No one likes to think their spouse isn’t telling the truth but if you’re getting divorced or your marriage is in trouble, then the chances that your spouse isn’t being totally honest increase and you need to know how to tell your spouse is lying to you.
If you’ve always believed your spouse, how to do start to detect the lies?
On the otherhand, if you’re convinced now that everything out of your spouse’s mouth is a lie, how do you know what’s true?
What are the telltale signs the experts watch for?
Joining me for this Conversation is body language expert, Traci Brown. Traci is often seen on TV analyzing the likes of Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump, Lance Armstrong and Hillary Clinton. She is the author of How To Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft. Listen in below or keep reading for a synopsis.
Accept The Possibility Of Lies
The first step to detecting untruths is to be open to the possibility that your spouse may not be telling you the truth and that is not easy.
“Everyone wants to believe that they’re hearing the truth and when you’re so in love with the person who may be lying, it gets even harder,” said Brown.
The key is to take the emotion out of the situation and ask yourself if you’re wanting to hear a particular answer. That wanting tricks you into discounting the red flags and signs that you’re being deceived. It’s self-preservation at work because deep inside you know how crushing it will be to realize your soulmate is lying to you now and may have been lying to you for a long time.
It’s Easier To Detect Lies Face To Face
Email is hard for any communication and it’s easy to misinterpret written words because what’s missing is everything that comes with in-person communication – the intonation, the pitch, the pace, the visual clues … Phone conversations are better for this purpose than emails but when you really want to know if someone is lying, you need to do it in person.
You Are Not Crazy
Once you open up to the possibility of lies, you might start to see them in many situations. You may even start to think that this can’t be, that this doesn’t make sense and maybe you’re the one who is crazy, imagining things. The possibility here is that you are a victim of gaslighting: “a malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality.” (Psychology Today)
Brown says that lies happen in every relationship and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some lies are told to make you feel better. You know those. They’re the ones about your choice of what to wear or what to have for dinner. They’re harmless and perhaps well-intentioned.
According to Brown about 15 percent of the population are between sociopaths and psychopaths. Many of them end up in the criminal justice system but a lot of them are really high functioning and totally put together. They may not show the signs and it might be really difficult for you to to tell if they’re lying.
“They have no guilt, no compunction, no remorse, no regret,” said Brown. “They’re just extremely skilled at it. They’re not trying. It’s just the way they are wired.”
The lies these people tell are not the harmless ‘white lies.’ They are the most dangerous lies. To spot these you need to pay attention and you need to start trusting your gut.
A Lie Is A Lie
Brown identifies five different types of lies: exaggeration, fabrication, minimization, omission and denial. While it doesn’t really matter what type of lie it is, some are more common than others.
“People will conceal before they will fabricate,” said Brown. “It takes less effort to conceal than to make up something new.”
That reminded me of a client situation where my client suspected that her spouse had bank accounts overseas. When asked about that he denied the existence of an account in the specific country she had asked about. Long story short, spouse was eventually required to turn over all sorts of records and it came out that he had bought a business in that country and that the business did have a couple of accounts there. Technically, he had answered her question correctly – they did not have any personal accounts but it was not the whole truth. Brown says in this situation, an investigator would word the question differently, perhaps, “Do you have any financial interests overseas?”
Get A Baseline
A baseline is how someone normally responds and when there’s a shift from the normal response, it’s a “hotspot.”
“Husbands and wives can often tell when each other are lying because they know each other so well,” said Brown. “What you want to do is to look for the differences in their response from their typical response to a very pointed question such as ‘Hey, what’s out address?'”
The way they respond to a straightforward question is their baseline. Just to make things a little harder, Brown says everybody is going to be little bit different and that’s why you need a baseline for the person you suspect of lying.
A single hotspot is not sufficient to be sure someone is lying so Brown looks for three hotspots and she has a number of signs she watches out for.
The Body Language Doesn’t Match The Words
A very common hotspot is when someone responds to a question with ‘no’ but is nodding their head or responds with ‘yes’ and is shaking their head. You can find video clips of celebrity cases like OJ Simpson, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Brown’s blog for plenty of examples of this.
What gets these people into trouble is that you can rehearse a script and control the words but it’s extremely difficult to control the subconscious, involuntary body actions. There is an art to detecting these inconsistencies and it’s harder at home since it’s a bit challenging to suddenly start video-taping your spouse for analysis later.
“Other things that people do is when their lips disappear, their lips fall down over their teeth or they’ll cover their mouth,” said Brown. “Maybe they’ll cover some of the throat area with a hand. The next thing out of their mouth is somewhere between a half-truth and a lie, many, many times.
Look For Shifts
You can also detect when someone is being deceptive by shifts in their behavior. Do they go from still to speedy or speedy to still? Does their eye blink rate change all of a sudden? Do they scoot away from you? Does the volume of their voice change?
“This is why you get a baseline and then look for shifts,” said Brown.
This is one of my favorite signs.
“Sometimes, you ask people a very incriminating question and they’ll smile really big and they’ll shake their head,” said Brown. “There’s no reason to smile on a very incriminating question and it happens because they think they’re getting away with it, having a little bit of fun. It’s deeply subconscious, not anything they would pick to do but it’s a dead giveaway.”
See Brown’s blog for her analysis of Tom Brady and Tonya Harding for great examples of this.
Getting To The Truth
Once you feel fairly certain your spouse is lying to you, your next step might be trying to get to the truth. I say “trying” because frankly, with a pathological liar you may never know the truth.
Brown suggests one strategy is to get a copy of her book, How To Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft and leave it on kitchen counter. “A lot of times just people knowing that you have a leg up in finding the truth will cause them to admit a lot of things,” said Brown. “That’s more than half the reason that polygraph tests work.”
Police interrogations can last six to twelve hours and over time people start to break down. We’re not suggesting you should adopt that approach with your spouse but what you can do is to ask the same question several times and then notice how the answer shifts.
You can also say something like, “Seems like you’ve got more to say about that. Why don’t you let me know?”
Lies are not connected to emotion and they’re not connected to time. These details have to be fabricated. So another strategy that Brown uses is to ask the person to tell the story backwards by asking, “What happened before that?”
You’ll find that there are gaps in time and that’s where you may detect more deception because “filling in the gaps, we get into cognitive overload,” said Brown. “It’s more than the brain can handle to answer all these questions so the body language again breaks down.”
It’s also important to break your questions down in small chunks, asking one thing at a time. So rather than asking if they went to the liquor store and a friend’s house, it is better to ask two separate questions.
With the technology that is readily available, even just being friends with your spouse on an app, you may discover more than you thought possible and it may be best to not let on how much you know. “You can get them in a really deep lie and use that information when you need it, just by not telling them that you know they are lying,” said Brown.
Reading all this might have you feeling overwhelmed or second-guessing yourself. That’s not surprising. Being consistently lied to can make you doubt yourself. Talking through your situation with a licensed therapist or counselor, like the ones at BetterHelp.com, might help you get the clarity and reassurance you need. Certainly, the legal system is unlikely to bring you resolution and you’ll want to be guided by a competent attorney as to the risks and likely costs involved in pursuing litigation.
My guest for this Conversation was body language expert, Traci Brown. Traci is often seen on TV analyzing the likes of Lance Armstrong, Hillary Clinton, Tom Brady and Tonya Harding. She is the author of How To Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of BetterHelp.com which means that if you use their service I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.