Abusive lies UNCOVERED #1: Sweet little lies

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.

Photo by ~Twon~

Photo by ~Twon~

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”
Fleetwood Mac

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

Photo by desi.italy

Photo by desi.italy

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

16 responses to “Abusive lies UNCOVERED #1: Sweet little lies

  1. great positive post. I like how you differentiate between white lies and other forms of lies. You are right- white lies have a positive intention. Other lies are not motivated by positive intentions, obviously. I think the lies about the trivial things are what bother me the most. they are so frickin’ exhausting- as if we have time to unravel their crazy, psychotic worlds.


    • Me too, Kimberly. I ended up feeling totally resentful that he lied about pointless things. I could understand the untruths about big stuff, but little things just wore me into the ground.

      I thought he was a compulsive liar, until I began to learn more about the dynamics of abuse. Abusers know what they are doing, and they know the impact it has on us. They do it anyway because it works for them.


  2. what a great post~sadly at the expense of your own experience, you can write this. I blog about my sociopath who is a Master at white lies/viscous lies/ malicious lie’s and so on!!


    • Thanks Teela. We live and we learn! Whether we’re dealing with a sociopath, narcissist, or your plain old garden variety abuser – they all look after number one first, no matter what it costs those that love them.


  3. Wow. An echo of my experience – to include when I was pregnant. I didn’t recall feeling my son move for three days after a very stressful argument and being dragged all over the place. It is true, they never change.


    • Hi Persia, you are right – they don’t ever change, and they have only one real love: themselves. For this reason, I believe that when we are pregnant this means two things to an abuser:
      1) We are more vulnerable, both physically and emotionally and therefore ripe for exploitation and abuse
      2) They feel they have to compete with the baby for our attention. They are used to being the centre of the universe, and they don’t like it when we aren’t 100 per cent focussed on their needs.


      • Couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s funny though, regarding the second point, my ex wanted me to get pregnant straight away. If I had done as he wanted, by the time I’d have the second child, I would have had TWO children under the age of one. Considering he does not pay child support for the one I habe with him, nor his daughter with another woman, could you imagine???


      • I couldn’t have put it better myself. But I must say with the second point, my ex wanted me to get pregnant again just after the birth of our son. I stood firm and said no. If it were up to him, I would have had two children under the age of one. Not only is he not paying child support to his son, but he isn’t for his other child, a daughter for a different woman. I’m raising my son by myself. Could you imagine if I had gone with it and had another child???


  4. Hey Persia. Yep – babies do have a purpose for abusers. Children keep us tied to them, and less able to leave them. When we are pregnant, we depend on them even more. Even though my ex didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility of fatherhood – in terms of providing for our child emotionally, financially, or practically – almost as soon as baby arrived he wanted another! I refused, too – and I’m glad that I did. Well done to you for seeing him as he really is.


  5. Pingback: Can a Narcissist Move On? | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed·

  6. The worst lie, was him having cancer and needing support from me and the children he had left, I have just been cleared from breast cancer after 5 years of treatment, he would ring me and tell me how sick he was just like me and can I help him. I can’t describe how I felt when I discovered it was all a lie, by that stage I had loaned him money, paid for visits for him to see the kids because he was so sick. His girlfriend actually outed him to me she was also tired of this lies, he had told her that this mother was on deaths door to cover the trips he made to see me and the kids she had found txts from him to me and another woman. We cornered him and between the two of us made him tell the truth, it was nasty and he was so bitter, he kept saying are we happy now we have made him in to the bad guy. He then opened up and there were so many lies, and he even put context around them, every lie was to get him something or avoid something none of them were to help or make someones life better they were all so selfish and arrogant it was unbelievable. But a week on he has started to recount them “I never said that or you must have heard wrong” I believe that that only reason he spilled all this was because he was in a corner and thought it would be an escape and that we would feel sorry for him, he actually said that.


