Liar, liar polygraph on fire
Last year, my sister-in-law became convinced that my brother was cheating and made him take a lie-detector test. He passed. Now she wants him to agree to be tested monthly. My brother is so beaten down by his wife’s constant questions and arguments that he is willing. It’s insane. She’s incredibly insecure and sees threats where they do not exist. My brother is a wonderful man, a good father and husband, and a proven leader in the community. I can count on him for anything. They have four children, two in high school and two away at college, and a very comfortable life that he does not wish to disrupt. What do you think he should do?
Get curious. He is married to a woman who has a near-pathological distrust of him. Why does he stay? Is the comfortable lifestyle that he and his wife built together worth the price of his peace? Or hers? If your brother is willing to make such a trade, it’s a shocking revelation about his sense of self. It’s also surprising that he is not concerned about the impact of this drama on his teenage children. After all, they are not learning the best practices for handling fear of betrayal.
In reality, a polygraph test (a.k.a. lie detector) doesn’t detect lies; it measures heart rate, blood pressure and other physiological functions. When asked questions, the resulting response above the established base line for the tested individual is considered a lie. But narcissists and sociopaths have been known to pass polygraph tests with ease. That’s because they believe that what they are doing is right for them, regardless of cultural or social norms or harm done. They don’t see themselves as wrongdoers. A narcissist believes he or she is simply living life their way. A married narcissist may believe that he is entitled to be sexually or emotionally involved with other women. If confronted with the betrayal, he might be a bully, act self-righteously or engage in addictive self-soothing behaviors. Does this sound like your brother?
You may not know. It’s near impossible to be an outsider and to assess what is actually happening inside a marriage. All you have is your brother’s word. He may be truthful. Or he may be a narcissist who manipulated you into being his ally. Your task is to remember the role you agreed to by attending his wedding. Wedding guests are representatives of the greater community. They are responsible for helping the couple navigate marital challenges. Yes, that means you are responsible to your sister-in-law, too. So encourage your brother and his wife to see a therapist as soon as possible. It’s a healthier option than a polygraph.
I’ve always been a shy person and now I’m really struggling. My husband’s new assignment demands a great deal of socializing. The company expects that partners participate. How can I get out of this?
In his book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle writes: “[T]he shy person’s fear of attention is greater than his or her need of attention. Shyness often goes with a self-concept that is predominately negative, the belief of being inadequate. …Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.” To avoid mental gymnastics that knot up your tongue or tummy, be “one with life.” Consciously say that to yourself throughout an ordinary day, so that when you are faced with the invitation to grow (translation: socializing), the practice will have become habit. In this way, the emphasis lifts off your ego and projections about others’ opinions of you. Instead, you will experience the reality of yourself as connected to all things. Translation: freedom.