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May 20, 2024

You thought you had an ideal relationship, and then you or your partner were caught in a deception. What are the ways that deception destroys a relationship? Is it possible to restore trust after deception? Can anything be done to rebuild romantic relationships that have crumbled because of lies or secrets?

You are painfully aware that deception can destroy a relationship. There are many types of dishonesty, yet they could all be classified as “deception.” A lie told for personal gain or to make yourself look better could be a deception. A sign of dishonesty could be funds that aren’t accounted for or hiding substance abuse. White lies and secrets are also signs of dishonesty.


  • Dishonesty in any form can destroy a relationship. 
  • Both partners suffer when there is deception. 
  • Awareness of the 8 ways that deception affects you, your partner, and your relationship is healing and preventative. 
  • You can take the 9 steps to heal from dishonesty and restore trust. 

Deception in a Relationship Hurts You Both

Relationships are built on a foundation of truth, honesty, and trust. For that reason, even little white lies and secrets erode and crack that foundation. Following are eight ways deception hurts you, your partner, and your relationship.

1. It gives birth to doubt.

If you catch your spouse in a lie, you are left to wonder what else they have lied to you about. “Is my mate the person I thought he or she was?” you may ask yourself. Everything is open to question and doubt now. The emotional connection you thought you had is called into question.

2. It creates an atmosphere of distrust.

Moving forward with your spouse becomes difficult now that you know they lied. Indeed, they can lie to you about other issues as well. This feeling is intensified if you caught them in the lie instead of them coming clean on their own and being honest about their deception.

3. It wounds you.

Your spouse may tell you it was not personal but “more about them than you.” The truth is, it was highly personal. They put themselves and their interests above you and the marriage. As a result, you may feel marginalized, insignificant, and small.

4. Intimacy becomes a casualty.

Intimacy means “knowing and being known.” An intimate relationship is not only sexual but intellectual, spiritual, financial, conversational, and experiential. Because there is now deception, doubt, distrust, and hurt, there is a loss of intimacy. The deceived partner may wonder if they know their spouse and can ever entrust themselves and their thoughts and feelings to the deceiving spouse again. With deception come doubt, distrust, hurt, and ultimately a loss of intimacy. Being close to someone who would hurt you so deeply and personally is no longer safe.

The reasons that deception will destroy your relationship listed above are more about how your partner’s deception hurts you.  But what if you are the lying or secretive partner?

5. We experience increased stress.

Often, cover-up lies must be told to hide the truth, and these seem to mount up at a rapid rate. It can become increasingly difficult to keep up with the various untruths and omissions.

6. Our toxic emotions block closeness and connection.  

We avoid certain topics because we can’t let ourselves be honest and vulnerable. Guilt, shame, fear, or even just discomfort block connection with our partner.  This can result in avoidance and preoccupation with hobbies, friends, or addictive behaviors. Sometimes we will start an argument to create emotional distance to protect our deception.

7. Self-esteem suffers.

  • Our self-esteem suffers.

It may appear that we are getting by unscathed, while inwardly, our self-concept is eroding. Guilt turns to shame, and we lose our self-respect, dignity, and sense of worthiness as human beings. Our public persona is far different from how we feel inside. We know what we have done and what we are capable of.

  • Our partner’s self-esteem suffers.

Our partner may feel gaslighted and “crazy” because they sense something isn’t right although we try to convince them otherwise.  They may become anxious, confused, suspicious, needy, or abandoned.

8. Our physical health can break down.

Because our mental health and emotional health affect our physical health, it should be no surprise that dishonesty can trigger disease and health complaints in either or both of us.


9 Steps to Recover from Deception in a Relationship

Assuming that the deception has stopped, you need to begin living with your eyes on the present and the future, not the past. You must leave the sting of the deception and decide to move forward and build a new, loving, and trusting relationship.

To be fully restored to each other, you need to begin living beyond the deception—assuming the deception has stopped. Healing means you have left the sting of the deceit and can move forward into a new, loving, and trusting relationship.

