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How to Forgive My Spouse for Lying
Throughout my years of counseling, I have had many wives and husbands plead to me to give them the answer to how to forgive their spouse. Many times the reason is because they feel betrayed or deeply hurt by dishonesty. As I am sitting here, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to provide this information to others I can’t reach through counseling.
When others lie to us, we feel deeply hurt. Lying can cause many other problems in a marriage as I detailed in this POST. I recognize that this is the reason you are probably reading this blog. Others might think that it should be easy to “get over” a lie. However, many times, lying is chronic and tends to be multiplied in relationships over years. In other words, you have probably been lied to more than just once. The compounded hurt and break of trust over time is the reason most people struggle with understanding how to forgive their spouse when they lie.
Forgiving your husband or wife when they are dishonest is not easy or instant. It takes time, consistent effort on both spouses part, and a desire to see your partner for who they are and not through the eyes of your hurt. You can forgive your spouse by choosing to forgive your spouse no matter how you feel, knowing who they are despite their behavior, and understanding how love and boundaries work together to decrease further pain in the future.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness in essence is to stop feeling angry toward someone and to release them from owing you something. Many authors have stated that forgiveness is more for the person who is doing the forgiving than for the person who did the hurting.
When you forgive someone who is dishonest toward you, using this understanding of forgiveness, you are telling yourself that you are releasing your anger and resentment toward that person for hurting you.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Biblically, Jesus says it is important to forgive 70 times 7. That’s a lot of times. You may be asking, “Does that mean I have to forgive someone every time they lie to me if they are constantly dishonest?” Unfortunately, this is the wrong question to ask. The answer though would essentially be, “Yes!”
However, a better question would be to ask, “Why should we forgive every time?” The reason is because the Bible says that unforgiveness leads to bitterness and loss or forgiveness from God. We are told we must forgive others so that God will also forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). It turns out there are many other reasons that forgiveness can be beneficial.
Why should I forgive my spouse when they lie?
Understanding forgiveness from a Biblical view, I hope you see that forgiving your spouse is essential to not becoming bitter, angry and hard hearted! Besides that, losing your connection with God would not be desirable.
A person can continue to hold onto hurts for a long time. It’s easy to stay mad at someone. However, holding onto those hurts can cause other issues. Research has shown that health concerns such as stress, tension, depression, anxiety and other health related issues can evolve from anger and bitterness. Forgiveness will allow you to release resentment and thus decrease health related issues, at least to some extent.
Also, when you forgive you put responsibility where responsibility is due. You stop holding the other person hostage and stop taking responsibility to change them. It is not your job to stop your spouses dishonesty. It is their job. The longer you stay angry and resentful, the less likely they are going to change. There are many reasons why they might be having trouble changing their behavior, but your anger and bitterness, might just be one of them.
In short, when you are angry and have not forgiven them, they may feel fear, anxiety, and hurt within themselves. These feelings lead to people protecting what they love most, which in turn may lead to further dishonesty or hurtful behavior, although it may seem counterintuitive.
How can I forgive my spouse when they lie to me?
I would say there are several factors to keep in mind when you work through the process of forgiving your spouse. The following would help you forgive your spouse.
Ask your spouse why they lie
When things are calm, I encourage you to ask your significant other why they are being dishonest. You may feel like lashing out, yelling, screaming, cursing or many other angry actions, but those behaviors won’t help. Understanding why they lie can be helpful in determining what the next steps are and will help in the process of forgiveness. To understand more of why someone lies, you and your spouse can work through my workbook HERE.
There are many reasons people lie, but until you know the reason, it would be unwise and irresponsible to act in anger, even though you are hurt. There may be a reason for the lie in your partner’s perspective that seems right to them.
I understand that there are no good reasons to lie. However, in a moment when your partner has to make a decision to tell the truth or lie, they only have seconds to choose. Their choice will always seem logical to them when they only have a split second to make that choice, even if they know it is wrong.
They are usually trying to choose between what they believe in the moment is the better of two not great choices. Later, they may realize that their choice was not the correct one.
