My husband lies about both small and big things, but most often about purchases he makes or ways he spends money. When I confront him, he makes excuses and turns the problem back on me. How can I get him to understand the horrific impact his deception has on me and on our marriage?

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Sadly, more and more couples are affected by a mate who is presumptuous enough to believe he or she can lie with no lasting impact on their marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Honesty and trust are foundational to a healthy marriage. If you were to draw a pyramid with intimacy at the uppermost point, honesty and trust would be at the base. You simply cannot enjoy the fruits of intimacy without cultivating trust and honesty. Trust and honesty build safety, and within that safety we enjoy one another’s company.

Back to the issue of deception: Not only is it troubling that your husband tells lies, but also that he has the audacity to make excuses for them. This behavior is particularly onerous and suggests a deep and concerning character issue.

The desire and conviction to tell the truth are generally established early in life. In a healthy home, parents instill in children the importance of honesty, even at the risk of negative consequences. “It will always go better for you if you tell the truth,” wise parents tell their children. “Deception will only make the problem worse.” So it is with adults as well. Telling the truth — even if it involves divulging painful material — makes problem solving easier. A web of deception adds layers to an already problematic situation.

What can you do? I’m afraid the intervention must be significant and severe if you want definite change.

Get clear. So much of the counsel I give has to do with cultivating clarity within ourselves. We cannot make healthy choices from a state of confusion. Deception is unhealthy and causes confusion and distrust. With faith in God, you can be strong, confident, and clear. Scripture tells us, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We can gain clarity by prayer and trust in God.

Hold to your convictions. Once you’ve gained clarity, especially pertaining your husband’s patterns of deception and blame-shifting, hold to the truth of your situation. Don’t become easily swayed from what you know is right and true.

Don’t get caught in his “crazy cycle.” Watch for your husband’s blame-shifting, dismissive style, and, of course, deception — and refuse to participate in that with him.

Confront the problem. Once you are confident in your convictions and have “prayed up,” you are in a position to confront your husband. State firmly that you understand his deception to be the problem and rests solely on his shoulders. Share clearly the impact his behavior has upon you and your marriage. Don’t attack him, but be vulnerable about your feelings, ensuring he can see and feel the impact his deception has on you.

Set clear boundaries. Once you’ve shared your heart, set clear, firm boundaries. Remember, boundaries must have consequences attached to them, for without them a boundary is only a complaint, wish, or vague hope. Complaints are typically not respected by others. In the case of deception over money, insist that your husband become more transparent about his spending and more accountable to you. You need to work more closely together to create stability in this area of your marriage.

Follow through on consequences. Once  you’ve established firm and clear boundaries, be prepared to share with your husband the consequences you have in mind. If you tell your husband his deception over money (or any other area of your life) is intolerable, then indeed it must be intolerable. Tell him what you will do if he continues to violate you in this way. Consequences typically increase in severity the more a boundary is violated.

In summary, healthy relationships are built on honesty and trust. If those two aspects of the relational pyramid are not established, intimacy is jeopardized. Every couple must take the time necessary to ensure that clear, honest communication is established as a prerequisite to healthy relating.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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