You both must be willing to take the necessary steps for healing your hearts and your relationship. Here are those steps:

1. Face the deception honestly.

Even if it is a painful realization, you must confront the deception head-on. Do not excuse or minimize the lie. All lies are enormous in terms of their effect on your relationship. Their impact is far-reaching, damaging, and painful. The integrity of the marriage has been compromised, and the deceiver must understand that they have violated the intimate bond of the relationship. They must “come clean” in honest conversations and admit to the pain and damage that they have caused.

2. Validate the pain of the deceived spouse.

The violated spouse must be given the opportunity to voice their hurt and pain. It must be validated by the offending spouse, even if it takes several times of gut-wrenching discussion and acknowledgment of the damage done. It is usually not a “one-and-done” situation.

3. Ensure that the lying has stopped.

Amazingly, this is not always the case, even though it should go without saying. As scripture states, “…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Continued deception will be revealed, maybe not now or six weeks from now, but it will be revealed. As the lying partner, it is up to you to make the extra effort to be accountable without being resentful of the increased scrutiny. It will take some time to rebuild your “partner trustworthiness”, so be patient.

4. Forgive the deceiver.

Forgiving your spouse for their deception is the only way to move past the past. Forgiveness does not include trust. Forgiving your spouse sets you free from anger, bitterness, and resentment. If you are to trust them again, they will need to earn that trust which will take some time.

5. Forgive yourself.

  • As the deceiver.

If you are the dishonest partner, shame and self-loathing will only serve to draw you back into shameful behavior. This cycle can only be broken if you forgive yourself and begin to feel worthy of love. To know personal freedom, you must forgive yourself.

  • As the deceived.

Not only do you need to forgive your deceiver so that you can be free, but you very probably need to forgive yourself.  You may have known something wasn’t right, but because you didn’t want to rock the boat, you overlooked it. You could have been complicit out of the fear of losing the relationship if you pushed too hard.  Maybe you simply chose not to see the obvious signs of deception.  Regardless, if you played a part by not calling out the lie or secret, you will need to forgive yourself to experience real freedom.

6. Take preventative measures to prevent future deception.

For example, trusted friends could be accountability partners. In addition, counseling or coaching could help you or your spouse make the character and lifestyle changes you need to avoid repeating the patterns of deception. You can find help breaking out of harmful modes and developing a relationship of real substance. A daily dose of honest dialogue will eliminate the hotbed for dishonesty that once characterized your relationship. Work on yourself and increase your emotional intelligence.

7. Do what it takes to rebuild trust.

Trust is a vital aspect of any relationship. Trust after dishonesty becomes even more critical. If you are struggling with a lack of trust and how to restore it, the formula for rebuilding trust is:

Honesty + Consistency +Time = Trust.

So be honest about who you are, what you are thinking, where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with. Do what you say that you will do. Make yours an honest union of two equals. Don’t over-promise and set yourself up for failure. With honesty and consistent behavior over time, your trust can be restored, even in the most challenging conditions.

8. Treat each other with respect.

That might sound ironic, but mutual respect is vital for moving forward as a couple. This is not to say that you need to respect the offensive behavior. However, partners with respect for one another have a much better chance of repairing the damage that has been done by appalling violations of trust.

9. Have a “get to” attitude.

Choose to think, “We get to build trust and restore our future and relationship, not “We have to do this.”  Take your partner’s hand and walk through this together, viewing each other as teammates, not enemies. Don’t just go through this experience but grow through it!

To summarize, as devastating as it is, deception does not have to destroy your relationship. Don’t minimize the deception and the harm it has done, but don’t let the failure define you, your partner, or your relationship. Put boundaries and safeguards in place to lessen the chances of it happening again, and work on healing and rebuilding trust. Then, falling in love again and building a solid and fulfilling relationship is possible.

If you want to discuss how we can help you and your relationship, please contact me at Cliff@LoveRecon.org or call 866-218-1716. You may also visit our website, www.LoveRecon.org, for testimonials and information.

About the author 

Cliff Poe

Cliff Poe is Founder and Lead Coach for Recon Coaching. He and his wife, Jeani, are Master Coaches and their passion is to help individuals and couples form healthy, lasting and satisfying relationships. Cliff has a M.Div. in pastoral counseling and ministry. He enjoys writing and coaching as well as his family which includes 2 adult kids and their spouses, 6 grandchildren and a fur family composed of a Golden Retriever and a Mackerel Tabby.

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