I am laying in my bed on the floor. Surrounded by dusty pink pillows and fairy lights, I stare out of the floor-to-ceiling window of my new apartment in Washington DC. I have come a long way. A way different than expected; a way leading to other destinations than planned. Exactly one year ago from today, that way was leading me to the point of questioning my whole existence. Why did this happen to me? How did I allow a person like that into my life, let alone so close to me? Doesn't this only exist in the movies? I still remember everything, and especially how it felt. I can never forget that. Exactly one year ago from now, I broke up with the person I was in love with. The reason why I had to break up with him, was because he happened to be a compulsive liar.
It took me a long time to realize what I actually went through. It's not something you consider as a possibility when you fall in love with someone. It's not even something you consider when you fall out of love either. Sometimes I still want to believe him. It's hard. For a person that always wants to be right, I've never wanted to be wrong so badly in my life.
- THE BLISSFUL BEGINNING -
"For a person that always wants to be right, I've never wanted to be wrong so badly in my life."
The first time we met was at a park. It was one of the first warm days of Summer. He bought me a frozen yoghurt with strawberries and chocolate, and we talked for a long time about our life's histories on a park bench. It was nice. Although he had a certain shyness surrounding him, he was quite open about the personal questions I asked. I remember being a bit stand-offish, but his honest answers made me feel more comfortable. It was a lie.
Our first date was a success, so more dates followed. I felt like he was more mature than any other guy I dated before him. It seemed like we had many things in common, especially when it came to our ambition and work ethic. We had a deep understanding and respect for each others professional goals. This made me feel comfortable with him, because at that time I was really seeking acknowledgement for the hard work I was putting into something a lot of people were sceptical about. His constant support and easy, flexible attitude made me grow fonder and fonder of him. He was the type of person that would always say yes if I had a crazy idea. He was the type of person that knew what I wanted even if I did not ask for it. He was the type of person that was happy if I was happy. It was a lie.
"He was the type of person that would always say yes if I had a crazy idea.
He was the type of person that knew what I wanted even if I did not ask for it.
He was the type of person that was happy if I was happy."
- THE MISLEADING MIDDLE -
"Compulsive lying usually does not serve any goal or benefit. A compulsive liar lies because it is their habit. They are used to lying and sometimes have a hard time differentiating between the lies and the actual truth."
It's hard for me to write this following part without being the omniscient narrator of my own story. I cannot tell this story in chronological order, without telling you what I know now. This story is not made to be told in the ordinary order of time. It's the things that I discovered later that carry the heaviest weight. I wanted to use this intermezzo to describe what I know now about him, and compulsive liars in general.
Everyone lies once in a while. We lie because we are embarassed of the truth, to make ourselves feel better or because we do not trust the person we talk to. These are called white lies. When it comes to this type of lying, there's always a reason behind the lie ánd a benefit we gain from doing so. However, compulsive lying is different. Compulsive lying usually does not serve any goal or benefit. A compulsive liar lies because it is their habit. For compulsive liars, their lives are based around telling lies and making you believe them. They have a hard time differentiating between their lies and the actual truth, or controlling the lying in general. I had no idea that he was a compulsive liar at that time. I had to find out the hard way.
Things started to change. Even though our relationship was still relatively new, it wasn't going that great between us. We started spending less and less quality time together. And don't take me wrong: I know what it's like to be busy, and one of the reasons why I liked him so much, was because we respected each other's autonomy and freedom. However, this was beyond that. It started with him coming over only late during the nights, and leaving early in the mornings. It made me feel pretty bad - like I was being used for just some easy affection and that's that. Later on, he also started ignoring me. He would not respond to my texts or calls for days, even if we had plans. I would literally have no clue where he was, if something bad happened to him, etc. This made me feel anxious and panicky - something I unfortunately still struggle with when I don't hear back from people if we had plans.
- THE END -
However, I did not make a deal out of it. Why? Because he always had the perfect justification for his behaviour. The reasons for always being late, or his excuse for not calling me back: They were peculiar, but seemed truthful. This is why it is so hard to catch a compulsive liar in their lies. The lies never seem unrealistic. Yes, the stories are pretty crazy and over the top, but it seems like it could truly have happened - he was the exception to the rule. He had an early morning at work. He had meetings all over NL. His car that broke down. The flight was delayed, so he had to carpool from Germany to me. His Paypal account and bank account got blocked, so he needed my money. He was accidentally arrested by the police. He was terminally ill...
I was such a trusting person and I never questioned his stories or his honesty. I just did not understand what was his gain to lie to me about these things, when I was the type of person that would not get mad over stuff like that to begin with. I've always pride myself on being a very understanding person - if you explain to me why, I will forgive you. How could I have known that he didn't even own a car or had a driver's licence to begin with?
I should have known though. My friends, my mom - everyone seemed to be questioning his honesty. They saw what I couldn't see at that time, blinded by my love for him. It even annoyed me that they would think so little of him. They just did not know him, was what I kept saying. Nevertheless, after a while I just couldn't take it anymore. My relationship turned into this everlasting interrogation of me becoming emotional over him ignoring me for multiple days, and just disappearing. Although his excuses were still strong, even I started realizing that always having an excuse for your behaviour is weird. Sometimes you just do stuff and don't really think about it. Having the best defense ready everytime someone asks you why is not normal - except if you are a law student of course.
I was caught in a web I never wanted to end up in - I hate spiders. I was falling, not in love, but into his web of lies. He managed to become the perfect boyfriend for me. He made me open up and trust him with all my secrets, but first and foremost, my heart. And then, he used it all to manipulate and control me. I lost all my beliefs and moral standards during the fall into his sticky web of lies.
