Q My soon-to-be-ex partner keeps making false promises and telling me lies. Then he never explains himself to me when he’s been found out. He just laughs it off, blames someone else – including me – or he disappears for a few days.
He’d promise that we’d do something or go somewhere… and then make sure that we didn’t go – for one reason or another. It took me a few months to cotton on to what he kept doing because he’s so believable.
I don’t understand why he bothered to offer me things like holidays and shopping trips and then never follow through with anything.
He lies about what he’s said and done – even when I know the truth. He will argue that black is white that he’s in the right and other people are wrong. He even has me confused and believing him – although I know the truth!
He used to be in a children’s home as a child, and had several foster homes, so maybe this has something to do with it.
I’ve decided to break up with him and I’ve stopped believing any of his pie-in-the-sky offers, false promises, and frequent lies. But I’m still curious about why he keeps doing this and setting me up for disappointment – and making himself look bad too.
A I do sympathise and empathise with you. It is impossible to build a solid relationship on shifting sand. Without trust and safety there’s nothing for you (and your inner child) to attach to. That lack of attachment is also significant in another way … for him.
When he’s making his offers and promises he probably feels that he’s being seen by you as generous and kind – and he’s liked for that.
Then he can’t, or won’t, deliver on his promises and so he then gets the familiar pay off of being seen as a disappointment – and disliked (and ultimately rejected) because of that.
When he tells these lies, and makes these false promises he’s either playing a game with you (and seeing you as someone to be treated like that); or he doesn’t fully realise he’s doing it or why.
In either case he needs professional medical, neurological, or psychotherapeutic help to get to the bottom of his dysfunctional behaviour.
Assuming that he doesn’t have a chronic neurological or mental health diagnosis, or a personality disorder, he may instead be replaying aspects of his own childhood drama – and making you feel something similar to the disappointment he felt as a child. That feeling of being let down time and again.
(This is called ‘transference’ – and either you will be set up to feel like he felt, or to be cast as someone from his past – a person who rejects him. Or both as seems to be the case here).
Having been ‘in care’ can have a profound effect upon a child. In some cases it’s a blessing to escape a very toxic family.
In many cases it results in further abuse and damage to the character and personality formation (due to lack of emotional attachment and any predictable safety, protection or security).
If you wanted to repair the relationship instead of ending it, then I’d suggest you have one (extended) psychotherapy session together as a couple. This will allow you both to express your feelings about the relationship and towards one another. Speaking in front of someone who isn’t involved or related to you and your story can be beneficial in itself.
After that he would need to commit to working through his problematic behaviours (and the underlying reasons for them) in one-to-one psychotherapy. If not for your sake and that of your relationship, then for any other relationship he wants to have in future.
If he keeps making false promises and telling lies then any future partner is most probably going to be in the same situation you find yourself in now – confused, disrespected, annoyed and ready to walk away from him.
I would ask that you keep in mind the wounded little boy inside him. A child having to do whatever he could to be liked and wanted – yet time and again he was rejected and passed on to someone else.
He probably had to hide his real self behind his ‘better me’ mask and he may be too afraid to take off that mask and reveal his pain and vulnerability. This is why a competent psychotherapist is recommended.
He may be open to learning more about himself and the affects of his childhood upon his current behaviours. If so there are some free resources (e-booklets, articles, blogs, videos) on my website that will get him started in the right direction. If he can empathise with his own wounded inner child (which he may find painful, and therefore avoid) he can do what it takes to ‘re-parent’ himself and heal some of those emotional wounds and make peace with his past – and stop allowing it to keep messing up his future relationships.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com Where you will find FREE e-booklets and other free resources designed to help and inform you on your journey of self-knowledge and development