Married To A Compulsive Liar – Compulsive Lying Disorder


Having helped enhance 1000’s and 1000’s of marriages now through my podcast shows on Itunes, as well as online programs, podcast shows and email articles one thing is clear. Transparency and trust are crucial for not only a healthy and happy marriage, for a passionate one also.

If you are married to a compulsive liar and feeling confused, frustrated and exhausted – then you are not alone. One of the major questions on the minds of husbands and wives married to a compulsive liar is trying to understand WHY they are lying.

Knowing WHY and the reason behind the lying is everything. As without knowing the reason WHY it is difficult to address the problem, save the marriage and stop divorce.

As a world-renowned marriage transformation expert, I have helped countless couples where a husband or wife is a compulsive liar and I have come up with 8 reasons why. Understand the reason and with the compulsive liar, you can address the issue.


Why Does a Compulsive Liar Lie?


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #1. Low self-esteem


This is sadly not feeling good enough can make many husbands and wives compulsively lie. Compulsive Lies may be about appearance, wealth, career, family and marital status. The lies will vary, most common are lies around falsified achievements and successes. Either directly where they will lie about what they have succeeded in or what their children, husband/wife etc have achieved.  They often fear rejection and don’t feel they are worthy of love and recognition for being themselves. A compulsive liar will exaggerate the truth or makeup things to feel better about themselves. This is common across all cultures, the need to “keep up appearances”

One wife I worked with would tell her husband and friends how when she went out to bars and restaurants, men fell over her. How she had to fight them away, how they told her she should be a model. Her stories would include celebrities and super successful millionaire businessmen. In compulsively lying she wanted to portray that she was desired, important and worthy of love. Masking that in actual fact she felt the opposite about herself, she felt she was ugly, old, too wrinkly and boring. This void and an overwhelming feeling of not being good enough drove her to lie and stopped the very thing she was seeking more of: love.

Self-esteem lying to get external approval is a very apparent in most compulsive liars.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #2 Attention seeking

This is where the person craves the attention of others to be directed at them. They want attention and will go to any lengths of lying to get it. If you hang around a compulsive liar long enough and you will notice that the lies will always paint the liar in a favourable way. It doesn’t mean the lies are always about having good fortune though, they can paint the picture of being a victim. This can be a made-up illness or being a victim of crime, or creating another drama where people focus in on them and their life.

They need the attention of others to feel important and to combat feeling inadequate,  invisible or ignored. Lying for attention increases when the person lying feels jealous of others attention.

Deepa and Umar were a couple who reached out to me for marriage counselling therapy. When I got to know Deepa she would want to talk for hours on end about how her husband’s family treated her so badly. She consistently sharing how she was being the model daughter-in-law and how mean they were to her. Whilst there was some truth about their negative attitude towards her, most of the stories had been fabricated or made up. She was attached to these stories, she used them to justify her behaviour in the marriage. She shared such stories with friends, family and co-workers and Umar was wondering if marriage counselling could work or that he had married a compulsive liar for good. Needless to say it caused a great deal of tension between them. Underneath all she wanted was attention and we looked at healthy ways to feel loved and desired without the pathological lying.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #3 Power and control

Another deep motivator for compulsive liars is the urge to control and have power over a relationship, person or situation. This is where women or men lie to manipulate their  husband or wife into getting what they want. For example I have had a case where a lady lied to her husband about being stalked and harassed by another man. She did this because she didn’t want her husband to leave for a holiday with his friends.  Her stories were created to guilt him to change his plans. As she wanted him with her because she was jealous and anxious about 1, him being with other women and 2, her being on her own.

Another way I have seen the power and control lying play out in marriage are lies around women and men (with or without children finding employment.)  I have helped marriages where a husband or wife has lied about their ability to find work or start work. I’ve supported couples to repair their marriage after lies about job applications have been made. As well as where lies about the children’s or parent’s health have been made to avoid returning or starting work again.

Sometimes this is about power and control and other times this is about self-esteem, where women or men anticipate and fear rejection from employers, so they avoid trying. This fear and hopeless of finding employment needs to be overcome if it is causing an issue in the marriage.

Then there is  “gas lighting” is a tactic in which a person in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality by telling them that things they thought happened didn’t happen. Where they make up a completely different story of events and elude to the person they are losing their memory and mind. Anyone is susceptible to gas-lighting it can be a common technique of compulsive liars. If done slowly, the victim may not realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.

