You Did What?! How to Apologize and Repair Your Relationship After Lying

You Did What?! How to Apologize and Repair Your Relationship After Lying

Jeanne told her husband Paul a huge, gigantic lie. She didn’t intend to, but she did. Things have been tense in their marriage since Paul was laid off from his job 6 months ago. Well, things were already tense between the two of them and this added stress didn’t help.

While backing out of their garage one day last month, Jeanne accidentally scraped the side of the car. She didn’t want to hear Paul yell at her and remind her that they don’t have the money to fix the car so she took out a credit card– in her name only– and had the damage repaired.

 The trouble is, Paul discovered the statement for Jeanne’s secret credit card and is angrier than ever. He’s started to question and doubt everything Jeanne says. Their marriage is worse than before.

As well as you know that lying is bad for your love relationship or marriage and as many times as you were taught that lying is unethical…you still do it.

The lies you told your partner may seem like no big deal or maybe you don’t even consider them to be lies. Even if you were aware that lying would be a huge betrayal and risk to your relationship, you did it anyway.

And then you got caught.

Your partner opened a letter addressed to you, answered your phone, looked at your messages or email or simply put clues together and figured out that you hid or altered the truth. Understandably, when your lie was discovered, trust was damaged and possibly broken.

A sincere apology from you is required. In order to begin to rebuild trust and re-connect with your partner, you’re going to need to show that you are genuinely sorry about lying and then make a commitment to change.

There are many ways an apology can go wrong and cause even more damage. Avoid mistakes like: Saying “I’m sorry” in an angry or sarcastic tone of voice; Negating your apology with excuses; Turning the blame around on your partner; Apologizing but then continuing to lie.

Instead, make your apology really count.

Get clear.
Take some time to get clear within yourself about why you lied. Try to look beyond the shame or guilt you might be feeling and uncover what you were trying to get or avoid by altering the truth.

You may have lied because you were….

  •  worried about disappointing your partner
  •  afraid of what his reaction will be to the truth
  •  wanting to continue a behavior that is not okay with your partner
  •  trying to avoid an uncomfortable conversation or an argument
  •  attempting to pretend to be something you’re not
  • getting back at your partner for her lying
  •  enjoying being mysterious and having some secrets

If you want to stop the destruction of your relationship, you’ve got to understand what motivates you to lie and then make a change that will help you be more honest– even when it’s difficult.

Own it.
When you sit down with your partner, be specific and take full responsibility for your choice to lie. Maybe you thought you had a compelling reason to lie. Maybe you didn’t feel like you had another choice but to lie. Nevertheless, you did lie and your lying hurt your partner and compromised trust and connection.

Owning the fact that you lied is an essential part of repairing the damage and healing trust.

Use words like, “I’m sorry that I lied about_____.” or  “I apologize for hiding _____ from you.” or “I feel so sad and I regret that I lied.”

Make time later on in the conversation to offer more information to your partner about why you lied. Continue to take responsibility for lying and say, “I’d like you to know why I lied. Are you willing to listen?”

Prove that you’re changing.
Without a doubt, the time following your apology can make or break your relationship. Show with consistent actions that you are making significant changes. Be transparent to provide your partner with proof that you no longer have anything to hide– especially if you cheated.

Create agreements that will support you in being more honest and open in the future. Address the reasons why you lied, such as your partner’s jealous or angry reactions.

Depending on your situation, you could say, “Will you agree to just listen to me and not yell when I tell you something you don’t like?” or “Will you create some agreements with me to help me feel safe to be completely honest with you?” (Then suggest an example that is specific).

When you’re caught in a lie, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. With a willingness to learn from your own behavior and persistence in making real changes, this could be a positive turning point for you and your partner.

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  1. When your Husband continue’s to Lie to my Face, time and time again, after he ‘PROMISES’ Never to Lie to me again! What am I supposed to do? We’ve gone thru 1 &1/2 years of Marriage Therpy, but my Husband has no Respect or conscience on why he continues to Lie about Everything to me. He says I’m trying to prove how Important You are to me, but he goes Two Steps Forward, but then he takes Four Steps backwards. Is it worth it for me to keep hanging on, or Finally get enough gumption and just Leave Him and his Miserable Excuses behind??

