“Breaking Bad” was one of the most popular television shows ever made. It underscored that the erosion of trust in a marriage and within a family is one of the most destructive forces that can act upon a relationship.
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist putting a breaking bad gif in 😉 .)
Breaking trust can topple the very best of marriages. The lack of trust is probably the single biggest factor couples point to as ending their relationship.
That is why it is a continuous process to make your marriage work. Losing your husband or wife is incredibly painful. I discuss that in the article below:
It is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back, it is a thousand tips of an arrow piercing the heart.
You see, trust is all about the hundreds of little and sometimes big things we do or don’t do that amount to gaining or losing that important connection we need in marriage. Think of a patchwork of a quilt. It consists of numerous squares and as it is assembled over time, its shape takes form, strengthened by the the contributions of each solitary square. Developing trust works in the same way and as a couple creates experiences that reinforce their bond, they become protected by a blanket of trust.
Building a Wall of Trust
The way a successful marriage is suppose to work is they start off with a bond and over time the relationship strengthens. When issues of mistrust arise, the bond being secure from years of loving acts will serve to protect the marriage..
That is how trust should operate over time.
It is like a wall of support we slowly build, a brick at a time, so that when you look back to see what you have constructed, it is strong and sturdy.
One way to grow trust is to work on the key elements in making your marriage successful. Take a look at this post, if you have not already, as it is filled with a great deal of useful advice.
If love is the bonding agent in our marriage, then trust is one of its ingredients. Without a healthy dose of trust, marriages break down and fail.
It is instrumental that couples realize that trust can be fragile.
You do 10 things to build it strong, but one serious act of betrayal can cause it to come tumbling down. And like Humpty Dumpty, putting it back together again can be a difficult and lengthy process.
Now usually, if you have a good amount of this love juice working in your favor, then your marriage can tolerate a good number of misdeeds from one or both of the spouses. It really depends on the severity and frequency of the lies.
Speaking of lies, guess what?
Husbands at times will lie to their wives and wives will also feel compelled at times to bend or break the truth completely.
Why is this so?
There are many reasons why people lie just as there are many things people lie about.
Deception in Marriage
So what should we call a liar?
Are they a fabricator?
Well, yes, that is part of the equation. A person, whether it’s a spouse or anyone for that matter, who does not tell the truth, often will fabricate facts to spin their story.
But it’s more than that isn’t it?
A person need not make up things to be a lying.
They can conveniently leave out key facts. So in that case we could call them a deceiver. A person of deceit is one who paints only the picture they want you to see.
For that matter, if we want to get childish about it all, we can call the person a fibber.
We can press the definition further and to biblical and claim the person is bearing false witness.! Perhaps from a legal perspective they are a perjurer.
Ok, enough of all of that! I think we will mostly stick with the term liar.
Types of Lies
Let’s talk about the types of lies that contribute to a breakdown in trust. Now, if you are out there thinking that you and your husband or wife are immune to deception and lies….that you have constructed the most trustworthy of all marriages…think again.
I do not wish to burst your balloon.
It very well may be that your relationship is strong, underpinned by years of trusting each other and seeing that trust is well placed.
But know that even the strongest of couples will encounter issues. Don’t fear it and don’t be surprised by it.
Accept those experiences when deception and lies creep into your conversation as opportunities.
I once had a client whose husband seemed to be a pathological liar.
Now, I certainly am not suggesting this is the norm in most marriages and I don’t want the suggestion that certain people seem very comfortable with lying to color your view of the opposite sex.
I just want you to see the kind of deceptions that exist in some marriages.
In this particular case, the client….
(We will call her Beth…)
Contacted me asking for help.
She said that her husband seemed to have perfected the concept of lies and deceit. If she had to assign him a grade on the trust scale, he was reportedly a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 through 10 (from the lowest trust to the highest).
Beth went on to explain that he seemed to have a compulsive need to lie about things and as a result, she really did not trust him about anything.
She said he told numerous white lies, frequent opportunistic lies, some very hurtful lies, and absurd untruths which I characterize as whoppers.
White Lies Aren’t So Bad, Right?
So what is a white lie, you may ask?
It is one in which your husband or wife bends the truth in an effort to minimize pain or hurt.
People who are conscientious of how others feel about all sorts of things, will sometimes withhold information or modify the truth so as not to bruise the other individual’s feelings.