I’ve seen the topic of gaslighting come up most when it comes to nights where both in the couple have been drinking. The couple will argue that completely different incidents happened and accuse the other of losing their mind. Of course different perceptions are common when drinking alcohol, however when it becomes frequent gas-lighting can be an abusive form of manipulation.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #4  Approval and avoiding shame


Disguising failure or perceived failure is the number one reason many men will lie. Although women can and do lie to avoid the shame attached to failure also. This often includes diverting blame onto others. You can spot this easily when you hear things like “it only happened because…”,  “they drove me to it”, “my drink kept being topped up…”,  “he/she started it …” “I am only reacting to your…”

The person wants to avoid responsibility so they blame other people or things. This can be a severe problem in all relationships. As it makes it almost impossible to rebuild trust, for trust to grow, acceptance of responsibility for actions and consequences is critical.

Avoiding shame links in to the self-esteem section, the need for approval is linked with not feeling good enough with people knowing the truth.

In the marriage therapy online I helped Nicky and Rob who met and fell in love in New York. When they met Rob lied about his wealth, car, properties and job. Nicky found out later that he was unemployed and spent his days in arcades and pubs. He was too ashamed to say he was struggling to find work and that he was living with his parents.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #5  Childhood Trauma 

Childhood trauma can be at the heart of compulsive lying in later years. If at a young age, a child had to lie to avoid a beating,  being humiliated or disapproved of, they would have learnt automatically that lying is the way to stay safe and survive.  This is when deception gets associated as having a positive advantage to telling the truth. When reinforced throughout a period of months, years or decades it is easy to see how childhood lying can develop into habitual lying as an adult.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #6 Parental modelling


Parental modelling can be a determinant in pathological lying. Claire was compulsively lying to her husband and they were heading for divorce because of it before I met them.

When Claire and I examined the roots of her lying, it became apparent it was from watching her mother lie to her father. Her father worked away often and she heard her mother frequently lying about drinking alcohol, about how much money she was spending and what things cost. Her mother would also consistently lie about her social life, more specifically how often she left the house at night. Her mother seemed to revel in the lies and would wink and smile at Claire when she did made them. Claire also got rewarded for “keeping mummy’s secrets”  Claire thought habitual lying was normal between a married couple. Her mother used to say to her frequently  “us girls need to get away with as much we can, while we can  Claire, we only live once.” Claire unknowingly lived by this, it was a deep core belief, that needed to be broken.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #7 Avoid intimacy

As a relationship expert, I have successfully helped countless men and women break their fears of intimacy.  Some fear their husband/ wife knowing everything about them and feel power in hiding their true feelings hidden.

For Tim hiding his feelings, whereabouts and thoughts were essential for him to stay in a relationship. If someone got too close, that would be it, he would need to end the relationship. In fact most of his life he was more comfortable with short flings and casual arrangements. He tried a few times to make relationships work but always got cold feet. He wanted a family life and relationship in many ways, but on the other hand, it did scare him. Tim is not alone in this, many men and women are “love avoidant”. This is where men and women crave attention and affection and will make efforts to date and meet people, but as soon as they get close to something serious, they run a mile. Nearly always this is because of previous relationship or childhood pain. Typically where a significant loss has occurred, shame humiliation or breach of trust and love.


Compulsive Lying Disorder Reason #8 Addiction

The most common habitual lying I see in my work as a marriage counselor and coach is lies being told to cover up an addiction or obsession. The lying usually starts as the odd lie here and there and as things progress it can become significantly compulsive. Where a husband or wife lie not only to their significant others but to everyone and it just comes out. They will automatically for example lie about what they have consumed or done. I’ve supported 100’s of individuals to break-free from the grips of alcoholism, porn addiction, sex addiction, food and internet addiction and lying is prevalent in all cases.

Lying becomes a defensive mechanism to hide from the truth that the addiction has a hold on them. Addicts easily turn into compulsive liars as denial is a way to protect themselves from the shame, guilt and powerlessness attached to the addiction. Before long the lying can become, so habitual it is done without any thought.



The hardest part about being married to a compulsive liar,  is their unwillingness to admit they have been lying and share the truth. Pathological liars struggle to do this, even if all the evidence is stacked against them. Yet is the very thing the other spouse wants and needs to move forward and save the relationship. It’s these two opposites that cause couples to clash time and time again. On the one hand the need for closure and admission and on the other the desire to gloss over and pretend nothing has happened.

Only once you know the reason can you address the cause. Stay tuned for more on this topic, be sure to download my free e-book 7 secrets to saving your marriage to make sure that you get more supportive articles like this.


From my heart to yours, Nicola


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