Lying to Your Spouse – Will it Make Your Marriage Better?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Recently I read an article in the NY Times “Good Lovers Lie” by Clancy Martin.
In it Martin observed, “Research shows that on average in an ordinary conversation, people lie two to three times every 10 minutes.” He surmises, “If you want to have love in your life, you’d better be prepared to tell some lies and to believe some lies.” I couldn’t disagree more, so in the spirit of intelligent discourse that I’d find at a scintillating cocktail party—I must respond.
Many years ago I started a spiritual practice that entailed no lying. The thinking behind this was that if my words were to have meaning and power they could not be laced with untruths. If my statements contradicted my actions—I was out of alignment with myself and my world. My voice would lack power, because language that reflects truth will always have more clarity and impact. And let me state, which may sound dramatic but is emphatically true– they kill people for speaking the truth. So it can be scary. That kid who pointed out that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes probably got dragged behind the castle and beat up by an angry mob.
Nonetheless, I set out to align my words with my actions and thoughts. A practice that can be likened to taking a fast track to undisguised reality—something people can be invested in avoiding. If you are committed to making a habit of not lying—the first step is to identify what is true for you. This can be a rude awakening as they say. Many of us want to stay asleep because as your eyelids flutter open that first glimpse of the world—can be filled with horrors.
Nonetheless this has been my practice for many years and I have found it to be a well worth the effort and courage. In his article Clancy describes unconsciously stumbling into an affair which destroyed his marriage. He states “I’m still not sure why I did it: vanity, mostly, I think. I felt flattered by her desire.” This is the unexamined life gone bad. When a person makes no effort to understand his own motivations, his life becomes layered with white lie upon white lie, until the lies get bigger and he has entombed his relationship with unconsciousness.
The practice of finding my authentic truth led me to eventually open my marriage. I wanted more sex. I had approached my husband in many ways, over many years to get this need met. But we were not in sync sexually. Having a hidden affair as my new age friends said “Would be messing with my husband’s perceived reality.” I didn’t want to deceive the person I loved most in the world. No thank you. I would not hurt him by a series of fibs. So I finally gathered my courage and asked, “Can we have sex with other people? And still stay married?” Surprisingly–he agreed! He had a variety of reasons—and news to me one of them was he also wanted to have sex outside of our relationship. It was a relief to open our relationship and I am not just talking sexually but with honest discussions of how much we loved each other and what was possible between us.
Betrayal starts in very tiny paper cuts. Rolling over in bed without responding, a slightly mean comment, ignoring someone. It can also be tiny omissions—not telling someone their bad breath has stopped your desire to kiss them. When these pile up over time they can amount to a huge severing of emotional connection. Clancy states “These lies of love allow us to make it from one day to the next.” And cites as a “good lie” he told his wife: “You’re the most beautiful woman in the room.” When I first opened my marriage one thing I learned was not to compare people. Comparing people sucks even if you aren’t opening your marriage. It’s a cultural illness to compare, contrast and set ourselves up to be hurt by continual juxtaposition. I try to do my personal best and then let it go.
It is fascinating that people often don’t know what their truth is. We have lacquered over our authentic responses with platitudes and wishes. Getting down to the true grit can be painful but exceedingly worth the effort. But before you go vomiting your truth everywhere –as yourself a few key questions. What is your intention when you speak truth? Is it to wound? To draw you closer to your partner? To be free? Stop before you speak and get some clarity. Speaking truth without kindness is often not worth the effort.
In “Good Lovers Lie” Clancy Martin concludes, “When it comes to love, both honesty and deception should be practiced in moderation.” This final statement makes him less appealing as a potential mate than a common garden snake—frankly I’d date the garden snake over Clancy Martin.
When there is a potent truth to be spoken, do it carefully, slowly, and at the right moment. The practice of knowing your truth and also knowing when you feel compelled to hide and lie, enriches all aspects of my life. Speaking out may not be necessary—or it may be well over due. One thing is sure. Speaking truth opens the door for possibilities whereas lies often seal the outcome we most dread.

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