How do I talk to my partner about lying

How Do I Talk To My Partner About Lying?

What is it like to be lied to? And how do you deal with a spouse who lies? To confront a spouse who lies, you first need to have a plan of how to talk to your partner about their dishonesty. You may be struggling with the pain of the most recent lie or maybe this is the first time your wife or husband has ever been dishonest. Yet, you can’t just stand by and wait for the next time, or let this go by without trying to understand, right?

Let’s help you take the first step. If you need to know how to talk to your husband or wife about their dishonesty, you want to read carefully and understand what I am about to tell you.

What to do when your spouse lies to you

It can be very difficult to engage with your spouse once they have lied. Your emotions can easily get the best of you. As you think about the best way to move forward in dealing with your husband or wife’s dishonesty, consider the following process.

To initiate that type of conversation, you first need to understand your partner’s perspective. Then you need to work on managing your expectations and emotions, especially when it comes time to engage in conversation. After that you will need to initiate the topic in a gentle and non-confrontational way. Finally, you will need to work very hard to listen carefully, validate your partner’s feelings, understand their message, and appreciate their current honesty.

If this does not work, you may have to try more intense measures, but, for now, let’s dive into the specifics on how to follow through on the process I just gave you.

Manage your emotions

When your spouse is dishonest with you, it can be your first instinct to lash out, yell, tell them to leave, or do other behaviors that at the moment seem reasonable. Yet we all know that intense negative behaviors are usually not helpful or rational. The reason you are having them is because you are hurt, fearful, and in fight or flight mode. It’s reasonable for you to feel pain and fear. Is it reasonable for you to react in ways that may hurt others?

No! You must manage your emotions. Why? Because if you don’t, you won’t get what you need. You need answers, repentance, an apology, and change. If you lash out, it’s very likely you will not get these things. Don’t believe your emotions at this moment. They are telling you to get justice and force your partner to make it right, but you will not get that. It’s not time for that yet. They will defend themselves and you will only end up feeling more hurt and more abandoned. Later we will give you some activities you can do to calm yourself. You can also learn some coping skills to help you manage your emotions if you need a little more help.

Accept their dishonesty as a fact

You can’t change what happened. It’s a done deal. They lied. You can only accept what has happened up to this point. That does not feel good, but the sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can resonate with the truth and start to work towards a solution. Right now you want it fixed immediately, but not accepting the pain and the reality you are in can hold you back from finding healthy solutions to the problem. You have already lost trust, but living in a place where you do not accept reality will only slow things down. You do need answers so that is important too.

Set your boundaries after your spouse lies.

Your partner needs to know what you need at this point. It is unacceptable to lie. Hold the line on what you need. You need safety. Trust is very important, but you can’t have that without firm boundaries and rules. State what you will not tolerate moving forward and your actions if those lines continue to be crossed. Don’t be afraid to demand what is rightfully yours, emotional safety!

You have a right within a relationship to feel safe and for others to keep their commitment to you. If they are being dishonest, they are not keeping their promises and word. Let them know how important that is to you and why you need them to be fully transparent. It’s all about you feeling safe in your ability to continue in the relationship.

How to understand your partner’s perspective

Being lied to is very hurtful. It even has the potential to destroy your relationship. You don’t feel like talking to your spouse, yet you do. You don’t want to because you are angry and hurt. Talking to them may make things worse. Or you might get lied to again. What if they don’t care about how you feel? What if they dismiss you or get defensive?

Those are all good questions, but before we can talk to a spouse about dishonest behavior, we need to get ourselves in a place to be able to do what is needed during the conversation. The preparation beforehand is pivotal.

The first thing you need to do is work to try to understand your partner’s perspective even before you talk to them. Get out of your own head and put yourself in their position. Ask yourself what the lie was and what it could be about. Could they be scared? Could they be hiding something? Would they really mean to hurt me? Were they trying not to hurt me?

Many other questions could be asked, but moving to a mindset that helps you have some perspective other than your own would help you be more calm in the conversation and open to what your spouse might say.

Another way to do this is to talk to a friend about what they think might be happening. Or ask yourself, if you talked to a friend and they were playing “devil’s advocate” what might they say? The gist is to start to open yourself up to possible explanations other than the hurtful and narrow thoughts you already are thinking.

Learn more by reading this other article about why couples lie to each other.

How to manage your own expectations and emotions when talking to your spouse about lying

Before you talk to your significant other, you want to make sure you are calm and prepared emotionally to listen and be present. You will never be able to get your spouse to be open or honest if you come in HOT.

To calm your emotions, recognize that emotions are more reactions. Your biological makeup has ignited your fight or flight system and the adrenaline is flowing. You are stressed. This is called the sympathetic nervous system. It gets turned on when you feel threatened emotionally, physically, or mentally.

What activities can I do to calm myself when I have been hurt by my partner’s lies?

To manage this system, you need to activate a different part of your brain. The part of your brain that rationalizes and does the thinking for you is most likely turned off or, at the very least, overwhelmed or drowned out by the anger or hurt you are feeling.

In order to shift your brain to a more rational thought process you can try several things. You can do something physical, like exercise, to stimulate your muscles and increase the release of positive hormones to help you feel less stressed and more upbeat. Exercise will also help you burn off negative energy and possibly trigger your mind to get change to a different focus.

You can also do other things like journaling, doing multiplication tables, puzzles, or anything else that is active or activates logic and reasoning. Other important things to do is to watch your breathing and make sure you take slow, deep breaths.

Finally, I would encourage you to remind yourself that negative emotion breeds negative emotion and positive emotion breeds positive emotion. It’s like laughter. It’s contagious. If you initiate a conversation with someone about a negative behavior when you are having a negative feeling, they won’t respond “positively.”

