Having a compulsive liar in your family or being married to one can be exhausting.  In this article I will share with you how to deal with a compulsive liar, how to address a compulsive liar and how to look after yourself when dealing with a compulsive liar. I’ve also added my experience working with married couples at the end and why marriage counselling in the traditional marriage counselling sense can be ineffective.

How to deal with a compulsive / pathological liar

This first thing to focus on when dealing with a compulsive liar is to identify the main reason or motivators behind the lying. Once you know this, you can take the next step to resolving and changing it.

Here are the top main reasons for why a compulsive liar lies:

#1. Low self-esteem

#2 Attention seeking

#3 Power and control

#4 Approval and avoiding shame

#5 Childhood Trauma

#6 Parental modelling

#7 Avoid intimacy

#8 Addiction

When analysing the reasons, examine the above or ask yourself: are they seeking sympathy, empathy, attention, power or are they struggling with an addiction.with you.  If nothing seems to resonate, it normally links back to painful events in childhood or previous relationships. For example: if the main reason is addiction, you would look to see if they are willing to address that. It is hard for a person to switch away from compulsive lying unless the main underlying cause is also being dealt with. Counseling and life coaching is available on self-esteem, addictions, the need to control, trauma, relationships and attachment. That is if the person is willing and wanting to stop lying. They may still be in complete denial and if this is the case there is not much you can do other than look after youThe reason behind your spouse’s destructive behaviour is key for bringing about change. It’s widely accepted that events in our childhood can have a long-lasting effect on our behaviours into adulthood. Your spouse’s relationship with either of their parents can have a profound effect on them.


Think about how your own childhood experience was. Did you come from a home environment where you felt emotionally connected? Were you able to talk about not only what you did in a day but also about how you felt? Did you feel loved and appreciated? Was there affection in your household? All these aspects are what lead to people feeling connected to one another. A lack of emotional connectedness can be what leads people to destructive behaviours such as compulsive lying, addictions and a whole host of other negative behaviours.


What is emotional connectedness?

There are many definitions of emotional connectedness. For the purpose of this article, it will be defined as: the feeling of being accepted, respected and being able to be our true selves in the presence of another. People who feel the most worthwhile and happy will be able to display high levels of emotional connectedness with their family and friends. Often, a person who has not experienced this as a child or even into adulthood will be a person who will display compulsive lying, power game playing and addictive behaviours.  Participating in these behaviours is a way of your family member or spouse achieving a reprieve from this feeling of disconnectedness. Compulsive lying can give them a space where they are accepted and relaxed, without immediate consequences. They may know that their behaviour is wrong but could find it is too hard to stop it.


How to confront a compulsive liar – don’t force family or marriage counseling

Confronting your family member or husband / wife about their habitual lying will often be challenging. They will most likely create more lies or refuse to talk about it because they don’t know how to deal with what you are saying.

The more you push the issue, the more likely they are to resist. This may damage the chances for later recovery, so I recommend never pushing the topic of counselling and therapy. The only thing you can do is voice your concern, say how it affects you (using ‘I’ statements) and offer help.


Never make an ultimatum for treatment

An ultimatum will work against trying to achieve emotional connectedness. Especially if you are romantically involved as this relationship should really be equitable and even, not where one has the authority to dictate the actions of the other.

Ultimatum’s create more negativity within relationships. Whilst you may feel that you need to gain the power in the relationship or if it’s your husband or wife that is a liar in your marriage by using an ultimatum, the result you desire will not follow.

Think about how you would feel if you were given an ultimatum.  Words such as resentment, belittlement and control spring to mind. An ultimatum may immediately make your spouse defensive and once the brick wall is up, solving problems can be more difficult.

You may also want to consider family counseling or couples coaching which can be helpful to move a couple forward to create lasting change. Notice I did not say marriage counseling, this will not work for helping a relationship or saving a marriage. Traditional marriage counselling is focused on talking about the past, with the hope that in doing so the couple will miraculously change themselves and the relationship. This is a myth. Changes do not happen by talking, they happen by creating a list of consistent daily and weekly actions. Action is the only way to save a marriage over talking. Marriage coaching over marriage counseling is even more prevalent when it comes to being in a relationship with a compulsive liar. They will lie their way through therapy and all you will do is waste thousands of dollars, hours, months, and years where you could have a stronger, closer relationship. A compulsive liar will love making up all sorts of stories in therapy; this will not serve them or the marriage. When you ask them specifically what action they will be taking and holding them accountable to it, lasting changes and progress can be made.


How to help yourself when a member of your family is a compulsive liar

Here is a list of what can you do for you, your health and sanity?

Spending time with a liar is extremely frustrating and exhausting, so if they continue to lie without seeking help, you will need to decide if it’s worth your energy to remain supportive. Here are some things you can do when living with a compulsive liar or they are close in your life that distance is not possible.


#1 Protect yourself from compulsive liars

Be clear about how you feel and what you would like instead of the lying when you discuss their behaviour with them. It can be useful to state what you will and will not tolerate, in order to do this you need to be clear on your bottom line.  Start by asking yourself what is acceptable to you and what is not, knowing your walk away point is key.


#2 Build a team of support to handle pathological liars

Getting support from friends and family is essential. Many also benefit immensely from having neutral third parties. A good relationship counsellor or couples therapist will listen wholeheartedly without judgment and support you to find the right actions and choices for you.

#3 Don’t take their lying personally

Their lying is ALWAYS, always about them not about you.

#4 Self-care, self-care, self-care

Look after yourself really well as pathological liars drain our energy. Take time out to de-stress, unwind. Look after your body, exercise, eat cleanly, break any addictive unhealthy habits. Treat yourself to massages, meditations and things that make you feel good


Impact on a marriage and further steps for married couples where one is a pathological liar

The lack of transparency caused by a husband or wife 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, having helped transform 1000’s and 1000’s of relationships now, I know what works and what doesn’t.

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 are struggling with compulsive lying in any of your relationships and want to talk through a solution do get in touch with me. I know how frustrating and hurtful it can be, especially when we get stuck in the “why” and “how could they mindset”.


From my heart to yours, Nicola