Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies
These newlyweds don't want marital bliss to become divorce hell.
Kimberly and Chris

"Chris just has a compulsion to lie," says Kimberly, who's been with Chris for a year and a half. They have a 5-month-old son. "I really couldn't tell you how many times I've caught him in a lie, too many to count."

For example, she asked Chris if he'd paid the rent, and he said he had. A few days later, the building manager asked where their rent check was. "He continued the lie even after he was caught," says Kimberly. "He just continued and continued to look me in the eye. He said 'I swear, I swear on our son that I did.'"

Kimberly says that Chris also lies about where he is and who he's with. "He tells me all the time 'I'm working,' when he's really just hanging out with friends or going out," she says. "He comes home at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, and says, 'Oh, I was working.'"

Chris knows he has a problem and that their relationship is on the line. "I want Dr. Phil to help me to stop lying, because that's the only way to save my relationship with Kimberly," he says.

Dr. Phil asks Chris how he justifies deceiving his wife.

"I just feel like I can rationalize it, and say, 'Well, I've paid the rent in the past,'" Chris says. "I figure if I can keep it going and I can get her believing what I want for a little bit longer, then I can fix it."

Dr. Phil acknowledges that Chris is courageous for coming on the show. Still, he asks, "What the hell are you thinking?"

"I love her to death because she's still with me after all that I've put her through," says Chris. "It's really scary to me, and I've really tried to tell her the truth, and to make myself available so if she ever wonders where I am and what I'm doing that she can get a hold of me."

"What is your payoff for lying?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Probably freedom," answers Chris. "Just for even a couple of hours where I feel like I can just sit and do nothing."

Dr. Phil points out that Chris, who admits he's a compulsive liar and has an addictive personality, may be living to that label and using lying as a way to escape accountability.

Shannon had people in her high school telling lies about her, saying she had an STD, she slept around, was a lesbian, had kids, and other lies.

"It got to the point that I was suicidal, because I didn't know what to do, I had nowhere to turn," she says. "Now I've graduated high school and I'm still stuck on it... It's hard for me to trust people because some of the people who were saying it were friends of mine. The students that were saying it were really close to me, and I trusted them not to betray my trust like that. And they did, and now I don't know how to trust anybody. I don't know how to let anybody in."

"Well you got through that, right?" asks Dr. Phil, encouraging her to trust herself. "How much you trust other people is really a function of how much you trust yourself to be able to deal with what other people do," he explains. "I know the dark side of human beings, but I trust them because I trust myself to be able to deal with their flaws and fallacies. Because I know that if they're not perfect, if they don't do the things that I want them to do, I'll be OK, I'll handle it, I'll get through it."

Dr. Phil tells Shannon that it's not her right to ever consider suicide, and he cautions her from taking over for the people who once talked about her and have since stopped, by telling herself she's not loveable or worthy. He repeats a phrase he learned from his father: "You wouldn't worry about how much people think about you if you knew how seldom they did."

Dr. Phil tells it like it is: Their relationship will not last if it's based on deception. Their only chance of keeping their family unit together is if they can trust each other.

Dr. Phil then turns to Kimberly. "Tell me, why are you putting up with this?" he asks.

"I ask myself that all the time," she answers. "I think it's because for me Chris was the first person in my life in a relationship who ever completely accepted me for who I was ... I'd never met anyone like him before."

Dr. Phil asks Kimberly: "Do you understand that you get what you ask for and nothing more?"

He asks Chris: "You understand that every time you tell a lie, you're saying, 'You aren't worth the truth. I'll just avoid dealing with you by telling you whatever I want you to hear.'"
If Kimberly is willing to ask for what she wants, Dr. Phil will give her that chance. "Tell him right now what it does to you every time he betrays you with a lie. Tell him how it makes you feel inside."

Kim says, "It hurts me to the core of my soul. It makes me feel worthless. I don't feel like you value me, and it makes me question whether or not I'm valuable."

Dr. Phil asks Kimberly to think about whether she cares about herself and her son enough to tell Chris that she'll no longer tolerate his lying. "If that's how you feel, if that's how you believe, then you tell him and make him believe it, make me believe it and make everybody in America believe it," he says.

Kimberly tells Chris: "I'm not taking this anymore, you've hurt me for the last time. I can't do this to my son, I don't want my son to have to put up with this."

