Plausible Deniability is the Narcissist’s Free Pass

When the narcissist is confronted with a lie, he will instantly create plausible deniability so that doubt is cast on the very facts/evidence laid out before him (or her!). Within seconds, a narcissist can spin a story to cover a story to cover a story, intentionally confusing the accusing partner who has typically taken great pains to present evidence that couldn’t possibility be denied. It’s amazing how they do it and it’s even more amazing how we fall for it or accept the lie that covers the lie. But this is how the narcissist gets a free pass in everything he or she does.

Plausible deniability is what makes us look the other way, give this person another chance, give the benefit of the doubt. With just enough plausible deniability in a story, a narcissist can get away with murder while holding the bloody knife! This is truly a talent because the narcissist, as busy as he is day to day, must always be ready to create a story on the fly to cover the initial story that he spun to perpetuate the lie – but he does it and he does it well! What do you mean you saw a naked girl running out the back door this morning? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Was my car here? No! What do you think – that I parked it down the street? Yeah, right! I went to work early…call my boss…go ahead do it. Unless you have pictures, you better fucking back off. Somethings wrong with you. And unless you DO have those pictures, what the fuck are you going to do? It doesn’t matter that you saw it with your own eyes!! It doesn’t matter that you chased her down the street!! His car WASN’T there (how convenient!) and you better shut the fuck up! Yes, plausible deniability is an amazing thing.

I really started thinking about this particular narcissistic maneuver yesterday after receiving a heart-breaking comment from a woman who is going through hell right now and happened to stumble across my book. Her descriptions of her narcissistic husband’s crazy-making behavior, the silent treatments, and her manipulation-induced reactions were a chilling reminder of how often I dealt with the same crap no matter how many facts I laid out before my ex. The standard response was always to deny, deny, deny or to completely ignore – and then distract from – the obvious truth by shifting the blame onto me somehow until he had me begging to be forgiven for confronting him. How crazy is that?

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To create plausible deniability is a narcissist’s tactic – a defense mechanism – for automatically kicking back the insinuation that he would even ever consider doing whatever it is you’re accusing him of doing.  It matters not that evidence of his betrayal is front and center. Evidence and fact mean absolutely nothing. Evidence, in fact, will piss him off.

What are you talking about? You’re delusional.

That’s right..just keeping bring up the past!

Now you’re just making shit up. I think you’re bi-polar.  

Now I know why nobody likes you. You’re a liar!

I think you need to get professional help. You’re paranoid.

Oh…and let’s not forget the silent stare (which says all of the above and more).

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The words used by narcissistic partners appear so amazingly similar and universal because narcissism stems from an ideology that runs very deep…an one-way ideology that spawns the pathological relationship agenda that I talk about in my books.  This particular manipulation is so nefarious and passive-aggressive that it is often referred to as covert narcissism. And, yes, it most certainly does appear many times to be a covert operation, doesn’t it?

Because it is extremely hard for someone normal to fathom thinking in the capacity that it always appears a narcissist is thinking, we choose, instead, to “sort of” believe the lie. Sometimes the narcissist’s lie is so ludicrous that it’s even easier to “let it go” rather than imagine that he really meant to do what you think he’s done. We bargain with logic. Sometimes we’ll let the evidence go in lieu of confronting him at all lest we take the risk of stumbling around trying to get our words right. We develop that crippling codependency to hope that does nothing but get us into trouble. The N, of course, is hip to all of this and counts on our confusion – and his own absurdity – as his free pass to do just about anything he pleases during the relationship and get away with it. We start to count on the plausible deniability ourselves so that we don’t have to deal with it after all!

I mean, it’s not as if we’ve never tried to get the truth out of the narcissist, right? And when we do dare to attempt it? Well, here’s an anecdote from my own relationship archive that describes what happens:

[One time, way back, I was driving my car with the N in the passenger seat and I, for whatever reason, felt triggered into bringing up a still-unresolved situation where I knew for a fact he had lied to me. I wanted the truth and I wanted it right then but he would have none of it. The loud and very heated conversation (that I’m sure many of you will find familiar) went something like this:

Me: (screaming) What about that?? Tell me the fucking truth! Why did you disappear?? Where did you go??? Why did you do that to me??

