How Do I Have a Relationship with Someone Who Lies to Me?

Hello Friends! Susan here again with this week's blog question. The sun is shining and it brings a brightness to my mood as well. I have been feeling a high of gratitude this week even though the temperature range has been so low, keeping me indoors. I am grateful for the warm, peaceful home God has blessed me with! A calm and safe space is so beneficial to growth and thriving. I pray that each of you is able to create that within your own life. It is such a joy to see God’s people fully alive.

Today’s Question: How do I stay well in my marriage when my husband continues to lie to me? Our marriage is riddled with emotional abuse and I am learning to separate myself from the destructive blame shifting and gaslighting behavior, but I don’t know how to separate myself from the lies and dishonesty. My husband repeatedly tells me he wants me to trust him and he isn’t hiding anything from me, yet repeatedly I find that he actually is lying. The greatest example of this is when my husband took a promotion at work and intentionally hid it from me because he had previously told me he would NOT take the promotion (because it would create hardship for our family).

My counselor tells me it is impossible to have a relationship without trust. How do I have a relationship with my husband if he continues to lie and hide things? When confronted, he says he knows it’s wrong but he then gives reasons for lying because of his brokenness from his childhood.

I don’t want a divorce, yet I find myself in this continual cycle of thinking “maybe now he won’t lie anymore”….but the deception keeps happening. I don’t know how to have a relationship with him.

Thank you for your help!

Susan’s Response: I honor your desire to stay well in your destructive marriage. That is a challenging endeavor and you will need ongoing support. I am happy to read that you are meeting with a counselor. Even more so, I pray the Holy Spirit will guide you and direct you on your path.

The way you might stay well in a marriage, while you are perpetually lied to, is the same way you might stay well when there is blame shifting, gaslighting and other emotional abuse. All of these patterns of behavior are dishonest and destructive to the relationship. When staying well in a destructive marriage, you must take your focus off of your husband’s problem and focus on your problem and your wellbeing.

Let’s clearly state your problem given the information you have provided. You are married to a man who has repeatedly lied to you. So what can you do to help yourself with your problem? You have already gotten wise counsel to inform you that close relationships require trust. Yet, you continue to seek a relationship with someone who is not trustworthy. Proverbs 25:19 tells us, “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” Meaning if you proceed under these conditions, you can expect to bring yourself pain.

In the Leslie Vernick community, we talk about the importance of building CORE strength. The first step in developing CORE strength is to be courageously committed to the truth; no more pretending. Could it be that your deep desire for your marriage to stay intact is leading you to have wishful thinking that “maybe now he won’t lie anymore”? You have not listed any reasons why this might be true. Is he doing anything to repair your trust? It sounds like he still gives excuses for lying when he gets caught.

Perhaps your first step in being well, is to settle your mind on what is true. You are married to a man who lies repeatedly and makes excuses. Your marriage is riddled with emotional abuse. Until evidence of a new pattern develops in the relationship, you are deceiving yourself to believe otherwise.

The next step in building CORE strength is being open to feedback from wise others and the Holy Spirit. I will confirm what you have already heard. You will not be able to have a safe relationship with your husband if he continues to be untrustworthy. You can, however, go on living with him and stay in the marriage but you won’t be able to rely on him.

As you stated, you have been able to separate yourself from other forms of destruction but are still struggling with how to separate from the perpetual lying. Detaching from destructive behaviors means that you do what you can to protect yourself and you let go of trying to change what you can not control. You can not trust your husband to be honest and mistrust won’t create a safe relationship; these things are outside of your control. But if you are diligent about developing safety in other areas of your life, you may be able to stay well. How can you gain other reliable support in your life? What do you need to do in order to gain emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial safety for yourself?

My main point is, being well needs to be the goal even if your husband does not change. If you don’t feel safe, you can stay but you can not stay well. Hear me, dear one, you will not be able to live life to the full until you take your own well being seriously. With the help of Christ, can you trust yourself to do that?

If you are curious to learn more about these steps and how to Walk in CORE Strength, be on the lookout for more information on how to register for our upcoming 3 month small group coaching program.

Also, on February 16th, Leslie will be giving a free training called “When You’re Not Okay then I’m Not OK Either; What’s the difference between my problem, your problem and our Problem?” Click here to register for the training.

Beloved reader, when the truth of a relationship is not what you want it to be, how do you go about learning to accept what is and still be okay?

23 Comments

  1. I submitted the question on February 9, 2023 at 9:52 am

    Thank you so much for your response! It is very helpful.

