So you’ve had the gut feeling for a while that “something is not right” and after doing some investigating, you’ve caught your spouse in a lie. If you suspected infidelity and have now found proof of the affair, your spouse has been lying to you and you need to let them know that you know!
The first thing to remember is that God has told us pretty specifically what He thinks about dishonesty:
Proverbs 6:16, 17 and 19 – There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…a false witness who breathes out lies.
Leviticus 19:11-12 – You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by My name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
Psalm 24:4-5 – He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
So clearly, being a deceitful or dishonest just does not please God! No matter who you sugarcoat it or justify it, it is not godly to lie.
Next, Matthew 18 does tell us the steps to use when a brother or sister is sinning. I’m paraphrasing here, but first we are to go to them privately and tell them we know what they’re doing and ask them to stop–encourage them to do the right thing. The verse says that if we speak to them privately and they listen, we have won them over!
Still….how do you go to someone and point out their fault? Especially when we, ourselves, are not perfect?
One suggestion I have is to approach the discussion as a “conversation” and not as a “confrontation.” Yes, you want to go straight to them and make them aware that you know what’s happening and you know the truth, but when the two of you speak, it should be in the spirit of “two people on the same team trying to figure out a solution” rather than “two individuals on opposite sides attacking and preparing for battle.”
When you do speak to your spouse, if you focus on “the lie” or “the lying,” the conversation can easily turn into a “he said/she said” discussion which is counter-productive and essentially gives them clues about how you found out! So rather than focusing on the lie itself, focus on the specific issues at hand–contact with others, flirting, use of pornography, etc.–and talk about what YOU thought or how YOU feel, and then ask them specifically for what you need.
Approaching the discussion as a “confrontation” usually results in a competitive mindset, causing a partner to react defensively, by withdrawing, launching counter attacks, being hostile, or denying. In other words, trying to blame, attack or point out your partner’s misdeeds won’t get you very far. Instead, try approaching it as a conversation where your spouse can hear what you are trying to say without feeling like they are being attacked, even if they are to blame for what happened.
For instance, saying the following is not very useful:
- Did you…
- I know that you…
- Why are you lying to me about…
Making such accusations almost always leads to a defensive reaction, which only gets in the way of genuine understanding and a resolution of the problem.
Rather than focusing on your spouse’s use of deception, try to phrase the problem in the least judgmental way possible by focusing on your own feelings. For instance, it helps to start such conversations by saying:
Something I discovered is upsetting me. I’m concerned (sad, hurt, frustrated) about… and I want to be able to talk with you about it…
If you focus on your thoughts and feelings, and discuss your spouse’s underlying behavior tentatively, in the least judgmental way that you can, you have the best chance of being heard. And being heard (understood) is the ultimate goal when trying to work through problems with a spouse so that the two of you can see and talk about problems.
Of course, this method is far from perfect, and it usually requires that both people have good communication skills. But, this method does work better than simply attacking or blaming a partner for his or her deceptive behavior.
The added benefit of using this approach is that if you can create a sense of understanding and a willingness to discuss problems without a lot of negativity, your spouse will feel more comfortable discussing issues in the future!
- Is Hidden Hostility Derailing Your Marriage? (psychologytoday.com)
- Can You Catch a Liar? How Negative Emotions Affect Brain Responses when Lying or Telling the Truth (plosone.org)