W: I already told you.

Me: Told me what? No, no, no…what you told me a lie. You vanish for two solid weeks and then text me with a frigging lie about flying back east to see your dad?? I SAW your truck in town and I want the truth!

W:  (very calm) Wow…you’re not well…what is your problem? What brought all this on?

Me: Answer the question! I saw your truck…I checked the airlines. You didn’t GO ANYWHERE. Don’t you get it? DON’T YOU GET IT???

W: (talking over me) There is something wrong with you. I’m sick of this shit. I don’t think I want to do this anymore.

Me: Don’t try to twist this around. Just tell me the truth. For once, tell me the fucking truth. Where were you those two weeks? Do you have PICTURES of your trip? A boarding pass? ANYTHING?

W:  Oh my God, just shut the fuck up.

Me: No, you don’t. You just expect me to believe a ridiculous, stupid story. You don’t even own a suitcase! You’re not going to tell me, are you? I just have to let it go, is that it?? Is that my only option to everything??

W:  (screaming) I SAID I TOLD YOU ALREADY! ARE YOU FUCKING DEAF?

Me:  What?? That you went back east?

W:  YES!!

Me: But IT’S A LIE!! I saw your truck and Chris saw you!

W: Really now? Did Chris see me with someone?

Me: No, but that’s not –

W: See?? What more do you want from me? Shut THE FUCK UP!!!

Me: Stop telling me to shut up! The fact is that YOU WEREN’T AT YOUR APARTMENT FOR TWO WEEKS!! You were somewhere with SOMEONE, now tell me the truth!

W: I ALREADY TOLD YOU WHERE I WAS!

Me: Stop lying! Oh my God, I’m begging you to STOP LYING.

W:  You’re just a bitch. You never believe anything I say anyway, so what’s the point?

Me: (sobbing) Please…the truth. Just tell me the truth.

W:  That’s it. I’m done. Let me out of this car!

Me: It never ends…oh my God…

W:  Yeah, tell me about it. You must really, really hate me. I am so sick of this.

Me: Over and over and over….please…

W:  That’s right…just keep bringing up the past…

Me: The past? How can you say that? We’re talking about last month!

W:  We were having a great day and you just had to fuck it up, didn’t you? That’s what happened here so don’t try to blame it on me. No wonder everyone thinks you’re a bully.

Me: A bully?! Who’s everyone?? Name someone!

W: See? This is what I mean.

Me: What the fuck are you talking about? That’s a distraction! I know what you’re doing…

W: Oh yeah, I forgot…you know everything. You’re just so much smarter than everyone else. Tell me, how does it feel to be so smart?

Me: Oh my God…you are so mean. Please stop.

W: Stop what? I didn’t start this. You did, you moron!

Me: (sobbing)

W: Yeah, it’s always my fault. If I’m so bad, then what the fuck are you with me for?!

Me: All I wanted was the truth. I don’t even know.

W:  Yeah, well, that makes two of us. You better just take me fucking home before I lose it.]

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Sound familiar? I have a name for this type of manipulation – the distraction reaction – and if it wasn’t so despicable, it would be actually very funny. We’ve all been there and I’m sure most would agree that the above conversation describes, more or less, one of the more fairly common manipulative, word-twisting narcissistic scenarios that occur whenever we dare to request the truth.  And, although it’s exhausting for us, for the N, it’s just business as usual. The narcissist enjoys The Lie so much that he’ll lie even when the truth is a better story.

Yes, I remember it well…the stuff nightmares are made of. It is these types of conversations that should remind us how just how sacred No Contact really is…how beautiful and calming is that lovely sound of silence.

