My Spouse’s Old Lie Still Bothers Me. How Do I Let Go?

Dishonesty destroys relationships–and not always immediately. Sometimes, a spouse’s past lies can stick with us, doing continual damage over the course of time. If your spouse lied to you in the past and it is still bothering you, there may be several reasons why it’s nagging at you – and ways you can work towards healing.

Shattered Expectations

When your spouse lies, particularly if they haven’t lied to you before, this experience shatters the expectations you’ve set for your marriage. Married couples aren’t meant to lie to one another. Honesty is foundational to a happy and healthy marriage, so it can really throw couples for a loop when dishonesty is revealed in the relationship.

If your spouse’s past lie is still gnawing at you, acknowledge that their choice to lie let you down. Be honest with yourself about what your expectations were, and what they will be going forward. Broken expectations are incredibly painful, particularly when the stakes are so high, so give yourself time to process this.

Unresolved Conflict

Another reason your spouse’s lie might be bothering you is that the conflict around it has remained unresolved. If the problem was never truly solved, then you’re probably feeling as though you never got closure around the situation. Or perhaps your spouse admitted to the lie, but never came clean about what actually happened. Our egos drive the desire to lie, and even when caught, many of us tiptoe around details when pressed to reveal them.

As painful as it may be–and depending on the situation–you might need to approach your spouse about resolving the past conflict. There are many factors to consider, such as how egregious the lie was, how much time has passed, and whether your spouse has taken steps to correct the problem that led to it. Consider seeking specialized help from a licensed counselor as you navigate this.

Broken Trust

Trust is paramount to a healthy marriage. When your spouse breaks your trust, it can feel like the world has been pulled out from under you.

It takes time to rebuild trust after a lie, so if you’re still dwelling on your spouse’s past dishonesty, it may be because they haven’t yet earned your trust again. Give yourself time. Your spouse also needs time to demonstrate that the behavior won’t be repeated. Once trust is rebuilt, a past lie will likely still hurt to think about, but the memory of it will become easier to bear.

Resentment

If your spouse lied to you, you may have developed resentment for them. Resentment is poison to marriage, so it’s important to identify whether you’re feeling resentful of your spouse. It’s okay to admit if you feel this way. It’s natural to have hard feelings after someone has done something that hurt you.

However, you can’t afford to let resentment stagnate. Identify it, process it, and then, root it out. If your spouse is making an effort to correct a past wrong, resentment could hurt that process–especially if you’re acting on it by lashing out or giving your spouse the cold shoulder.

Ongoing Dishonesty

A past lie could be nagging at you because the dishonesty hasn’t stopped. If you’re dealing with ongoing dishonesty, it’s impossible to move past old lies. Ongoing dishonesty snowballs, from the early lies into the present. Eventually, you start projecting into the future, wondering what’s going to happen next.

If you’re married to someone who is repeatedly dishonest, it’s important to get help from a licensed professional therapist. If your spouse will join you in therapy, even better. It’s possible that a therapist could help your spouse get to the root of the problem, and help you know how to best support them, and yourself, as they receive help.

How to Let Go of an Old Lie

It’s possible to move forward from your spouse’s past dishonesty if the two of you have worked through the problem and laid everything out on the table. Work through the reasons why this lie might have stuck with you, and process those reasons. If you’re dealing with unresolved conflict or ongoing dishonesty, it’s critical for you and your spouse to face this head-on – likely with professional support.

Honesty is the only way to move forward in the wake of lies. If your spouse has come clean with you, it’s possible that you need to be honest with yourself. It’s natural to have continued feelings of hurt after a lie, so give yourself grace and allow yourself to process the situation with honesty. When you come together with honesty toward yourselves and each other, you’ll be stronger on the other side.

If you and your spouse need support navigating conflict, The Good Fight is a great place to start. However, dishonesty can be a complicated issue to sort out on your own. We recommend considering a licensed therapist to support you as you navigate moving forward in the wake of dishonesty.

Have you and your spouse dealt with difficulty in overcoming past dishonesty? How did you handle it? Did you seek support to overcome it? Let us know in the comments.

One Comment

  • SJ Stanley says:

    We’ve had a couple instances in our marriage (~20 years) where lies created significant damage. In one case, the person who told the lie confessed it later on. In another, the person who was lied to caught the person in the lie. Both instances significantly damaged trust & intimacy, and both caused increases in guardedness & fear responses. I’m thankful that we did the work of slogging through the aftermath. Some of the lessons it’s taught us:
    1- Know that somehow, some way, the lie will come to light. Whether it’s days or decades later, any lie will affect multiple relationships. (Consider how many families are working through unexpected DNA test results.) Never let yourself believe that “this lie” won’t matter.
    2- How much it affects your relationship is dependent on its effect on the one who was lied to. If their past has insecurities from unrelated relationships, the first/smallest lie in marriage can unearth all kinds of fallout from past experiences. The one who told the lie doesn’t decide how much the person lied to is affected.
    3- Moving forward, how to reestablish trust is what the person lied to needs. If it’s checking internet history or phone msgs when they choose, so be it. Regaining trust is a months-> years long process. You can absolutely mend cracks in a foundation, but that past experience can mean you’re aware of possible future problems the rest of your life.
    4-Since lies rarely happen in a vacuum, I cannot emphasize enough the need for a licensed therapist or counselor to help walk through the process. The lies in our situations happened because of wanting to fulfill a desire or avoid guilt/shame. Those patterns had to do with deeper, unexplored issues from further back than our relationship’s beginning. We could not have moved forward on our own. We could have plastered over the problem, maybe, but not found healing.
    5-Address the issue when it comes to light. You may have to wait until the kids are in bed or you’re not at a public gathering, but don’t put off the hard conversation. We already had a standing agreement that if particular issues came to light (abuse, infidelity, pornography, etc.) we would contact a therapist within 24 hours. For one of the lies, that’s exactly what happened.
    Recognize it will take time. Realize it will be a process over the long haul to choose to forgive the other person (or yourself). It will take willingness to be vulnerable in a situation where you’ve been hurt in the past. The good news is that you can work through lies and have a more honest, stronger marriage afterwards.

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