Most don’t realize the importance of honesty until someone has been dishonest with them. Relationships are built upon truth and trust. Without both, the relationship is sure to crumble.
Intimacy—“into me see”-- requires safety and vulnerability, but to be vulnerable means you must trust the other person. You must know them and base your decisions on that knowledge. Trust is based on truth.
The moment a lie is introduced into a relationship, the foundation of that relationship is shattered. Lies and deceit create walls of protection and distrust which destroy intimacy and attachment. They erode safety and the willingness to be open and vulnerable. When two people trust one another, they are open and honest, acting unselfishly. They build the relationship together. Dishonesty shatters that trust.
Recently I’ve helped a number of couples recover from sexual infidelity, the ultimate deception. I’ve watched as the affair, and the layers of lies surrounding the affair, destroy trust, safety and connection.
“When I found out my husband Jerry had been lying to me about an affair early in our marriage, I felt like our entire marriage was a fraud,” Susan said to me.
“Since he has been lying and covering up his earlier affair for years, I now look back and think our entire marriage is a farce,” she said. “It’s not just the affair I’ve found out about, but all the lies he told to cover up the affair. How do I even know what is truth and what is a lie?”
“How has his lying affected how you view your husband?” I asked.
“I used to think he was a good, honest man,” she said. “Now I question everything. He has been lying to protect himself. He valued his lies over me. He has placed himself above me and our relationship. I feel horrible and don’t know if I can stay married to him.”
“What I did was so wrong,” Jerry said, seeming to be remorseful. “I don’t blame her for being angry. I’d like her to trust me again.”
Susan shrugged, sharing how she now struggled to trust her husband with anything.
“If he could cheat on me and cover it up for years, what trust should I have in him now?” she said. “I don’t know what to believe.”
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Jerry said. “I know you won’t be able to trust me for a while, but I hope someday to earn your trust again.”
Tragically, Jerry not only covered up his affair for years, but even changed his story several times, leaving Susan bewildered and frustrated. Susan is understandably angry, hurt and very distrusting. She is not sure she will stay with her husband. She fears staying and being hurt again, but also fears leaving and being alone.
What can be done to rebuild trust after deception?
First, value honesty. Be explicit about the importance of honesty in your marriage and the fragility of trust. Share why you value honesty and ensure you are open with your mate about this value. Listen to their values on the topic of honesty. Establish early on that honesty must be an integral part of your marriage;
Second, practice honesty. Create a culture where honesty is exercised. Remind your mate about your expectations of honesty. Lies cannot be a part of your marriage; even the smallest of lies erodes trust. Scripture says: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” (Colossians 3: 9);
Third, be honest about deception. Admit when even the smallest of deceptions occur in your marriage. If you can be honest about the small things, or admit deceptions, you’ll be more inclined to be honest about bigger things. Share the impact of small deceptions, while making it clear that honesty is still valued over deceit;
Fourth, weave honesty into your relationship. It has been said that the roots of big lies always begin with small lies. Have you succeeded in weaving honesty into your marriage? Do you trust your mate? If not, why? What needs to change to create absolute trust, safety and honesty in your marriage? Don’t be afraid to get professional help if there has been a significant breach of trust in your marriage;
Finally, appreciate and honor the impact of honesty. Nothing feels quite as good as being truthful. Knowing you have nothing to hide is a wonderful feeling. You never have to tell a lie to protect another lie, never needing to protect yourself from being discovered. If you have been dishonest, and most have at some time, begin now to be a truth-teller. Start building trust today, one step at a time.
Has your marriage been damaged by dishonesty? Do you want honesty to be the foundation of your marriage? Practice the above steps and notice the change. If you would like further help to restore brokenness in your marriage, we are here to help. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse.
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Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.