    • SusieCollins says:

      Jo, you will know when it’s time to leave when you’ve had enough. Maybe that time is already here. Pay attention
      to what your inner voice of reason is telling you and if you don’t see changes that stick, you know what to do!

  2. Rick gerrard says:

    I have been i a relationship for almost two years and there have been some ups and downs with some money issues. Recently i was in a situation where i needed to pay off a debt of 900 dollars and instead of being honest i lied to my fiancee and borrowed her credit card to pay this debt when i told her it was for something different. I was scared at the time that i made this rash decsion and was going through alot. And from this lie it just kept compelling with lies cause i waa ashamed and affraid of getting caught and disapointing the women whom i love… I am very sorry for my actions and now that everything is in the open i know i cant lie ever but she now is not sure she will ever beable to believe me or trust me again. I had lied and i am sorry what i did was wrong and i knoe this i need some advice to please save my relationship

    • SusieCollins says:

      Rick, regaining trust after you’ve lied takes time and a willingness on your part to become aware of why you lied in the first place and never doing it again–that’s if the other person will open themselves to trusting again. It’s not enough to be sorry. You have to learn to be more aware and different in your life and she has to be able to see that. Ask her what would show her that you’ve changed and then do that. Good luck, Susie

  3. I lied to my girlfriend hours before she flew away to Riga for a week.
    I had had a drag of some pot from a friend, not thinking I was going to see her that evening. She then called me asking me to come round as she could hear a knocking on the door (it was late and she lives alone).
    When I got there, she could smell something on me and I told her it was my friends smoking that must have left a smell on my clothes.
    She asked me if I had had a drag and I said no.
    I can’t lie to her beautiful, gorgeous face so I came clean a minute later.
    She wasn’t bothered about my smoking, she was angry I had lied.
    Shes flown away to Riga now. Without saying goodbye.
    I dont know what to do. I lied because I panicked. I didn’t want to disappoint her. But I’ve done so even more now by lying. What do I do?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Miki, it looks like you’ve learned a valuable lesson that lying will disappoint your girlfriend even more than what you did. This is a wake up call for you to become conscious of your actions and your words. You can tell her what you’ve learned from this and ask her what it would take to regain her trust. Some lessons are painful but full of growth. Good Luck.

  4. I recently lie to my girlfriend about going for a drink after work with a friend and her boyfriend I didn’t think it was to much of a big deal since he was there, my girlfriend doesn’t trust it like the women and she found out and now we’ve split I’ve been open and honest with her and now we’re on a separation is this the right step to take?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Joe, ok, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. Don’t lie about anything especially if your girlfriend has trust issues. Find out what it would take to gain her trust again and then do that. Trust is a valuable thing and when you lie, the only thing it does is tear down the relationship. What agreement did you have about the separation? If you have one, abide by that. If not, reach out if you know why you lied in the first place and talk about how you can go forward with a different way of being in the relationship.

  5. I recently lied to my partner about my money issues. The only reason I lied to him is that every time money gets brought up he gets angry with me. He tried to end the relationship but I begged him not to. He says he wants to be with me and I’ve apologised but he says he still can’t trust me. How can I rebuild the trust we once had?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Talk with him about how you both want to do “money” in your relationship. Be honest and listen. See where there’s an overlap between how you both want things to be. See if there’s anything you’d like to change about the way you do money. He gets angry because you don’t treat money the same way he does. You rebuild trust by deciding on your relationship “rules” and then sticking to them.

  6. Margaret hilaire says:

    My husband is currently in jail. I recently found a receipt showing that he had pawned my wedding ring a year ago exactly the time it went missing. He claimed that one of his co workers must have took it(last year). Now that I have the proof he is still lying when I made the last visitation to him at jail. I was so upset that I left in less then five minutes in the visit. Am I wrong for leaving and what should I do or expect from him? I’m especially disgusted because he came up with the idea that were gonna be honest with each other from now on and says it repeatedly including in the last visit.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Margaret, this happened a year ago. Do you have any indication that he is being more honest with you? If you don’t see evidence that he’s changing, then you can get an idea of what you can expect from him. My advice–stay longer than 5 minutes and talk about what you found out. Listen to him to see if he admits it and is determined to be honest in the future. It up to him to prove his honesty to you.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Margaret, ask him why he lied and really listen to him. Show him the receipt and listen. See what he says. Susie

  7. Annette says:

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 10 years and I’ve caught him in so many lies, big and small. I’m to a point of should I stay or go? He says he’s really trying to change and feels I should be helping him get better, what does that mean? I’ve tried and tried to forgive and forgive until about 2 years ago I’ve been very patient and forgiving but now I’m to the point of anger and I don’t trust a thing he does. I love him so much and other then lies he’s an amazing man but I just can’t understand lies and hurting people you love? Please give me advice!