    • Susan K on February 10, 2023 at 12:46 pm

      I appreciate your vulnerability in putting the question out there. I know so many can relate to what you are going through. God Bless!

      • Sabrina K on February 16, 2023 at 9:02 am

        Yes, I agree—thank you for the question. It’s a good one.

  2. Ria on February 9, 2023 at 10:01 am

    I can answer this question: “When the truth of a relationship is not what you want it to be, how do you go about learning to accept what is and still be okay?” based on my very recent experience of having to leave and end a destructive marriage.

    I had to be very honest with myself and ask myself why am I telling myself it’s not so bad when I felt like I was slowly dying of neglect and anger being meted out to me on a daily basis. I realised that I was afraid of what it would mean if I accepted the truth of the relationship. I did not want to be alone or to raise my children without a father; I did not want to lose my dream of a happy and holy Christian marriage especially since I met him actively involved in church..
    Once I started asking myself these honest questions and honestly answering them I was open to truth. The truth that I was already alone in an unhealthy and unstable relationship that was already causing my children harm; the truth that he was not the man he presented himself to be; I loved a fiction of a man; truth that there is life and joy for me and my children beyond the confusion we lived in.
    Leslie’s videos helped me understand that I could not fix my husband nor could I make him understand how his behaviour was affecting us. I understood that I am responsible for me. God’s grace has been sufficient in this difficult but necessary parting🙏.

    • ShannonKay on February 9, 2023 at 11:09 am

      Thank you for sharing Ria. I needed to hear that.

    • Susan K on February 9, 2023 at 11:33 am

      Thank you for sharing your response, Ria!

    • Sabrina K on February 16, 2023 at 9:04 am

      Thank you very much for sharing

    • Benita on February 18, 2023 at 12:32 pm

      Thank you Ria for sharing your experience. My experience is sadly very similar to what you described. I also recently came to the same realization & left my husband. I had to keep myself & my youngest daughter safe as I can (mentally & physically). I know I made the right decision , although a very difficult one. I am so grateful for God’s grace & the supportive group praying of friends He has surrounded me with to get through this difficult season. One of them told me about Leslie Vernick’s free webinars which have been so helpful.

    • Heather on March 21, 2023 at 10:41 am

      Great words! I am in the same process as you. Been separated since July 3, 2022. We cannot change them, but we can respond to what they have proven as true, that they are not willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and do hard things to work on themselves and also our marriages together. My response has been to accept the reality and move forward in peace and the guidance of the Lord. He has been so good! I spoke truth in love for over two years just like I’m sure you did. From that I only feel I got rejected, disregarded, and discarded. My children (ages 14 and 17) need to see what a healthy marriage and healthy behaviors are, not what they are not and think that is the way it should be. I’ve seen same traits in my son (17) as his dad and I worry that it won’t be reversed. I pray that he won’t walk the same path. I also pray for my husband’s heart change even thought at this point I don’t feel there is hope in restoring our relationship. But, I still want him to turn his heart around and follow Jesus. I don’t want him to miss Heaven!

    • Tressa on March 22, 2023 at 8:37 am

      Ria! That is exactly what I’ve felt! From my fears to grieving over losing the dream of the family I always wanted my children to have and not wanting them to be children of divorced parents to finally admitting that the dysfunction we’ve been living in (due to his infidelities and refusal to take responsible steps) is only inflicting more harm and dysfunction onto my children as well as myself. I cannot tell you how reassuring it is for me to know that I’m not crazy and I’m not the only one!

  3. Caroline Abbott on February 9, 2023 at 10:07 am

    I would say this is very difficult. It will not truly be a marriage. It will be 2 people living in the same house. A marriage is meant to be a place of refuge and caring for each other. You will never have that with this man. Turning off your hope meter might help. Become very honest about him, the relationship, and what you need to stay sane. https://carolineabbott.com/2016/04/abusers-are-liars/

  4. Katie Sanford on February 9, 2023 at 10:42 am

    I am in the middle of a divorce from a destructive & emotionally abusive marriage (alcoholism & drug addiction) I have come to realize that I had to separate for my own mental and physical health. All of the hope of what could’ve should’ve wouldve been had to be faced with facts.
    All I was doing was enabling him to treat me that way and my part was making excuses. that cycle of wishful thinking and enabling did nothing more than harm Him (giving him permission to continue) myself (enabling and denial) kids (safety). I believe you can love someone enough and still divorce. I also believe that if I didn’t love myself I would’ve continued to allow it. I’m working with a therapist and lots of support from church family.
    Creating boundaries for myself, new thinking patterns and ALOT of self care. I’m now the enemy and dealing with backlash from his family & him who I believe are just as sick as he is.
    I had to look at facts and quit living in the delusion that I could handle or manage that environment for the kids or myself.
    I believe what I’m doing is right and had to have Gods help to see the truth. I pray he surrenders to God someday and receives his freedom from that bondage.
    I’m praying for you my sister.

