FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Married to a Liar

with Lou Priolo | September 14, 2012
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Are you totally honest with your spouse? Are they totally honest with you? Lou Priolo, author of "Picking Up the Pieces," reminds us that communication must be honest and open if we're going to have a healthy marriage. Concealment - or not telling the entire truth, is still a lie. But what do you do if your spouse isn't telling the truth? Lou explains that any behavior done to mislead or deceive is a lie and must be confronted.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you totally honest with your spouse? Are they totally honest with you? Lou Priolo, author of "Picking Up the Pieces," reminds us that communication must be honest and open if we're going to have a healthy marriage. Concealment - or not telling the entire truth, is still a lie. But what do you do if your spouse isn't telling the truth? Lou explains that any behavior done to mislead or deceive is a lie and must be confronted.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are you totally honest with your spouse? Are they totally honest with you?

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Married to a Liar

With Lou Priolo
September 14, 2012
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Bob:  See, I think back to lying, as a child; and I got away with it more than I got caught.  That just reinforces, “Hey, this works.  I can do this.”  I had to be broken of that pattern, not through conscience, but through Scripture. 

Dennis:  Well, we have a guest who I’ll bet he’s heard a few lies over the past few years because you’ve been in counseling for more than a quarter century.  Lou Priolo joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Lou, welcome back. 

Lou:  Thank you.  Yes, with a possible exception of judges and police officers, I probably get lied to more than anybody else in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Dennis:  Now, isn’t that interesting?  Some people wouldn’t—they wouldn’t necessarily associate a counselor getting lied to a lot. 

Lou:  Well, initially, people are not always willing, until they trust you, to put all their cards on the table; and remember, one of the most common types of lies is concealment. 

Bob:  That brings us to really what I want us to talk about today because I’ve been at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—had people come up to me and say, “I’m married to a liar.  My wife regularly does not tell me the truth.  What do I do?” 

Honestly, that’s kind of a stumper.  

When you don’t have trust, when you can’t count on the fact that the person sitting across the table from you, whom you pledge to love, honor, and cherish, is telling you the truth about something—how do you make a relationship work when trust is not there, at that level, when lying is a regular part of the relationship? 

Lou:  It’s very difficult.  The truth is you will not be able to have any significant level of real intimacy and a real, close relationship.  You can have a superficial relationship; but in order to really experience the intimacy that the Bible says a husband and a wife should have, there needs to be truthfulness. 

Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.  Before the Fall, they could be totally open, totally honest, totally frank with each other.  Then, sin occurs.  Now, we want to cover up.  We want to not disclose to our spouse the information that he or she has a biblical need to know because of our pride, or fear, or other things.  It really messes up our intimacy. 

Dennis:  You cite a survey that went all the way back to 1988 that indicated, at that time, we lie about 13 times—

Bob:  The average guy lies that often? 

Dennis:  Thirteen times a week.

Bob:  Okay. 

Dennis:  Alright?  A new survey that indicates we lie—what is it?—up to 200 times a day?! 

Lou:  It’s a lot. 

Dennis:  I mean that’s a lot of lies. 

Lou:  “It’s delicious!  I couldn’t eat another bite.”  Did you ever say that?  [Laughter]  “So glad you dropped by.  I wasn’t doing a thing.”  “The baby is just beautiful.”  “Put the map away, Honey.  I know exactly how to get there.” 

Think about the oath that we are encouraged to take when we’re sworn in.  “Do you swear”—or affirm—“to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”  Why is that?  Well, because you can tell the truth and you can leave something out and mislead people by not giving all of the data, as I said, that they have a biblical need to know. 

I mean, that oath pretty much covers all manifestations of lies, except possibly insinuation, which was probably left out of the oath for the benefit of the lawyers.  [Laughter]

Bob:  That’s the point.  If our intent is to deceive another person, to mislead them, to either not tell or to shade truth—if, in our heart, we want the other person misled, we’re lying; aren’t we? 

Lou:  That’s right. 

