MANSWERS: My husband’s little white lies do my head in. Am I overreacting?

MANSWERS: My husband’s little white lies do my head in. Am I overreacting?

My husband and I have been married for 18 months and we were together for four years prior to that. We have one child and another on the way. During our relationship, there have been many occasions where he has not told me the whole truth. Initially, it was about how much he was drinking. He would hide bottles of wine or cans of beer, and often play down how many drinks he’d had. (My sister’s marriage failed miserably due to alcoholism – so I begged him to tone it down and he has done so to a point which I am happy about.)

He was/is often dishonest about how much money he spends on gambling. One night he went out and spent $250, which is not on as we are a low income family. Again, he’s toned this down a lot and has become more honest with me but only because I kept at him about it, saying if he’d just tell me that he’s gambling and if it’s only a $5 bet I wouldn’t be so upset about it. We both agreed to quit smoking when I found out I was expecting, but he’s now lying to me about this too. He reasons that if he were to tell me the truth about all these things I would get angry – which makes his inability to be honest feel like my fault! Here’s the kicker: whenever I find out the truth about the drinking, gambling or smoking its RARELY because my husband has come to me but instead because I have caught him out in conversation or found physical proof of lies e.g betting tickets in his drawers, cigarettes in the shed.

So my question is: am I over reacting? Should I be ok with him continuing to smoke or should I take a harder line, due to his habit of thinking it’s OK to withhold stuff? I am no angel and I can be demanding about certain things but I’m not dishonest. But I need to know if I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to his dishonesty. Alana

At first glance it might seem like you’re overreacting. A ciggie here, a few hundred bucks there and the odd hidden bottle of plonk. Some would say, big deal. Don’t sweat the small stuff. But on closer examination, it’s much more complex. Marriage – or any solid relationship – is based on transparency, honesty and trust, and these values are in jeopardy if your partner keeps withholding the truth from you.

He might not be sleeping with another woman or spending your life savings, but all these white lies and ‘forgetting to mentions’ add up to an erosion of trust between you. The other problem is that you’re not getting to see the ‘real’ him: the guy that drinks, smokes and gambles. You’re just seeing the toned down version that he thinks is palatable to you. It’s wrong of him to say he doesn’t come clean on his less savoury extracurricular activities, because you might go off at him. Everyone dislikes conflict or getting caught out: that’s not a good enough reason to lie and hide the evidence from your wife.

So, what do you do? My honest advice is to begin a policy of truth between you right now. Do it before your second baby comes along and puts even more stress on the relationship. You might need to implement the ‘new rules’ with a relationship counsellor, or you could do it on your own. Sit down with your hubby and talk about how he got the be the sort of person that’s untruthful. Ask him if he hid things from his mother or father growing up? Did his parents hide things from each other? Chances are this is learned behavior and he’s been doing it for a very long time. Tell him you love him and you understand that he comes with vices (don’t we all?) But say you’d rather he tell you about the smoking, drinking and gambling upfront. Tell him how much it hurts you to find evidence, rather than hear it from him first hand. Tell him you want the absolute truth in all aspects of your relationships – and that means every last ciggie and every dollar spent. Ask for access to his credit card accounts if you think it will help.

Do allow him some slip ups as you work towards a very different way of relating to each other. It will be a process of altering both your behaviours. Remember you have to change too. You’re not ‘The Boss’ anymore and he has to see you’re not out to discipline him. He will sometimes fall short of your expectations and he will sometimes act out. You have to be okay with that. By turn, he has to stop acting like the sneaky teenager and start being upfront, honest and accountable for his actions. It will be a brave new world for you both. Most of all – be patient. Change won’t happen overnight. But if you act now to break the cycle of lies, you’ll end up a much stronger couple and the kind of parents who can really talk to each other when things get tough. We also asked our Manswers team what they thought about your husband’s behaviour – see below for their opinions.

Love, reality chick

Manswers Man BB says… If we are all really honest with ourselves, we know that old saying about honesty being is the best policy is a bunch of crap. However, there is a big difference between the odd fib and continual lies. As a non-smoker, I cannot imagine how hard it must be to give up, and if this was the only untruth you could empathise with your man. When you add this to the lies about the booze and gambling you probably have good reason to wonder what else he is doing without you knowing. Overreacting? I don’t think so. It appears you have had success by reasoning (‘I begged him’?), but this is no mother/son pep talk, Alana. You guys are life partners and should be able to trust each other on all levels. Maybe the compromise is that you work together to help him kick the fags on the proviso that he is 100 percent up front on everything else, no exceptions.

