Book Excerpt: 'Lies at the Altar'

May 24, 2006 — -- Dr. Robin L. Smith is perhaps best-known for her appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

She specializes in relationships and stresses how important it is for people to enter marriage only after looking at oneself honestly.

Truth, Smith says, is the most important ingredient in marriage, and her book, "Lies at the Altar: The Truth About Great Marriages," teaches people how to find it within themselves and their partner.

"Lies at the Altar" by Dr Robin L. Smith

"Truth is powerful, and it prevails."-- Sojourner Truth


True to Myself

Let me begin with the truth. I have known what it is to live a lie -- to want so badly to keep a relationship that I made myself invisible. I have known the exhaustion of trying to hold up a facade that has no foundation. So in this book, I will not be speaking from an elevated position. I will not be telling you what I think but what I know.

Truth is what holds my life together now. It is not an accessory. It is a necessity. As with a credit card, I never leave home without it. But I walked through the darkness of lies to get there. I would like to spare the pain of every woman who fears that she can have love only if she erases her needs and makes herself small. I would like to shout it from the rooftops and mountain peaks that truth is better, warmer, stronger. It is the only way to have a great marriage or a great relationship.

I was once in a long relationship with a man whose addiction ruled our lives. The breakup was devastating and deeply painful. But even more painful than leaving was facing the truth of why I had stayed for so long. Why I had remained with a man whose love and loyalty were devoted to his addictions. Why I had lied to myself while enabling his lies to flourish. As his lies blossomed, I was being killed softly. Life -- real living -- had stopped for me. The self I thought I had was evaporating. I was slowly but surely fading away. I no longer recognized myself -- and how could I? I was no longer there.

Each day I laid out his disguise for him, made certain his false front was neatly in place, his cover-up richly textured, logical, and foolproof. I allowed him to lie to me about who he really was and what he really valued, and I stood by while he lied to everyone who thought they knew him so well.

Being with this man almost killed me -- almost crushed my bright and resilient spirit and tampered with my sturdy and robust mind. He wanted to rob me of my very essence, and for a long time I let him. Where was I in my life that I could have devoted so much time, energy, and effort to a man who neither honored nor valued me? How had I, a highly trained professional with what I thought were nearly flawless intuitive skills, become involved with such an impostor?

Why did I stay in a relationship with a man who could hurt me so deeply, who could make me feel ashamed of wanting a normal life? How could I think it was okay to be with someone who taunted me and prodded at the open wounds of my insecurities? He told me I wasn't much of a woman, and he criticized me relentlessly. I gave away my power, thinking it would soothe him, and it did temporarily. But each day required that less and less of me exist. I tried to be better, tried to be happier. I made meals out of crumbs and smiled as I ate the crumbs in order to appear full and satisfied. I tried to be more understanding and accepting. I was looking for a way to make something work that made no sense. I realize now that, with all of my effort and devotion, he never really saw me, much less loved me. When he grew tired of the way my desire for connection collided with his desire for oblivion, he simply erased me -- from his cell phone, from our post office box, from his life -- and replaced me with another woman and a new life.

Being erased was my worst nightmare -- literally. It also saved my life. That moment of utter, unassailable truth sent me reeling, but I was grasping for the light. For the first time in my life, I asked myself: Am I enough for myself? Can I be unerasable?

I was raised in a family in which women (very smart women, I might add) existed only in the reflection of strong and successful men. While, fortunately, most of these men happened to be kind (like my father), it was nonetheless painful to be a nonperson. We all learned to be very good at mastering the frozen smile and learning how to warm a room with smiles that had been plastered there by history. The important thing was to keep the relationship, because it was the only way we believed we could be significant enough to exist. Pretending was our modus operandi. We could drink cyanide and call it Kool-Aid, that's how good we were at self-deceit. And that's how I later came to walk around in the dark and call it light. I was taught to do just that. I wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't real. I didn't know if I could stand in the winter of aloneness and create my own warmth.

I am grateful to say that the old family themes and patterns holding us hostage can be broken. And once that happens, it is possible to create a firm foundation of truth on which to build a life and a marriage.

Once I decided to stop letting lies dominate me, I had to get down to the business of walking in truth, no matter how difficult the road or how long the journey. I knew that if I aligned myself with the truth, I would be guided, supported, and connected, and I was right. Walking in truth has radically changed the landscape of my life. I have made a covenant with myself. I have vowed to stand at the altar of truth and commit myself to plain and simple honesty. I have chosen to make my most important life partner the truth.

Today I would only want to be with a man who respects and honors me, and whom I can respect and honor. I would want to be with a man wise enough not to lose everything for an addiction. I would never be with someone who needed to choose between me and a substance or another woman. I would only be with a man who is sexually and emotionally faithful because it's part of his value system, a man who chooses to live more in truth than in lies because truth lives in the very fiber of his being.This book is my invitation to you to make the same choice. But you must begin with an inner healing to achieve a wholeness that the world did not give to you -- and that once you have, no one can take away. It belongs to you, like a company in which you hold one hundred percent of the stock.Join me in this journey of discovery, allowing curiosity to befriend you, and leaving shame and criticism behind. If you make this investment in yourself, you will receive the largest return of your life: You will get the real you back. You'll never again be put up for sale, or traded like a commodity. As sole owner of your life, you will make the wise decisions as to where and how you share and spend your emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and sexual wealth. You are worth this investment. And worthy of living your best life.

"Excerpted from LIES AT THE ALTAR by Dr. Robin L. Smith. Copyright © 2006 Dr. Robin l. Smith. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are s