    • SusieCollins says:

      Annette, people lie because of a habit and a way of getting what they want. I would ask him what help he wants. Forgiveness doesn’t mean anything but what you want is change–and he has to prove it. He has to discover why he lies and what he’s going to do to change. Him getting some help would be a first step–but he has to want to change and if he’s still doing it, he doesn’t. Susie

  8. I cheated on my partner. Smh I’m so ashamed. I’m so sorry I hurt him. Idk wat to do. I apologized. I confessed. I’m trying to make things right but I don’t know where to start. This pain is unbearable. It’s been one entire day since my last apologize. I don’t want him to think I’m giving up.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Sean, until you figure out why you cheated and what will keep you from doing it again, your apology doesn’t mean much. Take some time to do some soul searching–did you want attention? Fill a void? what did you want? When you know that, you’ll be able to move forward and hopefully your partner will give you another chance.

  9. Matthew says:

    I do not really know what i am doing but i am trying to save my marriage. My wife and I were married on the 27th of may this year. we have been through a lot together. She found out last night that my past was a lie. She stayed at her mothers house last night which i can understand. I lied to her about having a degree in culinary arts and my life around that time. Im not trying to make excuses but it was really hard to tell people when asked what have you done in your life and the response from me was I was a junky. I have been clean for many years and never did anything else after that. I want to save my marrage and i do not what to do. I have told her the truths when asked and told her that i want and will be open and honest even if it hurts. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and i messed up.If anyone out here can help me i really need it. I love her with my all and i dont want to loose her. Please someone

    • SusieCollins says:

      Matthew, all you can do is keep proving to her that you will not lie to her again. Ask her what it would take for you to prove it to her and give her some time to get used to the idea of who you really are. Congratulations by the way on getting away from drugs and staying away. That’s quite an accomplishment and now you’ve learned another lesson that lying doesn’t pay. Best of luck to you. Susie

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve just caught out my husbsnd lying again. I was honest when we got together that I couldn’t be with a smoker. He decided to quit to be with me. He was a pack a say smoker so I was understanding and gave him a year to quit. After the first year he hid the fact he hadn’t quite quit and starting lying to cover up hid failure. I found out and spoke about trust in both of us etc and for 4 years he quit. I then started suspecting he had started up again and bigger lies were told. The truth came out and I left due to the pain of being lied to. We worked through it as we discussed why he lied and how we could go forward openly etc but now 3 years later the exact same situation has occurred when a wokemate accidently let it slip he smokes at work behind my back. Over the last 3 months I’ve smelt smoke on him and asked him upfront if he’d given into cravings etc and he just always lied. I’m now struggling to know if things will ever get better or if I should realise he can’t change and leave. How many chances are too many?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Elizabeth, the truth is that your husband wants to be with you and to smoke. He doesn’t want to stop smoking and no amount of talking with change that. He has to want to stop smoking and not because you want him to. Either you want to stay with him as a smoker (at work) or you don’t. He lies because he knows you don’t want him to smoke. Get real about if you want to be with him as a smoker or not.

