5 Ways Lying Destroys Marriages

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I was sitting here at my desk wondering…”How has lying been such a major factor in the lives of the couples I work with?” I think about what they go through and how they feel. It’s so common. Normal may be a better word for people who are not perfect. So many people would love to solve this problem. How can I help? Can I help them recognize how their behavior is not getting the results they were hoping for? What if you could start choosing more healthy behaviors?

You are here because of dishonesty. It has destroyed or is destroying your relationship. I’m guessing, like me, you are hoping to figure out why. You also want to find ways to change this behavior for the sake of your relationship. If this is you, then you are in the right place.

This post will provide insight into how lying hurts your relationship. Understanding how lying damages relationships points to understanding how to change your situation. Continue with me as I lay out how destructive dishonesty can be to marriage.

As you read, I want to give you more assistance. Check out my workbooks and go deeper in your work to help your marriage.

Lying destroys marriages in the following 5 ways

  1. Lying destroys trust.
  2. Lying prevents deeper, empowering conversation.
  3. Lying leads to more lying and deception.
  4. Dishonesty can be extremely painful extending healing time
  5. Lying portrays selfishness

There are consequences for lying in relationships…

This may seem obvious, and maybe it is. However, knowing why lying hurts relationships can help to prevent lying in the first place. The reason lying hurts relationships is due to its nature of creating distrust. When a person lies to you, you automatically become hurt and in some ways fearful. Not the type of fear where you are scared for your life, but fear in the form of hurt and emotional pain.

Why is it important to have trust in a relationship and not dishonesty?

When two individuals enter a relationship, they trust each other. You would agree that you trusted your partner when things started, at least as you got to know them. Trust continues until a person hurts or deceives another person. Trust is important because it provides safety and certainty in the relationship.

Safety and certainty are important in relationships because they open us up to deeper connection and love. Honesty and trust provide an atmosphere where safety and certainty thrive in a marriage. A healthy relationship thrives on safety and certainty because a person can be more and more honest and open without the fear of being hurt. This creates an ever-deepening cycle of intimacy and connection. Find out how honesty helps a marriage HERE.

Deception and dishonesty are wrong, even though sometimes people try to justify them.

Most people agree that deception or dishonesty is wrong. A lie is a sin according to the Bible. Many believe there are times when lying is okay. However, lying causes hurt and pain. Is that ever okay? I am not arguing whether or not lying sometimes may benefit you. I believe that dishonesty has benefitted people, but at what cost?

Lying might be the sin that is committed most in life, except for pride. If you have lied, you know that dishonesty can permeate a person’s life. One lie leads to another. The need to cover up each lie leads to confusion. The result is paranoia. On top of that, trying to keep all the lies intact causes a person to question everything.

Weigh the cost of dishonesty to limit the consequences for you and your partner

Everyone in this world has experienced a form of dishonesty. Weighing the cost of dishonesty is important to determine what the benefits and risks are. If you are willing to accept the consequences, then I can understand the reason for your lie, although it may still not be right.

I am not permitting one to lie here. Just because you accept the consequence does not mean that you are fully aware of the extent of that consequence or how it manifests. I am not sure any of us can know the far-reaching result of our behavior. The lesson to be learned is to be careful in accepting the consequence to lie until after much consideration. Even then, it might be helpful to reconsider.

Just because something looks good or feels good, does not mean it is right. Lying will never be right in my book (Although after much research I have started to understand more about when lying might be permitted or accepted Biblically). There are many consequences to lying. In a relationship, dishonesty has costs that can result in you losing trust, safety, respect, and more.

Can we make room for grace and mercy for those who have been dishonest?

Although I think lying is wrong in many cases, I have done it too. If dishonesty can create this much trouble in regular relationships, committed marriages don’t stand a chance. Devastation arises with just one little white lie. However, grace and reassurance are needed for those who have chosen to be dishonest. Giving grace should not be done flippantly. We all have fallen short.