At Dr. Phil's prompting, she says, "I'm not taking this from you for another minute for another hour for another day. I will walk out that door Chris, and you know it. And I'll take our son with me, and you know that too."

Chris says: "I'm sorry for everything I have put you through...I promise you I will change, and that is a promise I can keep... Whatever I have to do to tell the truth, I'll do it."

Rachel and Mark

"My problem is my husband's lies, white lies," says Rachel, who's been married to Mark for 11 years. "Mark was in charge of paying the bills and I was getting phone calls stating that the bills hadn't been paid," she says. Another example she gives is when Mark was supposed to pick up their daughter from school and he simply forgot.

"Sometimes I feel I have to stretch the truth because I feel that Rachel would get very upset at something that I would consider was very small," says Mark, pointing out that there's a difference between forgetting and lying. "I don't feel I've ever lied about anything that's been really big."

Rachel says she feels like her husband is one of her children. "I'm having a difficult time trusting Mark, and it's getting worse," she says. "How do I get Mark to stop the white lies?"

Dr. Phil points out that Mark doesn't seem to understand how big of an issue this is for his marriage.

Mark says he simply can be absent-minded, but Rachel thinks the problem is more severe. "I think what bugs me the most is that I don't get all the information. He might say one part of it and leave the most important part out. I think he lies by omission," she says. "It's getting to the point where it's difficult for me to have him do something and know that it's going to get done," she says.

Dr. Phil advises: "If that's the only problem you've got in your marriage, go home and be happy. I mean for God's sake, lighten up!"


Wendy has been divorced for almost two years, and she still has not told her 4- and 6-year-old children.

"I am embarrassed to say that my 6-year-old still thinks that Daddy still comes home every night and leaves before she gets up in the morning," she says. "I don't think that this is healthy, and she may hate me for lying to her all these years. I don't know what to do, and I'm so scared of shattering her world with this awful news."

She writes in a letter to Dr. Phil: "What am I supposed to do? I need help."

"Let me get right to the point," says Dr. Phil. "You need to go home and tell those kids what's going on."

Wendy agrees, but wants to know when and how to tell them.

"Kids understand a lot more than you give them credit for," says Dr. Phil. "And when you give them a vague or ambiguous communication, I guarantee you they fill it in to their detriment."

Dr. Phil reiterates that point: "When children are confused, it's vague, it's not clear, there's a gap, they almost invariably fill that in in some way that reflects poorly on them."

So when the children notice that something's not right, that their father is not around, they may be assuming it is because of something they've done wrong. "And they may not have the ability to tell you that," says Dr. Phil, "but however much you love them and however much you make them feel special, those kids could be walking around thinking they're the reason that Mom and Dad aren't together every day."

Dr. Phil has often said that it is a mistake to ask children to deal with adult issues. "So what you need to do that is explain it to them at their level," he says, "and it's not something you should do from a position of shame."

Dr. Phil continues: "What you need to do is sit down with them and say, 'I need to explain something to you. Mom and Dad decided that it's best that we not live together right now, and that we're not going to live together anymore. And that doesn't mean that I don't think your dad is a great dad and I want him to be your dad always. And I'm your mom and I'm going to be your mom for always ... Daddy loves you and I love you and we're going to love you together ... But I want you to know that we're not going to live together anymore at this point.' ... If you'll just sit down and tell them at their level in a loving way, and don't ever do anything that reflects poorly on their father, and don't let anybody do anything that reflects poorly on you, those kids will be just fine and you guys will go right on with your life."
After 19 years of marriage, "Josie" calls in and asks: "I just don't love my husband, and I don't know how to tell him...I don't know whether I should continue as we have or break up the family and destroy him and my children."

Dr. Phil points to research that children who grow up with one well-adjusted parent are better off than children who grow up in an emotionally barren home. He does acknowledge, however, that there is research to the contrary.

"What about the wedding vows, for better or for worse?" asks Josie.

"I think we get divorced too fast in America," Dr. Phil answers, explaining that every avenue of rehabilitation should first be explored. He believes that Josie owes her husband the truth so he can make an informed decision. "The only thing worse than being in a dead relationship for 20 years is being in a dead relationship for 20 years and one day," he says. "I think you owe him the truth before the sun sets on him another day."