By | November 26, 2015 23 Comments

Sociopaths–How They Lie and Why We Fall For It: Part 1


Sociopaths dazzle and distract with brilliant linguistic gymnastics to obscure their lies.  In my book, Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via, I examine several conversations to reveal specific techniques “Paul” (my husband of about 20 years who I now believe is a sociopath), used to obscure the truth. These techniques are likely common to other liars and sociopaths as well.

“Our Honeymoon Isn’t Over Until I Say It’s Over!” 

The night we’d returned from our honeymoon, I needed to make a business-related call.  Paul was furious with me and snapped, “Our honeymoon isn’t over until I say it’s over!”  It was so out of character for the man I thought I married that I decided to discuss the unsettling interaction with Paul the next day.

I started by telling Paul that I’d been upset and repeated his comment, “Our honeymoon isn’t over until I say it’s over!”

With a look of surprise concern on his face, Paul replied, “I’d never say something like that.”

Those six words comprised three techniques that are effective at creating misperceptions:

1) framing the conversation to blind me to what was in clear view,

2) creating cognitive dissonance that I would likely resolve in his favor, and

3) deceiving without uttering a single word that was untrue.

Framing The Conversation To His Advantage

By starting with “I’d never ”¦ ” Paul encouraged me to frame my recollection of his behavior in the context of who I believed Paul to be—a good, loving, honest, and honorable man. The fact that he made a point of presenting himself as so moral while we were dating, and I believed and loved that about him, provided a smokescreen of perceived honestly to conceal his dishonesty.

Of course, as I had just married him, I had a vested interest in believing in his inherent goodness.

Before you judge me as naïve or stupid, keep in mind that we all perceive the world through a lens forged from our interpretation of past events and present expectations.  It is almost impossible for us to see what we are not looking for, even when it is right in front of us.

We’re Blind To What We’re Not Looking For

A comical experiment that became the inspiration for the book The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us demonstrates our blindness to what we are not expecting. The study involved two teams with three players each, two basketballs, and one gorilla (actually, a person in a gorilla suit).

Subjects were asked to view a short video of the two teams passing a basketball back and forth. The task was to count the number of times the team wearing white passed the ball. In the middle of the short game, a person in a gorilla suit walked to the center of the scene, stopped, faced the camera, pounded its chest several times, and then left.

When the video concluded, viewers were asked how many times the white team had passed the ball and next were asked if they noticed anything unusual about the game. Believe it or not, lots of people did not even notice the gorilla. Even when asked if they saw a gorilla, most of those who had not previously noticed the gorilla laughed, because the idea of a gorilla being part of the video was preposterous.

This study and its findings have been repeated consistently—we tend not to see what we are not expecting to see, even when looking straight at it.

After all, the task was framed as counting passes among players with white shirts, not finding a big, out-of-place, faux, hairy primate. Similarly, as Paul’s new bride, without even knowing that I was doing it, I was framing each interaction by looking for confirming evidence that I had selected a wonderful spouse. I certainly was not looking for signs that Paul was a lying, manipulative sociopath.

Cognitive Dissonance: Character Versus Behavior

Still, Paul’s comment that he alone determined when the honeymoon was over did not fit my “Paul is a wonderful person” framework. So, like any other human being, I was motivated to make a mental adjustment so that my perception of Paul’s behavior and my understanding of Paul’s character were in harmony once again.

In other words, I had to resolve the dissonance between his statement that “I’d never ”¦” and the fact that I thought he’d just done something he said he would never do. To this end, it was easier for me to shift my perception of what I thought Paul said the previous night to fit the assumption that my new husband was a wonderful man than to hold onto my initial, albeit correct, memory of the tense exchange. (Although traumatic memory is quite stable, every-day memory is no more stable than shifting sand.)

To hold onto that correct memory would have required me, within days of our wedding, to have drastically deflated my assessment of Paul and to have concluded I had just made a horrible mistake by marrying him. Tall order!

Using The Truth To Lie

Paul also lied to me without technically uttering any words that were untrue.

Think about what Paul said and what he did not say. Paul never said, “I did not say that.” If he had, that would have been a lie. Perhaps because it made the game of deception more engaging, Paul preferred an orchestrated misperception to an outright untruth, although he was comfortable with downright lies when necessary.

