What to do when your spouse is lying to you all the time

When you’ve taken to the internet to search for information about why your spouse is telling lies all the time, it’s no surprise if you’re feeling angry, frustrated, worried and baffled.

Naturally, you want to know what’s going on, particularly if their behaviour has suddenly inexplicably changed.

Perhaps you’ve found your spouse or partner to be a compulsive liar – unable to exist without bending the truth, telling stories and constantly making things up!

I can understand you’re worried about what that repeated lying might mean for your relationship.

Naturally, you want to get a handle on what’s going on. As human beings, our brain doesn’t take easily to ‘not knowing’ – it compels us to continue to search for answers and fill in the blanks.

My aim, therefore, is to help you gain some clarity. 

Discover:

  • Why your partner or spouse is telling lies all the time
  • How to confront them
  • What to do if they can’t stop lying

Let’s start with the signs of lying, just in case you’re questioning yourself.

The signs of lying

I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt you feel you’re going crazy when your husband keeps denying, telling stories and blaming you.

So, how do you know your spouse is lying?

Let me help you with that – hop over to my articles (links):

Let’s take a look now at the type of lies they (we all!) might tell.

Difference between ‘ordinary’ lying and compulsive or ‘pathological’ lying

So, to help you get a grip on what’s going on, let’s divide lying into five variants:

  1. White lies
  2. A sudden, puzzling onset of a series of lies
  3. The constant lies of a habitual liar
  4. The pathological, compulsive lies of most likely someone who purports to be a hero or victim
  5. A combination of the above

Your spouse might be bending the truth, fibbing or telling outright lies about their past, previous relationships, secret bank accounts, extramarital affairs, money, where they’ve been, who they’ve met and possibly even the smallest things. But, we’ll start with white lies.

Is your partner, wife or husband only telling white lies?

Of course, they are – we all lie (external link, opens in a new tab)! If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll have to admit that we’ve all told (white) lies.

We might do it to protect ourselves, or we do it in an attempt to prevent hurting someone’s feelings.

The question is – how often does your partner (or you) resort to telling a ‘white’ lie? And more pertinent – have they always done that or have you noticed it becoming bothersome more recently?

9 reasons why your partner or spouse lies to you

Here’s why your spouse has suddenly started lying to you

Let’s look at what they might be hiding. Here are eight potential reasons why your spouse is lying to you and being secretive:

  1. Infidelity – your spouse has betrayed you with another woman, man or lover, and since it is a secret, they want to hide the fact from you. They’ll lie about where they are, what time they’re expecting to be back, what they’re up to and with who they are with. You’re going to need to get some firm evidence before you confront them because they’ll very likely deny it. Hop over to my article on the signs of cheating. You’ll want to be sure you’re well-versed with what to look out for, what to expect and what to do. For a ton of further information, see also the complete guide to surviving infidelity.
  2. They’re trying to hide another misdemeanour. Is your partner or spouse perhaps in trouble with the police, have they undertaken any illegal activity, or are they in trouble at work?
  3. Financial secrets – they may have run up credit card debts, made purchases they don’t want you to know about or have borrowed money.
    Or, they may have a secret bank account where your partner, wife or husband is hiding money.
  4. They don’t want what you want – they see no other choice. You’ve made a decision, and you absolutely want something your way regardless of their opinion or feelings. They see no other way out than to come up with a part-truth, half-reason or entirely fictitious reason as to why something is not possible.
  5. They want to get out of something. Here your spouse may be telling a white lie because they might not want to do something or go somewhere, say, for example, that family party or work function. They might be avoiding a function because they simply don’t fancy going, or they’re unwell – physically or mentally (when they’re heading for a nervous breakdown, for example)
  6. They want to get something – some kind of reward or recognition common in someone with a narcissistic personality
  7. They’re protecting someone else’s secret and promised confidentiality.
  8. They’re planning to leave you – see my article on the signs your spouse wants to leave you
  9. They’ve nothing to lose – they’ve already lied before, or they’re stuck with the lie they initially told.

