Caroline West-Meads: Why does my husband keep lying to me?

Ask caroline

Q. I’m at the end of my tether with my husband, who just can’t seem to stop telling lies. I have known him for around 30 years, we started dating eight years ago and have been married for three. His first marriage ended because of his infidelity. I knew that he had a lying problem and had sought counselling for it, but I thought he’d stopped when I married him. I don’t think he’s seeing anyone else and I believe he is happy with me and my family (he lost his relationship with his own children due to his affair). However, he still tells lies about stupid things which I find really difficult to deal with. I believe that in a relationship trust is the most important thing and I made this clear at the outset. I have given him the benefit of the doubt so many times, but it’s exhausting and having a huge effect on our marriage. I am so furious and struggling to know how to deal with my anger – it’s affecting my feelings for him as I’m starting to see him as a very weak man. He says that he still needs to have counselling to give him a focus to stop lying – why can’t our marriage be the focus? He is in his late 60s and I’m not sure that he will be able to change his behaviour. He’s reluctant to look at the reasons behind his lies and I see that as an issue. I’d be grateful for any advice before I feel I have to end this marriage, which is very good except for his lies.

A. Of course you don’t want to give up on the good parts of your marriage, yet living with your husband’s lies is intolerable. Trust is fundamental and even little lies will make it difficult to have complete confidence in him. It might make you wonder if there are bigger things he lies about. Although you believe he is faithful (and it sounds as though he is) you may always have some doubt. The fact he is not prepared to look at the reasons behind his lies does show a lack of commitment. But don’t reject his wish to continue counselling. It may be that his lying has become a form of addiction and his need for it is stronger than his need for anything else, sadly even you. He might require outside help because lying has become an unbreakable habit. There may be many causes: it could be he felt inadequate as a child in response to a successful sibling or critical parents, and he started lying to increase his self-esteem. Compulsive lying can be a sign of a mental health condition such as narcissism or an intense anxiety disorder. So the question is do you feel you can stay married to him to see if he can recover, or has too much damage been done? You must explain to him that unless he is prepared to address his need to lie, you don’t think the marriage can survive. It might be worth him seeing his GP for a referral to a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis. You could consider going to counselling yourself to help you decide what to do.

I can’t tell if he fancies me or not

Q. I’ve been lucky because as I’ve got older my libido has actually increased. My problem is that I have no one to share it with! I divorced many years ago and have had one long-term relationship since. There is someone who’s been in my life for years and we’re both single, but I have no idea if he feels the same as I do. He gives me the impression he does, but I’m useless at reading signs and I don’t want to risk a good friendship. Although I’m independent and financially comfortable, I have self-esteem issues and the thought of laying all my cards on the table is really terrifying. I’m in my early 60s and frightened that I’ll never have sex or experience that closeness with someone again.

A. Falling in love involves the risk of getting hurt. However, by never taking a chance we risk loneliness. Of course, it is difficult to put yourself out there but I don’t think you have a lot to lose by asking if he feels the same. Even if he doesn’t, it is unlikely that he would stop seeing you as he won’t want to lose the friendship either. There might be awkwardness at first, but that would soon pass. Perhaps just say light-heartedly, ‘Have you ever wondered if you and I should get together?’ And just imagine if it worked out! Meanwhile, as you have a history of painful relationships, it could be that low self-esteem goes back to childhood. You may subconsciously choose men who don’t treat you well because you have never felt you are worth more. Seek counselling to boost your confidence. Try, or