How To Know If You’ve Married A Compulsive Liar

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How To Know If You’ve Married A Compulsive Liar

Posted 21 Jan 2018

Marriage & Relationship Transformation Specialist

Nicola Beer

How To Know If You’ve Married A Compulsive Liar

Compulsive lying disorder is where a person falsifies information and pathologically lies. The compulsive lies can be extensive or relatively small, they can happen over a period of months, years or even a life time in some cases. It is termed a condition because unlike the average person that may tell the odd lie here and there or twist and exaggerate the truth for a specific valid reason. A compulsive liar, lies more out of habit than for a specific reason, and does so frequently, hence the term compulsive liar.

If you are married to a compulsive liar, you will find it extremely exhausting, frustrating and confusing. Following are some of the common signs of most compulsive liars.

What is the difference between compulsive lying and pathological lying?

Compulsive lying and pathological lying are often used interchangeably. There is no set distinction in medical journals about the difference between the two. However, professionals in the mental health area: psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counselors identify compulsive liars as those who have the habit of lying uncontrollably on any topic. That is, they will lie about anything, even unimportant matters, and often without any stressors.  A pathological liar however does so to gain something from lying; they have a purpose and clear intention. Pathological liars are often deemed to be more manipulative than a person who lies without thinking. In both categories experts warn that a person can become so ingrained in their false stories that they actually begin to believe them. For the purpose of this blog, when I refer to a compulsive liar, I mean both, as in my experience helping to save thousands of marriages - a compulsive liar can lie pathologically and vice versa.

Signs of compulsive lying

As a marriage counsellor having worked with countless spouses of compulsive liars and with a few compulsive liars who are ready, willing and wanting to change, there are a few striking differences between a compulsive liar and someone who lies on the odd occasion.

1. Comfort in lying 

A compulsive liar finds comfort in lying, they find it easy and effortless to lie compared to the "non-liar" who feels guilt, shame or internally uneasy at doing so. This is usually what shocks husbands and wives most when married to a compulsive liar, the ease at which they find it to lie.

2. Compulsive liars will hold up their lies no matter what

A compulsive liar often will continue to hold up a lie, despite concrete evidence and facts they are wrong. If your husband or wife is a compulsive liar, the one thing you need most is to feel secure. Honesty and trust may never be there. 

3. Don't consider the impact of their lying

A compulsive liar whether it is your husband, wife, girl friend or boyfriend will often lie without thinking about the consequences of being caught. They may lie about something they know you can easily find out about and lie regardless, such as what something costs when you share a credit card bill. Or what they have eaten or drank in the house only the two of you share.

4. Lies are believable and may have truth elements

Paul and Debbie's relationship was on the rocks because Debbie told Paul she went to the Doctors and found out she was pregnant, when she was not. She made up this lie and they came to me to stop divorce.

There was however an element of truth in the story because Debbie did see a doctor. She also may have thought she was pregnant before going, yet she still lied.

Reem was fed up with her husband's pathological lying when she came to me for support. The final straw was Irfan’s lies to their friends and family, telling everyone he had been promoted when he had not, as well as saying he was given VIP tickets to Formula 1 and met celebrities, when they had regular seats and no VIP access. The truth part was that he did go. The fact that there are elements of truth in what compulsive liars say can make it harder to detect and decipher what is real and what is not when in a relationship or married to a compulsive liar.

5. Can lie continuously without good reason

Compulsive lying often continues for a considerate length of time rather than an immediate stress or pressure.  When we look at martial affairs and a cheating husband or wife and the lying associated around that we would not term that as compulsive lying, as the lie results around the pressure of being caught and a strong desire to keep the secret hidden. It is not lying without reason or stress. Lying around affairs by a cheating husband or wife is calculated. Compulsive lying is where they keep lying habitually.