All the above also counts with regards to online dating and if you’re in a long-distance relationship.

Going through a tough time? Don’t know who to turn to or what to do?

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10 POSSIBLE UNDERLYING CAUSES FOR YOUR SPOUSE’S CONSTANT LIES

Assuming your spouse is not a pathological liar, here’s why your spouse might be lying to you so much:

  1. Your spouse has suffered a childhood trauma – parents or carers may have been strict – at least in the eyes of the child. It may have wanted to hide its true feelings. Perhaps there was a family drama which upset them greatly, yet when they were stepping out of the front door – everyone else seemed to act as if nothing was awry. The child may have found it’s own ‘inventive’ way of dealing with the trauma which involved trying to make sense of its inner life and the world outside. This childlike way of coping became the norm and remained unchallenged into adulthood.
  2. Your spouse or partner is feeling ashamed – your spouse feels ashamed of something or even everything about themselves. They feel compelled to lie repeatedly to cover up that toxic shame.
  3. Your spouse is a Chaotic Creative – my colleague Renee van der Vloodt first coined this phrase. Creative people often get into a trance state which disconnects them from reality (all hypnotic trance states do, and we all go in and out of trance states during the day and night). It happens automatically and leads to their making often puzzling decisions, conclusions and manner of living. It mostly makes sense to them – though not always! However, they’re unable to explain it to others. Their brain’s reality simulator – the source of their creativity (which we use for dreaming too) takes precedence.
  4. Your spouse is engaging in powerplay – they’re playing mind games with you. It is a sign of (emotional) abuse
  5. Your spouse has narcissistic tendencies – they see themselves as the best of just about everything and has to lie to keep up any pretences.
  6. Your spouse has suffered a severe trauma – They may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or, at least they’re experiencing subclinical symptoms, and they are attempting to keep themselves ‘safe’ so as not to trigger any memories, panic attacks or flashbacks. They might lie to protect themselves from having to deal with other people’s feelings about their situation.
  7. Your partner or spouse has learnt from childhood onward that lying is a way to get what you want.
  8. Your spouse has learnt as a child that lying can prevent you from being punished.
  9. Your partner is protecting and improving his status – your spouse is suffering from low self-esteem and will lie to make him-or herself look better.
  10. Your spouse is not honest with you because they’re trying to hide an addiction. You may have heard the “I promise I’ll quit.” once too often.

The umbrella reason for lying is potentially rooted in the human givens – the meeting of some essential emotional need(s).

What if your partner or spouse has a personality disorder and is a pathological liar

Using the following, you should be able to quickly figure out whether or not you’re dealing with a pathological liar. Here are the main signs:

  1. They habitually lie for no reason or benefit at all
  2. They tell the most fantastical, complicated and detailed stories
  3. They often feature in those stories as the hero or the victim – you’re probably well aware of the dramas splayed all over some people’s Facebook account for maximum effect in terms of sympathy or admiration.
  4. To some extent – they’ve lost the connection between what’s real and what’s a lie – they believe their own lies.

(Source – opens in a new tab)

In many ways, that pathological lying fulfils one of the most important inborn human needs – the need for attention!

You can see how it’s near-enough impossible to build a healthy relationship with someone who compulsively lies all the time.

Most likely, though, you’re dealing with a partner or spouse who regularly lies for one or more reasons mentioned above.

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What to do when your partner’s lying

There’s no doubt that mutual trust is an essential component of a healthy relationship. Constant lying and lies about a major misdemeanour have a detrimental effect on a relationship because they destroy all trust.

So, here’s what to do when your partner or spouse is lying all the time.

Step 1 – gather evidence

Gather evidence and keep notes with dates, times and what they said. Evidence will help to confirm your suspicions and thereby prevent your thinking you’re going crazy. 

Consider which type of lying is the main problem.

He or she is what she is. Only they can decide to change their behaviour. Pressure from you isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference. It may even make it worse. Yep, I know that sounds tough!