I remember early in my marriage when I told my wife a lie. (We can get into the specifics of why people lie later.) Anyone who knows me, knows I do not have a poker face. You can see it on my face when I try to make a joke.

Needless to say, it did not go well. It was the first time my wife realized she didn’t know if she could trust me. Unfortunately, it was probably wishful thinking that I could be perfect in the first place. However, when she was able to forgive me and provide grace, it was a gift of love to me. It allowed me to see that I can be honest, even if I mess up because she is willing to give me grace and forgiveness.

Dishonesty can have a permanent effect

My dishonesty was a huge mistake for me. I would give anything to get back that day. It not only hurt her, but it also hurt me. She questioned whether or not I was a safe person (more about safety in another blog…). I knew that I did not have her faith any more.

One little white lie did all that damage in seconds. Wow! Just thinking about how easy it was to do so much damage scares me, even now.

I am not saying that a couple can’t repair their marriage (as was alluded to above), but I encourage preventing the destruction from happening in the first place. You might even start thinking about some boundaries that could help prevent dishonesty.

I want you to know how lying damages relationships. You can prevent this if you start by understanding how harmful dishonesty can be to your marriage.

5 Ways Lying Damages Relationships

So, let’s clarify the ways lying destroys marriages in a more detailed fashion. This way you can be aware of how dishonesty can damage your relationship.

Lying destroys trust.

Trust is pivotal to all relationships. If a marriage does not have trust, it cannot function properly. Dr. John Gottman, a long-time researcher of marriage, describes trust as one of the walls to his Sound Relationship House Theory along with the commitment to help a relationship thrive.

Trust and commitment serve as the sheltering walls that keep outside gusts of negative thoughts and circumstances from affecting the rooms and the rest of the pivotal parts of the relationship.

Trust is the basis of good and positive communication. If there is no trust, an individual may not listen to or take heed to anything their partner says.

When a spouse lies, the person being lied to feels hurt and betrayed. A sense of devastation sometimes arises, and withdrawal from the dishonest spouse begins. The hurt spouse tends to start to question everything the deceiver says. If questioning persists, the dishonest spouse usually becomes angry and defensive because they cannot express their wants or needs due to repetitive questioning of the facts.

The hurt person at that point shuts down, or may not believe the answers of the dishonest spouse. This sequence of events creates a nasty cycle of distrust, defensiveness, and blame.

Trust is hard to build, but you can do it. Read more about how to build trust in our article about how to build trust after lying.

Lying prevents deeper, empowering conversation.

Have you ever found out a loved one was lying to you? What did you do? How did you feel? You may have felt angry, disappointed, frustrated, or some other intense feeling. You probably stopped communicating effectively due to fear, anxiety, or distrust.

Married couples need to communicate on deep levels to feel the bond that keeps them together. But, if you are not able to communicate because of anger, hurt or fear, the deeper levels of communication cannot be reached.

Lying leads to more lying and deception.

As alluded to above, once a lie is formed and emitted, a cover-up begins in an attempt to not get caught. Some people go to great lengths to cover up a lie because telling the truth can have very serious consequences.

For a dishonest individual, it becomes important to cover up the lie so they don’t lose their standing with their spouse, to avoid an upset spouse, or possibly lose their marriage and much more. Deception can become very complex and twisted, but to avoid the consequences, what other options does a person have?

Dishonesty can be extremely painful, extending healing time.

One of the consequences of lying to your partner is that they will feel hurt. The depth of the hurt depends on the type of lie, what the lie was about, the length of time the lie has been covered up, and whether or not the lie is dealing with a sensitive subject (ie, sex, finances, family).

As a professional, I have many couples who ask how long will it take to fix this. I have never been able to give a good answer on how long the healing process takes. It has been said that hurt takes time to heal. The amount of time to heal depends on the depth of the hurt.