What did Paul say? Simply that he “”¦would never say something like that.” That is not the same thing. In fact, if at the very moment he spoke that sentence Paul did not intend to say something like that, his statement would have been technically true.

Lying Is A Game To A Sociopath

I believe deception is a game to Paul and to fellow sociopaths.  Paul loved to cobble words together to create an impression that was 180 degrees opposite of the truth.  Then if his “deception” was ever detected, he could argue that you had misunderstood and misperceived, as everything he’d said was true.  It took me until my divorce from Paul to understand this technique, but once I understood it, I became aware of the frightening frequency with which Paul wielded it.  Other sociopaths do this as well.

Once in our divorce, for example, a judge asked Paul what an account under dispute was worth. (All the following values are fictitious.) Paul reported that the account had been worth $2,000 a year ago and had grown by $100 as of the day he’d prepared the paperwork for court (the implication was that the account was now worth $2,100). I knew something was amiss.  And, I was right.  Why not just say, the account is currently worth $2,100?

What Paul left out was that the day after he found out the account had grown to $2,100, Paul liquidated a substantial amount of the account, bringing its value to about $800. But notice, every word he spoke or wrote in legal documents was technically “true.”  The judge awarded me the account that she thought was worth $2,100.

But since Paul had gutted the account, I now needed to spend additional legal fees to recoup the money I was owed.  Paul even argued that he only owed me $800, as the judge had awarded me the account, without specifying the amount of money that had to be in it.

Are you kidding me!  Nope.  That’s how many sociopaths operate.

Hurting Others Is A “Win” To A Sociopath

To Paul, it was a victory. Think about it.  If I had to spend an additional $1,300 in legal fees to get the $2,100 I was awarded, then the “net” value of me getting the account would be only $800.  (As legal fees can add up fast, this is quite possible.) So by lying with the truth, Paul had put me in a situation in which he’d have $1,300 of assets that were technically mine, and the correct decision on strictly economic terms would be for me to walk away with an account that was now only worth $800.

(Identifying names, places, events and characteristics of “Paul—”not his real name–and others I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect their and my identity.)

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Another great article to start my day with!!! This site is such a blessing! The word “never” is something the sociopath i was seeing said a lot!!! Especially when confronted! I confronted him about the online profle i had discovered and the responses i got were “I’m not on there to meet anyone” “i would NEVER hurt you” and ” I have no reason to lie to you”. “I would NEVER do that”. Its just something about that word NEVER!!!! These phrases I believed at the time because i was sooo blind but now i clearly see. Even when confronted with proof whether it be photos or whatever they will still lie. When i confronted him about the woman i found out he is engaged to he was on the road working and said “its not what you think” “let me explain it to you when i get back in town in 2days” i said why so you can proceed with another lie!!!! Why make someone wait 2 days for another lie? The proof was in the photos but yet he wanted to continue lying! I’m so much better off with him dissapearing but sadly my heart isn’t 100% there yet. My brian is but my heart still hurts sometimes.


Hi ONWard. Isn’t it something to look back knowing what we know now and see how excessively, ridiculously kind we were to these bullies while they plotted meticulously setting their traps to ensnare and destroy us. Like saying to the devil – C’mon in, the door’s open ! Thanks for sharing this article. This really hits home with me. My Jenzebel spoke in this twisted language regularly. Many times she said ” Anyone who knows me knows that I would never ” – ( insert whatever the latest vile, immoral, unethical, lying thing she did or said ). She loved to answer a question with a question. Why would I ? was her favorite. This is helpful to ascertain how aware we are to their machinations. I know eventually I began calling her out to her face about her narcissism. I remember clearly the first time that she denied saying something that she had just said. She said ” I would never say something like that ! I’m not like that ! ” She flat out denied saying what she said. I never doubted myself as to the conversation in question. I just figured that she must’ve really believed since she was so adamant about it. Not so much. Just another tool in her big ol box of evil. Gaslighting 101. Took me a couple years to put the puzzle together. Another one of her staples when she was caught dead to rights on breaking a promise regarding her interaction with a man ( usually an ex sexual partner of some kind ) was to enlist a proxy to evade accountability.” I talked to Sarah & she completely understands why I did – ( insert justification of lie ) Spaths love triangulation. Divide and conquer.