So you are thinking, “Well, that is not so bad, right”.
Ok, I agree that an occasional “white lie” given certain situations is not harmful to a relationship. But even while lies, if they accumulate in greater numbers, can create a sense of distrust.
Oftentimes, the person who is the recipient of the little old lie, is aware that their spouse is not really telling them the entire truth. If this happens frequently, the trust for the person telling the “lie” erodes.
Moral of story….don’t make telling white lies a habit.
Yellow Lies For Yellow Bellies
Beth was also the recipient of what I would characterize as yellow lies.
Her husband was constantly dipping into the deception pool in search of ways to promote himself or hide things that might make him look bad.
I think it is cowardly when someone is lying and deceiving another just because it’s convenient and/or self serving. Instead of facing the music, some individuals will persist with telling their fantasy and spinning the truth.
Sometimes, such lies are told to disguise a truth so it won’t be detected.
As Beth explained, the examples of these yellow belly lies ran the gambit from,
“Oh, yea I took care of all of those bills” when in reality the family’s finances were under even greater strain….
“I am going to work this weekend for a few more hours”, when in reality he went fishing and drinking with his buddies.
When your marriage partner is telling yellow lies with great repetition, it suggests that they are seriously misjudging your intelligence.
In most cases, such lies are partially transparent as they result in the spouse becoming suspicious due to the frequency of occurrences. Beth kept telling me, it was not just the lie that hurt, but it was the comfort and ease her husband had when telling her these fibs.
Ironically, she explained that it would have bothered her little, if he had just told her the truth about what was going on. But with her suspicions aroused and the eventual truths later coming out, she realized that there was something seriously wrong with the relationship.
She further explained that her husband seemed to have a compulsive need to tell lies because even after caught red handed, he would again resort to the same tactics again and again.
Black Lies Create Dark Times
Beth also talked about very serious lies that tore at the fabric of their relationship…. deceptions that could be characterized as betrayals.
Her husband had an Ex that he swore was no longer part of his life. But truth be told, the two of them were frequently seeing each other.
When finally confronted, her husband acknowledged that he and his former Ex saw each other, but argued that it was strictly platonic and that they were just good friends.
As it turned out, the reality was quite the opposite and to make matters worse, the Ex was not even aware he was married.
It is these wicked lies of deceit that when piled up upon each other, turn out to be the most destructive and darkest of lies.
As the dark clouds began forming over the marriage, Beth’s husbands pattern of defense was to deny, deny, deny.
In hiding the affair from his wife, he constructed an elaborate assortment of lies. Such is the slippery slope of all “black lies”.
The more one turns to fabrications to cover up other lies, the deeper they fall into the quicksand of deceit.
It is these kinds of multi layers of lies that invariably create some of the most darkest periods in a marriage. Hence, I refer to them as the black lies.
The Whoppers We Sometimes Tell
Another type of lies that individuals fall prey to are called “whoppers”. These lies are also often elaborately constructed.
The liar will put their own unique spin on the facts such that it eventually takes the shape of an unbelievable story.
In many cases, the lie is small and has minimal negative impact on the relationship. Often, the person spinning the story seems acutely motivated for personal or other reasons to extend the life of the deception .
Eventually, the whole charade comes comes crashing down, often before the fabricated story is even completed.
I know some couples that just like telling whoppers to each other and they get along quite well. It is almost like a game as the weave in and out of the facts. Provided that such stories are told with a degree of “tongue in cheek”, I have no problem with this form of storytelling. Indeed, it can be quite entertaining and healthy for the marriage.
So not all whoppers are necessarily a bad thing. But if your spouse is frequently making up absurd stories to impress you and it is clear they are not doing it for your amusement, then we are dealing with an unhealthy form of communication.
Sometimes we are so convinced that our spouse has lied about something that even a swearing on a stack of bibles would not change our view.
But guess what? We all make mistakes with the facts.
We misspeak often.
The things we end up saying may not reflect what we were really thinking. We can get confused about what happened or recall something incorrectly.
As a result of these developments, certain untruths can escape our lips. So even if your husband or wife has said something you believe to be untrue, don’t assume that they are intentionally lying.
They may just not be remembering correctly.
