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Advice sought for my sister re her husband's lying ...

(10 Posts)
Dieu Wed 19-Apr-17 16:37:15

Hi. My sister phoned me earlier today to ask for some advice, but I'm a little bit at a loss with this one, and was hoping you wise mumsnetters could help.
She has been married to her husband for nearly 5 years; she is 35 and he is (a youthful) 50, if that's at all relevant. They have 2 young children. She and A. are a very strong couple, they get on extremely well, and are entirely committed. They have a nice lifestyle and adore their children. They own their own company and it is high pressure/stress, which they both cope with very well (my sister handles it a bit better than him) along with family life, and all the other aspects of a busy but essentially loving life.
Trust is exceptionally important to my sister. It really is her 'thing'. In the past, her husband (A.) has been occasionally guilty of telling her white lies. Nothing major, like cheating, but fairly trivial stuff. So, for example, A. was recently away for a few days on site, and by all accounts had a few cigarettes while there. A colleague said to my sister 'Oh, I didn't know A. was smoking again', which is how my sister came to know about it.
She asked A. about it and explained that she really wasn't bothered about the smoking (not ideal from a health POV obviously, but he's a grown man!) and would understand if he'd smoked, as the job is so stressful.
He vehemently denied the smoking, even though the (trusted and long-term) colleague saw him do it. Again. my sister explained that for her it wasn't about whether or not he had partaken of a few fags, but just asked him to be honest about doing it. He said he hadn't and that the colleague was lying.
Of course, if this was a one-off, you'd probably believe your other half, and think the colleague was wrong. However, he has been caught out with this before, and it only came to light when others brought it up.
Please believe me when I say that this is NOT about the cigarettes. That would be petty and ridiculous. My sister is lovely, and not at all controlling in that way.
It is about him lying and refusing to admit to the truth. He is extremely adept at it, and will deny it until blue in the face.
His father was semi-abusive when A. was a child, and lying became his norm in order to get out of trouble/a beating. My sister is emotionally intelligent, and understands that this behaviour was set in childhood. But A. is no longer a boy, and she is not his father, so she is finding it hard to come to terms with the lying now.
As I said, small but insistent lies have happened before, and have always been swept under the carpet because of a) his insistence, and b) lack of proof.
Of course, in one's head, these things mushroom, so my sister now wonders about other lies he may or may not have told.
He is essentially one of the 'good guys', a decent person and hard worker, who would help anyone out. He is a great dad and a loving, supportive husband/family member.
She is at a loss and isn't sure where to go from here. It's a bit of a bizarre one.
Does anyone have any thoughts?
Many thanks.

noego Wed 19-Apr-17 16:50:21

If it is ingrained behaviour from childhood and his is wired that way, why does she continue to press the button if she knows he will lie and she knows the reason he is lying.
If he may respond with therapy. But it seems that she has tried to undo this with him and he hasn't responded.
He may be a grown man, but this trigger in him is conditioned and will be automatic. He has lived this way for so long it is deeply wired.

Dieu Wed 19-Apr-17 16:52:51

Thanks noego. Yes, you are right, of course it will be ingrained behaviour from childhood. It is becoming a bit of a sticking point though, as honesty is so important to her. They have been for couples counselling, re his compulsive white lies, and she had thought it reasonably dealt with until now.

Dieu Wed 19-Apr-17 18:13:15

Any more views or advice? Thanks all.

lizzyj4 Wed 19-Apr-17 18:46:37

If someone has such a deeply ingrained habit of lying I don't see that it's going to change. It's like asking them to change the colour of their eyes, it's part of who they are. My exh has lied for as long as I've known him (over 30 years); often in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and usually about small, completely pointless things. I knew he had this habit before we got together and accepted it as part of who he is, although eventually it became wearing and fairly problematic. (He has a similar history to your sister's dh and some of the things he did bordered on bizarre - he'd go shopping and then hide his purchases in the garage, even though I'd never dream of complaining or even commenting on what he bought with his own money.)

Your sister has a choice, if he really is only telling small, pointless lies (only about smoking?) and he's otherwise a great husband and father, she can accept it's a habit and stop pulling him up on it or she can allow it to destroy her peace of mind and potentially damage her relationship.

I can completely understand why this is bothering your sister, she'll never know for certain what is a lie and what is the truth. But I'm not sure there's any cure for it - I seriously doubt counselling would help in this case.

Dieu Wed 19-Apr-17 18:50:49

Thank you Lizzy, that's so helpful. She will really appreciate hearing others' perspectives on the matter.

FanSpamTastic Wed 19-Apr-17 18:57:04

My Gran was like this - she would make things up and seemed unable to stop herself. She had a troubled childhood, spending a number of years in a children's home. Her compulsion was always embellishment of the truth. You could try and put her straight but it was pointless. In the end we would all just nod and say yes dear to everything. It was not malicious and was usually over silly things.

If your sister is sure in her heart that he is ultimately a good man then I would overlook these small untruths. I do think even a 50 year old could change deeply ingrained behaviour if they really wanted to, but that it would require a desire on their part to change and significant work on understanding the compulsion to lie.

Obsidian77 Wed 19-Apr-17 19:02:38

Has he been married or in a LTR before?

Dieu Wed 19-Apr-17 19:28:30

Yes. He married very young indeed, and raised a son who wasn't his. He then went on to have a daughter (now 21) with that woman. And got with my sister some years after splitting with her.
Prior to meeting my sister, he led a very hedonistic life. Drinking, womanising, social drug use, etc.
He turned his back on it all when he met her, and settled down remarkably well. They honestly are very happy together, and this seems to be the only flaw.

Obsidian77 Wed 19-Apr-17 23:21:48

Then I wonder if yr DSis sees patterns of behaviour repeating, ie that in the past, the lying went hand in hand with the drinking, drugs and womanising and she worries about his impulse control. Does he go to AA/NA?
If he can't stop one compulsion even when the evidence that he is lying is embarrasingly obvious then she has no reason to trust that he's not cheating on her or taking drugs again.
It's very sad how a terrible childhood can damage a person so badly they are dysfunctional even decades later.
Your DSis sounds like a really good person who wanted to believe that her DH could change and put his problems behind him but now knows that he couldn't and may never even have intended to.
I'm sorry if my take on this is a little bleaker than you would have liked to hear. It's great that you're looking out for your DSis.

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