    • Hi there and thanks for commenting. I’m so sorry you went through this. It is utterly vile that someone should lie about something as serious as cancer – but incredibly, highly manipulative people do not have the boundaries that would otherwise prevent them from doing so.

      You outline vividly how they will stop at nothing to get what they want – and their selfish disregard for anyone that gets hurt by their lies.

      I’m so glad that you and his girlfriend managed to get the truth out of him, and unsurprised that he *still* believes himself to be the victim. I hope you have both removed him from your lives – either way, at least it is clear what type of man he is.


      • Thank you for the reply we have 3 children together and I am not able to fully remove him from our lives, we were together for over 27 years and although he did lie all during that time most were nothing significant, white lies, until about 10 years ago when he started to drink, what I now recognize is that letting the white lies slip allowed him license to tell bigger and bolder lies, the other thing I recognized is that we judge people by our own values and not theirs, thats why I didn’t believe that he could lie about something like cancer, who would do that and to someone who had cancer. Sadly he has lost all relationships and the respect of his son, the younger two children were not told of the cancer at his request. He tells me he is now on a truth journey as he realizes what lying has cost him and how it has hurt others. I really hope for his own sake he can do it, oddly I am not even angry with him now he hurt himself more than others when it was found out.


  7. I remember feeling a lump in my breast, and telling him about it. He wasn’t concerned at all… Until I went in for my tests. I guess He realized that if he acted concerned and distraught about my “condition”, he would get attention and sympathy from his coworkers and girlfriend. When I went in to have the lump surgically removed, he screamed at me the whole way to the hospital for being so careless and waiting so long to take care of it. (It was benign) after my operation, he volunteered to get my pain meds for me at the pharmacy 2 blocks away. 3 HOURS later he returned. I asked what took him so long, and he had the nerve to tell me I was totally out of it from my meds and he had only been gone 20 minutes! Later I found out he went to his girlfriend’s house. Ugh.


    • Hi Angie, and thank you for sharing your experience here. It never fails to amaze me how these awful people see everything as about them. You had the lump, you had the surgery, you had the pain, and he thinks it’s okay to scream at you.

      I’m so sorry that you went through this, you didn’t deserve it. I hope and pray that this man is no longer in your life.


  8. Hey all, I felt compelled to share this with you all. I’ve been with my man for 8 yrs. First verbal abuse started 3 mnths into our relationship. The fourth month was the beginning of the physical violence and every other abuse imaginable. Both were previously married. He had 2 children with the ex I had 3 of my own. Behind my back he was telling my children disgusting lies about me, to which I was unaware of for years. He became verbally and emotionally abusive to my children so I ran away with my children and ended up in several women’s refuges. I only ever lived with him for no longer than a year. He still lies about everything, he continues to be secretive, I don’t know why. We are 3 hours away from each other he sometimes comes on the weekend. I’ve 2 adorable daughters to him, A 5 yo and one that’s almost 4 yo. The first child was planned and the last was a lovely surprise, although it was not consensual on my part, he had decided for me that I was going to have another child. He has never raised them with me. He has brutally attacked me almost killing me and told me about his plans to kill the two girls and I. I told police, went to court got a IVO on him, all to no avail.Cops didn’t believe me. He suffers from morbid jealousy that is suffocating and illogical and he is vulgar and pathetic with what he says to me in front of our children. In fact less than a week ago he said to our girls in front of me “that mummy kisses other men”, and “mummy takes off her clothes and has sex with other men”. All that whiles screaming at us and threatening the girls to put them in the kennel with the dogs because they were crying. My youngest asks me if I do kiss other men? She has asked me 3 times in less than a week. I’ve told her that ‘”mamma is always with you and there is never another man in our house”,even the 5 yo is trying to reassure her little sister. My partner is dangerous and though I managed to leave the home I cannot leave him because he’s psychologically crazy and very narcissistic. I don’t know how to leave him without endangering my girls?


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