mahatma gandhi said, “the day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” sadly, in any romantic relationship, two people never have equal power. if you pay close attention you will notice that depending on the issue or situation at hand, power fluctuates between lovers. for instance, you may have more power than your partner regarding family, friends and social connections but lack power regarding financial decision-making. when you do notice this in your relationship pay attention because these power differences influence the use of deception. it is quite possible that the person in the low-power position is more likely to use deception. you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know you can only truly give love from a place of knowing that you have love. “a course in miracles,” teaches us that “to the personal mind giving means sacrifice because to it giving means giving away. the personal self only willingly gives when it believes it will get something greater than what it is giving. this is the personal self’s law of “giving to get”, which it does as it evaluates itself in relation to other personal selves” (60). you see, the personal self is obsessed with the idea of lack, so if it feels after giving all it gets back is arrogance and control, it resorts to ways of regaining some self-worth.
in “love is organic – instalment x,” i wrote that a lover may cede the decision-making power to his/her partner, but even those who do come to a point where they feel overwhelmed by the control of that with whom the decision-making power lies. you see, there is a difference between making decisions on behalf of your partner and rendering your partner powerless with the decisions you make on his/her behalf. and no one likes to feel powerless based on decisions made for them. imagine your partner has just been given a job, you both have cars, but you say, “i will drop at work and pick you up after work each day. there’s no need for us to waste fuel.” in making this decision you forget your partner may have need for her car to dash to, let’s say, the cellular provider to pay the bill during lunch hour. must she then have to wait for you? plato says, “the measure of a man is what he does with power.” you see, when you make people feel they lack power, they often feel like they lack control over what happens and may resort to deception to level the playing field. the last thing you want is a co-worker driving your woman to the cellular provider asking, “i thought you have your own car, why aren’t you using it?” innocent question, but the subtext is “how can you let him dictate to you how you can use your own car,” a subtext that suggests you lack power. a subtext the fuels deception. a subtext that’s tempting because through deception, people feel like they can gain the upper hand and have some influence over what happens. curiously, because every relationship is based on some modicum of complementarity, the situations power imbalance can crop up are numerous – some quite subtle.
imagine you are driving with your girlfriend through town in your 1982 citi-golf and you drive by a man in a ferrari pininfarina sergio – roof down in 42 degrees centigrade heat, and she says, “that’s mr so-and-so. he is our family friend. that guy has shit-load of money,” and then she proceeds to give you a juicy rundown of his escapades only those who would’ve closely associated with the man would know. you drive by a woman driving a brabus 850 xl and she says, “that’s …, she is the ceo of … last time she came to my mom’s place for lunch she gave me her card and said she’d like to mentor me. she just divorced her third husband.” still while driving you start to discuss her hunt for a job and she says, “i really need to call … (a man in the top three of the echelon of power) he owes me a favor. did i tell you my grand-father virtually raised that guy?” look, there is nothing wrong if your partner is a mobile ‘yellow-pages,’ but if he/she has a lot of friends and tends to make all of the decisions when it comes to who you spend time with that can create an unhealthy power imbalance in your relationship. now, imagine you don’t like having lunch or dinner dates with these people whose car allowances are six times your salary, or having to drive up in your 1982 citi-golf for gatherings in their mansions when every other car looks like a spaceship. when placed in this type of situation, you are more likely to lie to get your way “look babe, you can go to …’s place without me. i have to work late tonight. you can take the car” and she says, “ah, no need, i will take a cab.” whatever you do that evening while she is having wine and a meal you can only dream about, it wouldn’t be far from your mind that when she has to call a cab when she is ready to leave, a discussion might crop up about you … even if she has all the connection, but you are the ‘bread-winner,’ still the balance of power is skewed. you don’t think so?
imagine that your citi-golf driving partner, a self-conscious, unassuming fellow and a relationship manager in one of the banks in town, has the financial power in the relationship. in fact, you have just graduated from university, the only thing related to finance or an employment you have is a large brown envelope with your transcripts and academic certificates. so, he earns the money and likes to control how it is spent. now, you want to spend money on something or things that your partner does not approve of – he drives a 1982 citi-golf for heaven’s sake. imagine this – you want to buy a fitting birthday present for your high-society family friends, chances are you are more likely to lie about what you need the money for. when given, you are more likely to spend the money as you see fit and then lie about what you spent it on to your partner.
look, we all lie, that’s just the way the ball bounces. and because of this, it’s easy to imagine what someone doesn’t know wouldn’t hurt him/her, but lying for the sake of leveling the playing field can be bad, and when resorted to often, it can become difficult to deal with because it typically involves two separate issues. whenever deception is used, it is often used to conceal a mistake. so when deception is uncovered both issues, the original wrongdoing as well as the cover up, must be dealt with. unfortunately, because deception involves issues of trust, most people tend to focus on the fact that lies were told rather than focusing on the underlying issue. what i have learnt is this, if the underlying issue isn’t addressed, it is likely to recur. so, i have learnt too, it is often more productive to focus on the underlying issue rather than the use of deception.
have you ever noticed that when a lie is discovered most times the discoverer focuses on the deception rather than what caused the deception? in fact, any discussion about what has just happened is never really about what has just happened, but what has happened previously. you don’t think so? imagine you find out the person you thought was your partner’s cousin is actually his/her lover, and you say, “i don’t want you seeing him/her anymore. this shit must stop. no more messages, no more phone calls, you hear?” and he/she says “ok”. things appear normal until four weeks down the line you realize he/she is involved with someone else and you repeat your warning/threat and she says “ok” again. the point is, you may succeed in stopping one affair but you haven’t addressed the real problem – the reason he/she cannot stop cheating on you. what reasons are you giving him/her to cheat? do you make him feel because he isn’t a ceo or drive an expensive car his friends are not good enough to hang with? do you make her feel because she has no job she is not responsible enough to handle or spend your money? if you are going to ask someone to change his or her behavior you have to resolve what causes the behavior not the behavior. my thinking on this scenario takes me back to how parents socialize us on this way of ‘resolving’ problems. have you noticed when some parents catch their children lying, they tend to focus on the deception and ignore what engendered the deception? how many times have you heard a parent say, “i can’t believe you lied to me. you cannot go to school and steal other people’s pens. you told me that pen was given to you by … imagine my shame when the principal called me into his office this morning. i am really upset that you lied to me…. now, go to your room.” just like that, the original problem never gets fully addressed and it often happens again. remember it is your mind, not your behavior, that needs to change. remember, when your partner is depressed it is because he/she feels that he/she is deprived of something that he/she wants and do not have. what every lover wants is some kind of balance of power. elizabeth gilbert of “eat, pray, love” fame says, “i met an old lady once, almost a hundred years old, and she told me, ‘there are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. how much do you love me? and who’s in charge?” when there is a balance of power in a relationship, the need for deception is less. but above all, remember, the personal self is always comparing itself to others and is incapable of perceiving oneness when there is an imbalance of power.