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Tell Me Lies

Guest poster Emily lives in the South with her husband and two children. She writes under a pseudonym because she loves to vent but is deathly afraid of offending people. Someday she will write the great American novel and hopefully have the guts to use her own name.

No one likes being lied to. Or so they say, but do we (I’m talking about women here) ever encourage it, or at least prefer it to the alternative?

I used to watch the first ladies of public scandal with a mixture of awe and pity. Hilary Clinton (I know it’s been 10 years, but some memories don’t fade with time) stood stoically beside her husband, and described the whole Lewinsky thing as a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” Hmmm.

More recently, Vanessa Bryant insisted her husband Kobe was innocent of the rape charges against him—because the sex (that wasn’t with her) was consensual. She was wearing a shiny new $4 million, 8-carat purple diamond ring at the time. Hmmm, again.

And last but not least, as a Floridian, this year I saw congressman Tim Mahoney’s wife stand beside him with a serene look frozen on her face, as he confessed to “numerous” affairs over many years with women he has worked with. She was mesmerizing, seemingly void of any emotion. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wanted to grab her and hug her, and maybe check for a pulse.

What fascinates me about these women, is not the choice they have each made to stand by their man. For that, I have great respect. It speaks to their ability to forgive, their dedication to marriage and family, and loyalty even when it isn’t deserved. I have no idea what I would do if, heaven forbid, I was in a similar situation.

No, what interests me is how they let themselves be lied to. Did they know? Did they suspect or were they completely blindsided? Were there signs? Did they ignore them? Or were they silent because they were afraid of what they might lose if they actually “knew” what their husbands were up to, like marriages, children, lifestyle, security and social standing—essentially everything?

I would like to think that I could never be so completely fooled. But exactly two years ago, I learned something horrible about somebody I loved. Not make-the-front-page horrible, but definitely shake-the-family-foundation horrible. (I apologize for being vague, but my Mom taught me not to air dirty laundry in public. That, and I think the internet is a lot less anonymous than most people assume—but my paranoia is another topic for another post.) Anyway, I was devastated when I learned the truth, but the more I thought about it, I realized that there was some small part of me that was saying, “Yes, that makes sense.”

I didn’t know. I would never even have guessed. But maybe I had chosen that ignorance, chosen not to question and to avoid situations where I might have learned more. I began to recall things that pointed towards the truth, even impressions that I had pushed down and forgotten about. Why had I done that? I’m still not sure.

I was not as close to the explosion as some of my family members were, so I could distance myself from any knowledge of it. But there was damage done to loved ones that I would do anything to reverse. I often think that if I had been strong enough to push myself towards the truth rather than backing away from it, I could have done something to protect them. For that, I think I will always feel guilt, rational or not.

My level of denial was only a fraction of what some women practice, but it gave me a new understanding. Not of why. That seems obvious enough. But of how. It also gave me a glimpse of what it feels like to have to put down that armor of self-deception and look at reality.

I have a friend whose husband seems clearly gay. I have no actual knowledge of his preferences, just some pretty strong impressions, and no reason at all to believe he is unfaithful to his wife. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it is something that she knows about and something they deal with openly together. But if I’m not wrong or if it’s not something she knows about, I wonder how taxing it is to ignore all the clues to protect her heart and her family and her dream of eternal happiness? I have no idea, but my own experience has given me an understanding heart if she ever needs me.

I keep thinking about Eve and the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Knowledge brought about pain and separation, even from the beginning. But since the Fall we have been instructed to seek truth and discernment is a gift of the Holy Ghost that we have been instructed to use. I don’t mean to suggest in any way that women who ignore or remain innocent of the sins of others are at fault—I’m just curious as to whether those are lost opportunities. Growth can be brutally painful, but isn’t it, after all, why we’re here?

Now I see those women in the media differently. Experience has made me compassionate where before I felt pity. That experience has also taught me that there are dangers to denial that reach beyond our own hearts. Thinking about the vulnerability of the people I love gives me resolve to be stronger if I have to face ugly truth again.

10 thoughts on “Tell Me Lies”

  1. Yesterday my spouse initiated a conversation with me. He told me that in the past, when he kept the fact that he'd learned for himself that the church wasn't true and became agnostic, he felt bad about keeping this to himself, but not guilty. He didn't know enough to look down the road and see how this deviation from his faithful upbringing would impact us in the future.

    But recently he's started feeling guilty about something he'd kept from me, and he didn't want to let it go any further. So he shared some news with me that left me so completely undone that I honestly couldn't even eat thanksgiving dinner. (He wishes he'd timed the discussion a little differently.) I'm still having trouble getting normal breath today, and wonder how there are any tears left in me.

    Reading your post makes me wonder if I knew, somehow, or if I contributed to the situation with something I've done or said. Heaven knows I've rerun countless scenes from the past through my mind since yesterday afternoon. I don't know that I asked to be deceived, but I certainly do have a habit of trusting people and giving them the benefit of the doubt. I don't know how to live in this world, among people who are mostly just doing the best they can whilst making their human mistakes, and not trust them. I may be burned and hurt, but the alternative (suspicion, thinking the worst of others) just isn't a way I can live.

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  2. Making it through, you break my heart.

    Thanks, Emily, for a thought-provoking post. It reminds me of the time I co-taught Sunday School, and my companion teacher lied to me about not being able to teach. Over and over, and it took me a while to grasp that he was lying. I am easily duped.

    But I would probably still trust him again.