  11. I broke up with my boyfriend in April because I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like he was holding me back as well as me holding him back. I wanted discover a little more about myself which is why I broke up with him. During that time period, I hooked up with a guy he hates and he hooked up with my cousins wife. Long story short, we both lied about what we did. We found out from other people and it completely crushed our trust for each other entirely. I have slowly been forgiving him about what he did but he barely found out about what I did and he’s really hurt. I want to rebuild this relationship with him I just feel like it might be too late. I don’t know what to do.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Rachelle, the real question is what you’ve learned about yourself in the time you’ve been separated and what’s different since you broke up. You say you felt like he was holding you back and you were holding him back. From what? and have you resolved all that. If you haven’t this relationship won’t work even if you can get past all the past hook ups! Much love to you, Susie

  12. I lied to my boyfriend about where I come from… I told him after some months later and now it seems like he don’t want me anymore…this is exactly the reason why I don’t tell most people where I’m from…they all seems to hate anyone from my country not knowing who we truly are … I have explained my reasons for not telling him from the on set… but he said I should give him time to think… I so much love him… I don’t know what to do…is there anything I could do again

  13. I cheated on my now Fiance when he was away for a few months in the beginning of our relationship. After he found out I denied it for almost a yr, but when I finally did tell him, I lied about how long it was. He now suspects it was longer, but because it took about a yr to somewhat confess and that was months ago…Idk how to now tell him the full truth. He has asked over and over again and I haven’t budged…how do I tell him now or should I even tell him at this point? I know it was selfish, but I haven’t cheated since.

    • SusieCollins says:

      I hope you’ve learned that lying just makes things worse. If you want to build trust, you probably should be honest and tell him why you kept that information from him. I don’t know if it’s selfishness as much as fear. Search inside you as to the reason you kept it from him and then talk with him.

  14. I lied to my girlfriend about things because I was afraid to lose her or what she might think about me. I lied about being home when I was actually out with friends. I know I was wrong but I was worried that she would think something is going on between me and my female friend. I was trying to gain her trust back and now she doesnt want to talk to me or she said distance herself for about 2 months. I don’t want to lose her I love her more than life. How can I fix this or start to try to gain her trust back?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Chad, seems that you learned a valuable lesson–you can’t build trust by lying no matter what was the reason for the lying. I suggest you look inside you and discover what changes you want to make in yourself–and then make them. If your girlfriend will talk with you, tell her what you’ve realized and then become trustable by not lying!

  15. I have lied to my girlfriend about things in my past I lied because I love her so much and didn’t want her to see me in a different light and not love me the same but now that I have and she has caught me I have apologized and owned up to it…….she hurt what should I do to regain her trust I love her so much and don’t want to loose her I know that at this point she will have a hard time believing anything I say……….i just don’t know where to start?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Cali, you’ve learned a valuable lesson and the way you start is by being truthful in why you lied in the first place and what you’ve learned. She may or may not trust you again but just keep being truthful and be patient with her. Susie

  16. Chemica Griffin says:

    Okay, So I lied to my significant other. The lie I told them was that my mother knew them and that I had been talking to my mother about them for the past 6 months. And like when they found of course it didn’t end well and of course I don’t see us ever getting back together because of certain circumstances. But all I want from them is their trust. And like I know that I won’t probably get all of it from the lies that I told but I would want some of it because I really love this person and would really want to have them in my life. And like i’ve been pushing them away because i’m not ready or well because im afraid to like talk to them and you know yeah. But like I need to talk to them so we can get beck together (as friends) and yeah. I really like this person or well I really love this person because they mean a lot to me and I haven’t lied to them since the mother thing. I came out to my mother about me and this person and they didn’t believe me and like it made me angry but I now understand why they didn’t believe me because of my lies. And I shouldn’t have gotten angry at them because of that.. But really I just need some tips and help to get them back.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Chemica, slow down and discover what it was you thought you’d get by lying in the first place. You have to know why you did it so that you won’t lie again. When you discover what it was that you thought you’d get by lying instead of being truthful, you can tell this person or write a letter which may or may not allow you by into their life. You’ve learned a lot from this, it seems. Learn from your mistakes and live the best life possible. Susie

  17. I have lied to my wife so many times I don’t know how many I don’t know what to do I have struggled with addiction and alcohol the she says just tell me when you mess up and repeatedly I lie even when I’m backed into a corner. I’m a complete idiot. I can never bring myself to just come out and be true to what I have done. And this last time we’ll I don’t know what will happen.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Chris, you know what you need to do so do it. Be brave and trust. Tell the truth and address your addiction. You don’t have to keep struggling. You can whip this–the addiction and the lying. You have to see that lying doesn’t get you what you want because it doesn’t. When you truly know this, you won’t do it anymore and won’t believe the voices in your head that tell you it’s the way to go. Hope this helps, Susie

