Thursday, December 3, 2009

Should We Lie To Our Spouse?

Should you manipulate the truth for the "betterment" of your marriage?

Semi-recently, a newsletter from one of the newlywed forums I'm a member of (The Nest) send me an interesting article (sometimes it takes me a while to read all those newletters, but for some reason I save them OCD-style in little folders until I find the time). This article from The Wall Street Journal suggests that "fibs and feints and little white lies that serve as a social salve and help a relationship run smoothly" might help the survival of our marriage.

So you can get an idea of the types of lies considered "helpful," here are the fibs mentioned in the article:
  • A wife who brings newly-bought clothes into the house in a dry cleaner's garment bag
  • A wife who dumps take-out into pots on the stove before the hubby arrives home
  • A wife who pockets the $ her hubby gives her for a house cleaner and cleans the house herself
  • A wife who dropped a diamond earring her hubby gave her down the drain, but said the earrings just hurt her ears to much too wear
  • A hubby who promised he wouldn't trim the trees, did anyway, and colored over the white stump with a brown marker
  • A wife who hid her husband's unsightly t-shirts with cut-off sleeves
  • Hubbies who fibbed about how much they drank at a party, how fast they drive, whether they find their wife's female friends attractive, how much they like their significant other's cooking or outfits, etc.
So why lie? The main reasons mentioned in the article are (1) to avoid conflict and (2) to protect your spouse/be kind. Other reasons include to save face and to gain approval.

(1) My wife asked if I would walk the dogs but I played X-Box all day instead so to avoid an argument, I'll cover the dogs legs in mud and give them a tranquilizer so they look tired.
(2) My wife's lima bean stir fry makes me throw up in my mouth, but I'll tell her it's the best thing I've ever eaten because I don't want to hurt her feelings.
(1&2) I hate the way my husband dresses, so instead of telling him and arguing about it and hurting his feelings, I'll hide all his clothing in a hole in the backyard.

Maybe I'm naive because I'm so early into the game, but I'm not sure I see the benefit of the above white lies, or ones like them. Many may act as quick conflict diffusers and are even amusing at times, but from my perspective (duh, this is my blog), they can also mask a deeper issue at hand. I don't like fighting or sharing difficult truths, but I'm under the impression that addressing conflicts big and small, and being honest in love and with good intentions will do more good for the survival of my marriage. Also, I'm horrible at lying, even when I'm trying to do it as a joke, so if my marriage's survival depends on it, then I'm dead and buried.

Instead of dumping take-out in pots, deceiving my husband into believing I cooked it in order to gain his approval, I'd like to be in a relationship where I can be secure enough to tell my husband I suck at cooking. Sometimes I won't feel like doing it, so we'll eat TV dinners. I'll also try my best to get better at it -- hey, lets cook together to make it more fun, even if it turns out tasting like a glucosamine dog tablet (I recently tasted one of these by accident, so I know how disgusting they are). If my husband makes me feel insignificant because I'm not good at something, or if I'm insecure and feel the need to earn his love by impressing him, or if we have spousal role expectations that we don't see eye to eye on, those are issues that I'm not sure a white lie band aid will heal very well.

And the whole lying so you don't hurt someone's feelings thing, the flag that's always flown to prove that sometimes it's OK to lie,
not sure I can solute those shorts. "I can't tell my wife she looks fat in those jeans, so I just say she looks nice." Hey wife, instead of trapping your husband in an akward situation, why don't you get to what's really on your mind. You feel insecure because you've gained weight. You're not happy with your body. You're not sure if your husband is still attracted to you. You husband doesn't complement you as much as you'd like. You are looking for significance in the wrong places.

If so, work out and eat healthy, pray, tell your spouse you need him to show you affection more often, whatever. But don't force him into a situation where he has to lie to you so you can get a temporary band aid on a deeper issue. What if you don't have alterior motives, and you're really sincerely asking your husband how you look in a certain outfit, because it matters to you -- then, I'm guessing you want an honest answer! Upon my asking, Tanner's honestly told me before that skinny jeans and flats isn't his favorite look, but that I always look beautiful to him, no matter what I'm wearing. And you know what, I believed him on both accounts. And, I still wear my skinny jeans anyways, because I like them. But now I tuck them into boots, because honestly, he was right, they look better that way.

