The Damage of Deception

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic


My husband and I have had a chaotic relationship in our ten years of marriage. We’ve caught each other in lies that have damaged our trust in each other. Sometimes I wonder if we can ever regain trust or if we simply need to start again with someone else. Can trust after deception can be restored? What can we do to rebuild our relationship?

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Relationships are built on trust and honesty. So even the smallest deception is damaging to a marriage. There are several reasons why discovering your partner in a lie can be devastating:

1. It creates doubt. Catching your mate in a lie leaves you wondering if your mate really is the person you thought he or she was. You begin doubting other aspects of his or her personality.
2. It creates distrust. Not only do lies create doubt, but they create an even greater atmosphere of distrust. If your mate can lie to you about one issue, he or she certainly can lie to you about other issues as well.
3. It creates hurt. While your mate will likely tell you the lie was not personal, it feels incredibly personal. The person lying was willing to put his or her own interests ahead of yours. You feel small, insignificant, and terribly hurt.
4. It creates a loss of intimacy. With deception come doubt, distrust, hurt, and ultimately a loss of intimacy. You dare not draw close to someone who would hurt you in such a personal way.

Scripture speaks firmly about the damage of deception in marriage. “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” (Proverbs 12:22). An additional Scripture states, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).

To be fully restored to each other, you need to begin living beyond the deception—assuming, of course, the deception has stopped. Healing means you have left the sting of the deception and are able to move forward into a new, loving, and trusting relationship.

What are the tasks involved in experiencing this type of healing? Let’s explore the necessary steps.

Confront deception head on. Deception must be confronted soundly. There is no such thing as “a little lie.” All lies are big, damaging, and incredibly painful. The impact of deception is far-reaching and the deceiver must know he or she has violated the very integrity of their marriage.

Share the specific pain of the deception. The one who has been violated by deception must be given the opportunity to share his or her pain. This will not likely be a “one and done” situation—the ripple effect of deception is great and there may need to be multiple opportunities to share the specific pain involved in the deception.

Make sure the deception has stopped. This should go without saying. While you can never be absolutely certain your mate isn’t being deceptive, Scripture shares a truth: “. . . you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Sin—specifically deception—will be revealed. You will only be able to do what you can do to discern deception; the rest is up to the Lord to reveal it to you.

Set up safeguards to prevent future deception. Invite accountability partners or specialists into your life to assist you in making the character changes necessary to ensure that deception is not repeated.

Make specific efforts to rebuild trust. Repentance not only means turning away from sin, but rooting out any character issues from which the deception occurred. You and your husband need to make specific efforts to be where you say you are going to be, do what you say you will do, and be who you say you are. These specific behaviors, when intentionally repeated, rebuild trust.

Practice seeing your mate with new eyes. Out of the brokenness of your relationship must come opportunities to have what I call Corrective Emotional Experiences. New, trustworthy behaviors, repeated again and again, create healthy and positive connections to your mate, and in most situations, return trust.

Grow together into the future. Healing is something you both must do together. I encourage couples to make a vow to each other: “We’re in this together and with God’s help, we can work this out.” With that kind of commitment, couples not only “go” through a challenging situation, but “grow” through it.

In summary, deception in marriage is devastating but does not have to ruin your relationship. Take the deception seriously, set safeguards against it happening again, and remember the reasons you fell in love with your mate at the start.

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