Jan 122016 8 Responses

Can You Tell Your Spouse the Truth?

If you can’t tell your spouse the truth, you have a problem.

It may not cause divorce. It doesn’t guarantee your relationship is bad. You may not even be able to feel the negative effects on your marriage. But it is a problem.

Marriage should be a place where the truth flourishes.

Because the two people are completely committed to one another.

Because they have promised to love one another in every circumstance.

Because they are FOR one another in very tangible ways.

Because they are willing to sacrifice their own desires in order to assist one another.

The truth should be a defining characteristic of the relationship.

But often it is not. (See: I Can Say It and It Won’t Kill Us)

In many relationships, the truth, not only doesn’t define the relationship, but actually is rarely present. The marriage is built on deception, silence, implications, and lies.

These are symptoms of an illness. And they should be quickly treated before the sickness grows and infects an expanding aspect of the relationship.

By nature, humans lie. It’s not a learned behavior. It just happens. From an early age, we believe deception is better than truth. While it can be cute when a two-year-old says they haven’t eaten anything even as remnants of an Oreo cookie is all over their face, it’s not as cute when a husband conceals his whereabouts or a wife says she is “fine” even when she is not.

Spouses lie for several reasons:

1. We have something to hide. Some lies are byproducts of other bad choices. I’m yet to meet a spouse who fully told the truth even when they have been caught in an affair. At first, they try to cover-up or downplay the activity. One reason people lie is because of not wanting to get caught in their bad choices. (See: Four Lies to Never Tell Your Spouse)

2. We don’t feel safe. Some lies aren’t byproducts of our actions, but are a sign we do not feel safe to tell the truth. We may fear rejection or shame. Maybe our spouse has not handled the truth well in the past or we project on our spouse the actions of some other authority figure in our lives. In these cases the truth is something we could say, but we don’t feel the ability to say it.

3. We think our spouse isn’t worth it. The truth can hurt. It can cause tension and reveal problems. If we do not value our marriage or our spouse, it can be easier to lie. Why have the serious discussion when a lie can avoid it? Why reveal your true heart if you don’t truly love your wife? When I value my spouse, the difficult conversation is always worth it because I’m in it for the long-haul. But when I don’t value my spouse, I might be more worried with how I feel today rather than what happens tomorrow.

4. We think that we aren’t worth it. Many lies are a form of self-protection. We believe if our spouse sees who we truly are, they will not (and even cannot) love us. We think this because we do not believe we are valuable. The sadness of this type of lie is it robs our spouse of the opportunity of giving us grace and true love. Over time, we can actually begin to believe they are not loving us well, never realizing we have taken from them any opportunity to express their love.

5. We think we need to control our spouse. Many lies are not attempts to protect ourselves, but are an attempt to control others. We tell people what we want to tell them expecting them to react the way we think they should. In a healthy marriage, one spouse doesn’t try to control the others as both individuals are free to be themselves. In an unhealthy marriage, manipulation and control are common place.

6. We know no difference. Some people are taught from a very early age to lie and they know of no other way to be in a relationship. Because it is all they have seen, it is all they know, so it is all they do. Unfortunately, their lying prevents them from ever having a true relationship. Anything built on a lie is a pretend world which does not truly exist. Until the lies stop, a healthy relationship cannot grow.

Truth Is A Learned Skill

Spouses must learn to handle the truth. We must build a pattern of truth-telling so that a deep level of trust is created. As we repeatedly tell the truth, we see how truth-telling liberates the relationship and frees us from many other bad behaviors–lying, manipulation, masking feelings, hypocrisy, etc.

As we honestly tell the truth and humbly hear the truth, we can create a climate where the truth defines who we are.

Consider this quote by Timothy Keller in his book The Meaning of Marriage:

“One of the most basic skills in marriage is the ability to tell the straight, unvarinshed truth about what your spouse has done–and then, completely, unself-righteously, and joyously express forgiveness without a shred of superiority, without making the other person feel small.” (page 165)

Keller’s words show a clear pattern for truth telling. A marriage in which the truth is regularly told, requires:

Humility. Both spouses must realize their imperfections and expect them from themselves and their spouse. They may never overestimate their ability or consider themselves better than the other.

Mercy. Marriage demands we give and receive mercy. Without it, the difficulties of marriage will create too much tension for any relationship to survive. (See: How to Handle Friction in Marriage)

Shared Purpose. Unless the marriage is about more than just personal pleasure, truth has very little chance of being a defining characteristic. When a couple sees their relationship as having a higher purpose (contributing to the communal good, impacting children, influencing society, bringing glory to God) then a couple is more likely to do the hard work of learning to tell the truth.

A Simple Question

It’s an easy question, but one with great ramifications.

Can you tell your spouse the truth?

If the answer is no, there is a problem. It doesn’t mean your relationship is bad, but it does reveal an opportunity for growth.

8 Responses to Can You Tell Your Spouse the Truth?
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  3. […] 1. Courage to face the truth. A relationship is real to the extent that it deals with the truth. Whe... https://www.kevinathompson.com/the-hidden-flaw-destroying-marriages
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