Why You Can’t Tell Your Partner is Lying

Is it supposed to be that difficult?

5 min readMay 14


Photo by Christina Langford-Miller on Unsplash

Imagine flipping a coin to determine whether your partner is telling the truth.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Surprisingly, you’d likely be more successful with the coin flip than relying on your intuition.

Recent studies have shown that our accuracy rate for detecting deception hovers around 54% — just slightly better than a coin flip.

And when it comes to those we love, our lie-detection rates plummet even lower.

Now, you might be wondering, why is it so difficult to tell when our partners are lying?

Deception Detection is a Herculean Task

One of the main reasons we struggle to detect lies in our partners is due to the nature of deception itself.

Deception, by its very definition, is meant to mislead, to convince the recipient of the lie that it is, in fact, the truth.

And who better to accomplish this than the person who knows us intimately?

Research has shown that cues associated with lying are subtle and inconsistent.

For instance, a study by DePaulo published in the Psychological Bulletin, found that while liars might avoid eye contact in some instances, they might maintain it in others, depending on their comfort level with lying and the context of the situation.

The variability and subtlety of these cues make them difficult to reliably interpret.

What’s more, people close to us have a comprehensive understanding of our personal lie-detection strategies.

If your partner knows that you suspect lies when they fidget or avoid eye contact, they’re more likely to control these behaviors when being dishonest.

This knowledge, coupled with their emotional connection to you, makes it incredibly difficult for you to discern when they’re fabricating a tale.

The Impact of Cognitive Biases

The complexities of human cognition further muddy the waters of lie detection.




Psychology Expert | MSc Social and Cultural Psychology