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  3. I do sometimes wonder if people look at me and wonder why on earth I stay in my marriage. Seriously. My husband is bisexual, but he told me before we were married and we discussed it, prayed about it, etc. Then a few years ago he confessed doubts he had about the church and has slowly become completely inactive. But we're still together and we're still happy. There are a variety of reasons to stay in a relationship, some probably more healthy than others. I do think that sometimes there is denial going on, but I also do think that people are complicated. There are some people I know where I look at their marriages and I think "there is no way that could ever work for me", but it works for them and they are doing all right. The path to growth is complicated and everyone is at a different stage on it. Sometimes we grow most in relationships, and sometimes we grow by leaving them.

    PS–The gaydar thing is funny, because we know a number of couples where one spouse is gay, and many of them you would never tell. Some of them it really is obvious. But being effeminate and being gay don't always go together.

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  4. Thank you for your thoughts FoxyJ. Good points, all, and they provided a nice perspective for me to mull over this morning. I got through the past two days, and am settling in with the latest shift in my life. Dang if I just don't want any more change. Isn't there ANYTHING that I can bank on in life? Or do we simply move from challenge to challenge till we've experienced every last blasted one of them?

    Sometimes I don't want to be "proved".

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  5. This is a very interesting post for me….years ago I was in a relationship with someone who ended up lying to me…not just lying to me, but rather I would say he turned out to be a liar. Of course after the fact I realized the red flags I had pushed aside left and right. In some ways I felt really stupid for not putting 2 and 2 together (and together, and together…). In my experience there are times when things seem fishy and it turns out to be nothing and other times where things seem fishy because there is a stinking dead fish right under your nose…so I didn't want to blame myself for trusting someone I should have been able to trust (I hope that analogy made sense–I was choosing between 'nothing' and a dead fish–I decided to trust the dude by choosing to believe 'nothing' was up, instead I got a stinking rotten dead fish). I moved on from the situation, but unfortunately the lasting result has been how hard it is to trust people in my life especially if there has been dishonesty on any level. I know that people make mistakes and sometimes even lie–even if there are apologies and no evidence of further deceit I have a really hard time knowing how to judge the accuracy and the importance of those situations. For example–if someone was dishonest was this a one time thing or are they deceitful, manipulative people whose lives are built on lies? Not wanting to be totally naive again, I generally side with the latter. I find that I do live in a world of suspicion and it's very difficult for me. I would love to be able to go back to a time when I trusted everyone, but at the same time I believe my eyes were opened a bit to help me empathize and even recognize when I'm being lied to…however I'm just not sure I'm finding the right balance.

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  6. These are very good questions – unfortunately any answers we can figure out are probably situational. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

    When I look at my marriage, there were so many red flags when we were engaged. It could have turned out badly. But it hasn't. In spite of our own flaws, it's working out. In some ways, this really confuses me (while at the same time I am infinitely grateful). If I had been looking at my own situation, I would not have advised me to get married. Then on the other hand, there are situations that seem made in heaven and perfect, yet they go awry. It is so, so hard to figure out.

    One thing I feel very strongly about – we must help each other through our trials. A true friend is a gift from God, and I hope we will be that for each other.

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  7. Thanks for everyone's insightful comments. Making it through, reading what you wrote takes me right back. I wish I could give you a hug. Hopefully you have someone who you can confide in (in real life) who will do that for you, otherwise you'll have to settle for the telepathic hug I'm sending you right now.

    Interestingly enough, I didn't think a lot about the issue of future trust while I was writing this post, but it's been a big thing for me. For a long time I had a hard time not looking around me at church at and wondering, "So what are you hiding? And you? And you?" I'm so much better now and I don't think it was just a function of time. I prayed a lot about it–I knew I had to learn to trust my leaders and the priesthood holders. I do now. I would say my testimony of the sacredness of the priesthood and men who hold it worthily, is much greater than it ever was before all this. That said, it doesn't take much of a hint of misuse to make me suspicious. The line between paranoia and intuition is a definitely a fine one after you've been deceived.

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  8. Emily, what a thought provoking post as I have wrestled with similar thoughts for several years following a family tragedy. It rocked every aspect of my life including my trust in priesthood leaders. A book that brought a great deal of clarity into my life was "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck. I appreciate the way you look on these women with compassion instead of pity. I, too often, look at women with irritation when compassion is needed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  9. All of us compartmentalize our lives. All of us do it. Some to a greater and more detrimental effect than others, but I really think we all do it.
    Think about starving children in 3rd world countries, or even your own. How can you eat dinner so serenely? We have to block things in order to cope in a world such as ours.
    And none of us gets through mortality unscathed. We all have our private hells.
    To look around at church and wonder what's going on behind someone else's white picket fence is in some ways a sign of maturity. You're realizing that everyone has something that they have to cope with.
    As the previous post (The Relief in RS) talked about, it isn't typical for someone to stand up in RS and say "And just so you know, I could totally use some new friends!" Instead we blog about it because perhaps it feels too intimate to say to people face to face.
    Just some random thoughts.

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  10. It's a fine line we walk. How do we not be stupid and yet not live life being mistrustful of everyone.

    For some reason in my life I attract people who are not worthy of my trust. It's like I have a sign on my head, "I'll believe anything".

    And yet, I don't want to become a suspicious paranoid person. Most people who do this I can walk away from, but you can't walk away from your own children.

    And so I struggle with the tightrope (and yes, I deal with my distrust of the priesthood. I've seen it abused more than I've seen it used in a good light.)

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