I often see occasions where the communications between the couple is less than ideal and things can get turned around or confused. So while I certainly do not tolerate habitual liars and intentional deceptions, just know that your partner in life may have made an innocent mistake.
Moral of story….do not be too quick to judge. To evaluate the veracity of whatever you are hearing, learn to probe and give your spouse an “out” to revised or modify what they “think” they know.
Lying by Omission
We have all seen this in operation and I bet you have been on both ends of this type of lie. Sometimes a person will feel they are “technically” telling the truth by omitting certain facts.
Their rationale is that they can’t be accused of lying because everything they said is truthful.
The problem is that sometimes what the spouse shares is limited in scope and they purposely leave out details knowing that if they provided the fuller story, it would land them in trouble.
Politicians do this all the time, hoping to shape opinions and gain support.
Fortunately, most people see through these veiled attempts to deceive. People who use this technique intentionally seek to cloud the truth. I think of them as sneaky liars.
Does your spouse sometimes behave like a politician in your marriage?
My experience in counseling couples is this type of “bending of the truth” eventually gets called out. Sooner or later, the truth bleeds out.
These efforts of carefully crafting the truth is futile.
By the time the real truth has surfaced, the damage resulting from the lies has grown larger.
This is because the longer the lies exists, the greater its propensity to cause harm to the marriage.
So in this respect, lies can be measured by both the gravity of the deception as well as the length of time the lie has persisted.
What Do Spouses Lie About?
Quite honestly, the kinds of things spouses lie about covers a large swath of topics.
Here is a list of many of the things about which husbands and wives will bend the truth.
Many of these kinds of lies and fabrications cover broad categories such as personal issues, relations, sexual activities, time spent with others, secretive or negative thoughts, and general insecurities.
- Meetings with Ex
- Engaging in emotional affairs
- Participating in extramarital affairs
- Deception around whereabouts
- Drinking habits
- Drug use
- Financial and Money matters
- Watching Porn
- Why they can’t spend time with you
- Past boyfriends or girlfriends
- Concealment around flirting behaviors
- Secret email or phone contact with old flames
- Sexual fantasies and masturbation
- Concealment about past sexual history
- Secret addictions
- Lies around their true sexual orientation or preferences
- True feelings about partner’s friends, family, or co-workers
- The physical appearance of their partner
- True feelings about their husband’s or wife’s habits and behaviors
- Religious beliefs
- Hiding their jealousy and snooping behavior
- Concealment of their job security or level of contentment
- Deception about their “true” feelings of love and feelings of attachment to their spouse
- Hiding the truth about their own insecurities or emotional disorders
- Lies about discipline or lack of discipline of children
Why Does My Husband (of Wife) Tell So Many Lies?
So as you can see, there is quite a number of lies men and women tell each other. The web of lies that are spun can act as a divisive force.
Without an open and truthful marriage, everyday life becomes an uphill battle.
True intimacy comes from really knowing the truths about a person, particularly those at the deepest levels.
Why do people find it so difficult to tell the truth? Why would a spouse jeopardize their relationship?
Well, those are good questions. It is also a difficult to answer specifically for each person because everyone brings with them their own set of attitudes about truth telling. Again, let me remind you.
Obviously, some people lie much more frequently than others. Learning to curb the desire to tell untruthful things to your spouse is critical.
If your marriage is predicated on the notion that you accept and trust each other completely no matter what you tell each other, then the desire to lie is greatly reduced.
If you know that there will be no or little in the way of repercussions for telling hard truths, then the truths you tell each other will ultimately strengthen your relationship.
To learn how to reduce the “Lies” being told in a marriage, it helps to understand why people lie. The reasons why people lie can sometimes be deeply psychological, but generally they fall into these forms of justification:
- The husband or wife feels they have a right to tell a lie every once in awhile to protect their feelings or those of their spouse. White lies fall into this category as do those lies of convenience. What I would describe as “lazy lies” also fall into this kind of thinking. Sometimes, the truth is more complicated, so people will rattle off a little lie to just tie things up faster. Or, the marriage partner is actually quite lazy and for example, if asked if they took out the trash or paid the bills; they simply reply, “sure, I took care of that”…..when actually they did not.
