I just finished watching the HBO show Big Little Lies (based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling book). And first, let me just say, it brings up a lot of relationship issues that we try to avoid.
The story, driven by a murder (we don’t know who was murdered or who murdered him through most of the 6-episode series), centers around some affluent white women in Monterrey, California. While the murder is a good plot device, the story is really about the three main characters, and how they approach issues in their fractured relationships.
In addition to the incredible setting, the women themselves are impossibly beautiful and live in literal glass houses with sweeping views of the ocean, so it might be challenging to feel empathy. So, if you can get past that part (since we can all so TOTALLY relate to lifestyles of the rich & famous), you should watch – because it brings up so many important topics.
It’s a character study in how we all approach relationships, what we tell ourselves about those relationships, and the slippery slope we create when we try to avoid our feelings.
The characters delve into some weighty subjects – spousal abuse, cheating, jealousy, abandonment, and rape among them. All three main characters are damaged women, though they don’t see themselves that way, and are trying to figure out how to be happy since on the outside, they live enviable lives. They are dealing with very real day-to-day struggles. These women are strong and flawed at the same time, like all of us. They are grappling with the trajectory of their lives, the consequences of their choices, and basically, how to get through each day.
I won’t get too much into the details (no spoiler alerts), but I do want to talk about lies. Especially the lies we tell ourselves in relationships.
First, let me ask some tough questions I’ve dealt with myself in relationships:
- Do you tell yourself he loves you, even though his actions say otherwise?
- Are you putting your life on hold for your partner? Are you afraid of losing him?
- Do you blame your partner for your unhappiness?
- Do you take out your own frustrations on your partner?
- Is there something about commitment that makes you squirm and want to run the other way?
Relationships aren’t perfect, they are living things. They require us to address the underlying questions, the fundamental assumptions of why we’re together, in small but important ways. But how often are we willing to dive deeper, to understand why we have these feelings of uncertainty or discontent? How often do we act out instead of opening ourselves up to our partners, making ourselves vulnerable?
We all have fear. Sometimes, it’s easier to avoid the fear and pretend things are okay, even though they aren’t, because we don’t want to be alone. Sometimes, we like the image of a relationship that we create, rather than the reality of it. And sometimes, we don’t want to accept that we are each responsible for our own lives, and our own happiness – others aren’t to blame, not even an ex.
We tell ourselves little lies to get through. And we convince ourselves things will change, though we refuse to do the hard work of actually changing.
Over time, they become big little lies, because these unspoken issues break relationships apart.
If you’re with a man who doesn’t respect you, do you convince yourself he is right for you? Let’s say he stays out late without texting, stands you up for dinner plans, or ignores your needs in favor of his own. Time after time. You tell yourself that this is his personality, or he loses track of time, or he forgets his phone, etc. You convince yourself that he really does respect you because he did make those plans for a vacation last summer. That counts for something, even if he regularly flakes and doesn’t reach out to you, right?
You consider yourself a strong woman – you’ve had to prove yourself at work, but relationships are another story. They are confusing. At what point do you confront him, or make the decision to leave? For how long do you accept what is, telling yourself he’s a good guy, and hope for things to change?
Or let’s say you tend to pick men who aren’t right for you, who are lazy, selfish, condescending, whatever. Let’s say this happens again and again – it’s like you’ve dated the same man three times in a row. You blame your boyfriends, their weaknesses and issues, and get increasingly frustrated that things never seem to work out – which is totally understandable. But what is your role?
Let’s look at the flip side: somehow, you are seeking out these types of men to date. You are drawn to these issues. Why are you drawn, and why do you stay in each of these relationships? Are you enabling bad behavior, or are you subconsciously choosing the wrong men because you are afraid to commit? There are many reasons, but this requires asking yourself the hard questions.
Relationships are hard work, but they should also be rewarding.
If you are doubting yourself, or your partner, ask yourself what’s at the root of your discontent? Is it an issue you need to work on, or is it a problem that is recurring in the relationship that you haven’t yet addressed out of fear?
So let’s stop telling ourselves big little lies, and ask the harder questions.