Amanda and Ron had been married for six years and had two small children. I had counseled them during some difficult times in their marriage, but had not heard from them for a while. Then Amanda scheduled an emergency phone session with me. She was very upset.
"I just found out that Ron's been watching porn on the Internet and lying to me about it. I had thought this was going on a couple of weeks ago because of a site I found on the computer, but when I asked him about it, he denied it and explained it away. He is not too computer savvy - he doesn't know how to delete the sites - and today I found a number of sites he has visited. I can't believe this! I'm very upset about the porn, but I'm devastated that he lied to me. I feel like the trust has gone out of our marriage, and without trust, what do we have? Why did he lie to me?"
"Amanda, how would you have responded if he had told you the truth?"
"I would have been really upset and disappointed in him. I probably would have gotten angry. We have a good sex life, so why is he using porn?"
"Well, he lied to you because he knew that this is the way you would have reacted. His lying is his way of controlling your reactions, and your anger is your way of controlling his behavior. As long as you get angry when you hear the truth, the chances are he will lie to you. As your children get older, they, too, will lie to you to avoid your anger and judgment. It takes a very strong person to tell the truth and deal with another's anger and judgment, and Ron is not that strong. He is very afraid of your anger and judgment, and will do anything to avoid it, including lying."
"Are you saying it's okay for him to lie to me?"
"No, I'm not saying it's okay or not okay. I'm not making a value judgment about it. You asked why he's lying and I'm telling you why. Lying is a form of protection against pain, just as your anger is a form of protection against pain."
"So what do I do? How do I deal with this?"