6. Compulsive liars often lie to present themselves in a favorable light

There are so many ways this can manifest.  Ben came to me asking for help saying that he had married a compulsive liar - Stephanie. She compulsively lied around money and had done so since she was a teenager. When she met Ben, she painted a picture of a very rich upbringing and spoilt childhood. She did the same in the office when speaking to co-workers. She lied about her home town location, the size of her house growing up and her father's career and work positions. There was no stress or pressure from others to do so. At work Stephanie was working in a multicultural, multi-level team, where no one cared less about each other's childhood or wealth. Stephanie liked to paint an elaborate picture of where she came from and what luxuries she enjoyed.

When it was time for Ben to meet her parents, she started to change her childhood story. She explained to Ben how when she was 13 her family had lost all their wealth as they gave it away to help a distressed auntie and uncle. Ben was then given strict instructions not to mention her father's previous cars, homes, positions or other assets.

Ben thought this was strange, he had literally been given a list of banned topics and wondered what on earth he could talk about. He started to think that her father must have some kind of complex or problem, if there were so many things off limits. When he met and grew to know Stephanie's father the truth came pouring out. There was no truth in her stories, her father was a humble, hardworking carpenter who raised Stephanie in a small village in the UK. He said to her things didn't add up and that he was puzzled. During a family get together Stephanie was forced to address some of her lies "I must have remembered it wrong." she said and then promptly followed it with "nobody wants to talk about the past, let's raise a glass to the future."

After that she banned any further talk of her childhood and father. The topic became off limits in their relationship. For Stephanie it was case closed, but for Ben the seeds of doubt had been planted and questions raised the trustworthiness of his wife.

The lack of transparency caused by compulsive lying can cause severe stress to the relationship. Transparency is required not only for safety and security in a union but also for deep intimacy.

Getting support with your relationship or marriage is critical during this time. Marriage coaching can work really well. I do not believe traditional marriage counselling works, that is why I did not say marriage counselling. As statistics show that 75% of marriage counselling fails. This is especially true when dealing with a compulsive liar.

Traditional marriage counseling is focused on talking about the past, with the hope that in bringing up all the past pain the couple will miraculously change themselves and the relationship will repair itself. This is a myth!  Changes do not happen through talking- they happen by creating a list of consistent weekly actions and following them. This is the only thing that works when it comes to saving marriages based on my personal experience in helping to save thousands of them. 

Having marriage coaching instead of marriage counseling is even more needed when it comes to being married to a compulsive liar. As habitual liar's will lie their way through marriage counseling therapy and all you will do is waste thousands of dollars, hours of your time and months or years where you could have a stronger, closer and happier relationship. A compulsive liar will love making up all sorts of stories in marriage counseling therapy too, this will not serve them, you or the marriage. Marriage coaching is different because you can ask them specifically what action they will be taking and hold them accountable to it; it is then that lasting changes and progress can be made.

If you want more tips to change and strengthen your relationship, then download my 7 secrets to fixing your relationship. It’s designed to give you 7 clear tips on what to do to break free from the past and create a more loving, passionate and happier way forward.

You can also post a comment below or reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in marriage coaching. 

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4 people have commented this blog.

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Nicola_Beer says:

11 months 2 weeks ago
Yes I agree Susan, it is like an illness and an addiction almost. They find comfort in lying and cannot seem to break the habit. It affect's their loved ones most who are trying to trust again.

Susan says:

11 months 2 weeks ago
I find this trait almost like an illness in people. Its true what you say that sometimes they do it so much, they start to believe their own lies. Sometimes I wonder if these people find it hard to live knowing the harm they are inflicting on others. Susan

Nicola_Beer says:

11 months 3 weeks ago
Hi Khadija It's a difficult one for sure, The best thing you can do is focus on setting your limits and protecting yourself - otherwise, it can create a lot of pain. The hardest thing can be wanting a confession and apology and that may never come. I will be writing specifically about this topic on how to deal with it, coming up. If you want me to email you the new article on this feel free to email me with your emai or sign up for my free marriage secret e-book here

Khadija says:

11 months 4 weeks ago
Hello dear, what tips do you give to manage a compulsive liar that is in your family?

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