Lying can be problematic in a marriage. Sometimes people lie about little things, like what time they arrived home or how the vase got broken. Other times, it is more serious lies about who they were with and what they were doing.
Lying can feel like a serious form of betrayal. If you catch your spouse in a lie, it is important to examine your reaction. Your behaviors may influence the likelihood that your spouse may lie again.
1. Review the Types of Lies
If you catch your spouse in a lie, take a look at whether or not it seems to be an isolated incident or a pattern. It’s not very often that a lie is an isolated incident, however. Lying is often a pattern for people and they sometimes get into the habit of stretching the truth.
It is important to review what types of lies your spouse tells. Does your spouse tend to stretch the truth in a way to paint himself in a more favorable light? For example, a person may brag about their position at the office in an attempt to make them sound much more important than they really are.
Or are the lies an attempt to avoid shame or embarrassment? A person may not share that he was ridiculed by his boss at work because he is ashamed about it.
Other lies may be to stay out of trouble. These can be big lies or little lies. For example, someone may say he remembered to pay the electric bill in an attempt to prevent you from blowing up. Or someone may lie to cover up an affair.
A more rare kind of lying is the more pathological kind. These are the people who lie constantly and sometimes don’t even know when they are lying. They may lie about everything, including their past, their accomplishments, and their family.
It’s also important to cut your spouse some slack if your spouse was trying to spare your feelings. For example, if you ask, “Does this dress look okay?” and your spouse says, “yes,” but later reveals it doesn’t, keep your spouse’s intentions in mind. If your spouse meant well and wanted to spare your feelings, it may be a loving gesture, rather than a malicious one.
2. Examine How You Would Have Reacted to the Truth
After you have reviewed the types of lies you are hearing, it is important to examine how you would have reacted to the truth. For example, if your spouse acknowledged, “I forgot to pay the electric bill,” what would you have done? If you would have yelled or blown things out of proportion, there’s a chance your reactions may be contributing to the problem.
If your spouse were honest about spending time with his friends, would you get angry and retaliate? Or if your spouse told you how much money she spent at the mall would you begin to argue? It’s important to help build a safe environment that will encourage your spouse to tell the truth.
Obviously there may be times that you get angry and that’s okay. It’s important that you are able to express your anger in appropriate ways. Problems provide an opportunity to work together on solving them if you are both honest and able to address them respectfully.
3. Communicate with Your Spouse
When you catch your spouse in a lie, provide a gentle confrontation. Instead of saying, “I know you are lying,” respond by saying, “I know you are saying you paid the bill but I just got off the phone with the electric company and they are saying it isn’t paid.”
Talk to your spouse about your concerns and share that you are hurt by lying. Encourage your spouse to discuss the reasons for the lie. Try to work together on developing a plan that encourages your spouse to be more honest.
Agree to do your part to make it less threatening to tell the truth. Discuss how you can respond in a way that is helpful to your partner.
4. Consider Seeking Help
If you and your spouse are struggling to deal with dishonesty it can be harmful to your marriage. Learning how to deal with the hurt and resentment caused by lying can be very difficult to deal with. It can cause a lot of feelings of betrayal and can break down trust in the marriage.
If you are having difficulty dealing with dishonesty in the marriage, consider seeking professional help. A marriage counselor can help you learn how to build a trusting environment, to be more honest with one another, and to rebuild trust after it has been broken. If your spouse is not interested in counseling, you can always enter into therapy for yourself. Often, one person can benefit from counseling and this can improve the marriage even if the other person does not attend.