Relationship Connection: My husband keeps lying to me

Question

My husband tells partial truths and it drives me crazy. I find myself interrogating him for hours on end to the get to the truth. Eventually, he admits to what he’s done wrong. We’re both exhausted and I’m not sure how I can keep going with this pattern.

These aren’t small things he’s lying about. He’s had an addiction for years and when he starts to slip back into patterns that pull him right back into his addiction, I start asking questions. There is always something there, but he denies and minimizes it. Eventually, he admits that he was going down the wrong road. I feel like I’m the one that has to notice, redirect, and stop him from destroying himself and our family.

His harmful behaviors are upsetting to me, but it’s the lying and hiding that are eroding any trust I have left in him (which isn’t much). What do I do in this situation? I’m tired of trying to keep our marriage and family stable while he lives in denial of the impact he’s having on our family.

Answer

The only way you can ever trust your husband again is if you see him stopping his destructive behaviors and then coming toward you to bring you the truth. If you are the one catching him and forcing him to admit that he’s making mistakes, you will only believe that your marriage will survive if you stay in the detective role. I think it’s safe to say that not one person signs up for marriage so they can be an untrusting detective.

You’re in a difficult situation because your trust is so fractured that you don’t believe he’ll stop himself and bring the truth to light. You probably don’t have any experiences where he’s done that on his own without your involvement.

Most partners feel mixed about their involvement in stopping these destructive patterns. Some partners go to extremes and either become overinvolved or completely detached. Both approaches are understandable, but they each create their own problems when trying to stabilize the marriage.

Instead, let’s talk about a different way of approaching this that will allow you to maintain your sanity and keep the accountability square on your husband, which is where it should be.

Recognize that when your husband is keeping secrets about his harmful behaviors, he’s moving away from the marriage and family. That distance is something you’ll most likely notice and feel a need to respond to. You can chase after him and pull him back to the center of the marriage or you can ignore it and detach. It’s hard to have peace with either response.

Instead, acknowledge the reality that he’s moved away from you and the family by keeping secrets and engaging in his unhealthy behaviors. Stay centered and don’t become reactive in response to what you’re sensing from him. This doesn’t mean you can’t describe what you’re noticing, but the panicked lectures and interrogations need to stop.

He needs to move back toward you and the family by stopping his behavior, telling the truth, and getting the help he needs to be healthy. You will drive yourself crazy trying to compensate for him by pointing everything out and dragging him back to your marriage. Pulling him back only leaves you feeling more insecure and untrusting of his desire to be in the marriage.

Sometimes we chase unhealthy people to fix them because we don’t want to deal with the difficult decisions we’ll have to make if they do something hurtful to others or us. Let him decide what kind of relationship he wants to have in his life. All you can do is honestly and courageously decide what you’ll do in response to his choices.

You can know that he’s returned to the marriage and family when he’s able to talk about why he left, why he kept secrets, and makes a full and humble accountable apology for his behaviors. You may need time to figure out how to respond to his choices. There is nothing wrong with this.

If and when he returns to the relationship, it doesn’t mean that you immediately jump right back into normal life. It may mean that you need some space emotionally or physically. It may mean that you expect him to do things differently like get professional help or work with other supports. Regardless, you’re allowed to respond how you need to respond when he turns his back on your marriage and family with secrets and harmful behavior.

It’s scary to stay put and watch another person spin out in their addiction or denial. However, like jumping into the lake to rescue a drowning swimmer, you risk your own safety and sanity when you jump toward someone who is floundering and not taking responsibility for their own behavior. Granted, they may not know how to help themselves, but there are plenty of supports within reach. Stay on the shore and let them choose on their own to grab onto those supports that are available to them.

