Q. My husband fibs. It's mostly over stupid little things such as leaving the cap off the milk. He's a good man and I know he wouldn't do anything to hurt me or lie about something major. But these little lies drive me crazy and I'm having trouble believing him with things. His mother told me he used to do the same thing as a child; even when she caught him doing something, he'd still deny it. I've tried to discuss this with him and while it seems to help for a while, eventually he reverts to his old behavior. What should I do?
A. Honesty is the cornerstone of character and integrity. One of the most important foundation stones for any relationship is trust. In Luke 16:10, Jesus tells us that the person who's faithful in little is also faithful in much. And "whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." So if a person can't be trusted in little things, he can't be trusted in big things. And your love and commitment can't grow when you're frequently doubting the truth of what your husband tells you.
In Colossians 3:9, the apostle Paul tells us not to lie to each other. When I modify the truth, fib, or present limited aspects of the truth and it leaves someone with an incorrect understanding of what really happened, I've lied. Even when I don't blatantly tell someone the opposite of what's true but I "only" leave out selected parts of what really happened, I've lied. Any time I deliberately mislead someone, even if I can rationalize it by saying, "It's nothing important," I've lied.
Some people struggle with justifying, rationalizing, and modifying the truth. They don't intend to be dishonest and they don't see themselves as dishonest. While it usually starts with little things, over a period of years that dishonesty can lead not only to the deception of others but also to the deception of self. After awhile they're rarely aware they're even doing it. We can't assess the severity of your husband's problem, but if both you and his mother notice it and if it's been a problem since childhood, it may have become so ingrained that he's not aware of it.
A great starting place is to pray and ask God to give both of you wisdom on this issue. Ask your husband to study the Bible with you. Then get a good concordance or study Bible and look up every reference related to honesty and lying. Sometimes God can use a significant exposure to truth to get someone's attention and bring about change.
If your focused Bible study doesn't affect change, you may need to encourage him to meet with you, his mom, and perhaps your pastor to get an objective and unbiased perspective. There are times when it takes an intervention by family and respected friends to get someone's attention. If he doesn't allow God's Word and those who love him to help him deal with this problem, it will increasingly impair his spiritual growth, compromise the quality of all of his relationships, and marginalize his effectiveness in every dimension of his life.
Attracted to Another Man
Q. My husband and I have been married for six years. While I really love him and am still attracted to him, I'm also attracted to another man. I know they always say the grass is greener on the other side, but is something wrong with me? I've never been attracted to another man; my husband is my world. How do I fight this temptation?
A. The fact that you find other men attractive doesn't mean your marriage is in trouble. It only means you're normal. The day Carrie doesn't find some man more attractive in some way than me is the day I'll have some serious concerns about her eyesight or her honesty!
But there's a difference between being attracted to someone and choosing to dwell on that attraction. The mind is the battleground for the heart. The Enemy knows that if we choose to focus our attention or set our mind on something we shouldn't, it won't be long before we'll act on those thoughts. The road to duplicity, self-deception, and betrayal is paved with very small steps in the wrong direction.
Attraction can lead to attention, which can lead to fantasy, which can lead to sin. When you allow yourself to dwell on the attributes of another man, this will inevitably breed dissatisfaction with the man God's given you. If you don't guard your thoughts, over time you'll find yourself becoming more negative, critical, and irritated by your husband's little habits or characteristics that never bothered you before.
Just look at how King David in the Bible handled a similar situation: David's problem wasn't that he found Bathsheba attractive. His problem came when he chose to pay attention to her and fantasize about her. His next step was then to go after her.
If David had used the approach Joseph did in Genesis 39—which was to run from the sexual temptation of Potiphar's wife—he'd have saved himself and his loved ones enormous pain.
When you find yourself attracted to another man, you can acknowledge that that's a normal part of life. But then choose not to allow that attraction to go any further. Choose to apply Colossians 3:2, which tells us to set our minds on things above. Thank God for your husband and for the marriage he's given you. Take mental note of your husband's strengths. Recall some of the moments of kindness and tenderness you've shared. And remember that your husband is God's provision for you as a life mate.
Unequal Family Time
Q. My husband goes out of his way to spend time with his family—he even admits he'll stop everything to be with them. He's taken off work to do things with them. Plus they attend our church, so often we see them up to three times a week! But when it comes to seeing my family, he always has a reason for not being able to spend time with them. I feel as if I have to beg him, and then feel as if I'm forcing him to go. When we try to talk about this subject, we have trouble controlling our emotions because the people we're arguing about are special to us. This is tearing us apart. Should I just accept this unequal family time and hide my hurt to avoid the problems?
A. This kind of problem is more common than you might think. And how you choose to deal with this issue could affect the quality of your marriage for many years.
It's not good for you just to ignore the problem. At the same time it's essential that you spend more time praying and thinking about how to strengthen your relationship than dwelling on this issue.
The Bible makes it clear in Genesis 2:24 that one of the essential tasks in a marriage is to leave and cleave. At the very least this means that the husband and wife should spend more time with each other than with their individual families. The first step is for both of you to make sure you're spending quantity and quality couple time together and allowing God to "knit your hearts" more tightly together in love. As you strengthen your couple bond it'll become safer to deal with potentially volatile issues.
The next step is to clarify how big the problem is. One husband with whom we worked had a similar concern about his wife and so for one month he tracked the amount of time she spent with her family (apart from time at church) to see if his perceptions were accurate. He discovered that while he was exaggerating the amount of time, it was still more than he thought healthy for their marriage.
If you decide that it's a problem, the next step is to select a good time to talk with him, prepare what you're going to say, and ask some friends to pray for you before and during your conversation. It would be good to let your husband know beforehand what you want to discuss and ask him to prayerfully prepare his heart. Then when you have the discussion, you might tell him, "When you do this, my interpretation is that you don't want to spend time with my family and that really hurts." After he responds, be prepared to suggest what you think would be a fairer and more mutually respectful arrangement. Ask yourself, If things were "better" what would that look like? What would be some small steps in a healthier direction?
Another option is to approach talking about it in a different way. Ask yourself what's been different about the times you and your husband successfully solved other conflicts? What did each of you do that helped? Did you listen better? Did you ask more questions? Did you try to understand each other's perspective rather than pressure him to see it your way?
The fact that discussing this issue makes it hard for you to control your emotions and is tearing you apart suggests you may have reached emotional gridlock on this issue. If that's the case, we'd encourage you to find an older and more mature couple or a trained professional counselor to discuss the issue with. Remember that every problem provides a new opportunity for understanding, growth, increased intimacy, and a stronger marriage.
Carrie Oliver, M.A., is a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver is executive director of The Center for Marriage & Family Studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.
We are not able to respond personally to readers' letters. But if you have a marriage question you'd like us to address in this column, send your question to:
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