Polygraph, from the cheater’s perspective

As TL mentioned, I passed my fourth polygraph the other day. Frequent readers will garner that TL and I are proponents of the polygraph. I guess I’ve never really written about it addressing cheaters from a cheater’s perspective.

Was I ever afraid to take it? You bet. I was afraid the first time. I was afraid every time. Why? Did I know I was hiding something? No. I told the truth on the polygraph, and always intended to do so. Was I afraid the device might fail? Not really. Was I afraid the polygraph examiner might fail? Yes. I know we’re all capable of errors and we all have varying levels of competence in our jobs. But, the two polygraph examiners I’ve used were very competent and professional.

Of course, I always have fears. I simply have to overcome those fears, each and every time. Going into each exam, I’ve been nervous and scared. I expected the best, but braced myself for the worst. I was especially freaked out by the idea that I might say I didn’t do something, quickly realize I had actually done it but forgotten that fact, and then be labeled a liar for not reporting on the thing I had just remembered. The examiners helped me relax about that, each time. They continuously assure me that the polygraph can only zing me for willfully lying about something I remember, not for inadvertently omitting something I did not remember.

So, what if something still went wrong? What if there’s some small chance of a false positive? I would be shouldering that risk. The flip side of that equation is that if I did not take the polygraph I would be shifting that risk from me to my betrayed spouse. What’s worse: the small risk that I’ll take the test and get a false positive, or the risk that my betrayed spouse will be hounded by doubt forever if I fail to take the test? Even if you think that is an unfair or difficult question, ask yourself who created this predicament in the first place? It wasn’t the betrayed spouse. It wasn’t the polygraph examiner. It’s clearly the cheater who has the moral responsibility of shouldering a tiny bit of risk, hurt pride, inconvenience, and emotional discomfort.

The other reason I overcome my fears and take the test each time is that the potential rewards are great. I can relieve my wife from some doubts and fears. Watching those fears dissipate is a reward in and of itself. I can prove to myself that I am capable of honesty and selflessness. And, perhaps more selfishly, I can prove I’m finally not lying when I say I’m not lying.

I feel an enormous sense of relief after each polygraph, exceeding the sense of dread I feel before each one.  I am afraid to take it. I am motivated by the potential rewards of passing it.  TL is worth it.

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13 thoughts on “Polygraph, from the cheater’s perspective

  1. I wish that I had seen your thread sooner. My agency used polys extensively, and even the head of our division said the were voodoo and that he would never take one ever again. I personally saw an empty chair give a “deceptive response”. One of the former directors of dodpi told me that he’s seen many examiners mis-score test results for various reasons. If you don’t know the correct answer through other verified evidence, the poly is a poor way to try and find it. It’s more a tool to apply additional pressure to get someone to confess what is already known.

    YMMV

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    1. Was the chair empty for the control? How could a control be properly done with an empty chair? The control portion has always been the largest part of the test. Without that done methodically and properly, there is not a valid control. And, without a valid control, it is impossible to have a valid test.

      Time and again, we have seen betrayed and cheaters who will give all kinds of reasons why a poly will not work (for them) and time and again months or years down the road, these same couples are dealing with secrets, lies and omissions that were never revealed in the first place. Poly is not 100%, but it is far more reliable than a serial cheater/liar. And, if by chance, that serial cheater/liar wants to finally show they are not calling wolf, it is the least they can do to offer a modicum of reassurance to their betrayed. But, that reassurance does not end with a poly, rather it simply offers one external validation of the MANY needed to truly reassure and provide safety. The biggest reassurance, of course, being that words and actions consistently match in all aspects of one’s day-to-day life.

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      1. This was way before that, and the head examiner had to get another machine before proceeding.

        Do what ever reassures you. But when a former director of dod’s polygraph institute says that he’s seen a lot of polygraphers mis score tests, I’m going to believe him.

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        1. It is why it is so important to not just pick any examiner, but one with years of experience with and references from trusted sources (counselors, law enforcement agencies, etc.), dedication to continuing education, etc. Our examiner back home scores separately from the computer score, we get both. MC has always fully passed according to both scoring methodologies. And, yes, that gives me FAR more reassurance than without. I would add that, all one has to do is read the many infidelity stories that exist to know that a cheater refusing to take a polygraph is a strong indicator of continued deception.

