Q. I am a 39 year old wife and mother of 3 children with one on the way. My husband repeatedly lies to me and waits for me to find out, confront him, and finally admits then acts as if nothing happened. I have been married for 15 years and am at the end of my rope with this regular event. How do I handle this? We were in counseling for a few months last year and he lied to the counselor repeatedly which served no good purpose, so we ended it. Any advice you can offer would be most appreciated. Molly
A. As I say in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who repeatedly lies to you. So the only thing you can do is to ask yourself is what’s going on with you? You have been married to this man for 15 years. You say this is repetitive and he is unrepentant, meaning he is unwilling to get help for his problem. Even in counseling he is lying. So my advice to you is to ask yourself what is your problem here and what are you going to do about your problem.
Let me explain. Your husband has a problem in that he lies and is a liar. That is not your problem but you keep trying to fix his problem. The difficulty with that is that you can’t fix another person’s problem. The only person you can work on is you. So therefore you need to ask yourself what is your problem?
Your problem as I read it is you don’t’ like living like this. You don’t like being married to a man who you don’t trust and who doesn’t tell you the truth. You don’t like the fact that he is unwilling to change or work on his problem. You don’t like playing detective or mommy to catch him in his lies. So what are you going to do about your problem?
Without knowing the nature of the lies I cannot give you specific advice but I would encourage you to go to counseling yourself to figure out why you have continued trying to have a close relationship with someone who repeatedly lies to you and doesn’t care that this habit hurts you and your marriage. Depending on the nature of his lies, you may also have to ask yourself why you are putting yourself at risk for sexually transmitted diseases or even having another child with a man who clearly is not invested in having a good relationship with you.
These questions may seem harsh but you say that you are at the end of your rope and don’t know how to handle this. How do you imagine a healthy woman would handle this? Don’t blame yourself for his behavior, but ask yourself why have you put yourself in the role of trying to control his behavior and why have been willing to put up with it for so long?
You don’t say whether or not your husband claims to be a believer, but you may need to enlist the help of your pastor to confront your husband. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” That means if he refuses to listen, the closeness of the relationship changes. It doesn’t mean you divorce him necessarily, but you don’t have the closeness of fellowship and intimacy with someone you don’t trust. I know that makes you sad, as it would any woman in your situation, but if you want to be healthy, you must live in truth and reality.
Remember, in the end, the only person you can work on is yourself. Get the help you need to respond to this situation in wisdom and strength, not fear and frustration.
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All of your comments have been extremely helpful – thank you. I am not a Christian but am from the sister faith Islam. I hope you don't mind me sharing your space.. I found your site thru googling up help with chronic liars.
The one about the children really put things into perspective of severe implications.
I have been married for 2 years plus long distance, but living with my partner for 6months plus. It is a really messy situation as I have sponsored my partner for immigration and there are many complications. Not only does he lie (and never admits completely or ever tells the whole truth) – he is manipulative, plays mind games with the emotion and psyche and keeps me intimidated with fear and pretends that he doesn't know what i am referring to…
When recently he hit me and publicly treated me (again) with derogatory words that could rip off every character and respect of a women's soul – i left home. It's been 2 weeks apart but with his continuous will to change I somehow find myself talking to him and allowing him close again. Not only that – the topic of him cheating has somehow not become the priority of our problems anymore. I do see now "I gave him that message that its ok".
He has cheated and lied repeatedly and the problem with liars even geting the help they need – we never know for sure if they will lie about/during that too. Liars are very good about making fantasial stories. Other than stuff i have been able to verify – I don't know and every know what IS the truth or what is not and how long ago it started…and that is scary to live with a lifetime..
Even after I know all that I know it's crazy how I continue to even have 1% of consideration to go back. It's really true Leslie of what you say about how we teach others on how to treat us – my sister's said the same thing. I think for those of us who continue to stay in the relationship – it is because of the distorted hope that someday things may change. "what if, what if..". Change is not comfortable and many of us worry about the community.. Before we know it, we are yo-yoing back several times back into the relationship.
I do feel unlucky to be in this situation, but really as many say "its not an accident of where we are in our lifes. We do make our own beds." I am starting to see something major needs to change within me…but its soo hard to do so. I look forward to picking up that book of your's Leslie "speak up…"
It's good to have this safe space to vent and realise I am not the only one – it somehow relieves some of the hurt and self-blame and pity. My resentment with God has prevented me to practice prayer – I used to be quite faithful. But really – I see it's not God's fault but 'us' that made the decisions. God has given us the power to make choices and once again he is providing us with knowledge and people in our paths to once again choose the right decision.
I don't have kids..and still have a hard time to step back. I can't imagine what it must be like with kids involved… I keep asking questions to myself ~
– am i respecting myself by staying back?
– What message am i giving the other person about what my boundaries and deal breakers are by staying back..?
These answers need to come from within and I think we are avoidant of wanting to know this answer. That's why I feel the real fundamental question is "are we ready to let go?" "Have WE had enough?"
It's sad but somewhere down the line…those of us who can't leave have a deeper problem that meets the eye. It's a desire or dysfunctional past to continue to try hardest in wanting others' to love us the way we need even when it is screaming back at us, they just don't love us that way.
Take care of yourselves. God bless, and hope you find the strength to decide your best.