Ask Dr. Conte: My Longterm Relationship Was Based on A Lie – What Do I Do Now?

Dr. Conte,

How does one re-group after being in a relationship many years, only to find out that it has been lie all along?




First, my heart goes out to you for the pain you’re experiencing. A broken heart is an awful feeling, and many times, it can leave us believing that we will never rebound or find anyone ever again. There is hope that things will change, however, and I sincerely hope to convey that to you in my response. 

Every emotional experience—and I mean every single one of them—has a beginning, middle, and end. When our world is shattered and we find out that someone has been lying to us, we can begin to believe that we have also been living a lie; but the reality is, the love and dedication you gave your partner was, in fact, very real. Therefore, you have not been living a lie; only your partner has. Although this does not take away the pain that you’re experiencing, what I hope it does is show you that things are not as bleak as they probably feel right now. 

Relationships go through a series of stages from the whimsical first meetings to dealing with the stresses and repetition that every day life provides over years of being together. Regardless of how magical the initial connection of any relationship is, once relationships progress far enough to enter the stage of dealing with the minutiae of life, there can be a tendency for people to believe that something else exists out there that is much more than the strain of the everyday grind. For example, when people feel stuck in their lives or relationships, they often imagine that there is someone else out there who is perfect for them; someone, they imagine, with whom they would be able to escape the every day struggles just by being around. When that happens, often people engage in affairs and continually search for that “perfect” relationship. But no perfect relationship exists. There is no magical ride off into the sunset where people never encounter struggles again; there is only the reality that encompasses the ups and downs of being fully human.

In life, we are fortunate if we can find a partner with whom we can grow. And I can imagine that, by your question, you might be feeling right now as if you cannot or will not ever find an authentic relationship. But if I could reach through these words and into your heart, I would tell you that you can, and will, find a better relationship than the one you had. 

My experience has taught me that people reach outside of their relationships because they believe they can find some magical connection that provides an escape from their lives—an escape that, ultimately, is not real. Partners rarely intend to hurt their loved ones by lying to them; in fact, just the opposite is true. Much dishonesty stems from people wanting to avoid hurting their partners, so they lie with the intention of protecting them. However, as I teach, people do not see your intentions, only your actions. So, despite people likely lying with the intention of protecting those with whom they are in a relationship, the reality is that their actions are hurting them much more deeply. In the end, the only thing that is real is the human condition. 

The language that you use with yourself will significantly shape your reality, so I want you to be mindful of a few things: Your life is not a lie. You are not living a lie. You have given of yourself truly to someone who was not in a spot where he or she was able to fully receive and honor that love. You are not a failure. You are not doomed to be alone. And although you will have to go through a period of emotional pain, I can promise you that all emotional experiences have a beginning, middle, and end. Therefore, I am confident that, no matter how painful all of this is for you right now, you will come out of the other side much stronger, and much more in touch with who you are. 

My recommendation for you is to get into counseling or to find someone with whom you can really talk things out. The more you talk things out, the more you can see exactly the type of words that you’re saying to yourself, and the way that those words are impacting you. One very important goal for you is to be accurate in your self-talk. On this website, you will find many articles describing the impact that your self-talk has on you. 

Sending you all the best and much peace,

Dr. Conte

*Names have been changed for privacy.