It can be completely crazy-making to feel like you cannot get at the truth. Something doesn’t feel right between the two of you, he’s not around as much as he used to be, not as interested in you. You suspect he might be seeing someone else. You demand he look you straight in the eye and tell you this isn’t so. He does. Can you be certain you now know?
Not according to Douglas Starr, who has just written a fascinating book called “The Interview: Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions.” His research has come up with some startling results: the science that has claimed to have linked lying with anxiety has been discredited. According to Starr, the idea that body language can be used to tell if someone is lying has been disproven. His research shows there is hardly any relationship between anxiety and lying. The idea that scratching one’s nose, avoiding eye contact, folding one’s arms, etc, is a dead giveaway just doesn’t hold up.
Starr did find one aspect of lying that produces anxiety during his study of an alternative method of interrogation used in England. This method involves carefully interviewing the suspect to create a coherent story of the events surrounding the crime. The suspect is not yelled at, or threatened; intimidation techniques like we see on “Law and Order” are not part of the picture.
If the suspect gives false details in order to maintain his cover story, eventually it will get harder and harder to hold the story together. This is the point where the suspect starts to show signs of anxiety.
(Click here to read about and hear Douglas Starr interviewed by Terry Gross on “Fresh Air”.)
Does your partner’s story hold up over time? What happens if you get him or her to try to help you understand crucial sequences of events, times where he wasn’t where he said he was, etc? (For more about the questions you find yourself asking read “Questions and More Questions About the Affair.”
Another interesting fact is that research shows that people who lie about affairs generally don’t lie about other things. Sure, there are some people who find it easy to lie about everything. But the majority of people in affairs are really being deceitful for the first time. Knowing this can help rebuild trust, soften the disillusionment of suddenly find out you are married to a “liar.” It also means your spouse is probably not a very good liar, which is to your advantage.
Pamela Mayer, author of Liespotting, tells another tale. According to her there is a body of complex research that consistently demonstrates the relationship between body language, facial expression and how one speaks and lying. Click here to hear her Ted Talk. She tells us that no one behavior means someone is lying, but if there is a cluster of them, there’s a good chance they are.
Here are some suggestions that can help with getting your spouse to tell you the truth.
Set a calm and relaxed tone for the conversation.
Make sure there will be no interruptions.
Encourage your spouse by communicating that you are trying to understand him or her.
Let him or her know that things will be much worse if the lies continue and that coming clean will give the two of you a chance to work things out.
Continue to ask questions about things that don’t make sense and ask for help in understanding.
Look for discrepancies in the story and ask for clarification. (This is when the story can start to fall apart).
If you get brushed off, try to stay calm. Let your spouse know that you hear what he is saying, but something doesn’t feel right.
Don’t get discouraged. It may take several attempts before your spouse opens up.
If this is not working, consider marriage counseling. Marriage counseling provides a safe environment in which secrets gradually yield to what is true. A new relationship story is created, one that is not based on illusions. Keeping an affair, or the fact that an affair was sexual and not just emotional, or an affair relapse secret during this type of process becomes extremely difficult.