Overcoming Dishonesty in Relationships

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Dishonesty can tear your relationship apart by eroding the trust you have in one another. Dishonesty takes many forms, including lying, withholding the truth, breaking promises, cheating and misrepresenting yourself, according to Willard F. Harley Jr., Ph.D., author of the book "His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage," in an article entitled “Dishonesty” on his Marriage Builder’s website. Harley recommends that couples take a pledge of radical honesty to overcome the dishonesty that plagues many relationships.

Who Are You?

Misrepresenting your feelings, thoughts and preferences can lead your partner to make incorrect assumptions about who you are and what you like or don’t like. When you were dating, you praised her meatloaf, which you secretly hated, and now she serves it to you regularly because she thinks it’s a favored dish. You tell him that financially everything’s wonderful while you secretly worry over how to pay this month’s bills. A policy of absolute honesty eliminates these problems, says Harley, and helps you create a better partnership based on truth.

No White Lies

Many people tell "white lies," thinking there is no harm in it. You might do so believing that you are sparing your partner’s feelings. Unfortunately, when the white lie is revealed, your partner doesn’t feel better and could be angry about the lie. If you wouldn’t lie about major issues, such as serious health or financial matters, then little lies make little sense, according to Harley. You can be tactful and say “Perhaps a different color would compliment you better” or “I like your stew better than the meatloaf.” Your honesty might not be immediately appreciated, but in the long run it’s the better option.

Uncovering Secrets

Keeping secrets from your partner is dishonest, whether you are talking about covering up an addiction or an affair or hiding money from your partner. You are better off revealing those secrets before your partner uncovers them, advise social workers and marriage counselors Linda and Charlie Bloom in a “Psychology Today” article entitled “Betrayal: It’s Not Just About Infidelity.” Tell your partner everything, answering the questions your partner has about your secrets if you want a chance at a healthy relationship. Maintain an open and honest partnership that honors your commitment to one another.

Rebuilding Trust

Overcoming dishonesty requires a strong commitment to change, according to pastor Steve Arterburn in a CBN.com article entitled “Eight Contrasts Between Unhealthy and Healthy Relationships.” In addition to taking a zero-tolerance policy on dishonesty, you could benefit from the accountability found in a support group or with a therapist. The support could be especially helpful when dealing with addictions, infidelity and severe trust erosion with your partner.

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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