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64 Comments

  • Marie

    June 15, 2017 at 8:13 am Reply

    I have read five of your articles so far and I’m very entrigued to read more. I feel like a lot of this hits home for me. I googled narcissism a year and a half ago when I caught my husband having an affair. I was in the process of finally deciding to get a divorce and he reeled my back in. He told me he would change and made all these promises. He told he would stop contact with her but found out recently he never stopped. When I asked him why he gives me the answer “I don’t know.” I know I have seen messages we he was playing mind games with her and telling her he was leaving me and then would turn around and give the silent treatment. I brought up the fact I saw he still talked to her on the bill and he basically told me that it’s not a big deal and if I notice it’s not for very long and I wouldn’t be bothered if I would just stop investigating him and maybe he should get another phone. He told me when he was drinking he wanted me to go and have sex with another man so he wouldn’t feel so bad about what he did. When drinking he told me to go flirt with another guy because he liked knowing He would be the the one taking me home and likes that another man wanted his woman. I ended up kissing the guy after drinking too much while he watched and later was upset and told me I disgusted him and couldn’t believe I did that and he needed some space. He has been staying in our camper for 2 weeks since. Unfortunately I told him yesterday I wanted a divorce and he was crying then he turned cold to me and then he said he needed 2 more weeks because we had a trip planned to Florida. I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to keep going down this road and I told him I can’t trust him anymore and don’t think I ever can. I want to know from the little bit I mentioned if you think this is examples of narcissism. I have a lot of things that go on that I try to think maybe I’m being manipulated and I’m more than likely co dependent.

    • Zari Ballard

      July 2, 2017 at 3:58 pm Reply

      Hi Marie,

      Look, I don’t think you need me to tell you what you already know. Your husband is a cheater and a liar plain and simple. Whether he’s a narcissist or not, he wants an open relationship where either just him or both of you can sleep with other people whenever possible and with no repercussions. Is that okay with you? I would think not. He is NOT going to change, obviously, for your marriage so there is only one option. Cheating – especially more than once and with NO REMORSE – is never an option in a relationship in my book but maybe you can live with what he has done or clearly WANTS to do. Check back with me and tell me how that vacation to Florida went.

      Zari xo

  • T.S.

    May 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm Reply

    I’ve been reading your articles over the last few days. I am in the midst of trying to get over my N. This has been going on for four years now. He was seeing someone else, she didn’t know he was married, at first, but even when she found out and even when she swore she would stay out of our lives, she didn’t. of course I don’t blame her for what’s happened, it’s all him. and even had she stayed away, it would have just been someone else. I did try and warn her about him, I told her he is an N, but she doesn’t care. Altho now that she let him come back, for the FOURTH time, she has admitted to me that she knows he’s an N, a liar, a cheat, and denies everything! Even tho he left me over and over and he is currently gone and with her and NOT coming back here, he sure does try. he will come here and act as if we are a happy couple! it is mind boggling, even tho I know he is an N, I know what ever he says are lies, I know all the tricks, all the games, I know what he’s going to do before he does it! I know him now like the,back of my hand and I have to admit I’ve gotten very good at playing them right back, I know what he’s going to say and do and I always have the answers now, not much gets past me these days. The only thing I’m having a difficult time with is no contact because we run a business together. in the past I’ve slipped up, which is why it has taken four times of him leaving, and yes without even telling me he was leaving me! This last time I told him he could leave, I didn’t care all I wanted is for him to just tell me he wouldn’t be coming back, I didn’t want anything other then that. Nope, he couldn’t even give me the courtesy of telling me he was never coming home again..But that’s ok now, I am free from having to share a home with him! But I wanted to say that I know the denial game and the distraction game. it happened every single time! The only difference is that he never called me crazy or called me names or told me I needed help, etc. He wouldn’t get mad all the time either, once in a great while he would, but not often and in the beginning that threw me off. His favorite line is, “I’m sorry” He truly believes that if he says I’m Sorry than that should be it, end of conversation. He said he was sorry so that’s enough and we should just shut up and all is forgiven because he said he was sorry! The distraction for him was not to turn the attention on to me it was to change the subject completely by him suddenly developing a headache, or his knee hurt or this or that and would just really put on a show. But that’s all the know and they all really deserve Oscars for their preformances! Jumping back to having proof.. I stupidly thought that by showing his new girlfriend the proof she would realize what she was getting herself into..I realized that for some dumbest reason I was still holding on, I tried to convince mysef that she should know, but like any “other” woman is ever going to believe the wife, right! But as I said, I showed her everything and told,her everything. She said she believed me, but she just needed to catch him! That he is just so good at turning things around… No Shit! She’s dumber than I was! So, she is now stuck with him and I now realize had she actually taken my word for it that then he probably would,have comega back here and my life would still be a living Hell! I’m not saying my life is even close to good.. yet, it’s very hard to get over this and I am taking it day by day, some are harder than others but at least when I come home from work, the house is quiet, my stomach is not in knots and I no longer have to worry about where my husband is, who he’s with, will he be coming home, etc.

