“Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.” - Author unknown

The wife caught my youngest kid lying the other day, and the hammer of justice came down swiftly and with force: “you will write ‘I will not lie to my mother!’ 100 times, mister!”

She must have been on a witch hunt for liars that day, because just a few hours later the unthinkable happened: my lovely bride caught her almost-perfect, dream husband in a bald-faced lie. Or is it bold-faced lie? Either way, it was a bad day for Old Dad.

The exact lie itself isn’t important (there was some question over whether or not I ate a healthy piece of fruit, or did I, in fact, stuff it into my longneck beer. I won’t bore you with further details).

At first, I was surprised by her anger over a “little white lie.” I mean, I am a fisherman and lying is one of the many tools in my tackle box, so to speak. But after some reflection, I understand now. Women with awesome husbands tend to hold us in such high regard - they think we walk upon the moon and brush against the stars - that it disappoints them to know that we are merely mortal men and sometimes stumble.

Exploring the limits of honesty

I have been married for more than 15 years, and in all that time I have prided myself on my integrity, trustworthiness and loyalty. I might eat another woman’s cooking behind my wife’s back, but that is the full extent of my deceit. So why did I lie?

Well, I can’t speak for other husbands, who may have some serious sins and scandals to cover up, but when I deviate from the exact path of truth it usually involves food or fishing. I’m just so compassionate that I don’t want my wife to worry needlessly about every carb and calorie I consume, or every dollar I take from savings for fishing gear. That’s part of what makes me such a great husband, I guess.

I am aware of the absolutism of the Ten Commandments, but can anyone be truly honest 100% of the time? Some people, perhaps, but certainly not a husband in good standing who values his life and marriage.

An example:

- “No, honey, that dress actually does make you look fat. And old. You might want to burn it.”

- “No, sweetie, I think the reason you don’t like that other woman is because she is prettier than you. And skinnier. And why can’t you do your hair like hers?”

No, total honesty isn’t for husbands. But exactly when and how is it okay to lie to your better half and when is it wrong? There should be some clear-cut guidelines to avoid misunderstandings like this.

Marriage vs. fishing

When philosophical questions arise, I usually look to fishing, a pastime where lying can be practiced with honor. After some intense pondering, it occurred to me that lying in marriage should be the exact inverse, or opposite, of lying in fishing.

For example: you catch a skinny, puny fish, and by the next day, around the water cooler at work, that fish has grown into a 15-pounder with muscles and tattoos. You should use the exact opposite of that strategy with your spouse.

“No, baby, that butt doesn’t look big at all. In fact, I think it might be getting a little smaller now that you are eating that special yogurt.”

Another example: you only catch one fish all day, and it jumped into the boat by accident. When the tale is told at church on Sunday, the population of your catch has grown so greatly that you fear you may need to call in the government to conduct an official Census.

Now, use the inverse strategy the next time your wife asks how many beers you had while fishing.

“Oh, I just had the one, and it was one of those tiny ones, too, you know, in the runty bottles. I don’t even think they filled the darn thing up all the way at the brewery, come to think of it.”

As you can see from these examples, sometimes lying can be a good thing. Just like a fishing lie may actually benefit the fish, who can gain several pounds and often an entire family from the telling of the tale, sometimes a little white lie may actually be a compassionate thing, a thoughtful, generous gift that can help your spouse feel better about herself, the marriage, and even life in general. And who wouldn’t want that for someone they love?

Thanks for listening, dear reader. I just needed to get my thoughts together so I could argue my case when the wife got home. I am sure you understand.

Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got some more writing to do.

“I must not lie to my wife! I must not lie to my wife! I must not lie to my wife! …”

Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.