Step 2 – confront your spouse or partner

Confront your spouse with your findings, but be prepared to be wrong too – you may have ‘interpreted’ your discoveries.

Avoid any finger-pointing, no arguing, no shaming and no name-calling.

  • First, simply confront them with the evidence – just the facts. 
  • Then state only how you feel about it – sad, confused, angry, hurt, etc and how it affects your relationship – you’ve lost trust, it’s destroyed your sense of security, you see no future together, etc.
  • Give them the time to respond.
  • Next, tell them what the consequences are: you want to hear the truth because more lies could irreparably damage the relationship.
  • Lastly, if they’ve admitted their lies, ask if and how they think to help save the relationship.

Step 3 – repair your relationship

To have any hope of fixing your relationship, you need to find the underlying reason for the lies.

Encourage, if at all possible, your spouse to talk about what’s going on for them. Know, though, that you can’t make them do anything! It’s their choice and their responsibility to change their behaviour.

It’s your responsibility to not nag – instead to turn complaints into wishes: “It would really help me, if….. I’d love it if you could/are prepared to…. “Etc.

You’ll be needing to practice patience and use the best of your communication skills to help them dig deep, keep talking, make the odd mistake, catch themselves telling a lie and allow them to fall and try again.

You’ll need to figure out if such a ‘mistake’ is just the odd slip – part of the learning curve – or a return to the old pattern of lying.

I encourage you to question also what your role in the problem could be. Not that your spouse’s lying is your fault, of course, but simply ask yourself to what extent you might have played a part..

Looking after yourself

Discovering your spouse is lying to you can feel like a punch in the stomach! It might feel as if the relationship you had isn’t anymore – you’ve lost something precious. Therefore, it’s important you really look after yourself.

The better you feel within yourself, the more ‘spare capacity’ you have to deal with issues in your relationship.

Here are five tips to help you cope when you’ve discovered your partner or husband has been lying to you, and you’re feeling low:

  1. Value yourself – take really good care of yourself – nurture your body and mind. Healthy foods and plenty of physical exercise help your body and mind function the best it can.
  2. Set boundaries – decide what you find acceptable and what not. Consider thereby also how truthful you are and whether your behaviour could do with a bit of tweaking. Strive to be the best version of yourself. When you grasp your flaws (we all have them!) and focus on bettering yourself, you’ll find it easier to empathise with your partner on account of the underlying reasons for their lying. You’ll also be better at setting boundaries – so far, no further!
  3. Stay connected socially – connect off- and online with real friends. A really good friend can listen without judging you, will be honest with you, will tell you when you’re lying to yourself and can support you in this challenging time.
  4. Get help from one of our online therapists to help you decide on- and support you in your next step. For further information, see my article on online relationship counselling.

When you are feeling strong and confident, you’re likely to make better decisions – if necessary independent from your spouse or partner.

By the way – you could also suggest to your partner or spouse they get counselling for lying!

Free printable worksheet

Front cover of the workbook. Text: Taking care of yourself. You're worth it. Image: an empty checklist.

Should you end your relationship or divorce a spouse who lies all the time?

I completely understand if you feel you can no longer trust your spouse. However, if they respond positively to the confrontation (it can be a relief for a liar to have been discovered) – even not immediately – you can expect that trust to grow again over time. 

After the confrontation, you’d want to see an improvement in how the two of you are getting on.

However, if over the following three months you see no improvement, you may wonder if the two of you are still compatible – see my Relationship Compatibility Test and consider if your relationship or marriage is worth saving.

Finally

No relationship is perfect! The discovery that your spouse has been dishonest, lied to you and betrayed your trust might have happened on top of any existing relationship problem (link).

The way you and your partner or spouse deal with your relationship issues will determine how you’ll both fare in the future. Building a healthy relationship involves skills you can learn.

Know that, as a human being, you’re far more resourceful and stronger than you possibly give yourself credit for. So, hang on in there and hold off making a life-changing decision during a crisis.

I wish you well – you can do this!

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