Bob:  Okay, so now, back to my original question.  If I’m married to a person and this is that pattern in that person’s life—you said, “We can’t really have intimacy unless that person confronts their lying.”  If I’m the one married to the liar, is there anything I can do

Lou:  Again, it’s going to depend largely if the person—the liar—to whom you’re married, is a professing believer or not.  Certainly, if he or she is a believer, then, yes, you have to go through the process of confronting him—possibly getting other people involved—but the bottom line is the person has got to, as it says in Ephesians,    Chapter 4, “Put away his lying and become a teller of the truth,” —which, again, it’s not going to happen overnight. 

Bob:  Well, I’ll point it out if I know it’s happening; but when he comes home and I say, “You’re late.  How come you’re late?” and he says, “Oh, my boss came in,” I don’t know if that’s true or not.  I can’t point it out. 

Lou:  Generally speaking, the Bible says, in 1 Corinthians 13, that love believes the best.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we should believe the best.  If there are ten interpretations of something that somebody says, nine of them are bad; and only one of them is good.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, if we love them, we are going to believe the best about them.  However, if there is a growing mountain of evidence that the person is not a truth-teller, then, we’re not really being uncharitable if we don’t believe him because he has proven himself to be a liar. 

Dennis:  As I was reading this little book that you’ve written called, Deception, I was fascinated to see all the various kinds of lies that we can utter. 

Lou:  Yes.  The funny thing is, Dennis, after the book was published, I found two more.  So, I mean—

Dennis:  Well, I think this will help people—

Lou:  Yes.

Dennis:  —in recognizing maybe what Bob was talking about here.  I’m not going to list them all because it’s impossible; but first of all, there is inference or insinuation, concealment, hidden agenda, perjury, fabrication.  Here’s one that can get people—flattery—back to, “Oh, you don’t look a day over 40,”—verbalizing suspicions or faults, conclusions—that’s an interesting one—diversion, having an argument and diverting away from the issue or the truth.  

Bob:  Now, wait.  That’s a lie—to divert? 

Lou:  If your purpose is to mislead people; yes, it could very well be a lie. 

Dennis:  Another one is partial truth.  That goes back to the oath illustration, “The whole truth and nothing but the truth.” 

Lou:  Right. 

Dennis:  This next one I am just going to say real quickly—[spoken quickly] exaggeration, because—

Lou:  Speaking hyperbolically. 

Dennis:  —Yes; covering up past sins.  I know a wife who was asked by her husband, before they were married, about her past.  She did not share that she’d been involved, and had gotten pregnant, and had an abortion.  It came out, more than a decade later, in their marriage.  I mean, that’s concealment. 

Now, I’ve got to admit on this one—I have to stop you on this next one that you list—kidding, teasing, and joking. 

Lou:  “Like fire brands, arrows, and death, so is he who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Was I not joking?’” 

Bob:  That was a favorite proverb at our house when our kids were growing up because our kids would always throw out, “I was just kidding!”  We would make them recite the Proverbs that says, “Like a mad man shooting fire brands or arrows.” 

Dennis:  Okay.  So, what about an uncle?  I had an uncle who—he was a tease—and it was a way of having fun.  I never ever equated his teasing with lying. 

Lou:  Again, the idea behind that—it’s not a sin if it’s obvious that the person is kidding or it’s obvious that the person is not being truthful with you.  It’s sort of like when you go to a football game; okay?—or a basketball game.  The players fake each other out.  They mislead each other.  You go to a play; okay?  You are misled.  You are paying money to go see a play, and you know that the actors are purposely misleading you.  If you understand, up front, that there’s intent to deceive, or mislead, or to jest, or to joke, that’s not really a lie. 

Bob:  Okay, then.  I have to have you weigh in on this situation with Dennis. 

Lou:  Oh boy. 

Dennis:  I know what you’re going—

Bob:  Yes, yes—

Dennis:  —what you’re going to bring up. 

