by Annie Gurton

Are your clients telling you the truth?

Experience has taught me that clients lie.  To their therapist, to each other and to themselves.  The lying can be blatant or subtle, direct or possibly the most difficult of all, lying by omission.

All of us lie from time to time, most of us very occasionally, and we rationalise it by seeing it as a good thing to do, for other people or for ourselves.  In the therapeutic relationship clients routinely gloss over things, reimagine things or pretend.  As therapists we sometimes lie too, lets be honest, often for therapeutic impact. 

But in couple work there is another dimension – collusion between the pair.  They know they are not telling the truth, but for some reason, perhaps loyalty or shame, they cover up for each other and/or don’t call the other one out.

This collusion could be seen as a good thing – at least they are still connecting at some level.  But it doesn’t help the therapist do their best work if they are not in possession of the truth.

Sometimes we ‘feel’ that something just isn’t right.  We might get a sense of simmering violence when violence has been denied, or we wonder whether one partner is already halfway out the door when they sincerely say they want to reconnect and recommit.  

As therapists I think we are mainly quite trusting, and tend to take whatever we are told as gospel and the whole truth.  In this regard, many therapists are quite naive.   How can we be any other way?  We have to develop a trusting relationship with our clients. The suspicious therapist isn’t going to do good work. 

How to deal with the lying?   Sometimes I call or voice the lie out as soon as I feel it, or if there is such a clash of statements that a lie is obvious.  At other times, I let the lie stand, not wanting to shame or risk a false accusation and break trust.

But the lying matters, not least because it means that our work is based on misinformation and is therefore less effective.  It means we have to spend some our therapeutic energy listening for hints that we might not be being told the whole story, or the most relevant part of the story.   We have to ask ourselves why, and what the client gains by the lie.

A good liar will really believe their untruth and be skilled at slippery avoidance of the truth.  Sometimes they lie to protect their partner.  Sometimes any collusion can indicate that their relationship is recoverable.  Sometimes they haven’t come to trust you sufficiently to tell the whole truth.

Its complicated, and often messy.  There is no one way for a therapist to deal with lying or colluding clients – as ever, you have to trust your instincts.  Just being aware of it is a good first step.  Who knows what the second step might be?


We all make mistakes in life; most people have regrets, and the power of forgiveness helps you move forward. This applies to all relationships, especially with your partner. 

Holding grudges and hurling insults across a room during an argument won’t deepen your love. It will only create a deep divide between you and your partner. Learning to practice forgiveness in your relationships helps you understand yourself better and what causes you pain, improves your communication, teaches you empathy, tears down walls of resentment, and so much more. 

How to Practice Forgiveness in Relationships.

Like anything worthy in life, it requires mindfulness, the willingness to let go of the ego, and openness to change for personal growth.

Relationships, like people, can fall into patterns, some good, others not so good. Without forgiveness, relationships will erode over time and shut down opportunities for healthy communication.

Reflect for a moment to think about when you inadvertently or even purposefully hurt a friend or a romantic partner. 

Forgiveness is always an option, but is it always easy?  If your belief system is black and white vs. grey, with “shoulds” instead of “it would be nice,” then giving and receiving forgiveness will be challenging. If your goal is to become a forgiving person, the habit becomes an unconscious decision over time.

Learn to Identify Your Inner Pain. What Specifically do You Find Hurtful?

how to practice forgiveness

Practice speaking your truth instead of reacting and placing blame. Work on expressing what situations or behaviors specifically cause you emotional pain. Be honest with yourself and your partner in your relationship about the cause of pain. Own what it is you expect in a relationship. 

For example, if trust is paramount in your relationship must-have list, express that need to your partner. Perhaps your father or mother cheated in their marriage, and this impacted you. You may be projecting your pain towards this and sabotaging your romantic relationships. When you are vulnerable with the person you love and honest with yourself, it helps the process of understanding and allows for forgiveness.

Releasing Anger, Hurt, and Frustration is Key to Forgiveness. 

how to practice forgiveness

With the practice of self-love, you have the ability to release anger, hurt, and frustration. The more you take responsibility for your own happiness, the more empowered you become in your life. The more empowered you become, the easier it is to let go of past offences and move forward.

Forgiving doesn’t mean you are condoning bad behavior or ignoring it. Instead, you are learning to grow your strength, to develop a way of navigating without fear and emotional pain. In every situation where forgiveness is needed, there is a lesson within – take the time to learn the lesson. 

Learning the lesson comes when you switch the focus from blaming the other person to understanding yourself. When you know more about yourself, then “I get you,” perspectives begin to fall into place. You begin to realize how exceptional you are and how important it is to nurture and heal yourself. 

Forgiveness is Easier When you Cultivate Empathy for Yourself and Others. 

How to Practice Forgiveness

Empathy doesn’t mean you have to make excuses for bad behavior, and it also doesn’t mean you have to tolerate repeated hurtful behavior. 

Empathy is about stepping into another person’s shoes to understand their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions from their point of view – not your own. This is not saying you have to agree with the person’s perceptions. Empathy gives you insight into another person’s inner world for better understanding. 

