Abusers will lie about absolutely anything. They will lie about the biggest issues and the smallest things, such as what they ate for lunch. We wear ourselves out trying to tell fact from fiction. We wonder why they invest so much energy in spinning untruths – particularly on seemingly trivial matters. Here, I’m exploring how and why ‘sweet little lies’ work in an abuser’s world.
In life, we may encounter two kinds of lies: white lies and malicious lies. Most of us will admit to ‘white lies’ – which we largely consider to be benign. Think encouraging the kids to get excited about Father Christmas, or reassuring a friend that her new haircut is not as bad as she suspects. But for abusers – often habitual and accomplished liars – there is no distinction to be made. There are no ‘good’ lies. All untruths are useful tools to erode our sense of self and independence.
Abusers don’t do ‘white lies’
“Tell me lies / Tell me sweet little lies”
White lies are based on positive intentions, and can therefore have social value. Your abuser doesn’t believe this. If you try a white lie, expect it to backfire, badly.
When I was pregnant, I was working when I realised that I hadn’t felt baby move for some time. I rushed to the hospital, not stopping to tell my partner. I reasoned that likely everything was fine and telling him would just make him anxious for nothing. If, heaven forbid, there was something wrong – I would tell him then. A white lie, I thought, would spare him unnecessary distress.
I was terrified as I waited for the midwife to find the heartbeat, and hugely relieved when she did. I called my partner to tell him of the false alarm. My white lie backfired spectacularly. I was summoned home, immediately, where my abuser was having the mother of all meltdowns. In his mind, I lied to him to cover up something sinister. I hadn’t been to the hospital – I’d been to see my (fictional) lover.
In the hours that followed, as he confiscated my phone and strip-searched me for evidence, kissed my feet and wept and screamed at my betrayal, I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t see that my intentions were positive. Wasn’t this a major over-reaction to a white lie? Though I showed him my medical notes – which recorded my visit to the hospital – he never believed me. Right up until I left him, he reminded me of this white lie as ‘proof’ of my infidelity.
Abusers always lie to benefit themselves
I now realise the futility of expecting my abuser to see things the way I did. And it wasn’t just because he was in the grip of delusional jealousy. You see, abusers lie for sinister reasons. Like everything they do, the lie is calculated for their own benefit – to get their way, to keep secrets, to protect their interests. This is particularly true for abusers with additional disorders, such as narcissism or psychopathy.
Abusers do not do harmless fibs. So of course they can’t see a white lie as benign.
Why abusers lie about even trivial things
Have you ever wondered why your abuser lies to you about impossibly minor things? If, like me, you are on the receiving end of seemingly pointless untruths – beware! It is possible that you are being gaslighted.
A deliberate abusive tactic, gaslighting is an attempt to re-write history and to wrong-foot you. Watch out for gems such as:
- Listen, I told you I’d be late home tonight. What’s wrong with you?
- No, you definitely said you wanted a latte, not an Americano. What’s your problem?
- The bank called today. You’re overdrawn on your account. Why can’t you control your spending? (Hint: you’re not overdrawn and the bank didn’t call)
Your abuser isn’t setting up these trivial lies for the fun of it. They are calculated to make you doubt your own memory or sanity. It really is crazy-making – and that’s the point! You invest so much time in trying to make sense of things, you have less energy to challenge his behaviour. When he succeeds in getting you to second-guess yourself, you become more vulnerable to his control as you lose confidence in your judgement. You are left treading on quicksand, and eventually – like me – you will give up asking why.
Abusers lie because it benefits them. There are no harmless lies – each is deliberately designed to weaken and degrade you. Don’t expect you can turn him into a truth-teller. You can’t, and you’ll run yourself further into the ground by trying. But, you can choose not to sweat the small stuff any longer. Take control: leave today.
What is the most ridiculous thing your abuser has lied about? How did it make you feel, and did you challenge it?
ALSO SEE: How I was finally successful in leaving my abuser, in Cracking the eggshells for good.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14