How to start or initiate a conversation with a dishonest spouse

When it comes time to start the conversation with your spouse about their choice to lie to you, the previous steps help a lot. You want them to be honest because you know that is best. So, to help them not get triggered and lie again, you need to be calm when approaching them

. Make sure your tone and volume are in check. Then start with a desire to understand why your spouse lied to you. You might ask questions or open up queries like:

“I am not here to yell at you or judge you. I just want to understand. Can you help me understand the reasons that you were dishonest to me?”

“What were you feeling when you told me the lie?”

“Are there things you wish you had done differently?”

“Were you concerned I was going to get upset?”

These types of questions or queries can help you better understand what your spouse was thinking or concerned about before they were dishonest to you. By understanding better what their perspective was, you may feel less frustrated, although the hurt will still be there.

They also will feel more understood and be more open and honest with you in the long run. You now have reinforced in their minds that you are willing to work with them and not tear into them when they make mistakes.

How to communicate and listen when talking to a partner about their dishonesty

Once you start the conversation, your listening skills come in handy. You want to dive deeper into trying to understand your partner. This comes through calm, yet intentional listening and communication. You want to wait and try to understand what your partner is saying before reacting with your own comments.

Be patient. Stay in a mindset of getting clarity and understanding. Don’t badger them with a thousand questions, but repeat what you understand. Let them know gently that you are there for them and want to help them work through the problem with you. Get more help with communication and listening. Below, you will find a step-by-step process for listening.

Procedure for Listening:

Hear It

Example: “Hey why didn’t you call me when you got to work?”

Interpret It

Interpret what you hear by asking: What do they feel? Why do they feel that way? What do they Want / Desire / Need? What is important to them?

Ask Clarifying Questions

It is okay to ask clarifying questions if you cannot interpret what they feel or why or the importance. Example: “Can you help me understand what you feel or what’s important about this?”


Example: “So, you feel upset, because I didn’t call you when I got to work. You would like me to call you when I get to work because you are worried about my safety and you don’t want to have to worry about me.”

Ask if your partner feels understood

Example: “Do I understand what you are saying?”

            1. YES -> GO TO STEP 5
            2. NO -> GO TO STEP 1 “Ok, can you tell me more so I can understand.”
Ask if you can respond

Example: “Can I respond to what you are saying?”

Transition Roles

The listener now becomes the speaker and the speaker now becomes the listener. My number one rule is to not switch roles until the transition point!

When listening in this way, you will be learning how to listen without thinking of your own response. You will also be validating your partner in ways they need to be validated! Get more help with listening and communicating HERE.

What is the best overall response to a spouse who lies?

What we have just covered will set you up for success when engaging a spouse or partner who has been dishonest in your marriage or relationship. You will find success as you are able to see your husband or wife for who they are and not for the behavior they exhibit.

They are not their lie, although the behavior hurts you. You coming to them with compassion, a willingness to understand, and a heart of grace and forgiveness is the best overall response to their dishonest behavior.

You will be rewarded by breakthroughs, more connection, and more validation for them and yourself. You will also see deeper intimacy as you are able to better resolve your problems. Don’t become discouraged, just keep trying to connect!

I forgot to add that it is always important to appreciate your spouse’s attempt. You want them to know you desire their honesty. So, reinforce them anytime they are willing to be open with you. This could be helpful to improve their honesty. Tell them that it means a lot to you when they are open and honest! This topic also leads to the need to rebuild trust. I don’t talk about that hear, but when you are ready, hop on over to my post about rebuilding trust.

What to do if the conversation does not go well after you confront your spouse about dishonesty?

When a conversation does not go well once you have talked to your spouse about their lie, there are a few things I would consider. I would consider your approach and review this process to make sure you followed everything suggested. Humility is important. Could it be you? I am not at all saying it is. It’s just good to check that box first. Ask yourself:

Are you still angry?

Was there a tone in my voice?

Did you struggle with listening and understanding?

Were you patient with your spouse?

Next, I would again, not get discouraged, but pray for your spouse and yourself. Working on your relationship in other ways may help your husband or wife see that you are not against them and that you really want to build a healthy relationship.

Wait a little while and return gently to the conversation with understanding and a desire to connect. If your spouse is checked out, you may ask them to write down their thoughts or write you a letter about what they are thinking and why they lied.

How to get more help with a dishonest partner

Sometimes there are more problematic reasons for dishonesty, such as affairs, porn use, or when a spouse hides something that they believe would hurt you deeply. If this is the case, I would ask them if they would like to go see a counselor with you. Make sure that you are not accusatory, but focused on getting “us” help, so “we” can rebuild. Focus more on what you want to accomplish and not on the person’s behavior.

A marriage counselor is skilled in being able to help mediate your conversation and teach you how to understand one another and communicate your needs. They also should be skilled in being able to help you resolve conflicts and find other resources that can be helpful. Don’t give up on your spouse! Seek help early and often!


When you have a spouse or a loved one who lies to you, it can be extremely hurtful. Your first reaction is to lash out, leave, or shut down. But those choices are not helpful. They only create more discord and disconnection between you.

If you follow this process and continue to seek new and more helpful ways to resolve your problems, you will eventually find the answer you need. Depending on how entrenched the behavior is, the longer it may take to see change. Again, I encourage you not to give up, but to seek help if you need it!

I hope I have given you information that you can go back to when you need it. If you have any further questions or need help, please call me and set up an appointment or check out some of my other BLOG POSTS.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 706-955-0230.

To schedule an appointment online, click the orange button at the top right part of this page.