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          1. These were federal agents in doj he was reviewing. Years of experience only matters when it’s done properly.

            And I’ve seen too many examples where people go on the box, knowing that they were guilty and they slide by on the test. Pretty much all of them still went to jail because of what we already had on them. The poly was just as pressure to get them to confess, and it backfired. Just because someone refuses to, does not make them guilty of anything. And poly isn’t accepted for use in court because it isn’t so accurate.

            A coworker was told by her FBI examiner that she had been deceptive on a couple of questions. When the reviewer went over the printout, he said that she hadn’t been deceptive at all.

            If you can have two different examiners score a -1 and a +1 on the same question, there’s a credibility issue with the examiners.

            I’m not trying to talk you out of using poly. I just don’t want to see you depend solely on it. Because it’s not infallible by any means.

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            1. It was and will continue to be one of many sources to help validate and reassure. Exactly, years of experience when done properly. Both MC and I have full faith in the examiner we use back home on both those counts.

              By the way, if you look at infidelity forums and blogs you will see 99% of cheaters/liars refusing to take a poly are still deceiving their spouse and will throw everything and the kitchen sink at their betrayed to convince them it is not reliable. The the thing is, it is still far more reliable than a known cheater/liar. And, again, it is one among many things MC does to offer safety and reassurance. I assure you if it was the only thing he was willing to do, I would be out of here faster than Garfield finds pizza.

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              1. I have no need to look at infidelity forums. 30 years as a fed taught me all I need to know about liars.

                And years of doing internal investigations showed me that not everyone who refuses a poly is guilty.

                Your last part is more what I was trying to get at to begin with. Use it if it helps you, but don’t be too quick to believe it either way. Your gut is much more accurate than any poly machine will ever be.

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                1. Except my gut wasn’t for 18.5 years. The poly helps me confirm my gut. When you are in the trauma of discovery and realizing you have been lied to for YEARS, it takes time to learn to trust your gut.

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              2. I will add one other thought. Any serial cheater intent on reconciliation should create a full time line of all acts against the marriage and then have a polygraph confirm that the timeline was completed fully and completely, with no INTENTIONAL lies or omissions. Whether or not a couple has poly check-ins now and again I totally can see varying sides of that decision. But, to start reconciliation, to have any real shot of reconciliation, full disclosure must occur, ground zero must be the starting point. And, I will always believe that confirming you are truly at ground zero with a polygraph is a must.

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                1. Yeah but it’s not a guarantee that you are actually at ground zero. Examiners can and do misread results. Results are not always accurate anyway. You are hanging your relationship status on something that is no where near as accurate as DNA analysis. Poly is a potential indicator, it is not the end all to be all. That’s why the courts don’t generally accept polys as evidence.

                  I’ve seen too many of them been wrong, to base any decision on the poly alone.

                  I’ve seen too many polygraphers score tests vastly differently from each other on the same test, one as much as a -5 to a +2, to base a decision on the poly alone.

                  I was trying to help you to not make a decision based on a poly alone. After 30 years as a federal leo, I know just how wibbly-wobbly polys are.

                  Do whatever you said you believe in. But you might end up keeping someone you shouldn’t. Or even worse, throwing someone away that really didn’t deserve it.

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                  1. I am basing whether I stay or go on whether or not I can find healing better with MC or without him. So far, I’ve thought it was with him. But, some days I have my doubts. The polygraph is about reassurance and safety; components necessary to allow the possibility of healing within the marriage, but not bring the healing itself. Have you read our entire blog? I understand if not, but just to say there is so much more to it, to our struggles and triumphs than a poly. It is one component of many.

                    I will add again that when dealing with infidelity, time and again, we see that the cheater who most vociferously refutes the need, the use, the reliability of polygraph are consistently the same persons continuing to lie, hide and deceive their spouse. The burden of proof of truthfulness is the cheater’s to bear. Period!

                    We respect your right to your own opinion. It is an opinion we do not share. In this case, we will just have to agree to disagree.

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