You have lived in an environment of deceit. Your trust has been violated. You have been lied to and you need to find a way to trust your partner again. If you don’t, you are afraid it may mean the end of your marriage.
And you’re right. It may. It is essentially impossible to have an intimate, trusting marriage when your spouse lies to you. If the lies don’t stop, your marriage could be in danger of collapse.
When one spouse lies to another the result isn’t only a feeling of betrayal. Lying is a deliberate attempt at avoiding authentic communication and as a result you have likely closed up to protect yourself from the hurt of future lies. Read on to learn how to end the lies.
Lying and its Effects on the Victim
Protecting yourself is a very natural response. Marriages thrive when the lines of communication are open and information flows freely from one spouse to the other. You know this, but you don’t know how to start communicating again. You’re stuck in a Catch-22: You’ve shut down because you can’t trust your spouse, and you know that you can’t heal your marriage if you both hide from each other.
This is how one woman who was injured by an affair described the problem:
“When I found out about the affair, he lied and told me it never happened. As the weeks and months passed he kept on lying until I thought he was incapable of telling the truth. I didn’t know who this man was anymore. He had gone from being the man I loved to some monster who no longer was capable of telling the truth.
How was I supposed to talk to him, when I knew he was lying to me? How were we ever going to repair our marriage, when he couldn’t utter a single word of truth? It was unnerving and terrifying. I didn’t know what to do. So I just closed down and stopped talking about it. I was pretty sure that was the end of our marriage.”
As this woman and her husband eventually learned, there is a solution.
That solution is transparency.
Transparency is more comprehensive than honesty. To be transparent with your spouse means that you become free of pretense and deceit and that your words and actions are so free of pretense and deceit your spouse can see through them and know you are telling the truth.
If you have cheated on your spouse and you are reading this email, I want to make you aware of something very important.
Other than completely stopping contact with your paramour, the single most important thing you can do to repair your relationship is to be consistently transparent about your actions and activities. It must be an authentic and obvious change from your prior behavior.
If you are the injured spouse, there is something you need to know as well.
You cannot make your spouse become transparent, and even if he tries to act out the part, you cannot know if your spouse is still lying to you or not. You can encourage him or her. You can share this email with your spouse. You can even try explaining how important honesty is to you. But in the end this is a choice your spouse has to make.
Having said that, it’s likely that you can afford to open up and become more transparent yourself. Neither the affair, nor the damage done to your marriage is your fault. But if you have closed down and are no longer communicating with your spouse, you aren’t helping your marriage.
To destroy a marriage only takes one person. To save it, requires both of you working hard together to make your relationship better than ever.
In this article I will start with Building Block #1: Share Everything without Attaching Yourself at the Hip.
Transparency Building Block #1: Share Everything without Attaching Yourself at the Hip
What you are going for in a transparent relationship is an open and free exchange of information. This means you want to share information with your spouse about you, your activities, what you do during your daily life, and what your plans are for the future.
You want to open up and be free with information, offering it before it is asked for, and doing so in a way that doesn’t make it seem as though you are being forced or coerced to talk about your life (which only serves to corrupt the whole spirit of transparency).
Let me give you three tips that will help you offer information freely without becoming attached at the hip or asking permission. This will help you achieve greater transparency in your relationship without sacrificing your autonomy.
Tip #1: Give a Full Account of Your Plans without Overdoing It
Let’s imagine that you want to go out and shoot some pool with a few colleagues after work one evening to unwind. It’s a spur of the moment decision you make at work, so you haven’t discussed the matter with your spouse in advance. Now you are wondering how you can approach this situation with transparency.
The first step is to simply call your spouse and give a full account of your plans without overdoing it.
You might call and say something like:
“Tonight a few guys from work want to go out and shoot some pool and I’d like to join them. I plan to be gone for about two hours. I’ll probably grab a burger while I’m at the pool hall, so don’t worry about dinner for me. I’ll have my cell on loud and vibrate while I’m there if you need to get hold of me. If I’m running late I’ll make sure and give you a call. Would this have any impact on you or your plans for this evening?”
That is all you need to say. If your spouse asks for additional information, you should be willing to share whatever is asked for. For example, if she asks who is going to be there you should tell her. Or if she asks for a specific time estimate of when you will be home you should offer that as well.
The point is to give your spouse a full account of the activity you plan without hiding anything and without overdoing it. Simply tell your plan. That’s all you need to do.
Tip #2: Don’t Ask Permission
Most adults don’t like to ask permission for what they do. By the same token, most adults don’t like to be put in a position to either approve or disapprove of their spouse’s actions. It’s true – your wife is not your mother. You shouldn’t have to ask her if you can “go out and play with your friends.”
However, you do need to let her know what you are up to. That’s simply a matter of respect. When you are married your actions affect your spouse. You need to let him or her know what you plan. If you don’t it’s disrespectful.
There is a line between telling your spouse what you plan and asking for permission. Notice in the statement above I didn’t say, “Can I go out and shoot pool with the guys tonight?” This could encourage some wives to “suck it up” and be a martyr.
After you ask for input about what you want to do, you have to really listen to the answer.
For example, it may be that your spouse has spent all day making your favorite dinner or perhaps you forgot some agreement you made.
At that stage you will have to make a choice about what to do. Perhaps you would choose to postpone the pool game for another time. Or you might ask your spouse to freeze dinner and join you at the pool hall (if you don’t need time “with just the guys”). You might also make the concession to be out just long enough to shoot a quick round and then come home if you truly stick to your time commitment.
If your decision is not a caring one, you have to suffer the consequences of your decision, but an argument based on honesty is better than hiding your actions. And, if you are making uncaring decisions more often than rarely, you need to do some introspection and perhaps grow up to the responsibilities of being married.
This is part of what it means to be in a transparent marriage. In the long run it is worth it, even if it sometimes causes difficulty in the short term.
Now for my final tip.
Tip #3: Make Plans Based on All of the Information
By opening up a dialog like the one discussed in the examples above, you offer yourself the opportunity to make decisions based on all the information at hand. This is very important.
You aren’t single anymore. As long as you remain married you will continue to have a responsibility to your spouse and you will always have a responsibility to your kids. Getting married and having a family are one-way doors. You can never go back to being someone who was never married or didn’t have a family.
Make responsible, adult decisions based on all of the information at hand.
Some nights you will get to play pool. Others you won’t. Don’t ask permission. But own the responsibility of the decision yourself, so you don’t have to.
These are a few ways to become transparent and open or reopen the lines of communication in your marriage.
There are other considerations, particularly if you have been through an affair. If you are going to succeed as a spouse in your marriage, you need to know all the factors of transparency to restore trust in your relationship.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
Are you having problems with trust right now?
Have you used any of these steps to make your marriage more transparent?
What was the outcome?
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As always, I wish you all the best on your road to a wonderful marriage.
Until next time,