O.N.Ward, Thank you for taking the time to write this. I can relate to so much of it.

At the beginning of my relationship with the ex Narcissist/Sociopath, we discussed intimacy. I told him while I didn’t need a ring on my finger, I did ask for a monogamous relationship. He assured me that he, “isn’t sleeping with anyone else right now.”

To your point, he wasn’t sleeping with anyone during our conversation. And I’m sure you will not be surprised that i discovered (too late) that he indeed was involved with other women.

Knowing what I now know, I’m amazed at the number of lies that technically he could claim otherwise.

P.S. I saw that gorilla/basketball clip! I was so intent on counting the number of passes, I didn’t see the gorilla! Interestingly enough, neither did my daughter or her friend. However, my son and nephew did. I chalked it up to girls vs. boys and attention spans.


Yes O.N.Ward you make a lot of sense. All those years of accepting and rationalizing things away that we now know are manifestations of disordered thinking. There was narcissism in my family growing up so I was too accepting of bad toxic behaviors and went to great lengths to be the peacemaker. The more drained we are from our encounters with our last emotional vampire the weaker and more susceptible we are, until we begin to get it. Maybe I should close that window, just in case. A few basic boundaries that we allow ourselves to respect doesn’t sound like that big a deal but it is a huge step in the right direction. Empathic people, yes, preferred prey. An interesting article I enjoyed is ” Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths – protect yourself ” . Dr George Simon uses the term neurotic to be used in the basic context as empathic and explains many of the tools that are used to manipulate, evade accountability, and project the consequences onto you. While I am not dealing with Jenzebel directly these days, she has built for herself a network of narcissistic paramours. Any Narcissistic male hiding in my religious culture she cozied up with. I’ve learned a lot from the powerplays and got to see behind a few masks enough to stop beating myself up. Plenty of other people are thrilled to do that for their adored one. No more cognitive dissonance necessary. I was her ticket in, served my purpose and was destroyed. I found a congregation fairly close by that I love and enjoy. There are a few proxies there that I am cautious with. Complicated but worth it. At least for now. Thanks again & I look forward to more articles and discussions.


Cognitive dissonance describes our conversations perfectly.
Although my spouse rarely says “never”, he defensively tells me that there’s something wrong with me (I’m crazy) whenever I question his actions or honesty.
Instead of responding to my statements and questions, his history becomes altered, and he expects me to apologize for my “sick” accusations!
He huffs out of the house in indignation and refuses to speak to me (shuns me) for days or sometimes weeks. During his periods of blissful silence he isn’t telling me lies 🙂

Over the years I’ve noticed that even when he speaks true statements he has a need to continue on with untrue embellishments…twisting truths into lies.
He not only lies, he actually seems to lack the ability to tell the truth!

still reeling

Imconfused, why are you staying with this psycho? You must be a very strong person. I don’t know how you live this way. Thankfully you see through him and it seems you are able to deal with his crap and let it go, make the best of it. I’m thinking financial issues are keeping you from throwing him out or your leaving. I wish you the best.


I am talking in circles I know. I am not still with him. He left our home 20 days ago. He has told the world he is getting married to the other woman.
This same thing. But just s little different happened two years ago with the same woman.
They fought constantly. There was some violence and she moved out of his house repeatedly.
Two months after she left him he came back to
Me. I was over joyed because I did not know then what I know now. I truly believed he was a wonderful man that got hooked up with a home wrecker. He led me to believe those things. And I wanted to believe he was so sorry. The grass wasn’t greener. He was back and would never do that again.
Ya right ! This time he moved in with me. That was almost 2 years ago. It wasn’t the honeymoon it was before. Something was off the entire time. I was nearly run down in my alleyway. By a hysterical woman claiming to be pregnant by Robert. Things just went down hill after that. I started investigating. I started finding out what I didn’t want to know. Finally we came to the Ricardo phase and he walked out of my house into hers. All his things are still in my home. I’m planning a trip to visit family the week before Christmas. I do not want to start a fight with him until I return because I have no idea what he might do I my absence. It’s going to be awful I know. Just bidding my time. After visiting this site I know now what I am dealing with. My head knows. My heart is trying to catch up. Our time together was the best of times and they were the worst of times. I know now it was all a lie. All of it. No we are not together. We will never be together again. The impact of this abandonment leaves me sleepless paranoid worried and sad. I am overcome with panic attacks out of the blue. I’m just trying to break a. Addiction. It isn’t easy.

