Apologizing for lying

How Do I Apologize for Lying to My Spouse?

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As I have worked on different articles on how dishonesty harms marriage, I have come to learn much more about healthy ways to improve a relationship after a wife or husband has lied in their marriage. One of the healthiest actions that can be taken is to apologize sincerely after hurting a spouse. Unfortunately, many partners do not know how to apologize for something they have done wrong.

After much thought, research, and work with couples over the years, I believe an apology is important but must be done in the right way. When you apologize to your husband or wife, it is important to be genuine and direct. Validate their feelings of hurt and fear. Understand their needs. Create and state a plan of how you will work not to hurt your partner in the future. These 5 different aspects of apologizing will help your husband or wife to know that you are sorry for your actions, you care about their feelings, and you desire to make sure you change, not only, how you act, but how you are going to make it right.

Be Genuine

When you are apologizing, it is always important to be genuine. What is being genuine? When someone is being genuine, they are being sincere and true to themselves. Sometimes we say they are being authentic.

A good apology requires a true, heart-felt attempt to say you’re sorry. There is much that people try to add to apologies, but should be left out (see the “What not to do…” section below (leave our defensive reasons, clarifications, or details).

Try to make sure that your apology to your husband or wife is thought out and adds the emotional quality of care, which helps increase sincerity. Remember, you care about your spouse or partner. Don’t waste your time on meaningless words, trying to force your husband or wife to feel better. Trust that your being truly loving and honest will help them heal.

Be Direct

I know it is tempting to use explanations and reasoning to show why you lied or hurt your husband or wife. Sometimes it seems that they need to know the whole story so they will understand the reason behind why you were dishonest. This, however, is not the case!

Being direct means to with purpose and meaning tell your partner specifically what you are apologizing for and no more. You are not coming to give reasons. You are not coming to give a defense for your actions. Apologizing is about one thing only: Letting your spouse know you are sorry for hurting them, whether you meant to or not!

Keep focused on a simple, yet meaningful and direct apology. Take ownership of your choices to hurt your husband or wife. Drop your pride and feel their hurt.

Validate Feelings of Hurt and Fear

Validating your spouse’s feelings of hurt and fear is an action. It’s not about how you feel. It’s about letting them know that what they feel matters. They feel hurt. They feel fear. Do you care about that? If not, then you are not ready to apologize. You are not ready to apologize if you are more focused on your hurt or pain at this time.

Come with an intentional desire to connect with their hurt and fear. You may have not meant to hurt them. That does not matter yet. What matters is letting them know that you care about your spouse’s feelings and heart. Care that your actions hurt them or caused them fear. Then impart to your partner that they have every right to their feelings and that you can understand how they feel the way they feel.

Until you do this, they will not be open to receiving your perspective. Your perspective does not matter to anyone until others believe you care about them. Have you ever struggled with listening to and hearing someone who hurt you? When someone made you angry or wronged you, did you want to hear their excuses?

I understand you are not trying to make excuses, but you will not be heard until you show you care about your partner. They will see your reasoning as an excuse or justification. You will need to validate their emotions and hurt first and leave out your reasons until another time.

Understand Their Needs

Another part of apologizing is understanding what your spouse needs to begin the healing process. Sometimes it’s just a simple, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes it’s a need for showing your husband or wife you want to hear them. Many people just want you to reassure them you are going to stop your negative and hurtful actions.

No matter what, you need to ask your partner what they need from you so you can make things right. Maybe you need to ask them what they need in an apology. Ask them if they need more than just an apology.

Knowing your spouse’s needs helps you to connect with them and show them that they matter to you and that you care. You also won’t be wasting your time with meaningless actions. Care about their needs.

Present a Plan of Change

Once you have done all that, include in your apology a plan of change. Your husband and spouse need to know that you are willing to change. What are you going to do to show them change? Giving them a plan shows your spouse that you desire to not hurt them anymore.

This plan of change can be many things. I would encourage keeping it simple, but meaningful. Make sure they understand that you desire to stop the hurtful behavior and how you are going to make that happen. What steps are you going to take? What boundaries are you going to put in place? What actions are you going to take and how often? Be specific.

Start your plan by loving your spouse more by being intentional with change. Be intentional. Don’t let pride or laziness get in the way. You did wrong. Now step up and make it right!

What Not To Do…

Don’t be defensive

Defensiveness is not okay. Dr. John Gottman, in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work calls it one of the four horsemen in relationships. Through his research, he found out that defensiveness is one of four key reactions in a relationship that can indicate a move toward divorce. Find his book on Amazon.

Leave out excuses, reasons, or concerns you might have about your behavior. Only apologize sincerely. Your excuses, reasons, or defense will shut your partner down, hurt them more, and not have the effect you think it should.

Don’t pout and sulk

Do you ever start to get sad or moody when things don’t go your way? When some people apologize, they do this. Don’t allow yourself to get whiney or mopey when you go to apologize. My wife has called me pathetic when I have done that. I am giving personal experience here.

Come to your partner in a calm, intentional mood with a desire to take action. Being mopey says, “Please forgive me, I don’t like how this feels.” It would be better to come with the attitude that you are responsible and can stand tall, providing the respect your partner deserves.

Begging does not help. Crying does not help. It’s not about you! It’s about your partner’s pain because of your choice to lie. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and own your choice. Take action to be a responsible person.

Don’t withdraw or leave

Have you ever gotten mad and left or just avoided someone? Don’t do that here. You go to them when you are ready of course. Don’t go when you are not sincerely ready to apologize, but do get ready and then go.

Let them know you aren’t leaving, you just need some time to work through your thoughts and emotions. Leaving spells abandonment and rejection. You hurt them. So leaving would be seen as an affirmation that you meant to hurt them.

Sometimes facing our screw-ups can be hard, but running from them just digs the hole deeper. You can’t make something go away just by leaving. It’s either going to be there when you get back, or you are leaving your crap for someone else to clean up. Neither of these choices is responsible, loving, or mature.


I know I have said some pretty blunt things in this article. I understand it can be hard to hear, but trust me when I say an apology needs to be done right. You will be a better husband or wife when you learn how to apologize for your hurtful choices, especially when it has to do with dishonesty.

Plan to be genuine and direct when apologizing. Make sure you validate your spouse’s feelings. Understand their needs for connection, affection, and safety. And, finally, come up with a plan to change your pattern of hurtful behavior.

You will be happy that you learned how to apologize. If you want to learn more about apologizing, another book that can be helpful is the 5 Apology Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. You can find it on Amazon.

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Brandon Coussens, LMFT

Brandon Coussens, LMFT


Brandon Coussens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC located in Augusta, GA. Find out more about him.