You need to know your husband wants to be in this relationship and you deserve to have the experience of seeing him take personal responsibility for his behaviors and how they affect others.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • anybody home February 11, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Get out now. Salvage what you can of your self-esteem and your life and build on that. Living with a person who tells half-truths and lies is a nightmare and will make you crazy. Run, run, run…

    • LunchboxHero February 11, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Hey Home-y! So,”half-truths” is a familiar term. I believe you used it, very fittingly, to describe someone else’s writings recently. 🙂

      Geoff, I really enjoy your Relationship Connection series. I hate what some of these poor people are going through, but I like to think your words give them a little hope.

      • anybody home February 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm

        Yup, I’m way too familiar with some of the “half-truth” characters on the planet. Hey, I like the “Home-” salutation!! And I agree that I hope the people with problems get some hope. I once saw a sign that read: If you’re single and unhappy, every day is a new day. But if you’re married and unhappy, every day is the same day.” Light bulbs going on…

        • LunchboxHero February 11, 2015 at 4:50 pm

          Haha, I love that…

    • Annie February 11, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Sounds like a sociopath to me. They love to blame everyone else for any of their negative behavior. They are big liars, and enjoy it. Google ‘Sociopath’, it’s very interesting. I agree, run away as fast as you can, because these types of people seldom change.

  • Hataalii February 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I know that your marriage vows are important to you. However, you absolutely must look to your own health and the health of your family. It appears from your letter that there is a long and repeated history of his lying and abusing substances. YOU will not change him. He may or may not change himself on down the road.
    In the mean time, you need to remove yourself and your children from this terribly unstable influence.
    As Anybody Home said, “Get out now.” You owe it to yourself, and to your kids.

  • Peg February 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    The Nar-Anon Family Groups are a worldwide fellowship for those affected by someone else’s addiction. As a twelve step program-we offer our help by sharing our experience, strength, and hope. We carry the message of hope by letting others know that they are not alone; by practicing the Twelve Steps of Nar-Anon; and by changing our own attitudes. http://www.nar-anon.org

  • Ronnie Keith February 11, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Run now as far and as fast as you can. I spent ten years and 10s of thousands of dollars trying to save my marrage to an addict. I loved her with all my heart but she loved her addiction more. Half truths became full blown lies and bills went past due as money ment to pay them was spent on drugs. It is a joke to believe you can help (save) someone that does not want to help their self. I had to learn this the hard way. Try as I might to help her she only saw me as the bad guy trying to ruin her high. And N/A as well as LDS 12 step programs only fuled the fire, as she learnd from other addicts how to better hide her addiction and tell even more outlandish lies. In the end divorcing her was the only way to save my sanity and recoup a measure of my dignity. She is now in prison brought on by her selfishness refusing to get sober, Forceing her into a corner wher she had to steal to support her habit. With her being unable to keep a job for more then one pay period at a time. So run fast run far…

  • Sapphire February 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Can’t stand liars and addicts. Even more I can’t stand women who have kids with these people and then stay with them instead of caring about their children and their welfare more than their troublemaker. Women need to keep their legs together until they can get educated enough to take care of themselves and then choose wisely. And a woman who can take care of herself is less likely to stay with a jerk. There are so many messed up kids who then turn into messed up adults and the cycle repeats itself. Teach responsibility instead of tolerance for those who refuse to be responsible.

    • anybody home February 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      I’ve heard a lot of excuses around here for addiction, usually by parents of adult addicts. “It’s hard to kick an addiction.” “He can’t get a job because he’s served time now.” Parents keep shelling out money, cars, whatever the addict wants while all the time knowing that it’s just a matter of days, weeks, months before the addict is arrested again. Such a sad cycle. Lots of co-dependency going on. Doesn’t matter if it’s a spouse or a child, Sapphire is right that people need to be taught responsibility instead of tolerance. Are young women around here so desperate to get married that an addict actually looks good. And are the woman’s parents so desperate for her to get married that they also think an addict looks good. Can only end in tears – a lot of them.
      The person who sent in this question (or whoever wrote it) didn’t say that young children were involved. I hope not. And I hope the woman who wrote does indeed, run, run, run.

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