- Another reason why a spouse will hide the truth is to avoid embarrassment. They may be trying to “save face” and feel compelled to “color the truth”. By the way, isn’t that an interesting phrase….”color the truth”. It is so appropriate because people find many reasons to modify the truth about things or situations. Just as there are many colors in the spectrum, so too are there many ways in which the truth can be twisted. Forgive me for digressing! The point here is that no one likes the feeling of being embarrassed, so invariably there will be times when your spouse will simply lie to make themselves look better.
- Another reason why people have difficulty with the truth is that they may be protecting someone else. They could be hiding an affair. Their motivation could be due to sparing any bruised feelings that could occur if the facts were fully known.
- A marriage partner will often feel secure in their lie because they feel they can get away with it. Their reasoning is flawed of course because they often discount all the times they have gotten caught. Liars also don’t take into account those times when they were suspected of lying, but were not called out. People who frequently lie usually will just remember the times they think they “got away with it”. So they reason, “if there are no repercussions” then why not lie. But as already pointed out, their logic if flawed. Most of the time, a lie is eventually found out. Liars who utilize this form of rationalization, are deluding themselves.
- Yet another reason why your husband or wife may lie is that they have formed a habit of frequently misleading you. And habits and routines, once established, can be difficult to break. So, some people just lie when it suits them because they have done so often and this behavior is deeply rooted.
- We also have some individuals, hopefully not your spouse, that lie because they have serious psychological issues. Certain characters out there tell lies in a pathological way. They usually have serious character flaws. Maybe they have little empathy for their marriage partner and care less about the impact their lies have on others.
Why Telling The Truth Is So Important in a Marriage
In many cases, the act of lying is far worse than the actual lie itself. One a constant stream of lying is allowed to exist in your relationship, the very core of the marriage is at risk.
As lies mount up, trust recedes.
A marriage without heavy doses of trust and belief in your spouse is like a car that has run out of fuel. You can stay in the vehicle as long you wish, but it won’t go anywhere.
But don’t throw in the towel if the trust in your marriage is eroding. Time can be your ally.
Think of your marriage as a “Trust Bank”. As you and your spouse make investments into each other with “truths”, your marriage emotional bank grows.
The actual building of trust (i.e. marriage bank) is associated with a secreted hormone called oxytocin which is the cuddling and bonding hormone.
Lies tear away at trust and can bankrupt your marriage trust bank. Telling the truths, particularly those “difficult” truths that may in the short term but painful….
It is this type of behavior that grows the marriage trust bank.
Oxytocin is the same hormone that is secreted when we orgasm.
Truth telling over time is a powerful investment in your relationship bank. Telling the truth is associated with stronger marriages, better health, and longer life so say the researchers…. and I agree as I have seen this in practice.
Building trust is an endeavor every marriage couple should strive for everyday. This is accomplished through small and large moments…. but mostly the small, positive experiences you have together.
If your daily experiences are founded on little lies, the relationship will eventually collapse.
It is through the flow of positive and pure little moments you have with your wife or husband that you will form a tighter connection…. a stronger bond.
There are some practical things you can do to help with growing the trust in your marriage. It starts with being “attuned” to your partner’s needs.
If you can understand their needs, even anticipate them, this can help with building a foundation of trust.
Also be aware of your marital partner’s mood, empathize with their situation, and learn to be open to their viewpoints.
Try to avoid being defensive if they raise topics or issues that make you feel uncomfortable.
By all means, stay away from playing victim or playing the blame game.
The most impactful thing a marriage couple can do to promote truth telling in their relationship is to talk about it.
Discuss with your spouse that there will be times where each of you may feel compelled to hide, conceal, or outright lie about things and talk about how those behaviors almost always get found out and cause injury to the marriage.
Encourage your lover to stay on the straight and narrow path and when they do tell a “difficult truth”, express your genuine appreciation.
Now with all that said…. I have to admit….. I still think it’s appropriate to occasionally tell a white lie, provided the telling of such a lie results in emotional support for another.
Obviously, the telling of a white lie is very subjective and situational. But I think there is room for the smallest of lies if they are for selfless purposes (i.e. not selfish) and you are convinced that the lie, if found out, will not cause harm.
My experience in giving and receiving of “white lies” is that they are not entirely a deception, but rather an exaggeration or partial truth.
Restoring Trust in Your Relationship
Ok…. I think we have talked enough about the types of lies and the kinds of things people lie about within their marriage.
