"Exaggeration is often a spouse’s cry to be heard, valued or taken seriously. We exaggerate because we don’t trust that our voice will be heard, our opinion will be valued, or our concern will be taken seriously."
*A light-hearted question loosely connected to the current episode. The goal is to learn something about your spouse…and increase your chances at dominating when you play “the Newlywed game”.
What are some of the family stories that get retold over and over with each passing year? Have any of them become a bit embellished and exaggerated over the years?
With outstretched hands, the fisherman speaks with confidence; “It was this big.”
Taking a quick look at his hands, he shakes his head in disagreement and widens them.
“No wait...it was definitely THIS big.”
The fish has now become the largest it has ever been...until the next telling of the story.
This is a classic example of what has become known as a “fish story” or “fisherman’s tale”.
It’s when a fish that was caught keeps getting bigger and bigger with each retelling of the story. As the years pass, the fish’s size becomes exaggerated more and more.
In fishing, it’s easy to exaggerate. The same is true in marriage.
How easy it is to find ourselves settling into patterns of exaggeration within marriage! Perhaps, it could be argued that some exaggeration is as benign as a fisherman’s tale, but we would suggest that the pattern isn’t a healthy one.
While the presence of exaggeration is similar in fishing and marriage, unfortunately the effect of it is not.
In fishing, exaggeration is harmless. The same is not true in marriage.
The negative impact that exaggeration and embellishment can have in a marriage comes from the underlying reason why a spouse exaggerates in the first place. The exaggeration itself is often harmless, but the relational dynamic that produces it can be a real issue.
The presence of exaggeration reveals an absence of trust.
This, a lack of trust, is the main danger that swims in the waters of a marriage that allows exaggeration and embellishment to become a norm!
We exaggerate because we don’t trust that…
our voice will be heard.
our opinion will be valued.
or our concern will be taken seriously.
Exaggeration is often a spouse’s cry to be heard, valued or taken seriously.
The “fish stories” in marriage are as numerous in kind as there are fish in the sea!
Whenever a spouse begins to mistrust that their voice will be heard, opinion valued, or concern taken seriously, exaggeration is likely to happen. For example...
You exaggerate how baldly you need something because you don’t trust your spouse will approve of you spending money otherwise.
You exaggerate how tight the finances are, because you don’t trust you spouse will stop spending money otherwise.
You exaggerate how amazing a new opportunity is because you don’t trust you spouse will be open to considering it.
You exaggerate how much the kids need quality time because you don’t trust you spouse will stop saying yes to new opportunities.
You exaggerate how much your friends need to hang out because you don’t trust that your spouse will be open to going out.
You exaggerate how tired you are from the week because you don’t trust you spouse will be open to staying home.
We exaggerate to be heard, valued or taken seriously…and it’s not a healthy pattern.
While exaggeration reveals a trust problem in the moment,
it will eventually create a truth problem in the future.
What do we mean by a “truth problem”? The destination that exaggeration leads us to is the formulation of extreme and inaccurate views towards each other.
The evidence of exaggeration over time is revealed when spouses begin to say things like…
You always want to go out with friends.
You never like it when I talk to my family.
You always have more work to do.
You never want to talk to people.
You always want to stay home on the weekend.
You never want to spend any money.
Exaggeration is born out of a trust problem and eventually gives birth to a truth problem.
We hope you are wondering, “So…what in the world can we do about this?”
While we don’t have all the answers, we can at least tell you what we did about it.
(*Yes, we definitely had our share of “fish stories” during the first decade of marriage!)
For us, going straight to our “trust problem” wasn’t exactly the most comfortable conversation…so we started at the “truth problem” and worked our way backwards.
(*If your marriage culture is one that can handle going straight to the trust question: “Where do you struggle to trust that I actually hear, value or take you seriously?”...by all means, go for it!)
We started by answering this question: “If we had to describe each other in extreme language, what are a few ways we would do it?” This taps into the “truth problem” that results from exaggeration over time.
Here is one that we came up with:
Matt always wants to make time for others.
Julia only wants to focus on our family.
While we each felt this way at times about the other, we acknowledged that these extreme characterizations were not true.
Once we identified a truth problem, it was easy to backtrack to the trust problem.
Matt doesn’t trust that Julia really values opportunities outside the home.
Julia doesn’t trust that Matt will set boundaries (aka: say “no”) for the good of the family.
Once we got here, we both admitted the tendency to exaggerate our side in order to be heard.
That’s when the fun part really begins! If you can get there, you are finally ready to rebuild and start working on this question: How can I win your trust in this area?
When a married couple begins to win each other’s trust, that’s like catching a fish so large that it’s hard to describe it big enough!
As you read this episode, did any immediate areas come to mind where you know you struggle to trust that your spouse will hear your voice, value your opinion, or take seriously your consideration?
Can you think of any times in which you embellish or exaggerate your side of things in order to be heard? If so, we would encourage you to apologize and then begin to talk about what it would take to win each other’s trust in this area.
If you were to describe each other in extreme ways, what things come to mind?
Do these reveal any possible trust problems?