The Barrier to Marital Bliss
In my years of pre-marital counseling one thing I discuss with the couple planning to marry is truth-telling. Even though we yearn for authentic relationships built on integrity and openness, the truth is, we’re sometimes deceptive and less than honest. Dr. Leonard Keilor invented the polygraph, and after testing over 25,000 people concluded that human beings are deceptive by nature. In his New York Times bestseller, The Day America Told the Truth, James Patterson stated that 91 percent of Americans lie on a regular basis.
The reason truth-telling is essential to maintaining a good marriage is simple: marriage is rooted in trust. Trust is what makes the relationship happy, healthy and secure. Dishonesty erodes trust. Even “little” lies can, over time, build big walls between a husband and wife. This usually begins with choosing to keep the peace instead of coming clean with the truth.
For example, did you really have to work late or did you stop by the club? To avoid your spouse’s disapproval for being late you decide to create a falsehood. Was that really what you paid for that item or did you lie to avoid your wife’s anger for an unwise expenditure? Or instead of being open and honest with your wife, you drop hints about things you think she needs to improve. Most women are not naïve and see through this deceptive ploy. Do you make promises you don’t intend to keep. Do you intentionally exaggerate or mislead?
Couples who regularly lie to each other are living in pseudo-community and are undermining the foundation of marriage which is trust. Honesty really is always the best policy. So, here are a few guidelines for truth-telling:
1. Be completely honest. You know what they say, “a half truth is a whole lie.” Put all your cards on the table so that there’s nothing hidden between you and your wife. Maintaining a clear conscience removes the potential for guilt in yourself and reinforces the trust of your wife.
2. Be lovingly honest. If you’ve chosen keeping the peace over being truthful, you need to first repent, ask God’s forgiveness for being less than honest. Then determine to confront the issue with compassion and understanding. “Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) Make sure it’s the right time, the right place, and with the right attitude.
If you want to get really honest with your wife about something you believe she needs to change, make sure you make observations and not accusations. Avoid the words, “always” and “never”--as in “you’re never on time” or “you're always insensitive.” Truth spoken without love is usually perceived as an attack.
3. Be prayerfully honest. Here I simply mean to pray and ask God for his wisdom and guidance. Also, pray with your wife. In prayer together, express your gratitude to the Lord for your wife. There’s nothing that cannot be overcome if a couple is willing to humble themselves before God and determine together to follow his will.
The real issue in truth-telling is the condition of your heart. If your heart is full of anger, you’ll be tempted to say hurtful things. If your heart is fearful, you’ll be tempted to be dishonest to avoid the consequences. If your heart is full of insecurity, you’ll be tempted to exaggerate to make yourself look good. If your heart is full of selfishness, you’ll be tempted to use lies to manipulate and get your own way. If your heart is slothful, you’ll be tempted to use convenient lies to make life easier for yourself.
So, before you get real with your wife, you may need to come clean with God. Dishonesty doesn’t just erode truth between spouses, it’s a barrier between you and God. Being honest with him is key to living in truth with others.