Let’s turn our attention to doing something about it because after all, if we can’t restore trust in the marriage and break the cycle of deception, then we have some serious issues. Here are the top 10 ways of rebuilding broken trust in your marriage.
Don’t Seek Revenge
Once the lie or deception becomes apparent, do not double down on the misdeed by seeking revenge.
That only makes things worse.
I once had a client whose husband was lying about his gambling ways. When she found out that he had been lying for months about some of his weekend trips, she decided to get back at him.
Instead of discussing the matter openly, she went to the bank and immediately closed their joint checking account, took out all of the money and decided that she too would go out gambling with her girlfriends.
You can probably guess what happened next. It suffices to say that the relationship between her and the husband turned into a gigantic cluster frack, if you know what I mean.
Seeking revenge is never a sound strategy and in some cases actually increases the chances of more future deceptions as both parties now have even more to conceal.
Don’t Directly Confront Your Spouse About Their Lying
If possible, once you discover your husband or wife is lying about something, try to orchestrate the discussion such that they eventually reveal to you the truth. If you can create an environment where your spouse feels safe in telling you the full truth, then you are moving in the right direction.
Now, this approach in no way excuses them of their misdeed. Nor should your spouse be awarded for their untruthfulness.
They should see that their deception or concealment of the truth has an emotional effect on you, the marriage partner. Indeed, you should tell them how you honestly feel about being lied to.
The pain you feel should be shared with them, so they understand the full effect of their actions. But it is important that they hear that you appreciate them “coming clean”.
Don’t Play Victim
A while back, I had a client that told me a story about her boyfriend and his former Ex girlfriend. It turns out that he had lunch with his Ex and had concealed this event from his girlfriend. She had suspected something was up because she noticed he was behaving differently and was hesitant to talk about his day.
The couple was quite close, so she was particularly well in tune with his behaviors. Eventually, she stumbled upon the fact of her boyfriend’s lunch date when she checked his phone records and saw the confirmation.
Well, like most people would be, she was very unhappy and disappointed that he was concealing the lunch with the ex girlfriend.
So when she confronted him about it and even though he claimed it was all very “platonic”, she turned inward for days, frequently telling her boyfriend how wounded she felt.
I am not a big fan of playing victim.
Some people think it can be an effective way to “guilt trip” somebody to do or not do something. But more often than not, I have seen the “victim play” turn out to be very counterproductive.
For most of us, the pain of a lie, coupled with the feeling of a potential betrayal with a member of the opposite sex is a powerful emotional cocktail. So expect to feel upset and maybe some panic if a situation like this occurs.
But stay away from the idea of playing victim because you can become what you play at. And a victim is not what you want to be in this situation. A victim is perceived as weak.
You want to be the strong willed individual. But you also want to be pragmatic. So your spouse or boyfriend (in this case) needs to know that you are disappointed that he was not more forthcoming.
Unless there is more to the story or situation, then move forward. Living in the past and playing the victim works against you in both the short and long run.
Avoid Being Defensive, Casual, or Righteous
Ok, this piece of advice is for those who lied or deceived their loved one. Accept that you screwed up. You truly did. Do not make matters worse by being defensive or trying to justify your lie. That approach or attitude will most certainly explode in your face.
Nor should you be casual about the whole matter, giving off vibes like, “what’s the big deal”. A lie, even the small ones, can feel like a pretty big deal at the moment of discovery. Finally, by all means, avoid the act of behaving in a righteous manner, like you are entitled to lie or that the lie was not that serious.
When caught in a lie, throw up your hands and offer no resistance to whatever the emotional outburst may be. Don’t launch into a series of justifications or detailed and confusing explanations. Trust me, in most cases, whatever you are saying won’t be heard as the person is still thinking about the lie you told and how it makes “them” feel.
I am fond of saying that “when emotions run high, logic runs low”. Avoid making the situation even more emotional than what it already may be. There will be time, later, to discuss why you had the terrible notion of lying to your spouse. In the moments right after the discovery of the lie, most spouses will not been open to any of your notions or rationalizations.
And don’t forget…the bigger the lie…the greater the negative reaction will likely be. So keep it zipped up, except showing you are sincerely regretful. Be contrite.