I guess my point is, there's usually a deeper issue at hand requiring a lie. And often times, it's because we're being selfish or prideful in some way, because we have unhealthy insecurities, or because we're ashamed. And besides, getting in the habit of being untruthful in small ways, sounds like a gateway drug to bigger lies (I've been watching too much of the TV show Intervention).

Obviously, I'm sinner with the best of them and far from perfect. One time, when we were dating, I told Tanner that I had cut my dad's hair before, because I really wanted to cut Tanner's hair, and was afraid he wouldn't let me if I confessed I'd never done it. He let me, and luckily it turned out well. I confessed, a year or so later. Even though I'm terrible at it, I still catch myself lying at times. Usually pulling the "Nope, nothing," when Tanner asks if something's wrong. I've learned, at least for us, that it's better to just answer truthfully. And I think it's made our marriage better.

I'm curious to know you're thoughts, even if you disagree with me -- don't you lie and tell me I'm right so you won't hurt my feelings now.


  1. Erin,
    I think you honesty with Tanner is absolutely refreshing and I couldn't agree more. We've spent our lives looking for the men who love us just the way we are. Why lie about the little stuff at this point?
    I worry about people who can't truly let their hair down and just be themselves. It must be exhausting and quite frankly I don't have that kind of energy.

    Your blog is delightful. Life is a peach indeed.

    Leslie Low

  2. Very interesting take on the whole lying thing--both the article's and yours. I don't know exactly where I fall on it...I think some of those lies they used as examples are awful. I also agree that we need to not put people in situations where they feel they have to lie. Here's a question someone brought to me a long time ago that, at the time, was an easy answer. The question was, if an affair or something comparable had taken place and was over and done with, would you want to know? At the time, I was sure that yes, I'd want to know. The person I was speaking with said that at times, knowledge like that would not do anything to mend the relationship, only kill it. I'm not sure where I fall on this now, not that anything has changed in terms of actual experience. That's a much larger lie than what you brought up, but I was reminded of that conversation. Any thoughts on that?

  3. You read my mind when you wrote that.........I could just never have captured it in writing like you can. Wow.

  4. Kirsten, that IS a very interesting question. One that my morning radio show DJs discussed recently, which gave me a nice, long hour and half to ponder the question (I have a long commute). Interestingly enough, as I was reading your comment, Dr. Drew was speaking on the TV about Tiger Woods wife, saying that if she wanted to stay with her husband, she might have to be OK with the fact that she'll never trust him again in the same way she did before, and that she'll have to choose to keep her marriage despite that persistent uneasy feeling.
    The idea of having to live with that uneasy feeling is a horrible thought, so is the idea of a marriage wounded by an affair. How horrible that reality would be might be worth avoiding, especially if what you don't know can't hurt you. But, and maybe it's selfish, I think I would want the "right" to choose whether to forgive and how to go on, with all the truth. Your friend might be right, but I also think that it's hard for two to be one if one has transgressed so deeply and not confessed and sought forgiveness. Anyways, yuck, I don't even like thinking about it! I don't know though, I hope I'm never have to go through it, but I think God work healing when things are brought into the light.

  5. I'd also like to mention a good point that Sam mentioned to me in a side conversation. That you can choose how much information to reveal, keeping some private, while still being truthful. For example, if Tanner had just told me "I think you look beautiful no matter what you wear," when I asked him his opinion on my skinny jeans and flats, he wouldn't have been lying, just sharing one of many truths in the situation, but the truth he considered the most important. Good point!

  6. I agree with you. Lying could only worsen the relationship, not help it. It's better to be open and honest with your spouse about everything. If there are any negative reprocussions from doing so, those will probably be over quickly and not as bad than lying and the consequences later (either the truth coming out, or the downward spiral of living in lies). I feel too guilty to lie to my husband. It's easier to do it to other people but i love my hubby too much and honesty and trust is something i value greatly.

  7. I might have taken a day or two to reveal a truth when there is something I don't want to think about, or news I feel would make my husband worry, but I have always told the him the truth about everything--my past before I met him, and everything that I've experienced since. A marriage without complete honesty (and disclosure) is a place I would never want to be.



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