Bob:  —because he’s been—he’s had this come up before, and I’d like you to adjudicate.  It was approaching Christmas, and Dennis wanted to kind of do a little surprise with his wife—whisk her off to New York for a little getaway—but he wanted it to be a surprise.  So, he told her—

Lou:  So, there’s absolutely no truth in the statement? 

Bob:  So, he told her that they were going to this conference in San Antonio.  [Laughter]  Yes, there was no truth to what he was saying;—

Lou:  Yes. 

Bob:  —but he was doing it for a surprise!  Is that okay? 

Lou:  You know the Bible says—

Bob:  Yes. 

Lou:  —“Strong mead belongs to those who are mature, to those who by reason of use have their senses, their consciences, exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Having said that, my conscience never would have allowed me to say that to my wife; but I don’t want to be your judge about that, brother.  [Laughter]

Dennis:  Well, we’ve told that story a number of times here on FamilyLife Today.  I’ve already apologized to Barbara and to our audience for being a bad example here.  Some of our listeners, though, are not laughing about something like a surprise party.  They’re married to a habitual lying—a deceiving manipulator. 

Bob:  Maybe, an unbeliever.  Now, it’s a whole different ball game—isn’t it?—if the person doesn’t profess faith in Christ and you’re in a covenant relationship with somebody who routinely lies to you. 

Lou:  Yes.  The sad thing is, or the interesting thing is, most of the lies that were told in the Bible initially succeeded.  I mean, there are so many examples of lying in the Bible. 

I mean, you could almost say, tongue-in-cheek, “The Bible is filled with lies,” because there are many lies explained in the Bible.  The majority of them successfully duped their victims, initially.  When they were found out, often, it was because of some kind of miraculous God-thing that revealed the truth.  It’s a very hard thing to defend against; but the bottom line is—you’re not unloving, you’re not wrong—if you don’t trust somebody who habitually lies to you.  

Dennis:  In other words, you shouldn’t trust somebody who lies to you. 

Lou:  Not 100 percent; no. 

Dennis:  How do you guard your heart in that situation?  I mean, you’re in a marriage relationship—how do you keep from being taken advantage of? 

Lou:  I think you have to be truthful.  I mean, sounds ironic; but I think you need to say, “Honey, you’ve lied to me so many times.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust you anymore.  You’re not trustworthy.  You’re not dependable.  You’re not reliable.”  If he’s a Christian, “You’re ‘Yes’ is not yes; your ‘No’ is not no,” —using biblical terminology—however, you want to do it. 

I think you just, up front, tell the person, “Until you start becoming a teller of the truth, our relationship is in some areas going to be stalled; and it’s going to hurt us.  It’s going to hurt our children.  It’s not that I don’t want to trust you.  I’m going to trust you as much as I can.  I do love you.”  If it’s a wife, “I will continue to be a dutiful wife to you; but the bottom line is, unless you stop lying, I am not going to be able to trust you.”  Let the other person know, in no uncertain terms, that he cannot be trusted. 

Bob:  So, the person says, “Okay, I recognize this.  You’re right.  I’ll do better.” 

Lou:  No!  “You have to become a teller of the truth.  It’s not enough—I mean, you don’t lie 100 percent of time.  I mean, if I asked you last night, ‘Would you like your favorite pizza for dinner?’  You would tell me, ‘Yes.’  You wouldn’t lie.  Just because you don’t lie 24/7, doesn’t mean you’re not a liar.  You can stop for a minute or two, or a day or two.  It’s not going to be good enough until you learn how to continuously, regularly, exclusively, speak the truth in love.” 

Bob:  That person, who has had a pattern in his or her life of not telling the truth, is that going to be a pattern that’s going to be—it’s going to have to be broken over time?  You can’t, again, flip a switch—can you?—and all of a sudden become a truth-teller? 

Lou:  It can happen quicker than most people realize, but right.  It’s going—it’s very unusual that a person will just be able to stop—come to a screeching halt—because a lot of times—you know, there are so many different ways to lie.  Like, for example, you didn’t mention the “I don’t know” lie.  We say, “I don’t know,” when we know.  Well, several times, you know, Rahab said, “I don’t know where the man went.”  “I don’t know where my brother is.  Am I my brother’s keeper?” 