    • Ria on February 16, 2023 at 9:47 am

      Thank you for sharing this. I pray God continues to guide and protect you and your children and I join you in praying for your husband’s surrender to God our Father.

  5. Jennette Barnes on February 9, 2023 at 11:40 am

    Hi! I have been married to my husband fir 35 years this May. It has been hard, lonely and tumultuous due to his mental disorders (bipolar, PTSD,GAD OCD, and narcissistic tendency). He got saved 7 years after we were married. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I could have remained in the marriage.

    In church one day, shortly after my husband got saved, God spoke to me in that clear, quiet voice of his through 1 Samuel 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

    God said, Honor your marriage and I will honor you.

    It hasn’t been easy, but it keeps getting better all the time!
    My husband has made great strides with his lying, he hasn’t drank or drugged in years, he is faithful to church, and he just started reading his Bible every day mostly, again!

    Praise God the He is faithful, even when we aren’t. Praise God He can heal our hurts!

    In Christ’s love,
    Jb

    I hope this gives someone hope ♡

  6. Connie on February 9, 2023 at 11:52 am

    First, I want to say that it is the Holy Spirit that guides, so what I am about to say is not a formula to follow. Our paths are all different. My first marriage of 25 years ended because the doctor at the psych ward told me I wasn’t going home until he knew my husband was gone. It was in 2000, several children were still at home, and I sensed that was the right thing to do. I was single for 8 years, when my first husband ran me out of town, ruined my reputation, etc. I didn’t know what to do, so I married again, and found myself in the same situation. After a number of years of praying, hoping, begging, going to counselors, I felt God saying to pull up my big girl panties, grow a backbone where my wishbone was, and get honest about the situation. Learn to love well, which means not going along with the false ‘marriage’. I faced that it was not a marriage. He had said one day, “All I want is to live like a bachelor with a maid’. I told him that was what we were now going to do. I also explained that I had looked in the mirror one day and asked God what He thought of me, and He dropped into my heart how precious I was to Him. Now I realized that I was worth more than how I was being treated. Every situation has to now pass the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. It can be dangerous to just set boundaries without a careful plan. I pray the Jesus keeps me in His arms, and sometimes to take me to a safe place in His heart, and He does. I also read that men almost never change as long as they are getting some sex. It’s like a fix and a game to see if they can manipulate her into one more time. If they are into porn, they don’t miss it that much necessarily, but the game of deception really gives them a buzz. I crave hugs, which sometimes can only be had with sex, so I felt I had to say no to that at all anymore. I told him I was worth more as a daughter of the King than to prostitute myself to him.
    At this point he had gotten a counselor and is making noises of change. I don’t believe it, because it has happened before. It’s part of the abuse cycle to fake change to suck the wife back in. It’s like a gambling addiction to them. Maybe it’s real, but that will show over time. If he’s changing for God and because it’s right, eventually I’ll know. If not, some little thing I do or say will crack the facade and it will be over. I’ve set my face in God’s direction and expect nothing, yet neither will I give what is precious to someone who throws it out with the trash.
    I don’t know if this helps. Growing a backbone does not mean staying, it can be harder to leave well, I’m just saying I’ve done both. My first h has never stopped abusing me through flying monkeys, which includes the children, so sometimes that isn’t so helpful either. Yet, I couldn’t live with him anymore. I just couldn’t. And he was bad for the children. Still is.

    • Jessica on February 9, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      My heart goes out to you. I know what you’re feeling. It’s very hard, but God is faithful, truly. I know when we put all of our trust in Him and not our husbands, He gives us the strength to go through whatever it is. I have recently learned that whether my husband and I reconcile is less important than our individual healing and our personal relationship with Jesus. I want to be a vessel in which God’s light can shine through to my children, grandchildren and other’s in my life. Praying for you, my sister. You are doing very well and I know our Father is very proud of you.

    • JoAnn on February 9, 2023 at 1:09 pm

      Connie, May I suggest that your ex’s being “bad for the children” is also an opportunity for you to speak truth to them about their father and how they might deal with other people who say or do unkind things. This isn’t bad mouthing their father, but showing them the truth about how to be a kind and loving person who doesn’t hurt others. I hope your kids are getting some counseling along the way. This kind of situation is so hard on children, even mores than on adults. Prayers for wisdom.

