You lied to your partner or spouse and got caught red-handed.
You feel horrible and don’t want to lose the person you love, but you know you’ll have work hard to rebuild trust.
Maybe it was too many small lies (“I swear I didn’t leave those dishes in the sink!”), or maybe it was a whopper (“It was totally innocent. We were just talking!”).
But after a series of small untruths or one earth-shattering betrayal, you’re wondering how to rebuild trust in a marriage after lying to the one person you don’t want to hurt.
Your relationship can’t survive on a foundation of insecurity and mistrust.
Even small lies make your partner wonder what big ones are lurking around the corner.
Why Do People Lie in Relationships?
That’s a great question, especially when we all know that lying is so destructive. Everyone lies from time to time, but chronic lying is corrosive. Lying about big things can blow up a marriage or relationship.
Most of the time, the lie is worse than the offense you’re lying about. It tells your partner that they aren’t worthy of the truth from you. It makes them feel like you’re gaslighting them.
Knowing all of that, why would you do it?
Here are some of the reasons for lying to your spouse or partner:
- Fear of the consequences of telling the truth
- Fear of embarrassment and shame
- Not wanting to hurt or embarrass your spouse
- Conflict avoidance
- Insecurity or feelings of inferiority
- Self-justification for the action that caused the lie
- Not understanding what trust in relationship really is
What Is Trust in a Relationship?
When there’s trust in a relationship or marriage, you believe your partner will take your feelings, thoughts, and best interests into account when making choices that affect you.
You also respect one another enough to be honest and forthright — even when it’s uncomfortable or makes you look bad.
When one of you can’t expect that, he or she lives in fear of rejection, betrayal, or abandonment. They feel insecure that the other person doesn’t have their back.
Telling lies to your spouse, especially about the big things (fidelity, finances, family, past relationships, personal responsibility), erodes your partner’s love and respect for you.
Without trust and respect, it’s impossible to build a real and lasting love partnership grounded in emotional intimacy.
How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship After Lying
If you want to save your relationship, it’s worth doing the work to regain trust after lying. Consider the following steps for building your partner’s trust after being dishonest in your relationship.
1. Get real with yourself.
You’ve lied to your partner, but don’t lie to yourself. There’s no justification for the lie, especially if he or she caught you in it and is hurt or upset.
Own what you’ve done and think about why you felt the need to lie to your significant other. What does the answer reveal about you and your relationship?
Recognize that the truth usually catches up with you, and the consequences of lying only compound the pain of the situation. Lies rarely make things better.
2. Apologize… twice.
Now you need to own up to your partner. Apologize first for the action that precipitated the lie.
This apology may be daunting if you’ve done something really damaging to the relationship, like having an affair. Answer any questions your partner has with complete honesty. Don’t repeat the same mistake by lying again.
You’ll also need to acknowledge that you’ve been lying about the situation and for how long. That’s where the second apology comes in. Apologize for not respecting your spouse enough to be honest. Don’t offer excuses — this is the time to come completely clean.
Your apologies need to be sincere and from the heart. Show humility and genuine remorse.
3. Validate your partner’s responses and reactions.
As hard as it is for you to own your behavior and lies, it’s excruciating for your spouse to hear the painful truth and realize the person they love has been lying.
Your partner may not forgive you right away, much less trust you. You’ll need to listen and validate his or her feelings and reactions for a while, depending on the size of the offense and the number of times you’ve lied about it.
Be patient and understanding while he or she processes all of their emotions and concerns. Let your partner know how committed you are to not repeating the mistake or lying to you again.
4. Commit to truthful living going forward.
The proof is always in the pudding — your loved one can only begin to trust again as you prove yourself trustworthy.
If you lied to your girlfriend, for example, she has to be thinking, “Can I trust him after he lied to me?” Give her every reason to say, “Yes, I can.”
Convincing your partner of your commitment will be a day-by-day process. The more days, weeks, and months that go by in which you’re transparent and honest, the more trust you’ll earn.
5. Use the situation as a growth opportunity.
You aren’t the first person to have been untruthful with a significant other. It happens all the time — but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or healthy.
Educate yourself on what it means to be a trustworthy, honorable person with your partner and in all of your valuable relationships.
Trustworthy people are:
- Honest and authentic
- Respectful of themselves and others
- Consistent in what they say and do
- Caring and genuinely interested in other people
- Respectful of boundaries
- Trusted by many friends, co-workers, and past partners
- Able to speak difficult truths in loving ways
- Guided by their values and integrity
Understand the bigger reason why these qualities are valuable to you. Beyond not wanting to lose your partner, why do you want to be trustworthy?
Revisit this “why” every time you’re faced with a temptation or challenging choice that undermines your trustworthiness.
6. Forgive yourself.
You made a mistake and learned from it. It doesn’t need to define you for the rest of your life.
Remind yourself that you’re human and get on with the business of living and enjoying (and healing) your relationship. If your partner has forgiven you, you can certainly forgive yourself.
If he or she is still holding a grudge (after an appropriate amount of time), go to couple’s therapy to see if the relationship is salvageable. If it’s not, you can use your experience to grow and evolve for your next relationship.
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Gaining their trust back after lying to them isn’t a “one and done” proposition. Simply saying, “I’m sorry I lied,” isn’t enough to solidify your commitment to being a better partner.
Make it your mission to regain his or her trust and strengthen the foundation of your relationship through consistent, trustworthy, and reliable behavior and words.