There are so many different varieties—styles—of lying that a liar sometimes doesn’t even realize the extent to which he’s lying.  So, yes, Bob, it’s going to be very difficult for him to stop.  He’s probably not going to be able to stop overnight.  It’s going to take time. 

Bob:  So, if your wife comes to you and says, “Does this dress make me look fat?” what do you say, Lou? 

Lou:  Yes. 

Bob:  If it does?

Lou:  Of course, you say, “Yes.” 

Bob:  You do?!

Lou:  I do. 

Bob:  If she says, “Does this dress make me look fat?” and you’re about to go out somewhere, you just say, “Yes, it does”? 

Lou:  Well, you could say—you could say, “Sweetheart, it’s not the most flattering dress you have.” 

Dennis:  There you go.  There you go.  I was going to say, Lou, far be it from me to correct you, as the counselor, at this point—

Lou:  I say I would say, “Yes.”  [Laughter]  I’m a New Yorker. 

Dennis:  Your wife—

Lou:  I’m not from the South where you all have this polite stuff going on. 

Bob:  Bless your heart. 

Lou:  Polite.  [Laughter]

Dennis:  Well, you’ve been talking about biblical counsel.  I would give you some biblical counsel in return.  I would say, “Speaking the truth in love,” and there is a way to speak the truth—

Lou:  Okay, so, teach me.  You counsel me.  How would I tell my wife she—

Dennis:  Well, I would just say to her, “You know, Sweetheart, you’ve got other dresses that make you look better.” 

Lou:  I agree.  That’s a much better way to say it. 

Dennis:  It’s—I just wouldn’t say, “Yes, you look fat.”  [Laughter]  That would not be good.   

Bob:  That would not go well. 

Dennis:  That would not—

Bob:  That would not go well for you. 

Dennis:  —in the South or in the North.  I’m afraid the cold winds blow wherever that goes. 

Bob:  What do we do when we read stories in the Bible, like Jacob and Esau—we see Jacob deceiving his brother—and it appears to be the plan of God for that to happen? 

Lou:  Well, the plan of God for Jesus Christ to die on the cross involved murder.  So, God decrees that people will sin to accomplish His will.  He is sovereign, even over the sins over all of us, but it does not take away our culpability.  It still is wrong to lie. 

Bob:  So, Jacob wasn’t fulfilling his destiny.  He would have been the one who was in the position over his brother because that’s what God had said from the beginning, whether he lied to make that happen or not. 

Lou:  That’s right.  That’s right.

Dennis:  Okay, one thing we haven’t talked about, and it seemed like our kids did it naturally.  Is what do you do with children who lie?  Maybe one—and I’m not thinking one of my children—but I am thinking of a child in a family right now who just seems like a habitual liar—has got a pattern, a sin pattern, here. 

Lou:  Right. 

Dennis:  What would you recommend? 


Lou:  Well, we’ve spent a lot of time, so far, describing the different kinds of lies; but we didn’t do a whole lot of, because of time, talk about how to solve the problem.  Basically, it’s a matter of first convicting the child of the wrongfulness of the lie—to help him to understand what his specific style of lying is.  We all have our own unique styles of sinning and our own unique styles of lying—liars have. 

So, we have to first identify, “What kind of lies am I most likely to tell?”  Then, we have to make it our goal or teach the child, in this case, to make it his goal to be a teller of the truth.  We have to explain to him or to her that trust is lost—and to understand that forgiveness may be granted for a lie—but there may be consequences and, not the least of which will be, a certain loss of trust. 

I have said to many counselees who struggle with lying, “Bob, I want you to imagine what it’s going to be like someday—maybe three or four months from now, maybe a year from now when—as you walk down the street, people will say—instead of saying, ‘There goes Bob Lepine.  He is undependable.  He doesn’t always tell the truth’—they say, ‘There goes Bob Lepine.  He’s the most truthful man of integrity I have ever met.’”  

