How Can I Tell My Husband Is Lying? How to Trust a Lust Addict

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It was an argument over a grocery order. My husband and I were in the early days of my discovering his lust-driven secret life. Because he did not choose to disclose to me all of his deception at once—a concept called “trickle truth”—it seemed that every time I turned around, I was learning about another lie he had told me.

Whenever I’d had a feeling something wasn’t matching up between the things he was saying and the way he was acting, I’d brushed those doubts away. I couldn’t imagine lying to the person I love. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to deceive a wife who can’t imagine deceiving her husband.

By the time of this grocery argument, however, that bubble had long since burst. If I couldn’t trust my husband to answer me honestly when I looked him in the eye and asked important questions like, “Are you watching porn?” or, “Are you having an affair?” then what honest answer could I trust him to give in anything?

We were unpacking the groceries, and it was my husband’s night to cook dinner. 

“I was going to make cornbread,” he said. “Where’s the cornmeal?”

I looked in all the bags. “I don’t see it. I remember ordering it.”

He sighed in annoyance and scanned the receipt. “It’s not here. You must have forgotten to order it.”

I started going into a people-pleasing panic. I’d been the one to place the order, and here he was, getting mad at me for not doing things perfectly. I thought, I need to fix this before he gets even madder.

Then my recovery brain kicked in, and I paused. Not only was recovery teaching me to stop being responsible for every little thing in everyone’s lives. I’d also been learning how often the man I loved had been painting red flags green, in what I now know was an intentional effort to confuse me so I’d stop doubting him and start doubting myself.

Across the tops of the unpacked grocery bags, I studied his face to see if this was another ploy to make me question my own memories. I couldn’t tell. 

In spite of my heart rate picking up, I calmly replied, “I remember putting it on the order.”

He checked the grocery app on his phone. “It doesn’t look like it. You must have forgotten.”

Or maybe you took the cornmeal off of the order so you could have something to make me crazy over. I had to step away before I said that thought out loud.

I found an unoccupied room and closed the door. I reached out to God, and Luke 16:10 came to mind. 

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

My husband’s behavior had destroyed the trust in our relationship. And yet, there can be no relationship without trust. I think of this memory whenever I remember one of the most important lessons I’ve discovered in my own recovery: there is more than one kind of trust.

When I met my husband, I had bought into the idea that, because of the vows I’d made, I owed this man absolute trust. Unfortunately, he used that absolute trust to create a secret life that drove us apart. 

Then I started trying to become a human polygraph, to figure out if he was lying. Was he blinking less as a sign of concentration? Breathing faster or fidgeting? When I did accuse him of lying, he inevitably came up with some evidence to prove me wrong. 

The more I tried to get inside of his head and outthink his every move, the crazier I felt.

My time in 12-step recovery eventually taught me that I am powerless over whether or not my husband is lying. The only person qualified to receive my absolute trust is God. 

However, I also came to realize that approaching my husband with absolute distrust wasn’t serving anyone either. Absolute distrust isn’t truth-oriented. A person may be untrustworthy in matters large or small, but that doesn’t mean that person is automatically untrustworthy in all matters. A stopped watch is still right at least twice a day.

Here is where 12-step recovery taught me that, while we aim for complete trust in God, our trust in our fellow fallen humans does not have to be a black-and-white affair. 

When my sponsor invited me to journal on some areas of life where I could trust my husband, I wrote that I probably could trust him to make sure the mortgage got paid, the lawn got mowed, and that our gas tanks would be filled. 

I never found out for sure whether or not my husband had tampered with that grocery order, but that’s not important now. What is important is that I intentionally pursue absolute trust in God. In this rebuilt connection with the Holy Spirit, I no longer need to figure out if anyone is lying. I only need to figure out the next right thing for me to do. Even if I mess that up, I now have absolute trust that there is no mistake so bad that my addicted loved one or I can make that God’s mercy can’t fix.

 Catholic in Recovery has a meeting for the family and friends of lust addicts. Join us for experience, strength, and hope every Tuesday at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific. Visit the FIND HEALING tab for more information.

Catherine A. Quinn is grateful to be recovering from the effects of lust addiction in loved ones. She writes about both the pain and the healing and hope that are available to those harmed by all aspects of this addiction.