkey
Women love sex — with the right person, in the right mood and armed with the right underwear. Men’s love of sex is unconditional. When unburdened by physical problems or moral restraints, the typical man can happily have sex any time, any place. He doesn’t have to be in a good mood, or like the person, or “feel right about it,” or know her name. Even porn movie dialogue doesn’t turn men off. What’s that tell you?
Men aren’t insensitive to the dismaying effect our God-given, fraternity-seasoned lust can have on the women we love. “If women knew what we were thinking about most of the time, they’d never let us on their carpets,” says Dan, 30. So we do our best to smooth over the rough edges. If you’re not in the mood, we’ll hide our disappointment so you won’t think we’re raging sex maniacs. If you’re averse to our new idea involving handcuffs, a lingerie catalog and a balloon full of Jell-O, we’ll quickly pretend we were kidding so you won’t think we’re perverts. (And if we feel too tired for sex, we may “perform” anyway so you won’t cast your eye on the cable guy.)
It’s tough for men today. We’re required to be sublimely romantic and respectful, and to ask for permission before touching your nose. But we’re also expected to be harder than nuclear physics, last longer than an impeachment trial, be ready for action whenever you are,and bring you off every time.
Juggling all these concerns, a guy will lie in the bedroom whenever he thinks the truth would (a) make him seem like an oversexed animal, (b) make him seem undersexed or (c) offend you and get his horizontal privileges cut off. And we don’t want anything cut off, now do we?
“I’m the best, baby.”…Why he tells it: To make you glad you married him
Virtually all guys engage in a little creativity when describing their bravery and fortitude, the wildness of their past exploits or their critical role at work. We’re just making sure you never forget what a superlative guy you married.
“I think women expect you to talk yourself up,” says Kenneth, 34. “It’s your duty to give her great stories.”
More important, embellishing our personal histories gives a small but regular booster shot to that ever-susceptible male ego. It’s hard for the average guy to accept his averageness — to drive his average car to his average job, take home his average salary and so forth — especially when beer ads are blasting us with exciting images of exceptional people. If stretching the truth helps justify our unique importance to the planet, great. (This doesn’t apply to me, of course: I’m legitimately extraordinary. Have a seat and I’ll tell you all about it.)
It’s harmless, in moderation. Is it important to him that you believe he “forced them” to fire him? Don’t worry, he’s normal. Is it important to him that you believe he’s the CEO of Disney? You’re in trouble. (Er — not you, Mrs. Eisner.)
“My old girlfriend? She was just okay.”…Why he tells it: Self-preservation
What details from your past become common property when you marry? A man is duty-bound (and legally bound, usually) to tell his wife if he’s ever contracted a sexually transmitted disease or fathered any tykes. Beyond that, it gets hazy fast. Does his wife have a right to know how many women he’s slept with? Or how good it was? When privacy-minded guys are faced with probing questions, you can guess what happens.
“My wife asked me if I’d ever cheated on a girlfriend,” says Bob, 32. “I did, once, but it was an isolated thing. I’d never do it again. But women think ‘once a cheater, always a cheater,’ so I told her no. I hated lying, but I felt like what she was really asking was, ‘Would you ever cheat on me?’ And that question I answered truthfully.”
Men understand the importance of honesty, but we’re talking about the big picture. When, in his judgment, to tell the literal truth would plant an unnecessary seed of doubt or hurt, fibbing often seems the nobler path.
Yes, this strategy conveniently keeps us from having to disclose uncomfortable information. But men, for whom intimacy is always learned behavior, can feel naked without a few private places a marriage doesn’t reach — and events truly in our past are a safe private zone.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”…Why he tells it: Desperate self-preservation
When a man does something that poses a significant risk to his marriage, the temptation to lie like there’s no tomorrow is strong. There’s nothing forgivable about this kind of lie, but in his mind at least, it can still be the lesser of two evils. “Anything likely to tear a marriage apart is also likely to be lied about unless the man is prepared for divorce,” says Kovacs.
An otherwise happily married man, regretful and repentant after an isolated one-night stand, may choose to lie about it and live quietly with the guilt (and the eternal fear of exposure) rather than risk his home life. It’s an act of both cowardice and compassion, since confessing to betrayal is bound to rain hostility on him and misery on his wife.
“Some things supersede truth,” says Marcus, 35. “If you’re never going to cheat again, who’s to say honesty’s the best policy?”
If your husband had a onetime affair and resolved never to do it again, would you want to know? If so, take it seriously when you feel like things have changed between you, or you feel like he’s drifting away. “Give him an opportunity to come forward,” says Kovacs. “Say, ‘I wish you felt you could tell me anything, and I’m here whenever you want to talk.'” Just be sure you really want to hear it — there’s no going back.
“I’ll never lie to you.”…Why he tells it: To live happily ever after
This is the kind of romantic, reassuring thing men say because there are times when what women really want is a movie line. But even if your guy means it — and we usually do, when we say it — time will tell. Will he ever fib, evade or stretch the truth? Yup. Will he keep his word about the important things? That depends on his character and the strength of your marriage. And it might take a shared lifetime to find out.
But does he want the happy Hollywood ending? Yeah.
By Keith Blanchard