How to Tell If Your Spouse Is Lying

Caucasian couple arguing on sofa
Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Wray Herbert wrote in the article, "How to Catch a Liar: The Cognitive Clues to Deceit", "Most of us can spot barely more than half of all lies and truths through listening and observation."

Spotting a liar isn't easy. Your own suspicions can get in the way of getting to the truth.

While some scientists reported two ways to spot a liar, British researchers determined that eye movement is not a good predictor of lies.

So, how do you know if or when your spouse is lying?

It is widely believed that nearly everyone lies on a regular basis. A study by University of Virginia sociologist Bella DePaulo asserts that some lying is necessary for everyday life.

Here are some reasons your spouse might lie, signs that you are being lied to, and what you can do about the lies and lying.

Common Reasons People Lie

  • To avoid conflict
  • To supposedly protect someone's feelings
  • To avoid the consequences of their behavior
  • To postpone having to make changes in lifestyle
  • To hide something they did or did not do
  • Because they are afraid of rejection or losing their spouse
  • To be in control of a situation
  • To avoid being embarrassed
  • To make themselves look good
  • To make themselves appear more successful, special, or talented than they really are

Are You Mislabeling Behaviors?

It is possible to mistake nervousness or distraction or lack of eye contact for lying? This may result in misreading or mislabeling your spouse's behaviors. Nonverbal clues to lying can be difficult to spot and vary from individual to individual.

The bottom line is, if you think your spouse is lying, ask questions and ask for clarification if necessary. A 2008 study suggests asking for eye contact and then ask ing that the story be told in reverse. It is important for you to trust your own gut and intuition or that funny feeling you may have inside.

Possible Signs of Lying

Remember — most of these signs can be easily misread and misinterpreted!

  • Touching chin, or rubbing their brows
  • Crossed arms or legs
  • Playing with hair
  • A line of perspiration on the brow if it isn't a warm day
  • Saying "no" several times
  • Continual denying of accusations
  • Being extremely defensive
  • Providing more information and specifics than is necessary or was asked for
  • Inconsistencies in what is being shared
  • Body language and facial expressions don't match what is being said such as saying "no", but nodding head up and down
  • Smugness
  • May place a barrier such as a desk or a chair in front of self
  • Uncommon calmness
  • Unwillingness to touch spouse during a conversation
  • Being hesitant
  • Slouching posture
  • Rigidity or fidgeting
  • Differing behaviors such as not acting in the usual way
  • Unnatural or limited arm and hand movements
  • Partial shrug
  • Lack of finger pointing
  • Unusual voice fluctuations, word choice, sentence structure
  • Stalling the conversation by repetitive use of pauses and comments like "um" or "you know"
  • Lack of use of contractions. Prefers emphasizing "not" when talking
  • Use of word fillers or evasive answers when on the telephone
  • Lack of many pronouns while talking
  • Avoidance of eye contact, eyes glancing to the right, staring past you, or turning away from you while talking. 

Do You Confront a Suspected Liar?

Some experts say that when you believe you are being lied to, you should not confront your spouse with your suspicions right away. They recommend waiting until you have discovered more information and facts. Other experts believe that the sooner the cards are all out on the table, and the sooner honesty is lived out once again in a marriage, the better. Only you know what is best for your marriage. 

Purchase from Amazon: How to Spot, Revised Edition: Why People Don't Tell the Truth...and How You Can Catch Them  by Gregory Harley & Maryann Karinch 

*Article Updated by Marni Feuerman

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Herbert W. How to Catch a Liar: The Cognitive Clues to Deceit. HuffPost. Published November 17, 2011.


  2. The global deception research team. A world of liesJ Cross Cult Psychol. 2006;37(1):60–74. doi:10.1177/0022022105282295


  3. Wiseman R, Watt C, ten Brinke L, Porter S, Couper SL, Rankin C. The eyes don't have it: lie detection and Neuro-Linguistic ProgrammingPLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40259. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040259


  4. Depaulo BM, Kashy DA, Kirkendol SE, Wyer MM, Epstein JA. Lying in everyday life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996;70(5):979-95. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.5.979


  5. Vrij A, Hartwig M, Granhag PA. Reading Lies: Nonverbal Communication and Deception. Annu Rev Psychol. 2019;70:295-317. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103135


  6. Vrij A, Mann SA, Fisher RP, Leal S, Milne R, Bull R. Increasing cognitive load to facilitate lie detection: the benefit of recalling an event in reverse order. Law Hum Behav. 2008;32(3):253-65. doi:10.1007/s10979-007-9103-y


  7. Masip J, Blandón-Gitlin I, Martínez C, Herrero C, Ibabe I. Strategic Interviewing to Detect Deception: Cues to Deception across Repeated InterviewsFront Psychol. 2016;7:1702. Published 2016 Nov 1. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01702


  8. Street CNH, Vadillo MA. Commentary: Can Ordinary People Detect Deception after All?Front Psychol. 2017;8:1789. Published 2017 Oct 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01789