Inside His Head: I caught my husband in a lie

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Dear Inside His Head,

I have a question about lying. I have caught my husband in a few “white lies” lately and it’s infuriating. If he didn’t take the books back to the library or forgot to deposit a check, why doesn’t he just tell me? It’s pretty easy to figure out he lied when I get a late notice from the library or see that the money isn’t in our account. I don’t know how to handle this. It seems really immature and I feel like his mother when I have to ask if he REALLY did what he said he would do. HELP!

GRAY: Well, first I’d check to make sure it’s not simply his nature. Has he always been the forgetful type? Sometimes we all assume we’ve done things only to find we haven’t, so best to make sure this is a change in his behavior instead of just how he is.

When I have bigger things on my mind, whether it’s finances, job status or the future of my family, it’s easy to have the small stuff sneak up on me.

My mind drifts while I’m pondering things and that trip to UPS to get a package delivered gets overlooked. I don’t lie about it, but I could see how I might have convinced myself I did take care of the task while my mind was occupied with more pressing matters.

Certainly, I may be inclined to lie if my wife constantly hounded me about why I couldn’t get to UPS on time and then stayed on my back about it afterward. I’d lie because she would be making the simple stuff more important that it deserves. I’d lie about it because I’m an adult and I don’t need to be treated like a child who forgot to put his toys away, so there might be some resentment building.

I’d feel badgered and probably wonder why she makes such a big deal of the small stuff when it’s clear to me that there are bigger fish to fry. Probably more to the point, I’d wonder why – if these things are so important – that she can’t take care of them herself. I mean, if she has the time to make a big production about how I can’t do these things, why can’t she take a few minutes and help me instead of treating me like an imbecile?

And if I was getting the third degree for stuff I consider pretty petty, I’d wonder how much my wife really cared about me. If she doesn’t trust me with something as insignificant as making another trip to UPS, then how concerned is she about anything else?

If it was me, I’d wish she’d show some concern about what was making me so lax about the small stuff instead of seemingly being unable to see past the small stuff. Lots of issues can make husbands despondent or unconcerned and I don’t know of anyone who would deliberately lie about such trivial matters unless something larger was overshadowing the conversation.

generichead-1MICHAEL: Two reasons for this come to mind.

First, he must feel it’s easier than listening to you complain about him not doing it and treating him like a child. Second, he’s too lazy to have the discussion about why he didn’t do it.

When you say you “feel like his mother” he probably feels like you’re his mother too. Granted, he should be able to handle routine tasks without being followed up on, but sometimes we forget things.

If you treat him like a child when that happens, you can expect some childish behavior back.

On the second note, he may just find that the discussion/argument about him not doing the task simply is too emotionally taxing. Especially if you make a big deal about it.

If you hit a dog enough times, he’ll shy away every time you raise your hand. So if you harass him each time he forgets to do something he’ll find away to avoid punishment.

You may have to just put up with the fact that your husband can’t be depended on for certain tasks and learn to do it yourself.  Either way, you should probably look at how you address him when these things happen and don’t make it a punishment when he does something wrong. Once you stop doing that, he’ll have little reason to lie.

MAVERICK: If he’s the sort of guy who finds $20 bucks on the ground and doesn’t try to find who lost it; or who spots an error on a bill in his favor and keeps his yap shut; or lied on his income taxes to help pay off your car — newsflash, he’s a liar.

They’ll always lie to cover their butts. Welcome to your new reality.

But, if he’s not a liar by nature and this is really a new behavior, I think you need to look at yourself first here as the possible cause.

I’d say your adult/child or mother/kid analysis of the situation is dead on. More importantly, the inequality in power in your relationship. You say is goof ups “infuriate” you. Is that a normal reaction to a guy who brings home the wrong dishwasher soap?

Kids lie for a lot of reasons but mostly it’s to avoid instant consequences because they have little real power in the dynamic.

Here’s how it works.

First, if you’re a kid and not caught in the lie in the first place, you’re golden. Remember Ralphie in A Christmas Story – all kids know its better not to get caught. Second, if you do get caught in the lie, it’s likely worth it compared to the nagging and other stuff you were set to get if you were  honest.

As an aside, I wonder how much  he asks you to do? How many errands to you run for him?

Sometimes men become the unofficial gophers of families. Some of us like it. Others not so much.

So, I may be going out on a limb here but I’d say he’s lying, even though he knows you’ll find out, because he simply doesn’t want to deal with you  for as long as possible.

Why? He feels powerless and this is his way of fighting back. Granted it’s a sissy way but that’s what he’s doing.

He feels like he can’t tell you no when you have him do errands and he equally feels like he can’t tell you the truth when he fails to do what he said he’d do for whatever reason. Why? See the choice use of the word infuriate in your question.

He’s afraid of you but not that afraid of you. You have him in the sweet spot where he’s passive-aggressive enough to lie to you but not so scared he’ll do what you want out of pure terror.

Sure he can run simple errands. He just doesn’t want to.

So, I would suspect, all things being equal, that he gets griped at a lot, and by you. You likely nag him about the errands you send him on. When he brings stuff home it’s likely the wrong thing because you didn’t give him enough info to begin with and he gets hammered again. And you likely don’t thank him when he makes any effort at all.

The bottom line is he’s likely acting like a little kid here because you’re standing on his neck.

Nothing can be as belittling and emasculating than watching a wife tear into her husband for some errand-based misdeed – be it he didn’t get the right toilet paper to he showed up 15 minutes later than expected with the butter.

I’ve seen it happen to guys I don’t really even care for and I end up feeling sympathetic.

So for the sake of your relationship, stop acting like his mother and ask him to do stuff but keep off his back about it. If he fails to follow through or deliver, mention it and drop it. If he continues to not do simple stuff without you on his back, maybe stop asking him to do stuff all together for a while to give the relationship a chance to reset.

And if it keeps up, do the errands yourself, or is your time more valuable than his?

Got a question for our anonymous panel of Northwest Arkansas husbands? Email is at mamas{at}nwamotherlode{dot}com. Click here to read previous Inside His Head posts.