how to confront a liar


I've been a liar and I've been lied to.

In first grade I told the world I was adopted.  It didn't matter how many times they pointed out that I'm a carbon copy of my mother, I insisted, "I'm adopted".

Why do we tell lies: big fat whoppers, little whipsy white ones, wild strings and yarns?  Maybe to protect ourselves or support our fantasies (yeah, cause I'm adopted)?  Maybe out of fear? or even habit?  or to get an exchange at Walmart (dang, this waffle iron was broken when I opened the box).

But, to the spouse of an addict filtering through their lies is like...well, lets just call it what it is.  It's like wading through sloppy shit. And it hurts.  Big time.  A lot of times, it's the deal breaker.

Is he telling the truth?

"That condom in my wallet?  Oh, it's not mine.It must have fallen into my pocket when I was walking through the store"

Is he lying?

"I've never looked at porn on my phone!  Someone at work must have stolen my phone and used it."

How are we supposed to know?

"I'm running to Walgreen's real quick, you need anything?"


So, these are some of the things I did to became a human lie detector

1.  Snap out of it

No more rose colored glasses.  No more Happy Wives Club.  No more naively believing. I had to get real and see Mr. Scabs for what he was; a lying, thieving, murderer of love (Dan in Real Life)! He was the fabricator.  If there was one thing I knew, I knew he would lie to me.  It's a hard to accept reality, after all, I couldn't imagine being so shifty in my most intimate relationship.  But it was the truth and the more clearly I could see it the better prepared I was to face him.

2.  Observe

Let's put on our lab coats ladies, it's time to observe him with the attention of a scientist.  What changes do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel?  There are so many advantages to detaching and here, detaching will allow you to see more clearly.  It is a gift!

Suddenly, I could hear it in his voice, see it in his eyes and in his body language. But it wasn't always like that, at first I doubted my senses.

I had just a shred of evidence, like a link or a cleared out web history browser or he's late from work or even worse he smells like a girl.  Maybe I'd ran across a receipt or a secret credit card bill or a stash of hidden condoms or he was angry and short tempered.  Are the little things or big things not adding up?  I watched everything.

3.  Keep quiet and write

Maybe you say something like, "hey, why's the web browser cleared?"

Do you get a barrage of reasons why it's your fault and you're to blame?  Do they blow you off, explain it away or get angry?  So, keep it to yourself and file it away.  Journal these observations, these red flags.  Record the details.  Maybe it's vague or doesn't make sense, but soon it will.  Mull over these patterns, shreds of evidence and seemingly unimportant bits.  Believe in yourself because soon you will see the truth.  Clarity.

A lot of people like lists, if you need to write a list, do it.

red flags
short tempered angry
found large amount of cash in his truck
found craigslist history search for women
smelled like unfamiliar girly lotion
came home from work late and angry
blaming me for lack of sex
always turns off the laptop when i walk in the room
eyes look weird blank
barking at the kids
hasn't gone to therapy in weeks

It's pretty clear now, isn't it?

4.  Confidence.  

When it's time to confront the fabricator do it with absolute confidence.  This takes practice and may be severely uncomfortable at first, but dang girl, why shouldn't you be confident about the red flags you see?  Review your list!  It's like watching a horror film and when the babysitter answers the phone and hears, "have you checked the children?"  Why does she hang up and go on with her math homework as if it's nothing at all!!!??  Red Flag, call 911!  Same deal ladies, red flags are there for a reason. Trust yourself because they can be easily explained away.  That is the biggest lie of all, and it's often the one we tell ourselves.

5.  Practice and then have the conversation

Prepare yourself physically.  Maintain eye contact.  Stand or sit up strait.  Open your posture, don't fold your arms or furrow your brow. Maybe raise your eyebrows a bit, nod your head instead of shaking it. Cast off any kind of sad, depressed or unsure looks. Tell yourself you are strong and capable.  Review your list. Practice in the mirror. I know it's weird but it helps.  You know you're being lied to and you're ready for the truth

I talk to myself all the time.  I play imaginary conversations over and over in my head.  I play out different scenarios and directions.  I tell myself what I think and how I feel, that way when I'm confronted in real life, I'm prepared.

Here's an example conversation

Me: Hey, let's talk. I know you have something you need to tell me.  And it's time for you to be honest.  (this is my favorite phrase.  You can always go back to it.  It's simple and direct.  I used this all the time.  It was my fall back.  If I didn't know what to say, I said this.)

Mr. Scabs: like what?

