You might have been together for decades or it might be fairly new. But when you get the gnawing suspicion deep in your gut that your spouse isn’t being honest with you, what do you do?
So many factors play a role in coming to a suitable answer. And it’s not always as simple as listening to your friends who can flippantly say, “Leave them!”
So, let’s take a few minutes to delve into this topic and try to work this out.
How to know when your partner has been lying to you:
Firstly, it might be helpful to identify some of the signs of lying. No method of lie detection is perfect – even polygraph tests are fallible – so, all of these should be taken with a pinch of salt.
One of the key elements to keep in mind is context. You know your partner better than anyone else. You know what they’re like on a day-to-day basis, and you know how they behave in different situations.
You also probably know if your spouse is having a stressful time at work or school, which is another important contextual factor to consider.
But, if you spot some behavior that’s totally out of the norm for them, it might be time to dig a little deeper.
Signs of lying:
Top forensic experts and criminal profilers have compiled a huge amount of research into lie detection. These signs can be used by everyday people too.
Just remember to use your knowledge of your partner, as some of these signs might be part of their baseline behavior. For example, if your partner is on the autism spectrum, not making eye contact might be their usual behavior, so it wouldn’t be helpful to assume they were lying from that sign alone.
1. Changing their speech patterns:
If your spouse suddenly alters the way they structure their sentences, that could be a red flag. If they normally speak confidently with very few vocal fillers, (like “uh” or “erm”) and when you ask them about a specific subject they seem to change instantly, it could be that they’re lying.
2. Shortened or lengthened sentence structures:
It may sound contradictory, but both of those are indicators of lying. Sometimes a liar will rush to give every tiny detail of a situation, but they could also just give one-word answers too.
3. Covering their mouth or eyes:
Research suggests a liar might press their lips together, scratch their mouth or nose, or close their eyes as they speak. These are usually unconscious gestures as their body tries to literally hold in the lie.
4. Changing the subject or gaslighting:
Your partner may suddenly become easily distracted whenever you ask questions about a certain topic, or they may begin to twist the narrative to make you question yourself.
If your spouse starts to make you question things you have witnessed with your own eyes or ears, it might mean they are trying to gaslight you into thinking you’ve got it all wrong.
Gaslighting is a highly manipulative tool, and one that can seep into your psyche until you no longer know if you can trust your own mind.
There are many more signs that someone is being untruthful, and a link to a site featuring a podcast by Paul Ekman (world leader in detecting deception) is at the bottom of the article.
You’re sure your partner has lied, now what?
Only you can decide what to do from here, but there are a few things to consider before you make your choice, so let’s put on a coffee and think about it all.
It is usually healthy to discuss the lie with your partner unless that would put you or any children into an unsafe environment. If you’re worried about the situation getting out of hand it might be beneficial to seek support.
Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship, and lying can feel like an earthquake has turned your solid foundations to rubble. Getting a professional to help you navigate tricky conversations can ease the burden on you.
Choosing Therapy provides lots of helpful services for couples or individuals who might want a professional to facilitate their conversations.
When to leave:
If you’ve tried talking, couples therapy, and anything else in your toolkit, and you still don’t feel like you can rebuild the trust, it might be time to leave.
If the relationship is relatively new, it can sting that things didn’t work out the way you might have hoped. But just know that your spouse’s lies are no reflection on you, they chose to break your trust, and you can bounce back from this.
If you’ve built a whole life with this person, and maybe had children with them, it can feel soul-crushing to find out your spouse isn’t who you thought they were. Choosing to stay and forgive them might seem like the best option for the family, and for some, it might work, but you do need to consider your emotional, mental, and physical health when making that call.
If you find yourself changing into a person you don’t like or recognize anymore, it might be time to leave.
Likewise, if you feel unsafe around your spouse, think about an exit plan. Some liars can become aggressive and if that’s the case for you, it’s vital for you to get yourself, and any children, to safety.