Understand who your spouse is despite their behavior and your feelings
Another helpful way to move towards forgiveness is to try to remember and understand your spouse’s personality, heart, and behaviors when they aren’t lying. It’s possible that less than 1% of their behavior is dishonest, and 99% is loving, kind, or at least of a good nature. Think about you’re own choices through this lens.
Do you ever react or make bad choices? Do those choices determine who you are? Do they identify you as a person? By understanding more about your spouse and focusing less on the behavior of dishonesty, you will less likely identify them in a negative light and thus be more open to forgive.
Should you define your spouse by the lie?
I touched on this in the previous answer. I think it is very important to not define your spouse by their behavior. You would not want people to define you by your worst or mildest faults. We tend to define people by their worst behaviors all the time. Unfortunately, we lose out on possible connection, closeness, and enjoyment by doing this.
This focus also keeps us in the dark about what the real issue is.It’s not the lying that is the problem. There is always more to why the person lied, than what is known in the moment. So defining someone by their dishonest behavior keeps you from focusing on the real issues, and keeps you from being able to forgive someone who needs more understanding from you, despite your pain.
Understand that it is a choice, not an emotion
Dishonesty is a choice that is painful to those who are lied to, but forgiveness is also a choice. You don’t have to “feel like forgiving” to be able to forgive. You either choose to forgive, or you don’t choose to forgive. It’s pretty simple.
Forgiveness is the decision to not hold onto the hurt and stay angry or resentful anymore. It’s the decision to not require justice for the wrong done to you.
Now I know that is a hard choice, but knowing that it is a choice and not a feeling, makes forgiving easier. You CAN forgive, but you may not feel like forgiving.
Are there times where you don’t feel like doing things, but you do them anyways? I don’t feel like going to work some days, but going to work is a great thing in many ways and would be the best decision, unless I am truly sick, of course. Don’t let feelings dictate your choice to forgive and free yourself from bitterness and resentment. It will only be hurting you, not your spouse, in the end.
Weigh the costs and benefits
Forgiveness has benefits and costs. Let’s talk about some of them. The costs of forgiving your spouse might be continued hurt, feeling like they got away with their negative behavior, or them not changing their behavior because you didn’t hold them accountable with your anger. These are all possible costs to forgiveness. There might be others.
Some of the possible benefits are freedom from bitterness and negative feelings, the possibility of healing sooner than if you don’t forgive, and the opportunity for deeper understanding, growth and connection with your spouse. Also, if you forgive in the right way, with love, you may even see a changes and remorse in your spouse.
True remorse by someone who has hurt their spouse has been stated to be one of the 2 things that help in the healing process of betrayal per Dave Carder in his book Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair. Check it out HERE on Amazon.
Set healthy boundaries
When a spouse does hurtful things, it is important to communicate with them your pain and your needs. You can work on healthy and safe communication by getting my workbook HERE. However, when you communicate your concerns, you want to be able to talk to them about rules and boundaries.
Rules and boundaries will protect you and keep the relationship healthy. Sometimes that entails strict boundaries and consequences for breaking those boundaries. You need to feel safe if you are going to rebuild trust, affection and love.
By setting healthy boundaries and having your partner agree to them, you will create a safer atmosphere in which to forgive your spouse. Safety is important to feel as if you can move forward and heal in the relationship.
Choosing to love your spouse despite their behavior is probably the best way to forgive. When you choose to love, you are deciding to do the previous 6 things discussed. You are also working on patience, kindness, keeping no records of wrongs, demonstrating grace, and all the other things discussed in 1 Corinthians 13.
You are choosing to allow God to be judge and not yourself. By releasing justice to God, you will be more capable to do what you were made to do, love freely and deeply. Love does not grow with out hurt at times.
When we love others for who they really are based on who God made them to be, then it becomes easier to forgive. It’s not our place to judge. It’s our place to love. To love others into growth and greatness!
As a marriage and family therapist, I work all day to love others into the best version of themselves. I encourage you to do that. You can only do that if you choose to forgive others. You must give God the hurt and pain. You must let him be the judge. Give yourself the opportunity to see how he can work through your choice to forgive, despite the pain. Healing is another subject we can talk about in another post, but forgiveness is part of the process and helps you get one step closer to healing.
I hope that this has been helpful. 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.
Want to read the rest of the blog series? START HERE
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