Me:  Nod your head, use your open encouraging body language and facial expressions. I know that you've made some mistakes lately with your addiction and I'm ready for you to tell me about them.  

Then be silent.  Watch their body language, their eyes, listen to their voice or even their breathing.  Are you getting the usual?  Excuses, blaming, denial, anger or blank looks like he doesn't know what your talking about.  Or the ultimate, does he storm out of the house flabbergasted that you'd say such a thing!!  Beware, these are not the actions of a penitent man.  This is a confirmation that he is hiding something.  It is a boost to your confidence.  Your red flags really were RED.

Let him do this, all the time watching. Take a quick check of yourself physically, are you making eye contact, are you remaining positive?  Are you hunched over or sitting up straight?  Are you frowning or have knowing confident look on your face. Then, calmly continue.

Me: Come on, let's really talk about this.  I know you still have something you need to take ownership for and be honest about.  And, now is the time for you to tell me.

Mr. Scabs: What?  What do I need to be honest about?  

Me: Its not my job to tell you what it is.  Its your job to be transparent.  If there's any chance of working this out you'll need to trust me enough to tell the truth. 

Mr. Scabs: I can't believe you are accusing me!

Me: This isn't an accusation.  But, I do know there's something you need to tell me. So please, let's talk about this.  I'm ready.

And then be silent and listen again.

If after a few attempts you're still getting the "I don't know what your talking about" or other excuse, I'd change my tactic.

Me: Mr Scabs, look, I know that you are struggling, It's clear. I also know you've made some mistakes you need to come clean about.  So, why don't you take some time to think about it and I'll come talk to you again tonight after dinner.

Smile, nod yes and maybe even gently touch his arm, then walk away!!!  Come back with the same conversation when he's had time to think and settle.

If he starts to open up and be honest.  Listen and take mental notes.  Don't act surprised by any new information.  Take it all in.  And then tell him how you feel.

Me:  I feel so hurt that you're keeping secrets from me.  I want to create safety and trust between us again but I'm not sure you're interested. I'm sad you choose to keep secrets again. What are we going to do?

On the other hand, if you get nothing from this conversation.  It you are being stonewalled or yelled at or manipulated walk away.  These are the epitome of reasons to detach.  Try the conversation later, after he's calmed down or maybe with a therapist.  If there's physical abuse or violence get away!   If the conversation ever leads somewhere dangerous walk away.  You must have an escape plan.  Take your kids to the park, the mall, your sisters house or go to a movie, pack your bags and drive to North Carolina.

If he in anyway wants to rid himself from the hell he's created he will hopefully tell even the tiniest sliver of truth and when he does build on it.

Mr. Scabs: Well, I went to the casino a few weeks ago and i was going to tell you about the money I made and I was going to account for it.  

Me:  Right, I know. (even if you don't know, say you know.  Maintain your open posture and eye contact). How did it feel to go to the casino and not tell me?  What do you think that does to our relationship?

Don't ask details.  Leave it up to him to tell the story and the details.  Try not to get angry and when he divulges more information always act like you already knew the details, whether you did or not. Nod your head and say, "yes, I know."

As a side-note, he may ask how you know.  Don't say how you are figuring this out. Don't tell him what you suspect or have found.  Don't let on that you've installed Stealth Genie on his tablet or phone. Recently, in light of Edward Snowden, I told Mr. Scabs about Stealth Genie.  After a bit of conversation, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't blame you."

I'd usually end the conversation explaining what I was going to do in light of his lies.  Detach.  Go to yoga. Take some alone to to figure this out.  Pack your bags and drive to North Carolina.  Whatever. Then walk away.  Maybe there will even be some bonding between you.  The truth does funny things!

I believe this is one way you can let them hit bottom.  Let go.  Don't get involved in their recovery actions or accountability.  Just walk away and take care of yourself.  Do what you need to do, talk to whomever you need to talk to.

All of this is a skill.  It takes time to learn.  Mistakes are ok.  The biggest feedback I get is this:  What if it's really nothing?  What if i'm just being paranoid?  Read your red flag list again.  You're not making this up.  And honestly, if you're wrong, you'll know it.

An honest man sounds completely different than a lying man.



  1. Love this post! I'm terrible at holding my ground. Any moment a person makes me feel guilty for prying, I soak up all that guilt and beat myself inward. But as I read this I thought, "No, being in a relationship, you have a RIGHT to feel safe. It is your RIGHT to transparency." I like it.

    Also, I REALLY like when you write. I always feel empowered after I read your mind.