You’ve got to make it your goal, not just to stop lying.  You’ve got to make it your goal to understand how important it is to be a man of integrity, how important it is for your “Yes” to be yes, to imagine what it will be like someday when you are known as a truth-teller rather than a liar. 

There are other things I mention in the book—like helping them understand all of the other consequences involved with lying.  Of course, we have to talk about the fact that, whatever the sin pattern in our life, apart from God’s grace, apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, none of us are able to change.  We have to point them to Christ, help them to understand that apart from His grace, His Word, His working in their heart, they are not going to be able to change. 

Dennis:  Right.  I’m glad you ended there, Lou, because I feel like the Christian life is a lifetime process of God taking this onion, called Dennis Rainey, and stripping layer after layer of deceit, lies, selfishness—I mean, just the list seems endless—but where you just ended is where we all must camp and rest in.  That is that the cross represents the finished work—the grace of God poured out through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave Himself up for us—so that we would be declared, “Not guilty.”  

Lou:  Amen! 

Dennis:  It says in John 1, “And we beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.”  The truth reminds us that we lie, but the grace doesn’t just cover our lies—it erases.  It erases the shame and gives us forgiveness. 

I really appreciate—I appreciate you and your ministry.  I’m glad you take us back to the Bible.  I’m also glad that you’re teachable around how to tell your wife—

Lou:  Yes, thank you.

Dennis:  —about that dress.

Lou:  I’ve got to be a good counselee if I’m going to be a good counselor.  [Laughter] 

Bob:  The thing I really appreciate about the booklet that you’ve written on lying is just how practical it is.  In fact, all of the booklets that you have written as a part of this series—there’s one on lying, one on manipulation.  I think those are the two that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—very wise, practical, biblical counsel on subjects that can be very hard subjects for folks, relationally. 

Go to for more information on the resources that Lou Priolo has written on these subjects and others.  Again, is our website.  You can also order by phone.  If you’d like the booklet on lying, call us to request it.  Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.  That’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. 

Often, when we tackle a subject like we’ve talked about today—or earlier this week, we talked about infidelity, unfaithfulness in a marriage relationship—today, we talked about lying—we often hear from listeners who tell us that these are the kinds of issues they’re experiencing in a marriage relationship.  Sometimes, they feel alone.  

You would like to think that, within the context of a local church, there’d be an opportunity for transparency and for there to be some healthy community around issues like this; but we’re always encouraged when we find out that FamilyLife Today can be a part of helping people think rightly about the challenges they’re facing by pointing you back to what the Bible has to say about these things.  That’s our goal, here at FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate those of you who make this program possible—who are partners with us in accomplishing that goal.  FamilyLife Today is listener-supported.  Without your support, we could not do what we do. 

This month, as a way of saying, “Thank you for your financial support of this ministry,” we’re sending out copies of a CD message called “What Husband Wished Their Wives Knew about Men”.  It’s a candid message for women about how men think and about what men need.  It’s a message I got a chance to share with a number of wives, several months ago.  The response was very encouraging.  So, we thought we would make this CD available. 

All you have to do to receive it is go online at, click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation.  We’ll send the CD out to you automatically when you make your donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a donation over the phone and just ask for a copy of the CD when you call us so that we know that you’d like to receive it.  Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of the ministry.  We do appreciate you. 

We hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and we hope you can join us back on Monday.  We’re going to talk about happy husbands.  Do you have a happy husband?  Would you like to help your husband be a happy husband?  I mean, it’s better than the alternative; right? 

Arlene:  He’s been out all day.  He’s been slaying his dragons.  He’s stressed, and he wants to come to a home where he feels loved, and appreciated, and wanted.  When my husband comes home, I want it to be a place where he enjoys being. 

Bob:  Arlene Pellicane is going to join us to talk about what a wife can do to make her husband happy.  We’ll talk about that Monday.  Hope you can join us. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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