It is unbelievable to me how often liars are unable to come to terms with the truth. There seems to be some spouses out there that are in constant denial. It is as if they believe they can talk their way out of the original lie. But what invariably happens, is they end up telling more untruths and the situation just snowballs.
So for us liars (remember, everyone lies), it is best to come clean. Don’t compound the situation by telling more fabrications. It is much better to move the conversation quickly to exactly what you did and why you did it. Constant denials is weak and in most cases your lies are obvious. When couples are able to immediately put the truth out on the table and work through the issues together, then the topic of conversation can move from looking backwards at the deception to moving forward as to next steps. When the married pair are arguing about the past, there are no deposits being made to trust bank.
Remember, it is often the length of time a lie exists that creates the most pain and conflict. The sooner the person comes clean, the faster the healing and forgiveness can unfold
Be an Open Book to Support Your Story
So now that we have outed the “lie”, let’s talk about the truth. Admitting to a lie is one thing, but then getting the spouse to believe what the individual has to say next about what happened (or didn’t happen) can be a tall mountain to climb. And it’s understandable because credibility is probably in short supply.
What is advisable is for the person to be an open book. Just lay everything out there. This means making the cell phone and email records available. The lying spouse needs to be prepared to expose their vulnerabilities as that might be the price one needs to pay to regain trust.
Now, some people may balk at this advice. They may say, “hold it, I not going give up my privacy just to prove my innocence”. Well, if you have a very understanding wife or husband or have previously built a lot of trust in the “marriage bank”, you may have a point. But I always like to ask the question, “what is more important, your privacy or your marriage”.
Avoid Words and Actions That Can Trigger Conflict
When considering serious breaches of trust, a couple can break out into an all out war. Some years ago, a movie came out called, “War of the Roses”, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. This married couple, started off quite blissfully in the beginning, but by the end of the flick they ended up sprawled down on the floor with a chandelier laying on top of them.
Hopefully, if you saw the movie or get around to watching it, you will realize the futility in allowing words and actions to get so out of control that you end up tearing down the relationship.
It is better to avoid all of the ugly talk. I realize this can be difficult for some, particularly the person who has been lied to. Emotions being what they are, it can be hard to hold it together. But realize that no one is perfect.
Even the victim of a lie, has victimized others with untruths. So keep things as civil as possible when discussing whatever the mess is all about. And please, stay away from chandeliers!
Forgive and Decide to Love
The key to rebuilding broken trust in your marriage is to forgive your spouse. Now, I don’t want you rushing to forgiveness. Let the discussion of why the person felt compelled to lie play out. Explore what the truth really is.
When you see that your marriage partner is truly contrite and regretful, that is the prime time to offer your heartfelt forgiveness. It comes down to whether the couple wants to loosen the bond of marriage or strengthen the marriage.
They each have an act to play in this unfolding drama. The liar has to come clean and express genuine regret. The person lied to has to make the decision to forgive. Together the couple decides to love. Strong marriages don’t allow past mistakes to dominate and grip their lives.
Renew Vows and Set Goals (Message in Bottle)
I am real big on symbolism and events that underscore commitment. You don’t need to wait around for such things to happen. You can make them happen, just as you made and created the love between yourselves.
One of my favorite ways of rebuilding trust is to re-write your vows and place them in a bottle. Then go out to a beach or lake and watch the sunset, then launch the bottle on its way. Another way to symbolize your trust is to take a padlock, place a special mark or symbol on the back of it, then take it to a popular bridge and secure it in place. Let that lock represent the forever bond between the two of you.
Marriage Recovery Systems
Sometimes the problems of mistrust and broken vows are of such significance that despite what actions the two of you take to reconcile, it just does not work out. In these situations, it can be helpful to seek help in the form of a couple development marriage program.
There are audio and video marriage recovery systems that can prove to be helpful to some couples. You can also seek marital counseling or therapy. Depending on numerous factors, one on one marriage counseling has proven to work. Not always, but if your marriage is on the line, then you should not stop short of trying both traditional and non traditional solutions.
In closing, please take a few minutes to share with me your story or situation. I am happy to offer my input and our readers are often eager to share their experiences which can be of benefit to you.
Every relationship will have its challenges in the trust department. Start building your marriage trust bank account. Make deposits every day. Your future balance will grow to be quite large and will withstand the down cycles all marriages experience.