Seven Strategies a Covert Abuser Uses to Create Convincing Lies

covert abuser

Unless you’ve been there, you simply cannot understand how well a covert abuser can lie. The stories are so cunningly crafted and so expertly delivered that even the professionals can be fooled. It’s one of the harder – and more frustrating – parts of emerging from this type of relationship, as you feel like nobody else gets what you went through or even believes what you are saying.

These manipulators all seem to follow common scripts and utilize similar tactics. These are the ones that I repeatedly see:


1 – They Choose Someone With Integrity

My ex knew from the beginning that I’m terrible at lying. In fact, I’m so bad at it that I would make him say “no” to an invite that we weren’t interested in and it was his role to return items to the store because I was too uncomfortable to say that it didn’t fit instead of, “It’s ugly.”

Covert abusers seek out honest people. They look for those with loyalty and integrity. Those positive traits are exactly what the abuser needs because those people will believe the best about their partners and don’t readily assume deceit.


2 – They Stay Close to the Truth

When my ex was in Brazil on his honeymoon, he claimed that he was working a car show. The exact same show that he worked the previous year. It was only later that I discovered that this particular dealer was no longer even a client of his. But I no reason to doubt his claim at the time, as it fit neatly into my expectations.

The best liars stay close to the truth. Not only does this make their stories more plausible, it also makes it more difficult for them to get their storylines mixed up. They may give you partial truths, leaving out critical information. Or they may replace certain facts while keeping the basic tale consistent.


3 – They Provide Plentiful Details

My ex walked into the kitchen with a MacBook box under his arm. And apparently with a story under his belt. For the next thirty minutes, he detailed how there was a raffle at the job fair (yes, he was unemployed) for a computer. He initially didn’t want to enter, because he didn’t think he’d win and he didn’t want to receive the endless ads that accompany such events. Finally, he said, he decided to throw his card in before he left. He was already in his car, three intersections away, when his phone rang and he learned he won. Except, years later, I found the charge for that very computer on a credit card statement.

Good fabricators use details to make their stories more believable and to distract from any implausibility. They use their words to paint a picture and to envelope you in its imagery.


4 – They Elicit Your Sympathy 

On that same Brazil trip, I received a short voicemail where my husband told me he had been stricken by food poisoning. He sounded terrible and, even more worrying to me, he sounded concerned about his situation. Unable to get through to him, I began to panic. For the next two days, I was so consumed with worry for him that I hardly thought of anything else.

Covert abusers like to make you feel sorry for them. Because as long as you’re sympathetic, you’re not suspicious. Additionally, these manipulators really do often see themselves as the victim and believe that life has not been fair to them.


5 – They Utilize Supporting Evidence

After my ex’s arrest for bigamy, I found a copy of his car insurance card in the center console of his vehicle. There was only one problem. The space where my name was on the electronic copy of the PDF, was blank on his card. He had Photoshopped my name off my card so as not to arouse the suspicions of his other wife.

Good manipulators do not only rely on words. They will use evidence, either gathered or fabricated, to support their claims. They understand that a little goes a long way here. If you have “proof” of one piece, you’re more likely to go along with the rest.


6 – They Employ Distractions

When interest rates dropped in the mid 2000s, we had agreed to refinance the house. He brought the paperwork to my work and had somebody cover my class so that I could sign the papers. All the while I was signing, he was trying to engage me in a conversation he was having with one of my coworkers. I was so distracted by the environment and the circumstances, that I never realized that the paperwork didn’t specify the terms that we had previously discussed.

It’s an old trick, but an effective one. When you’re busy looking at one thing, you can’t focus on another. Deceivers are experts at this technique and they make sure that you’re always looking exactly where they want you to. And then they take advantage while you’re gaze is turned elsewhere.


7 – They Use Gaslighting 


Once my ex was arrested, he turned the gaslighting up to “high,” claiming that we had been divorced for years and that I was just having trouble accepting it. He painted me as vindictive and greedy and “impossible to live with.” In other words, he tried to make me look crazy in an attempt to escape from his lies.

Covert abusers are experts at, “You didn’t see that” and “I never said that.” By making you question yourself, you get so lost that you refrain from questioning them. And even when they are caught, they will continue to lie and deny. After all, at some point it became their most fluent language.

Five Empowering Ways to recover From Gaslighting

Thank you for sharing!

17 thoughts on “Seven Strategies a Covert Abuser Uses to Create Convincing Lies

  1. I wish I didn’t identify with every word you’ve said in my relationship 🙁

  2. crazybutttricia – I'm not as crazy as the name implies, but trying to set up an email account over 10 years ago drove me to the brink of insanity, so I ended up with this name. This is my first attempt at blogging and I am still trying to figure it all out and make it look right. Any suggestions are welcome, really.
    crazybutttricia says:

    The hardest part about all of these points is that you don’t realize any of it at the time while it’s happening because it’s a slow build up, in layers. And during it all, you’re trusting and even feel guilty sometimes for suspecting any dishonesty. It’s all part of the game, a game you didn’t even know you were playing until it’s too late.

    1. I really relate to the slow build up…My husband of 23 years always ALMOST told me the truth and used kindness and physical affection as a form of gaslighting. I too was stuck in a game I didn’t know I agreed to play. My divorce will be final in March of 2018. He broke my heart but he didn’t break me.

  3. Wow. I have experienced every single one of those so many times. My ex (I later discovered) was recording arguments where he would do the “I never said that”, your just crazy, to which I did then sound crazy. He sent those recordings on to mutual friends to make me seem like the crazy one and him the saint for putting up with me for so long.

  4. jaquintinwriter – United States – Mother of 4 - Grandmother of 5 - Great-grandmother of 5 Retired bookkeeper - retired part-time seamstress English and French-Canadian heritage
    jaquintinwriter says:

    Powerful words you shared apply not only to marriage. My entire life I believed honesty was the best policy only to discover misrepresentation via lies is more the norm. Sad!

  5. It has taken me 9 months to reloaded that I was not crazy. I saw a layer last weeek. I’m getting the money and filing this week. I was made believed that two infidelities were my fault. I was made believe that my kids problems were my fault. I was made believe that I was too much. I don’t believe that anymore. He manipulated me all this time to make me think I was wrong and he was right. He left 4 months ago after all I did to work things out. He used my crdixt cards payed rent with my checks left huge overdrafts and debt for me. I’m the one ending this legally. Im honest and I have always been. The hell with his lies and his deceit. I hope he turns out to be ok for the sake of his kids. They don’t deserve that.
    I will be happy again. Thank your for your posts it has really helped me to understand I’m not crazy. He did break my heart but he did not break me. I’m still standing.

  6. owlbeblog – I am trying to draw a line between personal stories and anonymity. If you know me personally please keep names out of comments. I hope that by sharing as much as I can I will reach people and touch their lives with my own experiences.
    owlbeblog says:

    I left a man like this years ago, but we have a daughter from it. She is now a preteen and I see this manipulation starting with her. Do you have resources on this type of behavior on children by parents? I don’t want to come across as turning her against him or anything like that but I hate how she always comes home feeling guilty and sad.

  7. I can’t believe there are others out there like HIM. I am so glad I am not alone. I just feel so STUPID for falling for his lies (actually, choosing to believe them) for so many years. Really hoping I make it through this.

    1. Find comfort in the fact that many of us (smart, capable, perceptive) have fallen for the same. It’s a combination of their ability to lie and our inability to see (or believe) the truth. It’s something to learn from, not something to beat yourself up over. And you WILL make it through.

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