Your Internet history isn’t the only dirty little secret in your relationship.
In a study from Texas A&M University, people admitted to misleading their partner a third of the time. When they got hitched, that number dropped to 1 in 10—but still, that means the woman you exchanged vows with could be deceiving you on a near-daily basis.
“Women weigh the pros and cons of honesty versus lying,” says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie. “Often they find that white lies serve them more than the truth.”
Your wife’s dishonesty may come from a place of compassion, or may just be an attempt to please or placate you.
But, the truth is, no one wants to share a bed with Pinocchio. So when should your B.S. detector sound?
Listen for these seven common catchphrases—and prepare to call her bluff.
1. “This dress was on sale.”
It wasn’t. In your wife’s mind, saving money (“It was half off!”) negates spending it—and therefore reduces the odds that you’ll blow up at her about blowing the budget. “This is often taught by the mother: Always downplay. Never reveal how much something really cost,” says Barash. And her need to protect her image may overpower her desire for honesty. “We think a man will judge us for our spending habits, and that he’ll think we’re silly or frivolous,” says DeAnne Lorraine, a Los Angeles-based dating coach. “We don’t want him to think we’re a liability.”
2. “You have the biggest penis I’ve ever seen.”
You don’t. This is what psychologists call an “altruistic lie”—an untruthful compliment designed to shield you from embarrassment. “Most women have one ex-boyfriend that was enormous,” says Lorraine. “But among the rest, there were only miniscule differences. So why not tell this guy he’s the biggest?” Read: Unless you’re packing some serious sausage, you probably aren’t top dog. But you’re so similar to the others that she can convince herself you’ve got a quarter inch more to offer. “It’s not like it really matters to us, but it matters to men,” says Lorraine. “So we’ll stroke their egos.”
3. “I’ve only slept with two men.”
More like four. Most women can spout off their past partners’ names as quickly as you can your fantasy-league roster. So, no, a few guys from college don’t just accidentally get lost in the shuffle. “Women always minimize how many sexual partners they’ve had, mostly because they want to seem pristine,” says Barash. By Lorraine’s estimates, doubling her number will give you a more accurate picture of her past. “Women will say, ‘That one didn’t count,’ because it only lasted a few minutes, they were really drunk, or never saw the guy again, even though it really was sex,” she says.
4. “I don’t want anything for our anniversary.”
Yeah, and you don’t really want to win the lottery. “We’re saying what we think our partner wants to hear,” says Barash. “But then the resentment builds.” Translation: Your wife may scoff at the idea of a gift, but still expects you to surprise her with a dozen roses and the purse she’s been lusting after. “We don’t want to seem needy or demanding,” says Lorraine. “It’s silly, but we want our partner to read our minds. We assume he’s intuitive enough to know we do want a gift.”
5. “I’m in no hurry to have kids.”
Guess again. Maybe she’s not gunning to get pregnant ASAP, but somewhere in her brain, there’s a clock counting down. “Women know men don’t like to be rushed—that if we try to push them, they’re just going to be turned off,” says Lorraine. “So we act like we’re cool, like our biological clocks aren’t ticking. But, really, once we hit a certain age, we’re freaking out inside, worrying our eggs are expiring soon.’ Even if your wife is only 25, she still has a timeline in mind, no matter how “go with the flow” she seems.
6. “I’m totally cool with your poker nights.”
Not always. Your guys’ nights may give her permission to binge-watch Scandal, but she won’t be so receptive if you hold one every weekend. “It’s in a woman’s biological nature to want a committed partner, and to want to be around him a lot,” says Lorraine. Problem is, women know men relish their freedom—and that commandeering every night of your week can push you away. “No woman wants to seem needy,” says Barash. “So she won’t be totally honest about her feelings toward your commitments, or what she expects from you time-wise.”
7. “I wouldn’t change anything about you.”
She totally would. If your wife sounds like a Hallmark card, she probably is genuinely expressing her love—just with a little exaggeration. “When it comes to the big picture, women will rarely rock the boat, especially in a committed relationship,” says Barash. “But the fact is, she wishes you’d lose 10 pounds, maybe 20, had a different job, or weren’t so cheap.” But according to her mental calculations, she has more to gain by keeping her mouth shut—and the relationship happy—than by complaining.