      • Connie on February 9, 2023 at 1:53 pm

        Yes, JoAnn, I have been studying and praying on what you wrote. Most say that there is nothing you can do, just wait until they figure it out themselves. Well, I’m nearly 70, and they are 28 — 48, and their dad has built them a lovely cabin on a lake to use for free. They know deep down that if they say anything negative about him, they will pay.. I’m the one who broke the family, because of my pride. Dad reminds them to ‘respect your mother’ (with a wink and a nod that says, ‘even though we all know what she is like’). I’ve tried to start conversations. I get, “Oh, mom, you don’t have to talk about it’. They are not in counseling because they think they’ve figured it all out. Yet with our husbands, we are told not to be silent, why with the children? I think lately that we are only now catching up with what real love and courageous conversations might look like. I have been challenging myself to accept that if I start these conversations, I may loose them. At least for a time. The younger ones who left with me understand a bit, but still treat me with polite condescension at times. Like I’m not real bright. And the chronic illnesses have been portrayed as all in my head, Anyway, thank you for the encouragement, and if there are resources that might help, I’d appreciate it. Loving well is not what I have been taught. Dan Allender has been helpful.

        • Stella on February 9, 2023 at 3:11 pm

          Hello Connie, thank you for sharing. I normally don’t respond to the comments. I just like reading others testimonials. What caught my attention was the word back bone. First, I thought it was wrong in having one because I considered it as having a bad attitude. Growing up my siblings and I couldn’t voice our opinions. Respect and do as you are told was implemented in our lives. I was always afraid to speak up growing up and I still find myself in that situations at times. A friend of mine told me once I needed to grow a back bone but didn’t understand how.
          My Heavenly Father is showing me that I have to unlearn what I have learned from past negative thinking and other behaviors that I thought were correct. Blessings to you.
          Thank you Connie

        • JoAnn on February 17, 2023 at 3:25 pm

          Hi Connie,
          I did not know that your children are all adults now. I assumed that they were young after reading your post. I am so sorry that they have been deceived into thinking that you are the wrong one. Of course we all make mistakes, but sometimes the children have to grow into adults before they can see the whole picture. You can pray that the Lord will give them some perspective, but without His enlightenment, they probably will continue to believe the lies. You have my sympathy and prayers.

    • Anasong on February 17, 2023 at 11:26 am

      Thank you for your story…the way you describe it is so helpful to learn how to express what is going on. You’re so gifted with language and so strong. I hope I can learn to speak about things like you. Just wondering, now that you’re stronger, and living with someone who only wants a Maid, do you feel that you’re being strong and focused on God allows you to stay in the same house, since you’ve totally given up on him anyway and you feel independent even if he’s there

  7. JoAnn on February 9, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    I have to wonder why the writer wants to stay married/doesn’t want a divorce. Those are two different things, so answering both questions can be enlightening. The writer doesn’t mention loving her husband, so why stay? To “stay well” is almost impossible without isolating herself within the marriage, so then, is it a marriage? For whom are you keeping up the appearance of a marriage? We all know that the word of God tells us that God hates divorce, but He also hates it when a man deals “treacherously” with his wife. (Mal. 2:14) I believe that God’s love and compassion would not want His daughter to be abused just to avoid divorce. There is a line in a hymn that I really appreciate. It says, “I’d rather walk with the Lord in the dark than walk in the light alone.” Let Him show you what your next step should be.

  8. Hope on February 19, 2023 at 8:55 pm

    I agree with JoAnn. If a wife has to isolate to stay safe and “well” in her marriage, is it really a marriage at all? Isolation is the opposite of what God intends in marriage–the joys and growth of relationship and sharing. My husband has many of the traits of Aspergers. He wants to live very privately, focused almost entirely on himself and his interests. If I want to live a parallel life with him in the same house, not ask him for anything relational (including a sex life), and carry on being the “wife”, keeper of the home, maintainer of family relationships and gatherings, activity coordinator, etc, he’s fine with that. He’s not interested in any input from me. He hasn’t been interested in counseling or any outside help .He’s told me he won’t change. When I finally told him that I’m done, his first (and pretty much only) comment was that he hoped I knew what I was going to do for money, because he’s “set financially.” It’s taken me years to come to the place that I know I can’t live this way any longer and stay well. It’s already taken such on toll on me–emotionally, physically, financially, etc. I’m now in the process of leaving well. It’s scary and not easy after 33 years of marriage, but God is being so good to me. I just keep doing the next right thing. Leslie and Co and all you godly ladies contributing on this site have been a huge support and help to me on this whole journey! Thank you from my heart!

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