  • Lisa

    April 16, 2017 at 6:16 pm Reply

    I have typos in my first comments. Sorry! Here’s the same, but hopefully corrected now! Please post this one instead? L.

    Hey Zari….I’m definitely in the same nightmare. 6 year relationship…engaged (proposal was a joke!). Perfect partner for years (so I thought!) to become the cold, calculating monster, that treated me as someone he hated, amd couldn’t stand. Met sometime online amd 12 days later, I found out. In spite of his hiding the phone. I endured lie upon lie, from someone who declared lies were unforgivable! Who portrayed a carefully crafted saint like demeanor. We were the couple everyone admired! Then, it changed. The end was horrific. I found out at Christmas, then he flew to Italy (already planned) and left me, to clear out the house by myself. Oh and by the way, I have MS, so I had to pay people to help me pack, move etc. I did such a great job, he could screw her in our bed the minute he got back! ,and she knew about me, but didn’t care! I’m sure he told her many lies about me! Then the hoovering started, even flying monkey stuff from his ex-wife! I was played for a few months, pushed and pulled. Your fabulous insights showed me I didn’t deserve any of it! It’s eerie how you are mentioning everything I’ve gone through! The triangulation, the contempt, the discard! He owes me thousands, and couldn’t care less about the pain he inflicted! He sleeps well every night I’m sure! Especially with her. And the patterns, they have dogged him his whole life! So his ex wife says! I found out one girlfriend killed herself after they broke up. Seriously. I was told it wasn’t a great break up (are they ever?) then she’s met a new guy, who tragically had an aneurism, and was to be taken off life support. She went to the woods, and killed herself!! After our break up, he felt compelled to really take the mask off! Wanted me to see the monster he really is! Telling me how he had a six month affair with a drug dealer, and she and he were doing coke all the time!! And cheating on this girl. And it all came out! I was shocked! That part of the story had been deliberately edited for years! It was like I never knew this person! We never drank, did drugs etc. he was the best bf, the best dad, just incredible…I thought! A real pillar of decency. Now I see, he’s a real chameleon. Different with every partner. Now he’s into the gym amd drinking, because that’s what the new one does! He has no sense of self, or knows what he likes I guess?! So bloody bizarre!!

    Question: If a narc reads these articles, do they see themselves, and admit it? Would they be concerned? Proud? I called him a sociopath, and his answer was…maybe?! Huh?! He’s always told me his ability to compartmentalize the suicide, or painful things! He cried the crocodile tears at the end. But I know they weren’t real.

    Zari, you have no idea how much you’ve helped me! The constant angst, the gnawing pain, the constant rerun of conversations, and visuals etc.! You have helped quiet the inner dialogue so much!

    Thank you!

    Lisa

    • Zari Ballard

      April 25, 2017 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      I’ve had a lot of trouble with this website and got really far behind in my responses – so sorry! To answer your question, when I started calling my ex a “narcissist” and “sociopath”, he didn’t say much at first but LATER ON I would find that he was googling variations of both terms almost as if he was fascinated by his own disorder – I swear to God! And then another time he was at a friend’s house and called ME a narcissist and then yet another time he actually used his “narcissism” as an excuse for going silent, asking if I could “fix” him. Yikes! These people are truly nuts.

      I hope you are still finding your peace, sister! Let me know how you are doing!

