I was physically and emotionally spent one late evening after a long day that included two difficult counselling cases, both of which had much in common.
Both involved women who had been unfaithful, and had been found out by their husbands. In both instances, neither had any intention to leave their spouses and children. In fact, they had been intent on carrying on with their affairs for as long as possible. One woman had been in the affair for 15 years before it was discovered. In both cases too, the husbands were willing to stay on although they were in a state of emotional upheaval.
Before readers jump to the conclusion that we are facing a tide of adulterous women, let me say that just a week earlier, “the shoe was on the other foot”. I had met with a husband who had been caught cheating – when confronted, he tried his best to hide the truth, but he too had intended carrying on having both women in his life for as long as possible.
For the individuals to think that they could carry on this way seems to defy all reason. They are intelligent individuals and took all necessary steps to hide their actions. Two of the three spouses even felt that their marriages were doing well.
But there are some cheating spouses who do not care if they are caught. In some situations, they even want to be found out, to draw attention to the dire state of their marriages. At times, it is a way to force their spouses to release them from an unhappy union. However, this was clearly not the case in the cases I mentioned at the start of this article.
These two cases led me to reflect more on the topic of deceit and dishonesty. When deceit sets in, it can grow and consume a person.
Most of us struggle when we start to lie; we are fearful that we will be found out, and we feel guilty. But often, once you’ve told your first lie, you end up telling a few more to cover it. The first lie stubbornly clings to us, and as we tell more lies, we grow accustomed to it, and even become quite proficient at lying.
We also begin to develop tactics to hide our deception. Adulterers would hide expense accounts, and suddenly place password protection on their mobile phones and Internet accounts. The deception grows, and the lies drive an invisible wedge between the deceiver and the person being lied to. It begins to eat away at the trust and bond in that relationship, and ultimately, both parties are hurt.
The person who is lying may begin to feel bold and arrogant. As he or she gets away each time with not telling the truth, the liar begins to feel bolder and even believes the lies. There is a sense of being invulnerable, and as a result, the liar begins to take greater risks, which ultimately can backfire and the deception is uncovered.
Once found out, how does one go about making amends and repairing the relationship? It begins with a commitment to speaking the truth. Invariably, the truth will hurt, but it is a pain that comes before the healing. Understandably, some clients wrestle with not wanting to tell all. Some are afraid that the pain of the truth may be too much for the other.
That is why many clients first consult their pastor or a counsellor. But neither the pastor nor counsellor can pronounce absolution. Forgiveness can only be pronounced by those whom you have hurt. As family and close friends of the couple, we can help through lending moral and non-judgmental support as the truth is revealed.
Undoubtedly, it is always better not to lie and thereby avoid that slippery slope to more lies. I hope that all of us will never become accustomed to lying.
Benny Bong, a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.