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Deception Destroys Trust in Marriage

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins The Relationship Doctor
  • 2008 19 Feb
Deception Destroys Trust in Marriage

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When it comes to deception, it takes very little to violate trust.

Trust is a critical requirement for any relationship. Think about it. We learn we can trust someone, and share our lives with them, because they do what they say they are going to do. We learn to trust someone because they say what they mean and mean what they say. They are trustworthy.

Trust is the foundation that holds a marriage up. I tell you what is important to me and what I expect from you. If you agree to honor and respect what is important to me, I will trust you with my feelings and thoughts. If you dishonor me by violating an agreement, by deceiving me, we’re going to have serious problems. If you make amends for your betrayal, I might, if I determine you to be trustworthy, slowly begin to trust you again. If you don’t seem to understand the importance of honoring an agreement, and the importance of protecting my trust in you, we cannot have a relationship.

The issue of deception seems to come up again and again in emails sent to me. I receive many inquiries regarding how to deal with someone who is untrustworthy, noting the aggravation they feel when this occurs. A recent email illustrates this problem.

Dear Dr. David,

My question is "What are the factors that lead to continual lying--especially with regards to money?”  My husband continually lies about having other accounts, but requires that I divulge everything that I have.  This is the third occasion that I have found that he either has a savings plan somewhere or a savings account somewhere that I was not told about.  When confronted he'll lie right up until I show a print out and then finally say that he's the head of the home and his responsibility is to ensure that we have funds, but then why if we are currently financially strapped are you still not divulging the fact that you have money that can be used? Am I just here being used or is this an insecurity issue and if so, how are you adequately providing for me if it seems that you are only looking out for yourself at my expense?

Let’s summarize her question.

First, someone lies because they have something to hide. This man clearly doesn’t want his wife to know about the hidden accounts of money. He lies to protect his interests, and seems to care little about her feelings in the matter. His actions are selfish and destructive.

Second, someone lies because they feel they can—it works for them. Liars believe they will get away with telling a lie. They believe they won’t get caught, and so will continue to lie until they discover that this is not working for them. In this case, it appears the man has a habit of lying and that his wife has enabled him to continue lying. She has not set a firm boundary on this behavior, or said his behavior is intolerable.  

Third, someone lies because they believe they have a right to lie. In this case, this man feels he is entitled to keep financial information away from his wife. He justifies his lying because he is “the head of the home,” and it is his responsibility to manage the money—though it appears he is doing a poor job of it.

Finally, habitual liars lie because of serious character problems. I’ve discussed the “crazymaking” qualities of liars in my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life. Liars often have a deficit of conscience, as well as “thinking errors,” which allows them to justify their behavior and even manipulate the problem so that they are somehow the victim. Liars turn the tables on others, making themselves look “good” and others look “bad.” They resist being held accountable for their behavior.

So, what is this woman to do? She needs to be wise, taking great care to not get pulled into his crazymaking. She must not get “hooked” into defending herself or allowing him to explain away his behavior. Deception is wrong!

She will need to insist on counseling to address these issues. Deception is inappropriate and damages trust and respect and has no place in a marriage. She must insist the deception stop, and he must take responsibility for it. He must understand the damage it does to their relationship. Finally, he must change his attitudes that lead to and support the dishonesty. This will happen only if she insists on change.

What advice would you give this woman? What impact have you found deception to have on your relationships? We’d love to hear from you.

David Hawkins, Ph.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage   Saying It So He'll Listen, and  When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.

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