Pretty Little Liars (In Love)

Recent studies show that, on average, a typical person tells two or three lies in a ten-minute conversation. Most of us are lied to about 200 times a day and are only accurate in detecting lies about 54% of the time.


These stats make me think. My thoughts in relation to them are not about how we can protect ourselves from lies. My questions are about how to not lie. One of the biggest findings from my inquiry into Black women’s terror in love has to do with lies (for more on this, check out this quick video about the book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love In Self). Many of the women involved in my inquiry revisited lies they’d been told in their relationships with men. They recalled being told lies about their partner’s whereabouts, past and current attachments, fidelity, depth of affection, sexual histories, family background, financial aptitude…the list goes on and on. These data were not difficult to obtain.


Black women are unfortunately described as notoriously rejected, abused, and inept in romantic love. As such, we are frequently positioned as the butt of all manner of jokes, pity, and criticism. So, as you can imagine, there was plenty of lamenting going around each whole group conversation. At first, men were centered in these conversations. They were objects of our, “Why lie??” queries. I contributed to these conversations and questions as someone who had also been subject to lies in romantic love.


Yet, later, upon analyzing the data, I started to feel curious about turning the tables. Instead of commiserating, I wondered about repositioning. So, I asked different questions, such as: “What would happen if women stopped lying in love?”


After removing the finger-pointing-and-spotlight from partners and redirecting flood-light-inquiry into Self, an unexpected sense of power and control emerged. Considering ourselves as involved in (and even perpetrators of) the aforementioned statistics helped us to consider ourselves as liars. With this reposition came new, incredibly helpful, and pointed questions such as:


  • Why do we (women who want to love and be loved) lie?
  • How do lies pretend to serve our best interests in love?
  • When are we (women who want to love and be loved) most prone to telling a lie?
  • What are our lies really about?


These questions made introspection quite trippy. No longer afforded the mantle of unknowing Victims, we had to think of ourselves as vindictive, duplicitous, cunning, and flip. Having been wronged by the lies of oppressive partners on so many occasions, this shift in perspective was undoubtedly some of the toughest and most challenging work of the inquiry. Yet, when we began to respond to these questions, we were able to learn more about our innerworkings. The undercurrent of dark defense that we built as women in and out of love and experiencing multiple types of terror, was exposed. The untapped rationale we operated from was revealed. We found more power and got real answers to our questions:


  • Why do we (women who want to love and be loved) lie?


We lie because we inordinately and wrongly focus on self-preservation and self-protection in relationship. We lie because we think we need to hide ourselves to be safe from partner scrutiny, condemnation, rejection, and disregard.


  • How do lies pretend to serve our best interests in love?


Lies act like our best defense because they pretend to offer us alibis, invisibility, innocence, or absolved responsibility in any number of highly consequential experiences and relations.


  • When are we (women who want to love and be loved) most prone to telling a lie?


Women are most prone to lying when we are not adequately attuned to and in governance over our interior life and fragmented selves. We seem most prone to lying when we are in unsafe, abusive, caustic dynamics with others, or are committed to maintaining a publicly affirming and desirable image at any cost.


  • What are our lies really about?


Lies are really about an unchecked fear of abandonment and unworthiness, self-doubt and insecurity.


These hard questions and real answers came just in the nick of time. They pointed us to a space of internal, personal power that had not been imagined as even remotely possible.


We learned we could actually practice emotional honesty and mental earnestness. We could be naked with our clothes on, as a precedent to taking them off. When understanding why, how, when, and what we lie about in romantic love, we were much better positioned to snuff out the patterns of cloaking that, without monitoring, can become remote and normalized. To make the process concrete, I developed literacy methods (ways of reading, writing, speaking and listening) that foster revelations of deep truth in simple, uncomplicated ways.


Enacting these practices can unveil, unlayer, and undo deceptions, from the inside out, in day-to-day life.






They can help you identify and name actual (not make believe) desires, needs, thoughts, and feelings. They also enable ways to communicate those desires, needs, thoughts, and feelings in ways that soften, make visible, and champion who we really are. This can happen while informing our partners and removing illusionary boundaries between us. What comes next is a culture shift. These practices pave ways to environments for truth that can remain stable no matter what type of encounters or dynamics happen in relationship.


Like the women in my study, I’ve told my fair share of lies in love. As I gain experience reading the roots of my lies (and calling them mine), writing the history and trajectory of my lies (and calling them finite), I am more able to strengthen my commitment to integrity, vulnerability, and transparency. I learn more about who I am in multiple realms of my self (e.g. liar and truth-teller). And, I am better able to minimize, slow, maybe even eliminate the former iteration of my Self. I can also now maximize, quicken and prosper the latter iteration of my Self. I believe in advocating for this stance for all women in love or in want of it. With this stance and these practices come not only more honest, straight-forward, trustworthy communication. They also breed deeper intimacies in romance, power in sex, and clarity in daily communion.


These advances are not only good for individuals and couples. They are good for whole communities. They’re good for the planet. They can lend added power to the work of social and emotional justice. This happens by engendering movements that depend on voices and stories that can tell truth, fuel empathy, and provoke altruism instead of violence, inequities, and toxicities. This is possible with people who really embody such empowered voices and stories and are practiced in supporting them with Self and Others.



So, go ahead and ask yourself: Are you a “pretty little liar?”



If so, how will you change that name today so you can get and give the love you really need and deserve…for your Self, your partner, and your Community?





Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language & African American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, spring 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.

Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.


Click here to join the Supreme Love Project group to ask Jeanine questions and comment on the blog.