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The Damaging Effects Lying Has on a Marriage

by Shannon Philpott

A marriage has a 50 percent chance of thriving and surviving, according to the American Psychological Association, but if lies and distrust are a core part of the relationship, the odds of celebrating another anniversary greatly diminish. A study in "The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" found that spouses lie for a variety of reasons -- including the desire to avoid punishment. A little white lie may seem innocent at the time, but the damaging effects of lying to your spouse can destroy the trust in the relationship, tarnish the connection the two of you and may even end the union all together.

Breach of Trust

Trust is critical within a relationship and the foundation that keeps a marriage together. By deceiving your spouse with lies, he or she may feel violated and a breach of trust can cause serious problems, affecting both the relationship and your well-being, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the Psychology Today article "Why Lying Hurts So Much." Each time a breach of trust occurs, your emotional well-being takes a hit, as well as your identity, because you lose faith in what your spouse represents, says Whitbourne.

Emotional Distance

Although it is unrealistic to think that your spouse will disclose everything about his day, his job or even his past, when married people keep secrets or lie, an unhealthy distance occurs within the relationship, according to Suzanne Phillips, licensed psychologist. Secrets or lies may also cause suspicion or paranoia for the spouse if he or she believes the other is withholding information, writes Phillips in a PsychCentral article titled “Secrets, Lies and Relationships.”

Problems With Intimacy

When spouses are intimate with each other, they feel connected to one another and have a deep trust in the relationship. When a spouse lies, the safety, exclusivity and trust needed for intimacy is damaged, says Phillips. Even a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to withholding information can decrease the confidence spouses have in one another. Deep down, both partners know that a "don't ask, don't tell," relationship is built on deception. One or both partners may become consumed with guilt or get caught up in the need to tell bigger lies to support the white lies. Ultimately, this reduces the desire for intimacy and affection because a breach of trust has occurred, according to Phillips.

Separation or Divorce

Since the core success of a marriage depends on trust, when a spouse lies, there is the chance that one or the other will contemplate a separation or divorce because of the betrayal. If a couple is unwilling or unable to express remorse and to communicate truthfully about the deception, this may cause them to part ways. A betrayed spouse must be able to express feelings of rejection, hurt and anger for the couple to work past the damaging effects of lies, according to Phillips. It may take quite some time to rebuild trust and there is always the possibility that one partner cannot commit to trust after a deception. Enlisting the help of a professional counselor may help couples rebuild their relationship.

About the Author

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.

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