What To do When You Suspect Your Partner Is Lying
Nearly everyone lies from time to time, sometimes in consideration to protect someone’s feelings. We joke that the two times a year we can lie without guilt is our partner’s birthday or Christmas. However, lies will erode trust and destroy the foundation of a relationship if they are excessive or destructive.
So, how do you know if your partner is lying to you? Unfortunately, it is not always simple or easy to detect a lie. Often our suspicions can cloud our thinking and make it difficult to get to the truth. However, it’s helpful to know why people lie, signs that you are being lied to, and what you can do if you believe your spouse is lying?
REASONS YOUR PARTNER MIGHT BE LYING
- They have disappointed you before, and they are afraid of your reaction.
- They have vowed to change a pattern or a behavior, but they haven’t.
- They promised to do something, but they didn’t even though they had good intentions.
- They feel the need to maintain control of a situation.
- They want to make themselves look better than they feel they are – more successful, more accomplished, more creative or talented, etc.
- They are trying to protect someone else’s feelings.
Spouses often lie to protect their own ego, not necessarily to harm or deceive you. They fear rejection in many cases and are ashamed of what they have done or not done. They don’t want to live with your disappointment and convince themselves that they’re not really lying. In these cases, it isn’t really a character issue. It’s a maturity issue. However, they have to be willing to begin to come clean because, if they don’t, their lying will eventually erode and break down your marriage.
Another kind of lying or dishonesty is when your spouse is willfully attempting to deceive you to cover up behaviors destructive to you and your relationship, themselves, and even others. Chronic or repeated infidelity would fall into this category. It’s as if they have holes in their conscience that allow them to engage in morally wrong and harmful activities.
SIGNS OF LYING
Following is a list of behaviors that often accompany lying. It is not complete or conclusive. Just because someone exhibits these behaviors does not mean conclusively that they are lying. They can be “red flags,” however.
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Evasive and inconsistent
- Unusual voice patterns
- Vagueness, giving few details
- Overexplaining, giving more information than is necessary
- Perspiration on their brow
- Unusual body language – fidgeting, rubbing their brow, playing with their hair, stiffness or slouching)
- Defensiveness and denial
- Placing a barrier – like a chair- in front of themselves
- Stalling out the conversation
- Repeatedly saying “no”
- Avoidance of touching you during a conversation
Caution: It is possible to mistake some of the behaviors for lying. Just relying on these signs alone may result in misreading or mislabeling your partner’s behaviors.
THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY LYING IN A RELATIONSHIP
- Loss of trust. If lying persists, you will soon reach the point of having no faith in your partner or their ability, to be honest.
- Loss of empathy. If you can’t believe what they say, then you can’t trust that their emotions are genuine either. As a result, you won’t share in their feelings with them.
- Loss of intimacy. To be intimate is to be emotionally vulnerable. With walls of mistrust surrounding your heart, intimacy becomes a casualty.
- Loss of integrity. The more someone lies, the more likely they are to continue lying. You won’t be able to trust anything that they say and begin to wonder if your relationship is a lie.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A LYING SPOUSE
If you believe that you are living with a dishonest spouse, there are some things that you can do to be proactive and, in the process, have compassion for both your partner and yourself.
Trust your instincts. Your intuition should not be ignored. In fact, your gut is probably more accurate than trying to identify behaviors associated with lying.
Be honest and set healthy expectations for honesty. Of course, you don’t want to become obsessed with knowing how every minute of your partner’s day was spent. However, it is reasonable to know each other’s plans for the day and to check in with each other periodically.
Don’t over-react. When you feel that your spouse is lying to you, take a breath and take a moment before you respond to them. Remain calm and don’t respond impulsively.
Have the painful conversation. If you are dealing with deception in your marriage, there is no way around having a frank and painful discussion. You have to put this on the table with your spouse, one way or another. But how do you do this? It does depend on the root cause of the lies.
- Be gentle if you believe that your spouse is lying to you out of an immature need to protect their ego and counter their insecurities. Kindly explain to them what your feeling and concerns are. Don’t accuse them or belittle them. Let them see your hurt, not your anger, if you are hurting. Try to look at the situation from their perspective and understand why they feel the need to be dishonest.
- If your spouse falls into the more toxic, chronically deceptive category, be direct. Let them know that you see things that don’t add up. Challenge what they are saying. One study recommends that you make eye contact and then ask them to repeat their story, but this time in reverse. Lying takes effort, so if they have to tell it in reverse order, discrepancies in the account may be easier to spot.
One brick at a time, pull down the wall of lies your partner has built. As each event happens, confront your spouse. Don’t let it go. You become complicit in the lie when you do and participate in creating the illusion.
WHEN TO LEAVE
Can you stay in a relationship with a lying spouse? Staying in a relationship with a habitual liar is incredibly toxic. Before you decide to end the relationship, you may need to seek professional counseling. This could help you know more comprehensively what’s happening in your marriage and what role you play in the situation.
Whatever you do, you must forgive your spouse. Forgiveness frees you from bitterness and resentment and allows you to move forward.
If your partner expresses remorse for lying, is apologetic for hurting you, and is willing to change or seek help, then there is hope for your relationship.