Forgiveness is a bit easier when you can develop an empathetic heart and mind. Staying curious when listening to another’s point of view helps you let go of your own perceptions and say, “I get you. I now understand what you’re saying.”

Forgiveness Liberates you From the Toxicity of Resentment.

How to Practice Forgiveness

Resentment will negatively impact your entire life. Allowing yourself to forgive another empowers you, liberates you, and will enable you the freedom of spirit to move on. Couples who practice forgiveness and remove resentment have a strong foundation that can see them through the challenges of life. 

Harboring negative feelings toward anyone is like a cancer and has the potential to destroy. You’ve got to let out and process these feelings by using some of the following:  

Do whatever you need to release your negative emotions. When you hold the resentment within yourself, it only grows. When you dwell upon a person who hurt you, it allows that person to take up rent-free space in your heart and mind. 

Take the time to connect with your inner spirit. That place is your haven and refuge to feel safe. Grow your inner awareness of your true authentic self, the spirit that is loving, kind, and compassionate. Whatever speaks to you from our list above, put your healing first. 

When you practice forgiving your partner, it will build a strong bond of trust, empathy, and love that can grow despite setbacks, disagreements, and challenges.

Forgiveness Improves Your Relationships.  

How to Practice Forgiveness

When you are free, unburdened by hurt and anger, you can live a life that is steeped in lovekindness, and personal growth.

Let’s face it, we are all human, and we all make mistakes. Sometimes we grow weary and may feel tired, grumpy, or in physical pain, a catalyst for behaving less than optimal with our loved ones. You may even begin to see a pattern when people lash out that it comes from a place of fear or pain. 

When you step back and look at the circumstances that contributed to a harsh word or an overreaction through a wide lens (not a narrow self-view), you can understand why there was a communication breakdown. Cracking open the barriers to communicate better in your relationships, sincere apologies and sincere forgiveness will flow much easier – ultimately improving all your relationships. 

In those critical moments to seek or give forgiveness, you have a choice to free yourself through one of these healthy and loving actions:

Choosing to free yourself by giving and receiving forgiveness is a form of self-love and reminds you that you’re worthy of respect and healthy love. Let go and open your heart and mind up to more forgiveness and love in your life.    

This blog post was written by Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC

Mara is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Master Certified Coach. She is also a Certified Imago Therapist and Advanced Imago Therapist.  

Mara’s career has grown out of a gift of intuition – which she’s been aware of since childhood – and a natural inclination for using that gift to help empower others. Guiding and coaching feel as adventurous to her as the way she’s lived her life. Born in New York City, Mara took European trips in her youth and has lived in England, France, and New Mexico in the United States. 

Mara believes the boldness and confidence she gained by taking risks and expanding boundaries have contributed to her personal and professional success. She loves seeing the joy in her clients when they find the courage to challenge themselves and transform their lives as well.

Mara has been a perpetual student, always exploring her inner self by learning new skills and techniques that help her to understand herself, other cultures, and what it is that makes us human. She applies that learning to enable her clients to live fully in the present, face the challenges in their futures, and live their dreams. 

There is a common misconnection when a couple reaches a breaking point in their marriage. They believe there are only two choices to make. The first choice is to continue living day in and day out in an unhappy home and unhappy marriage. The second choice is to leave the marriage, go your separate ways and file for divorce from your partner. 

However, for the majority of couples, there is also an important and life-changing third choice. When a couple is truly unhappy, and at a breaking point, the third choice is to seek expert help. Sitting down with a professional trained to guide couples through often difficult conversations will help you both learn to remove the blame, shame, and criticism common in negative relationship patterns and transform your relationship. 

Improving your relationship and making positive changes for both partners, make no mistake, take hard work, determination, and time working closely with an expert marriage counselor. It’s essential to select a counselor trained to work with couples, one that will provide a safe, unbiased environment to identify specific behaviors interfering in your relationship. 

Think of it as if you were under the weather and needed expert help from a doctor. Marriage therapists are much the same, experts who help care for and guide people in pain.  

It can be emotionally exhausting for both partners when struggling through a rough time. However, it’s important to remember that all relationships go through ups and downs, with good and bad times. Seeking help from an expert is nothing to fear. It’s a tool to help you and your partner on the journey of creating a more fulfilling relationship. 

Before you make any difficult decisions, such as ending your marriage, ask yourself these critical questions first. 

Question #1 – What Specifically Do You Want to Change in Your Marriage? 

marriage help

You may begin to feel unhappy, angry, frustrated, or sad. Can you identify why you are feeling this way? What would have to change in your relationship for you to feel that newlywed joy again?

To help you answer the above question, write a list of all the things that would need to happen for you to feel happy in your marriage again, such as: 

The more detailed and specific you are when creating the list, the more helpful it will be. 