  18. i lied to my boyfriend multiple times about finding a coworker attractive. he kept asking if i thought the guy was attractive and i kept saying no, because he wasn’t at first and then i started looking properly, and i told my boyfriend that yes he was attractive. then i didn’t tell my boyfriend when i dropped the guy off at his home in my first week of work, because i was just dropping off a colleague, it wasn’t important. but after he found out i found the guy attractive and this on top my boyfriend was mad. add to that the guy flirted with me despite me being in a relationship and I never flirted back but id roll my eyes and laugh at him. but my boyfriend feels i cheated on him even though nothing happened….and i didn’t i just didn’t feel right about saying that i found someone else attractive and it’s stupid because everyone looks, my boyfriend even looks at other women. I was worried he’d react badly, and he did which didn’t help but i came clean on everything and now my boyfriend is ready to walk away unless i prove im worth staying for. I’ve been transparent and I’ve done everything to prove where i am, who i’m with and what i’m doing. I only live with him on weekends, otherwise i live with family….near my old place of work and near the guy from work. I don’t work there now. I asked my boyfriend what i should do to earn his trust and he says until i can tell him something really bad that i normally wouldn’t have done before, he’s done with me. but theres nothing bad to talk about so i’m at a loss…..what do i do?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Kitty, it sounds like you’re being transparent and you have nothing to atone for. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t feed into your boyfriend’s fears. Keep calm and keep telling him you want him and only him–if it’s true. For what ever reason, he has insecure thinking and you don’t have to keep proving to him you’re trustworthy. Just keep loving him and if he can’t see that, you have a decision to make whether to be with him or not. Hope this helps, Susie

  19. I have recently been caught out messaging another girl from my partner and lied about it the truth is i never cheated or had any intentions too cheat on my partner she is my world but she has now said she can’t trust me again and kicked me out i know i should never of messaged another girl and it hurts that i did but i was getting attention and valued in a way i haven’t felt for some time no excuses i know but how would i go about sorting things with my partner for her atleast too try and make things work in time please help…

    • SusieCollins says:

      Mark, figure out what you were trying to gain from messaging another girl. When you figure that out, you’ll know that you can make a better decision the next time. Ask her what it would take to trust you again–start there…

  20. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost a year now, and although it’s been a very difficult and strenuous year, we’ve come out of it with our relationship stronger than ever before. I am very much still in love with him, and he reciprocates. Most of the time, we’re able to speak openly about everything that’s bothering us, and are able to quickly solve problems.

    The issue is, before we started dating, I lied to him about my age. This is a lie that has carried on throughout the course of our relationship. There have been several times when I very nearly told him, but I just wasn’t able to force myself to. Now that we’re thinking of moving in together, I know it’s only a matter of time before he finds out.

    Due to our age difference (nothing illegal, but still significant), there are definitely some potential problems he may run into that stem from this. I’m downright terrified that once he finds out, he’ll never be able to forgive me and will end things immediately. That would be absolutely devastating for me, as again, I love him dearly.

    Nonetheless, I still feel like the right thing to do would be to tell him about my lie before he finds out on his own. What I want to know is if there’s anything I can do to break the news more easily, and have him listen to me and hear me out without being blinded by his own anger.

    • SusieCollins says:

      You know you have to tell him–so just say it. No easy way. Sign up for our free webinar– Good luck, Susie

  21. I have continuously gotten in trouble with my wife for lying about money. Three different times. I am very much a non confrontational person. Twice it was for letting a credit card balance get too high and not telling her that something was wrong. She finds out on her own and blows up at me. She is very confrontational and wants to yell and talk things out in a way that is uncomfortable for me. I avoided telling her because I didn’t want to go through that. I dearly love my wife and didn’t want to harm her. I was taking on the stress myself and didn’t want to worry her. It got bad this past few weeks and I wanted to tell her and was working up the courage to tell her, but she found out beforehand. How do I fix this?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Ok Paul–here’s the thing–you’ve been lying and when she does find out, she’s rightfully angry. The key is this–“I was taking on the stress myself and didn’t want to worry her.” From now on, involve her like your partner and don’t treat her like a child. We’re doing a free webinar next Tuesday–I invite you to sign up

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