This may be harder to read than it is to think and even more difficult to say out loud:
“I believe the person I chose as my life partner – my children’s parent, the one who promised we would love, laugh and survive challenges into our rocking-chair years — is lying to me.”
The Inner Stalemate
Questioning the trust in a relationship shakes the foundation of marriage. A cloud of doubt about a spouse’s honesty becomes a limbo of agony. Not knowing if the suspicions are justified feels worse.
You fear the words and actions you or your partner might say or do, if you confront him. The marriage could suffer unrecoverable damage, if your hunch of deception is correct.
Isn’t that why some spouses suppress or deny these feelings?
Is it better NOT to know?
As Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, once wrote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.” You don’t want to face the gut-wrenching hurt of betrayal. Who does?
Act on Instinct but Use Your Head
Acknowledge the conflict in your heart and gain some perspective.
Realize that NOT knowing will keep you stuck in no-man or no-woman’s land indefinitely.
Find ways to learn if what you believe might be true is actually fact, before you risk a direct spousal confrontation.
The Fallacy: My Partner Would Never Lie
Relationship expert, Dr. Tim Cole, of DePaul University believes truth tellers and liars are common and necessary in intimate relationships. Studies show individuals are more honest with lovers and spouses than others, but also more likely to lie to them!
Cole believes the need for understanding is the intrinsic desire people have for investing in personal relationships like marriage. We expect spouses to understand us. Need proof? Remember how unnerved you felt when your husband failed to get your joke or how upset your wife became when you didn’t connect with her opinion?
Removing the Trust Blinders
Responding to suspected dishonesty with self-deception and disbelief is common. Have you ever watched a friend become mired in a poor personal relationship and wonder how he could be so blind to his partner’s obvious faults? You see what he doesn’t because you are not part of his intimate relationship.
We enthusiastically desire trusting our spouses, which makes it so much harder when they lie to us. Michigan State University researchers Timothy Levine and Steven McCornack call this “truth bias,” which paradoxically sets up the perfect scenario for deception.
Spousal intimacy and interdependence are fertile grounds for untruth. Social scientists say “blind faith” and restrictive relationship rules often feed the opportunity and need for dishonesty.
This familiarity-breeds-contempt antithesis doesn’t forgive spousal lying as much as it explains how it can happen. Now, what?
Testing Deceptive Waters
Village Voice columnist Michael Musto says he knows how to spot a liar — “They can’t look you in the eye – they look you in the bridge of your nose.” Lying is visible, if you know where and how to look.
Professionals who unravel deceptive tendencies say a lack of eye contact can be an indication of lying — unless the deceiver is so practiced in the art that he stares at you directly to build your confidence in him.
There are other signs you might notice if you suspect your spouse is telling you lies. Experts caution that not every characteristic listed here will guarantee that you’re speaking with a liar.
Compare these traits to ones your spouse already has. If she already tends to “look you in the nose” during conversations, then the response is probably normal. While placing a hand on a face can be indicative of lying, it might also be a person’s regular habit.
Some of these behaviors have sources other than dishonesty. Take stress, known habits and health conditions into account.
Be aware of your personal motivation. Make sure you have not already convicted or absolved your spouse of lying before you make these observations.
Remember, there is no “ah-hah!” moment. These are possible indicators not absolute signs of lying.
Repeated touches hair, eyes, mouth, nose or throat
Exhibits brief “microexpressions” – uncontrolled facial expressions that may show underlying distress
Appears restless, nervous or fidget-ey
Leans, turns or looks away.
Blinks, talks, swallows or breathes faster
Limits body movements
Crosses arms or legs to create barriers
Irregular Speech Patterns
Unable to match words with nods or facial expressions
Speaks at a higher pitch
Gives indirect answers
Repeats statements or use’s speakers own words to respond
Answers too quickly or stalls in mid-reply
Avoids contractions and personal pronouns
Tries to lighten conversation with sarcasm or humor
Acts defensively instead of offensively
Drawing out the Untruth
Police investigators who interview suspects often employ a few techniques to aid in determining a person’s truthfulness. Some of these might benefit you in a quest for the truth.
If you are uncertain your spouse’s story is true, try asking her to tell you the details in reverse. Liars have to invent their version of the truth. Trying to tell a smoke-screened story backwards confuses them.
Avoid questions that can be answered with only “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions force respondents to give longer, more revealing answers.
Use the silent treatment. Don’t give into the temptation to keep the conversation flowing. Allow time for your spouse to fill the space by delaying responses or questions. Silence makes some liars so uncomfortable that they often rush to fill conversation gaps and trip along the way.
After the Test Run
You may achieve some direction by understanding that spouses are capable of dishonesty, why partners lie and how to detect signs of deceit. None of these will solve marital issues. There are multiple relationship decisions only you and your spouse can make if deception has entered your relationship.
Suspecting dishonesty and observing signs of lying are preliminary events. They are not meant to replace the eventual heart-to-heart conversation that will tell you what’s really going on in your marriage.