      Zari xo

  • MichelleD

    April 14, 2017 at 3:35 am Reply

    I enjoyed reading the conversation between you and W and rings so true with narcissists, they do not want to be nailed down and will do everything possible to not get caught in a lie. My oldest sister is so much worse than the example you provided and would make your head spin – her quick thinking, fast talking crazy making is indescribable and makes your conversation seem like a walk in the park by comparison, and please be assured I’m certainly not minimizing your abusive experience. What is really sad is that these people have good qualities, they just don’t seem to comprehend how damaging their manipulative control tactics, lying and deceit creates an ongoing element of distrust that can never be repaired because winning and saving face is more important than creating and nurturing a loving, trustful relationship.

  • lele

    April 7, 2017 at 2:16 pm Reply

    I am no good at writing up responses on sites like these. BUT BOY OH BOY. The crazy making is so bad its almost funny. How are you DEAD on with that script??? These EVIL IDIOTS end up shooting themselves in the foot because they will never have that light hearted free spirited flowing natural love that all of US are capable of having. In most cases I am sure we all have had it in bits and pieces from others in the past. I do not understand myself for ever deciding to marry a man full of demonic characteristics such as these. ENERGY VAMPIRES. EVERYWHERE this man goes there is something troubling in the air. Not o mention the sex is horrible. Just someone masterbating in you YUCK. I had to literally close my eyes and imagine I was somewhere doing somthing else to stomach it. AND they believe they are so handsome. Like dude behind that face is somthing so ugly and repulsive. There spirit probably looks like some animal human beast hybrid. I am a Christian and I dont believe in divorce but I do believe that should I catch him cheating I have every right to leave. Which hasnt happen yet ONLY because I have no energy into lurking around or going through his disgusting phone. I did have him recently take an STD test because I do not trust him one bit. Ladies we have to take some responsibility for letting somthing so ugly into our lives and get over it. And still look to the future. We are still alive and CAN experience true love. Yes we got played but noone said life would be easy

    • Zari Ballard

      April 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm Reply

      Hi lele,

      Thank you for sharing! There were so many things in your post I wanted to respond to so I’ll go one by one:

      1. These EVIL IDIOTS end up shooting themselves in the foot because they will never have that light hearted free spirited flowing natural love that all of US are capable of having. In most cases I am sure we all have had it in bits and pieces from others in the past. So true! They will never be like us and the truth is that thier “bad” is as good as it’s ever going to get!

      2. I do not understand myself for ever deciding to marry a man full of demonic characteristics such as these. In the beginning, those demonic characteristics are intentionally well hidden so why would you have looked for them? If narcs weren’t so excellent at hiding them, they would always be alone and they never are. The beginning stage is where he hooks!

      3. Not o mention the sex is horrible…I had to literally close my eyes and imagine I was somewhere doing something else to stomach it. Unfortunately, for myself and for so many others (I would say about 80%), the sex is over-the-top awesome and THIS is how we get addicted. For the 80%, with everything else in the relationship going awry, I’m pretty sure bad sex would have been the deal breaker and our narcs knew this. So, it started off great (in that way) in that way and even at the end, it stayed great, keeping us unfortunately connected. Yuck!

      4. I am a Christian and I dont believe in divorce but I do believe that should I catch him cheating I have every right to leave. Which hasnt happen yet ONLY because I have no energy into lurking around or going through his disgusting phone. I did have him recently take an STD test because I do not trust him one bit. While not every cheater is a narcissist, every narcissist is absolutely a cheater. Because it’s so hard to catch them, we have to be confident in the truth that we know…in what our God-given INTUITION (which is NEVER wrong) tells us. Sounds to me like your intuition is screaming but you’re not listening.

      5. Ladies we have to take some responsibility for letting something so ugly into our lives and get over it. And still look to the future. We are still alive and CAN experience true love. Again, we didn’t know they were ugly when we allowed them in, right? That being said, the only way to give ourselves another chance to find true love is to get the hell out or kick his ass to the curb. Can’t have the first without doing the second.

      6. Yes we got played but noone said life would be easy. True, life itself is never easy but that is the whole reason that God gave us love – and love should NEVER be hard. Time to get out and find the real stuff, girlfriend.

      Stay strong and make a plan! Life is way too short for all the narcissistic nonsense:)

      Zari xo

  • Sata

    April 5, 2017 at 9:39 pm Reply

    I’ve had that exact conversation endless times.

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