Compulsive liars are dangerous. They have the ability to convince you that you are the unreasonable one – the crazy one, even. And they get a buzz from making you look bad to others by presenting them with a seriously butchered version of the truth – in which they always star as the victim. The problem is, to the right audience (who are usually carefully selected) compulsive/habitual/pathological liars can appear to be incredibly convincing. Reputations can be destroyed and innocent individuals mentally and emotionally crushed by those who think they know the truth.
If you are, or have been, in a relationship with a compulsive liar, you will already be aware of the heartbreak and devastation they leave in their wake. Some will ask “so why would anyone choose to stay with such a person?” – and my answer would be “for at least four reasons that I can think of.”
Firstly, it can take years to be able to pin the habitual liar down; they have an answer for everything and a fresh set of ready-and-waiting non-truths to back up or ‘explain’ the original BS. Secondly, they tend to get into relationships with people who are nicer and more honest human beings than they are. Two mega-liars together just wouldn’t work – there would be no pay-off for either party. Thirdly, because they are so good at playing victim (even sadly ‘agreeing’ when challenged) they are often given ‘one last chance’ (and then another and another and another). Fourthly, over time, the lied-to becomes programmed to believe that they themselves are largely at fault. It might be tempting to assume that anyone who allows themselves to become ensnared by a habitual liar is a fool; however, I know perfectly intelligent, fully functioning individuals who have fallen prey to such cruelty, and I have seen the aftermath they are left to come to terms with. Pathological lying should be declared a criminal offence. It is an extreme form of abuse that is truly difficult to recover from.
Mentally ill – or just nasty?
Of course, there is a question that has to be asked: is compulsive lying a mental disorder? Is it something that cannot be helped – or is it a choice? I know of one female CL (from now on, to avoid cumbersome repetition, I will just use this abbreviation) who, I believe, has an undiagnosed condition that affects her personality. That doesn’t excuse the awful things she set in motion, or the devastating impact her lies had upon an innocent party. However, what did shock and anger me about that situation was the way in which she so easily fooled and manipulated a number of so-called professionals. However, in their defence, even I felt sorry for her for a while… until I heard the way in which she spoke to someone when she wasn’t aware that I was around. Throughout her life she got away with lying so many times that it became easier and easier to indulge in. Right now, as I type this, I bet that there are people around her who don’t realise how potentially dangerous she can be; but, I also bet that there are others who do – and who have learned the hard way.
However, I know of other CLs who just seem to get a huge kick out of conning others. They cover one lie with another, with confidence and ease – even when caught red-handed. And that’s something else to be aware of with accomplished CLs: they often end up convincing themselves that they are being honest. When that happens, the chance of getting to the truth is nil.
Being in a relationship with a pathological liar is something to dread and fear. They will steal your soul and sell it to the devil. When it eventually comes to an end (which it will), the wronged party is left to pick through the shattered remains of their self-esteem and credibility. They wonder if they were ever really loved, and if everything was a lie… not just the stuff they know about. They feel used, betrayed, stupid – and angry. Angry that they fell for it, or tolerated it for so long. Angry because they know that their ex has clearly been bad-mouthing them to others in order to make him/herself look better. Angry because they realise that they have wasted their love, time, and energy on someone who has become nothing more than a stranger to them. They grieve the ‘death’ of the person they thought they knew and loved. And they feel embarrassed to think that they gave them chance after chance after chance. It doesn’t make us stupid to have been fooled by a CL (unless the warning signs were completely and consistently obvious and yet we still chose to ignore them); it makes us a decent person who would naturally give another the benefit of the doubt wherever possible.
Here are a few facts about CLs:
They have little or no conscience, and little or no natural empathy.
They rarely accept personal responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.
They will either be charming and persuasive or present themselves as victims.
They are warm and wonderful toward those who only know them superficially, whilst at the same time being consistently disloyal to those who have supported them in ‘real’ life.
They are always takers, never givers, and they believe that they are entitled to everything they want from life.
They are into instant gratification and are low in genuine motivation and staying power.
They get into conflict with those who see through their BS or aren’t charmed by them.
They have a need to feel superior to or different from other people.
They tend to hold their partner back in life because they themselves are inadequate and feel challenged by ambition and achievement.
They have no genuine interest in anyone else’s life, hopes, or dreams – though they can be good at feigning it for the benefit of those who don’t really know them.
They are secretly angry and frustrated because they believe that they deserve better from life.
They are usually immature.
What do they lie about?
So, what kind of things to CLs lie about? Everything. Where they have been, who they were with, and how much money they spent. They will lie about how long it took them to do A, B, or C, and what they said to this or that person. They will lie about the things that they say they intend to do but never will, and they will make promises that they aren’t going to keep. They will lie about the past, the present, and the future. However, the biggest lie of all will be about who they really are, deep down inside.
And, if all of the above isn’t bad enough, the worst of it is the impact that a pathological liar will ultimately have upon their ‘victim’ – and anyone who has been genuinely gaslighted will be more than familiar with exactly how awful it feels. Initially, you will be told that you’re imagining things. And then, when the evidence starts to pile up, you will be blamed for their attitude and behaviour… you made them do it, you drove them to it. Your lack of trust wore them down, leading them to do the very thing you suspected and feared they might. You tried to ‘control’ them, preventing them from doing what they really wanted to do. You weren’t affectionate or supportive enough, so they had to seek it elsewhere. You will come to believe that you are a controlling, insecure nag who is responsible for their unhappiness. And then, when you finally realise that you have been played, and aren’t actually unreasonable or crazy, you will be shell-shocked, defeated, and deflated. Nevertheless, you will, eventually, and with the passing of time and much work, get over it. Your once trusted compulsive/habitual/pathological liar, on the other hand, will never change – they will just become someone else’s problem. It will definitely hurt for a while, but not forever (unless you choose to emotionally hang on to it just because you can). One day you will wake up and feel good about yourself and your life again – and that will be the real beginning of your CL-free life!
I would like to finish by explaining why so many people remain in a relationship with a CL for far longer than they should. It is because it all usually starts out well; the CL is fun and attentive, and there are enough good times to keep them engaged. The lies tend to be small ones, initially, and they do their best to overlook them; after all, no one is perfect. They then become used to that person being around, and might have created joint responsibilities that would make splitting up extremely difficult. And, on top of that, they lose their sense of self; they become worn down and weary, and lose their fight. It usually takes something pretty big to finally break it apart… with the worst case scenario being that it is the CL who leaves, not the injured party – and usually because they’ve taken all there is to give, and have turned their partner into someone that they themselves don’t even want to be. However, as I said, the lied-to will heal… and the liar will just move on and s**t in someone else’s nest.