Unfortunately, depending on the depth of the hurt, healing may be a spouse’s last thought. They may, instead, choose to not attempt to start the healing process at all. When you trust someone with your life and you are vulnerable and open with them, dishonesty crushes you. Some may focus on just getting away from the pain.

When lying is found out, multiple issues arise. It feels like you can’t trust your partner anymore. It also feels like the deepest parts of you (the most vulnerable and most sensitive parts) were abused and not taken care of. Your spouse trusted you with some of the most sensitive stuff in their life, and lying spits on that trust they had in you.

Lying portrays selfishness.

When a person lies, they are most likely thinking about themselves. It may seem they are doing it for other reasons and maybe even to protect another person. Some circumstances might seem selfless, but if you dig enough, you will realize that their actions are selfish. Selfishness is not a loving action, and if that is the message you send when you are dishonest, then you are damaging the marriage.

As we said, lying is usually to cover something up. Why would someone cover something up? To keep it secret? To not get in trouble? To not hurt another person so the relationship does not change? Could be any other number of reasons. No matter which way you swing it, ALL of these reasons point back to selfishness.

You can almost hear a resounding, “I…” if the person were asked why they lied. Defensiveness is a good test to determine if a person is thinking about themselves or others. I hate to be so abrupt and harsh on this last point. I know people will try to argue they were doing it to protect someone or something.

There are always good reasons for doing anything that you do, BUT was it the best, most beneficial choice? I think if we look at every angle and all the possible consequences with the benefits, we would find that lying destroys relationships. Although at the time it seemed like you were protecting others, the selfishness of the decision leads to greater hurt in the future.

What do we do now that we know how lying affects our marriage?

Finally, how do we use this information? The following portrays a few simple steps to help you to know what to do after you have been dishonest. Also, for spouses that have been lied to, check out my post: How do I talk to my partner about lying?


Lying can be easy sometimes. Being aware of how it affects others and how it takes away what is dear to you, can help you make a correct decision. I always teach people: Be aware of yourself (ie, feelings, thoughts, and actions).  Know your WHY!


Awareness breeds control. Awareness allows for a larger array of choices. Awareness allows for the individual to manage the problem instead of the problem managing the individual. In my post about “5 Ways to be Intentional in your Marriage”,  I talked about being intentional!  Awareness allows an individual to be intentional when working to have a healthy and lasting marriage.


Honesty provides safety and trust in relationships. Would you rather be with someone who messes up, yet is honest and genuine about it or someone who does not want anyone to see them for who they are? To find out more about honesty go to this post: 5 Ways Honesty Improves Marriages.


When you hurt your husband or wife, you need to apologize. Your dishonesty hurt them. They need to know you regret what you did. It’s important to correct the wrongs and make things right. Apologizing needs to be done in the right way. Don’t just think that saying your sorry will cut it. Check out this post to learn more about apologizing.

What if I am a spouse who has been lied to?

I am sorry first of all for the hurt and pain you have had to endure. Nobody likes to be lied to and the distrust makes every second with a dishonest husband or wife all that much crazier.

I would encourage you to take the time to see your spouse’s, true heart. Understand that they are human and make mistakes. Also, know that their reasons may not be good ones, but they probably did motivate their choices. I know their choices were still wrong.

Finally, I would encourage you to visit some of my other posts that talk about forgiveness, building trust, and apologizing (see above). If you are considering leaving your spouse, I would encourage you to go read this post first.

Brandon Coussens, LMFT

Brandon Coussens, LMFT


Brandon Coussens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC. To find out more about him you can go HERE.

If you need help with being honest and genuine email me.

A book called 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage: and the Truths that will Save It and Set It Free that you can check out about how lying destroys marriage can be found HERE on Amazon.

Read other posts by me HERE.


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Want to have some one-on-one time with Brandon? I offer Coaching. There is a difference between coaching and counseling. Read more HERE. If you would like to receive coaching click HERE.


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