Hope Springs

OMG thank you! You have helped me as well…

My head has accepted it but my heart is trying to catch up.


Profound and so true!!


Cognitive dissonance describes our conversations perfectly.
Although my spouse rarely says “never”, he defensively tells me that there’s something wrong with me (I’m crazy) whenever I question his actions or honesty.
His history always seems altered (to his favor). So instead of dealing with issues I might bring up, he expects me to apologize for my “sick” accusations! (Only a disturbed person would question his integrity.)
our “conversations” usually end with him huffing out of the house in superior indignation. He refuses to speak to me (shuns me) for days or sometimes weeks when I catch him with a lie. During these periods of his blissful silence I at least know that he isn’t telling me lies 🙂

Over the years I’ve noticed that even when he speaks true statements he has a need to add untrue embellishments…twisting truths into lies.
He not only lies, he actually seems to lack the ability to tell the truth!

still reeling

For IMconfused:

Why are you staying with this psycho? You must be a very strong person. I don’t know how you live this way. Thankfully you see through him and it seems you are able to deal with his crap and let it go, make the best of it. I’m thinking financial issues are keeping you from throwing him out or your leaving. I wish you the best.


I had been molested by my father once as a young teen. My greatest fear was that he was going to rape me, given the progression of his behaviors. I ran away three times because of this fear. I gathered the courage to tell my mother, with the hope that she would protect me, and she didn’t, because she again left me alone with him under the same circumstances in which he had molested me. The third time that I ran away, I ended up in foster care. My mother told people that I ran away to become a prostitute. I was a virgin. As a young teen, any shred of my innocence and self-esteem was now gone.
I had not seen my father for 6yrs after that, and he died. I had maintained a distance from my mother as well. Fast-forward 10yrs after my father’s death and my mother showed up at my door—needing help. Still trying to have a mother/daughter relationship…I allowed her to stay with me for 3 months (a story in itself). During that time, out of the blue while in the midst of a conversation with a neighbor, my mother blurted out, “Your dad isn’t your dad. Your dad is Italian.” I went into shock. This one statement changed the history of my life and I needed to know if it were true. My mother left the state a day or two later, without me confronting her on what she had said. Several months later she had called and I was ready for answers. When I confronted her with what she had said, she denied ever saying it! For three hours I tried to get her to be truthful, not only with the statement, but pressing for answers as to whether or not the man who molested me was my biological father. For me, it would have been easier to accept that a stranger molested me, rather than my own blood father. She made several denying statements, such as “I never said that” and “I wouldn’t say that.” I almost questioned myself and what I had heard, but I couldn’t go there, because if I did, that would have meant that I was crazy. In the midst of this conversation she also told me that I was switched at birth. She stated that she gave birth to a son, but then when she awoke from her sedation, she was given a daughter (me). For almost 20 yrs, in the back of my mind, I had questioned whether the man who molested me was my biological father. I now also questioned the crazy tale of being switched at birth. It would surely explain why I am so far removed in looks and behaviors from my sibling brothers, and the whole lot of them! I believe that my father was my father. I have no proof to believe otherwise. But the greatest gift through all of this, through education, and through healing, was when I finally realized that my mother is a maniacal sociopath.


There is DNA testing but I doubt it is worth bothering with unless you just want to prove your mother’s lies but we all know she would cover it with other lies. My sister was actually switched in the hospital with a boy but both mothers screamed bloody murder. Fortunately it was a small hospital and there were only two babies. I am so sorry you had to deal with that as a child. You did the right thing running away. I hope your foster parents were better. Some are not which is a real shame to our child welfare system.