    1. I always have the same fleeting feeling, soaking up the guilt the moment I'm challenged. And it's a weird feeling to push back on that. Chantel! You are always so nice to me! thanks

  2. pack your bags and drive to north carolina!

    i loved this. so applicable to so many situations. these methods can help confront and heal all kinds of dysfunction.

    i miss you so deeply.

  3. What I love this is it is so empowering. I hear a lot of confusion from others about what it means to be "codependent" or controlling, etc. For some, that is interpreted as not in any way interfering, questioning, confronting the addict. Taking control of our safety and our right to live in an honest relationship is not being controlling. We also need to be transparent, express ourselves and stand up for ourselves. We cant control what he does, but we can certainly ask for the truth and make our own decisions what to do with the truth (or the lack of it)!
    Thank you, this will be helpful for so many!

    1. you're right, there is a lot of confusion about co-dependency and controlling behaviors. sometimes this addiction world boggles me down with definitions and ideas of how and what we should be. I felt lame living a life where i just didn't know what was going on. it was as if i was just supposed to pray, wait and stay out of his business. Not so. I felt required to take action and learn some new being a like detector.

  4. This is so frustrating because it's true. It's frustrating because, I'm sure, none of us ever imagined having to talk to our spouse like a freaking 5 year old. But we have to… I guess it's either that or leave them. We still have a choice, they are just so limited because of our husbands choices. UGH!

    1. it does feel elementary sometimes. but thats when i walk away too because i know he's not stupid. he can see and hear and is aware of what the truth really is.

  5. Great post. Have you ever read the book "When Your Lover Is A Liar?" It is awesome and has some great tips for confrontations and their responses.

    When I confronted my husband about the lies that led to our separation, I didn't follow this exactly, but basically. And you are right, their responses tell us everything, sadly.


    1. i've never read it but it sounds like something that would be real helpful. Sometimes I just needed a little a knowledge in my pocket.

  6. I also love this: "It you are being stonewalled or yelled at or manipulated walk away. These are the epitome of reasons to detach." There have been a lot of conversations lately in my circle of WOPA friends about detaching vs vulnerability. And it's left me confused and wondering if I am doing things wrong, but I'm not. My situation is just different than theirs. You are so awesome Scabs. Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. there most certainly are different paths to take! This is just my story and what worked for me. And not everyone is going to respond favorably and make the big changes. the signs and signals are what we need to pay attention to. i could never be vulnerable with someone when they are stonewalling me or manipulating or lying or whatever. i wouldn't make sense. You are doing things right, you're the only one who knows that. it's so hard, isn't it?

  7. I needed this post today. You are amazing. Thanks for being brave!

    1. take matters into your own hands, right? i'm glad this helps.

  8. I love this bad! My hubs has been on the couch since Xmas for lying. Bastards.

  9. I've followed your blog for a while now, and I have been anxiously awaiting this post ever since you had mentioned you were going to write it. I confront my husband all the time (just past 4 years of finding out about his porn addiction) and only once has he immediately responded in humility with the truth. I'm getting more confident, but still have to fight second guessing myself. He's just now realizing that his dishonesty is a huuuge problem that must be righted if we are going to make it and is working through it with his counselor.
    I needed to hear this: "What if it's really nothing? What if i'm just being paranoid? Read your red flag list again. You're not making this up. And honestly, if you're wrong, you'll know it. An honest man sounds completely different than a lying man."
    Thank you for writing your journey with Mr. Scabs. It helps give me hope!
    ~Claiming Redemption

    1. I'm so sorry i did't get it out sooner. It was a lot harder to write than i expected. And I always hesitate to give "advise". Because everyone's situation is so unique. Honestly seems to be like the first big hurdle, at least it was for us. Mr scabs used to say he felt like he was addicted to lying. it was weird, laughable almost. lying about everything, even small insignificant things.

      it take a lot of time and work for them to become honest but once he is on that journey of truth telling you will see that biggest change. somehow truth burns away all the shame.

  10. I read and reread this post several times over the weekend leading up to me having to confront my husband for lying and smashing a boundary I had in place. The post gave me great comfort and helped me to have some words/phrases ready for his inevitable denial and obfuscation. I am grateful for the post and the strength it gave me waay over on the East Coast!

    1. oh, sheesh! that makes me nervous that you read and reread it. i am no expert but i feel so humbled that it gave you strength and comfort. That is exactly what I wanted to do and even waaaay over on the east coast (not north carolina?) :)


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