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How to Deal With Dishonesty in a Relationship

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Dishonesty destroys a relationship, according to therapist Stan Dale in “The Effects of Dishonesty on Relationships” on the Open Exchange website. Even little “white lies” damage relationships over time because you hide your authentic self. To counteract past dishonesty, partners should reveal their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes, habits, personal histories, present activities and future plans to one another, counsels Dr. Willard F. Harley Jr. in his book “Love Busters.”

Lying Habit

Lying is common place, according to a "Psychology Today" article by Allison Kornet entitled “The Truth About Lying.” The article reports that most people lie on an average of once or twice a day, according to Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., in a 1996 study of college students. Eighty-five percent of a 1990 college study’s dating couples admitted to lying about recent or past indiscretions and to lying one-third of the time when interacting together. Married couples lie less often, but the lies are bigger, writes DePaulo. Commit to being honest with your romantic partner and checking your conversation for overt lies and lies of omission.

Discuss Fears

Dishonesty is a protective device that people often use because they are afraid to tell the truth, fearing that the other person will be hurt, writes Dale. The lie is more hurtful, however, because it demonstrates that there is a lack of trust, vulnerability and intimacy between you and the other person. Love and connection cannot grow without those three elements, so discuss what you are afraid of. You could discover that the other person is willing to accept you as you are when you are honest, and that your relationship is strong enough to handle the truth.

Honesty Pledge

Take the honesty pledge if you want your relationship to survive, advises Dr. Harley. He writes that couples need to be emotionally, historically, currently and completely honest about every aspect of life together. Don’t hide it when you don’t like something you partner does, and don't fail to mention when your partner does something you love. Be vulnerable enough to reveal personal weaknesses and failures. This can be hard at first, admits Dr. Harley, but it will pay big dividends in the long term.

Confess and Reconcile

When you have lied, confess it and let your partner know the whole truth. Apologize for the dishonest behavior and pledge to do a better job of maintaining honesty between you. Allow your partner to decide what will restore trust and then commit to doing it, especially with major dishonest behaviors such as infidelity. Your partner could refuse to forgive you if you make a habit of lying, so accept that reaction if it happens.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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