Manswers Man Dr Phil says… I get it – it’s the lies that hurt. But as you said, they’re white lies, and it sounds like he’s complying to your requests to an extent, so maybe you should cut him some slack on the smoking? On the other hand, it is a killer and a word in his ear about being around for his kids in the future could help. In terms of the booze – hiding alcohol smacks of alcoholism so it is worth watching that. Hiding just the odd can or two over what’s ‘acceptable’ is one thing, but hiding a bottle (or two) of wine (per night) indicates more significant consumption. At least a night off drinking per week can help/mitigate/be an indicator of intake. Re gambling: I worked in The Star casino recently and always chasing that previous win can become addictive, so yes, wise to keep an eye on that particular psychological crutch. I guess it’s worth assessing the severity of these vices (that, let’s be honest, are pumped at us by advertisers and taxed by the government) and taking it from there. The best way might be to have a heart-to-heart to find out what’s really going on so you can move on from there and work on avoiding the lies in future.

Manswers Man Mr E says… His behaviour sounds like a lack of maturity. He doesn’t want to own up to his actions but he’s also feels that by hiding them he doesn’t need to. White lies can be harmless if they don’t hurt anyone (and often they’re told to shield people from information which could open a can of worms). But while your husband’s white lies aren’t malicious, they’re hurting you and eroding your faith in him. Relationships are built on trust and your husband needs to understand that’s not just a one way street. For example, whilst you may be demanding at times (by your own admission), at least it’s an honest trait. How can you turn this around? Well, as you’ve no doubt found, nagging works once or twice but after that it really is just nagging – and may actually be counter-productive to getting the honest answers you seek. I think you need to confront your husband but offer him a safe place to fall. Tell him you don’t expect him to be a saint but you do need honesty. You may need to accept he’ll still have some of his vices, but if you know about them the chances are they won’t be hidden and may become more manageable. Giving up any guilty pleasure takes time, so be open and be patient. If that still doesn’t work, kick him to the curb. Good luck.

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Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).


  1. Samantha 4 years ago

    My now exhusband was exactly the same. His weekend bets, lotto tickets and who knows what else led to $70000 debt, no contribution to the family and he continues to smoke and drink on his own downstairs. The threat of divorce didn’t work so I carried through with the property settlement giving him one of my investment properties which he contributed nothing to. Next step divorce. And he left home 2 nights ago leaving me with 5 cartons of empty beer bottles plus a filthy room downstairs to clean up. At least I have the respect our 2 teenage boys. It is difficult with 2 young children and I could not have left him then, but as the children got older so did his habits escalate and once the trust was gone so was the marriage. Get yourself a good job when you are able and protect your assets.

  2. aj 9 years ago

    Thanks so much for your responses to my email. I am happy to report that I took a soft, diplomatic approach with my husband and we were both able to have a frank and open discussion a couple of days after I sent my email, which we’ve lacked the ability to do in times gone by. I stressed how left out and disrespected I felt with his dishonesty. His response seemed to be genuine surprise. Going on 9 days now we have had a really different, positive tone between us. I asked him to be completely honest with me, letting him know that I wasn’t neccessarily angry that he continued to smoke, it was the dishonesty that hurt most. The conversation resolved with an agreement of greater transparency, we both seemed to finally see where each stood. My husband is making a huge effort to tell me every time he has a cigi here and there and has kept his drinking and punting to the weekends and now only bets on sports rather than horses and dogs etc He is showing me the amounts that he puts on each bet. It’s still early days but I feel good about his efforts, normally he would be quick to agree, leave the room and forget the entire conversation ever took place. I think this time he really understands how hurt I was about it all. Again I thank you all for your advice and it was especially great to get a bloke’s point of view.

    • lusia 8 years ago

      I think three was on noticing your man is cheating is….if his daily routine changes, he starts going out when he usually doesn’t and if he says he s going to the store to get something and it takes if along time to come back. This link going to help you out about CALL and TEXT

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