joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But we need rules to keep people from lying to us!"

I got news for you honey, rules don't keep people from lying to you, they only tell people willing to lie what they need to lie about. An honest person and a liar look exactly the same ... until after you discover the lie, and by then it's too late. Rules won't stop someone from lying because, and I'm gonna let you in on a little secret here ... someone willing to lie to you won't care that there's a rule against lying. It's like someone who is intent on murder isn't going to say "oh, you mean it's illegal for me to own a gun? Oh, well, I guess I won't go murder then!" Being against the rules isn't what stops people from lying, cheating, or hurting us.

But I'll tell you what does stop them from doing those things, most of the time. Respecting people's autonomy, giving them the freedom to make their own decisions, and providing enough safe space for them to tell you things that you might find difficult to hear - that's what prevents most people from lying.

It's kind of amazing how much more willing people are to be honest to you if they believe that it's safe to be honest to you. Lying takes effort. It takes work. But our society rewards lying and punishes telling hard truths. This doesn't mean, of course, that you're not allowed to react or have bad feelings when you hear something upsetting. But it does mean that there has to be some incentive to tell a hard truth that is greater than the incentive to lie and the consequences for telling the truth have to be less than the consequences for lying. Why should I tell the truth if I can lie and nothing bad will happen to me?

Because telling the truth would make a better person, and if you don't make it so difficult for me that not being a good person is the lesser consequence, then I'll tell you the truth (giving myself Brownie points for being a Good Person) and avoid the hassle of lying.

This doesn't stop everyone from lying, of course. Some people have a mental disorder called pathological lying. Some people have programming that's just too ingrained. Some people get off on secrecy and subterfuge. But the kicker is that, for those people, the rules won't stop them anyway. The rules just tell them how they can "win" the game by oh-so-considerately laying out exactly what they can or should lie about. The rules don't weed out liars, they create opportunities for liars.

I've often been baffled by guys who would get into relationships with me because I said I wanted an open one, and then they would proceed to lie to me about seeing anyone else. Like, WTF dude? You have my blessings! There's no reason to lie! Those people are out there, absolutely. What do you think would have happened if I had made a rule that these guys couldn't date other people? Do you think they would have said "oh, well, I WAS going to sneak around behind her back and fuck this chick on the side, but now that she SAID that I couldn't, I guess there goes that plan then!" Because that's totally realistic, right?

People who are going to lie are going to lie. Supporting people's freedom and autonomy and encouraging them to follow their own path while nurturing a haven for them to share the stories of their travels with you is far more successful at weeding out liars and developing honest relationships.

I know, it's surprising, that treating people with respect makes them want to be respectful back. Totally counter-intuitive, right? Well, yes, it is in a culture that confuses "respect" with "fear my authority". But it's really easy to make people fear you. It's much harder to make them willingly respect you.

Our culture can't always tell the difference between "treat me like a person" and "treat me like an authority" because it uses the word "respect" for both concepts.  So some people think that the only way to make a partner treat them like a person is to make their partner fear their authority.

I've heard from many people, even within the poly community, that they want to get married, for instance, because being married will make it more difficult for a partner to leave them, so they will feel more secure in their relationship knowing that their partner will be disinclined to leave because of the difficulty.  

Some people are less interested in treating their partners like autonomous human beings than they are in controlling their behaviour, specifically in "making" someone "respect" them, "love" them, not lie to them.  You can't *make* someone feel respect (and a lot of people assume that you won't lie to them if you respect them).  Tying them to you legally does not make them love you or prevent them from leaving.  Passing rules against lying does not keep people from lying to you.  Even passing rules and making scary punishments does not stop people from lying to you.  It just makes them work harder to not get caught.  But it's not love and it's not "respect".

I guess if fear and control is what you're going for in a relationship, at least you can own up to that and stop kidding yourself that you're doing it for the "respect".  
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