My father always touted how “honest” he was and I grew up believing it 100%. I caught him in a lie as an adult where he insulted my husband’s race (half Italian) in front of my kids. Then a couple years later when I confronted him about it he totally denied ever saying what he said, and my kids were there to witness both the insults and his later denial. He said “I would NEVER say anything like that.” My kids and I all just looked at eachother in dismay. So that pretty much blew his mask of “honesty” right off. Then several years later after he died I was surprised to find a brand-new duplicate of my social security card and my college transcript in his bag of documents. I know that to order a college transcript from a university you have to have signature of consent from the student, or if you are the student you can request it yourself with proof of identification. So he just requested a copy of my ss card with a forged signature on the request and then was able to get a copy of my transcript without my knowledge. So much for his “honesty”.


one day at a time. actually moved today. got out of bed and did laundry, straightened my house which is suffering greatly. still checking in here. kinda my AA meeting in a way. I don’t go to AA but it would seem something like this. we are all recovering after all. anyway it has helped me. everyone who shares helps me. glad i am not in this alone. hate like hell that anyone else has to go through this but it helps me so much to have people that understand this horrible twist of fate we find ourselves in


I kept saying “does not compute, does not compute,” whenever he came up with his lies. It wasn’t that I bought them, it was just that I was too broke, emotionally weak, etc. to face up to the conflict and leave. Finally, I got the courage to leave, but the kids were used as pawns to hurt me. I was full of anger for a long time and still deal with resentment about the way I was used. This song says it perfectly:


Thanks for your article. I think one of the hardest aspects of healing is identifying these tactics. I appreciate your points.

You bring up the gorilla test which reminds me of an interesting point about the gorilla test. We dont answer to what we see necessarily either. The test asks respondents about the game and not generally about the video. SO while a respondent may have seen the gorilla, they may have thrown the memory of it out of the answer about the game.

I wholeheartedly agree that psychopaths use these side stepping manuvers to avoid conflict and culpability. It serves to keep you unbalanced and questioning your own reality. Mine did this stuff ad nauseum. WHen in doubt about being caught, he could additionally say he didn’t do it because one of his alter egos did it (he even had alternate names and identities too).

No one anticipates a world where reality is made up to advantage one character over another, but thats the world they live in. Mine wanted to have several different lives cooking each in their own home and when he was ready to step into one scene, everyone was waiting for the star of the party, him. If it got rough while there, he had the next place to go and a new party began.

I realized recently that they too have the primary issue of not having full access to a full perception of reality either though. They are simply focused somewhere else, like in the physical nature of things. We are focused in the mental/emotional. Now, if we can just figure out how to sneak up on them . . . hahaha. (this can be done.)

Oh, and last. I am getting so much run around in his flipping numbers to suit his purpose that I am unsure of what he wants within the divorce. I am amazed that the lawyers don’t ever see the poor math skills and opposing numbers.


Mine used to do that “i never …” junk too. Started noticing how he would word things. Example using might maybe…ect. Than when he didnt follow through he could say it wasnt a set plan. Of corse he would be flaking to hang out with other girls but no worry. He NEVER cheated…ya right


I have to stop my mind somehow. Stil trying to sort out what was real. Was ny of it real? Did he ever love me ? So hurtful and confusing


i am not sure about any of this. i happened on this site. i found comfort in the fact that everyone was telling the same story but just a bit different. i rushed to believe that i had hit on something. that this is the answer to what i am dealing with. i dont not sure. i think so. but maybe not. i just dont know. probubly so. i just wanted answers. i came here to find out there are no answers. just a lot of broken souls who have suffered the same almost identical issues. oh god. i never knew people like this sure Robert is one of thee afore discribed and probubly more. I know in my head i know. on the 16th he will be gone a month. just walked out leaving verything and into someone elses home. they have announced their engaement. i cant stop my mind either. just when i think i have it whipped i fall apart again like today. why today ? the sky was blue. the sky was blue sent me into turmoil. oh god help me. i cannot move to seattle 🙂


I am feeling the same today. Trying not to feel lice of garbage. How is it that he could pull me back in when right after announce a girlfriend on fb. So cruel. Heatless. Feel like my heart was put into a blender and i was left for dead. And no remorse on his part.

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