Question #2 – Have You Shared the Desire to End Your Marriage with Your Partner? 

marriage help

Even if both you and your spouse have acknowledged that you are unhappy in your marriage, you may not both know the other’s reasons why. But if neither fully understands the other’s dissatisfaction, it will be nearly impossible to improve your relationship as a whole.

After composing your lists of things you’d like to change, arrange a quiet time to sit down and talk with your spouse. It’s essential to choose a time when you are both feeling calm and not busy with any distractions.  

During your conversation, listen with curiosity as your partner shares their feelings. Be sure to talk honestly about your needs and concerns. Talk about how you are feeling using nonjudgmental or accusatory “I” statements, such as:

Be open to your spouse’s feelings as you listen to understand versus listening only to respond. Try to be receptive when you hear their thoughts and suggestions. Remember that even if you feel strongly about something, your spouse may see it entirely differently.

Question #3 – What Changes Will Create a Better Relationship for You and Your Partner? 

marriage help

After discussing what changes need to be made for you to be happy, determine which changes you have the power to create. Determine a set of changes to strive for, such as making an effort to have weekly dates or talk about your day after work.

After introducing these changes, follow through with them for at least a month. You may be surprised to discover the power you have to improve your marriage.

Question #4 – Are There Specific Influences That Harm Your Marriage?


Often, outside influences can cause more harm to your marriage than you realize. While outside romantic interests and affairs are what takes some couples’ focus away from improving their marriage, extramarital romance isn’t the only destructive distraction.

Well-meaning friends and family members can influence the way you think, coercing you into thinking, feeling, and making decisions that aren’t true to your own needs and wishes.

Your career and other outside obligations can sap your energy, keeping you from investing much-needed time and focus into your relationship.

When your marriage is in serious jeopardy, it’s crucial to remove outside distractions as much as possible so you can prioritize healing between you.

Question #5 – Have You Given Up on Your Marriage, Or Do You Want to Rebuild Together?

rebuild your marriage

Neither you nor your partner’s attempts to transform your marriage will work if you aren’t both invested in growing and changing the relationship. If you have already inwardly given up on your marriage, you are likely to scrutinize your spouse, interpreting every action or remark as a reason to leave.

For your relationship to heal, you’ll need to invest in change rather than seeking excuses to end it. Focus on the reasons you should try to save your marriage rather than the reasons to move on.

Question #6 – What Do You Think Will Improve If You and Your Partner Divorce? 

moving out

Divorce probably won’t solve all your problems, regardless of whether you and your spouse have endured a painful and challenging time. Divorce can actually promote more conflict when your home, family, and personal life are disrupted.  

Ending your marriage is also unlikely to eliminate any financial issues, personal dissatisfaction, or obstacles keeping you from your goals.

Picture your life after the divorce. Are the expectations of your new life realistic? 

Question # 7 – Do You and Your Partner Share a Marriage Vision? If Not, Why? 

relationship vision

Composing a “marriage vision” is a highly effective and vital tool for building a healthy marriage, partnership, or any type of relationship between two people. The marriage vision should include both you and your spouse’s ideas, hopes, and dreams for your relationship and describe what needs to be done to achieve these goals.

If you haven’t already written a marriage vision, take the time to sit down with your spouse to discuss your expectations, and develop a set of ideas that inspire and motivate you individually as well as your wishes as a couple. 

It’s helpful to refer back to the marriage vision as a guide to navigating troubled waters when your marriage ebbs and flows. Be sure to update your marriage vision together as your relationship evolves and your individual and couple needs change.

Question #8 – What are You Grateful for in the Marriage?  

happy relationship

Rather than focusing exclusively on what you want to change or how your relationship could be better, take the time to think about all the things you love and are grateful for in your relationship. 

Make a list of everything you are thankful for that your partner gives to you. Taking the time to sit down and compose a list can help you see your relationship and spouse in a positive light and remind you of why you fell in love in the first place. 

Question #9 – Have You Contacted an Expert for Help in Your Marriage? If Not, What is Stopping You and Your Partner?

marriage counselling

Even the healthiest, happiest couples take advantage of marriage counseling, and it can truly do wonders for any phase of marriage, particularly those in jeopardy of ending. 

A trained marriage counselor can help you and your partner explore why you’ve felt divorce was the only option and develop effective strategies for healing and transforming your marriage into the relationship you’ve both always desired. 

This blog post was written by Damian Duplechain, the co-founder, and chief clinical officer for the Center for Marriage & Family Relationships in Houston, Texas.

Damian brings decades of experience to his practice, helping hundreds of couples and families discover how to co-create the relationships they want. He has also supervised many clinicians in couples and family therapy over the years.

His work in helping couples and families learn to communicate effectively and connect more strongly, and to practice understanding and empathy is rooted in Imago philosophy. He is a certified Imago therapist with additional training in the Emotional Freedom Technique, John Gottman’s model, Terry Real’s model, and PACT (Psychological Approach to Couples Therapy) by Dr. Stan Tatkin. 

He has presented 200-plus Imago Couples Workshops that have served more than 2,000 couples and has collaborated with a number of his colleagues on clinical presentations both in the United States and internationally.




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