Can You Be Totally Honest With Your Wife?

By Phil Callaway
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Serious illustration of a wife interrogating her husband with a lie detector and a lamp

 One man accepts the challenge to be perfectly honest for a year. He failed many times; however, his wife prefers the man of integrity that he has become through the efforts of being more edifying.

When I agreed to write a book documenting my attempt to live without a lie for an entire year, my wife just grinned and asked, “How’s the soup?”

“Very good,” I lied.

“No, it isn’t,” she said. “You’ve hardly touched it.” Then she had the nerve to ask, “You wanna go to Mom’s for dinner tomorrow night?”

I paused and said, “Nope.”

It would be a long year. Did I manage to make it without a lie? Not even close. But here are some lessons I learned that made it one of the most enlightening years of my life:

Consider your response

James 1:19 instructs us to be “slow to speak.” Pausing to think before talking gives you a chance to choose words carefully or choose not to speak at all. But sometimes, a delayed response is dangerous. For example, when our wives subject us to the world’s most unfair question: “Do the horizontal stripes on this outfit make me look . . . um . . . fat?”

Gentle diversionary tactics prepared in advance are a lifesaver. This response can work wonders: “You look fantastic, babe! Let’s go out for cheesecake.”

Keep it positive

Early in our marriage, I gave little thought to the effect my words might have. Out for a walk, we spotted some cows. Remembering an old joke, I asked, “Relatives of yours?”

“Yup,” she replied. “In-laws.”

With time, we learned that words can make or break a marriage. I now employ roughly 73 positive comments for every mild critique. And when a concern or need to confront arises, I use the acrostic THINK. Is it true? Is it helpful? Will it inspire her? Is it necessary? Am I kind about it?

Be the real deal

In a Hong Kong market, a vendor tried to sell us a “copy watch” by yelling, “I have fake, fake fake and genuine fake.” My wife is most receptive to criticism when I’m genuine, humble and gracious — not any kind of fake. And if I withhold the truth, it’s not because I’m doing something underhanded.

On the afternoon that my year of living honestly ended, my wife said something startling: “I like the more honest you.” Perhaps she meant that I’m a little further down the road of walking with integrity. I’ve learned that truth without love is cruel; love without truth is cowardly.

Humorist Phil Callaway is the author of To Be Perfectly Honest.

Marriage can have its twists and turns, but the detours don’t have to lead you off course. The 12 essential elements outlined in the Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage are biblically based and chart the course for a romantic adventure that will last a lifetime.

Copyright © 2013 by Phil Callaway. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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