I confronted him. Why didn't you make time for me anymore? How can you ignore me for days? What changed? I wanted to discuss things openly and find a solution to our situation.
It was probably the most awkward confrontation I have ever had in my life. He sat next to me on my couch. He hold my hand, but literally didn't say a word. Literally nothing! I tried everything: I tried being calm, angry (even though I literally cannot be angry at all), understanding, sad, whatever. He would literally not respond to anything at all. Looking back, I know that this was his way of dealing with being caught in his web of lies. If all fails, being silent is the only option. However, I still didn't want to give up on him, on us. I thought that he maybe needed more time to start talking to me, and I didn't want to push him to do so. I didn't want to be that controlling girlfriend that doesn't give her boyfriend enough space. So I I just let him promise me he would not leave me hanging like that anymore and forgave him. It was a lie.
This was our last time together.
"However, I did not make a deal out of it. Why? Because he always had the perfect justification for his behaviour. The reasons for always being late, or his excuse for not calling me back: They were peculiar, but seemed truthful. Yes, the stories are pretty crazy and over the top, but it seems like it could truly have happened - he was the exception to the rule."
"We don't live in a magical world were unicorns exist, law school is easy, and bad things can transform into something good. If things are going bad, they will not start going better. The only thing that you can do is walk away from these bad things, never look back, and start putting your time and energy into something else. And that's what I did."
Things will get worse, before they get better, is a saying many people believe in. It's fair to assume that bad situations will turn themselves around into something great, eventually. What I have realized is that life does not work like that. We don't live in a magical world were unicorns exist, law school is easy, and bad things can transform into something good. If things are going bad, they will not start going better. The only thing that you can do is walk away from these bad things, never look back, and start putting your time and energy into something else. And that's what I did.
It was the week of my 22nd birthday. After that week, he had to move abroad due to personal reasons. I cannot possibly tell you what these personal reasons were, because it is too horrific to realize that a person is able to lie about something so terrible like that.
I tried to stay positive and be excited for the last days I would spend with him. He promised me to pick me up from the airport, so we could be together when it was 00.00. However, I didn't hear from him again. He never picked me up from the airport. When I called him and he finally picked up, he was 'too sick' to talk, but I could literally hear him faking his cough. Even if he was sick, he could've at least let me know he wasn't able to pick me up and see me on my birthday. How could he do something like that, especially because it would probably be our last week together? Not only did this make me feel sad, I also thought it was unjust. And if there's one thing that triggers a libra, it's injustice. I started thinking about all the things I had put up with, just because I wanted to be a 'chill girlfriend'. Maybe I wasn't meant to be a chill girlfriend, or maybe he wasn't boyfriend material to begin with. The only thing that I was certain of, was that I didn't do anything so wrong, to deserve being mistreated like that. And although I understand that stories and feelings are always subjective, it can never be an excuse to treat a person so disrespectful.
Except for a casual 'happy birthday' text on my birthday, I never heard from him again. Just imagine being in a relationship, and then never hearing anything again from the person you love. It still amazes me how someone could treat their own girlfriend like that, being a grown human being. I had to break up with him through text the next weekend, although it was more of a formality - I never got a response on that message either and I am pretty sure you cannot be in a relationship with a person that just disappears.
This is one of the strangest situations I've ever experienced. It's still hard for me to differentiate between the lies and the truth - if there was even any. After the 'break-up', my friends all pushed me to forget about him as soon as possible. They were right in a way - of course he did not deserve me crying over him after all the stuff he pulled. However, this break-up process was harder than usual: I initially broke up with him, because I never heard back from him ever again, but it was only along the way that his web of lies unraveled and I slowly started discovering that a lot of the things he told me weren't true. I started to connect the dots and finally realized what happened to me: I had a relationship with a compulsive liar.
After that realization, I felt like I had to go through the post break-up process all over again. Discovering that everything what the person you loved told you was potentially a lie is hard to process. It's like you've been in love with a person that doesn't exist. Even now that I am writing this a year later, in a completely different environment, I still cannot wrap my head around it.
- THE WARNING SIGNS -
After writing this story, there is one thing I have learned: I am never, ever, ever going to put myself in this situation again. This is not meant to be repeated. The truth behind the lies will always come out, but in my case, the damage was already done. However, by sharing this experience, I hope I can help at least someone out there that is going through a similar situation. There are multiple warning signs when it comes to identifying compulsive liars. However, if you are not looking for them, it is impossible to notice. Read this list, and if you can check off all or most of the bullet points when it comes to a person in your life, you should be extremely careful.
- Their stories sound fascinating and a bit crazy, but never come across as unrealistic. Catching a compulsive liar lying is very hard. They are extremely good at not exposing their lies. They will always tell stories that seem plausible, so it does not raise any suspicion that they are making everything up. Their lies can be about anything and anyone: Think of their childhood, identity, friends or work.
- They tell instead of show. A compulsive liar will tell you many personal stories. However, their real personal life will stay a mystery for you. Meeting their parents is still too early, his friends live too faraway and his collegues work all over the world. You will only know him through the stories he tells you, so that he can control the (probably perfect) picture you paint of him.
- Their lying can, but does not have to serve a purpose. When I was doing my research about compulsive lying, I discovered that there was a split between experts believing compulsive liars did or did not lie with a purpose. Some argued that compulsive liars lie out of habit, which means they could not control their lying, and therefore did not have a purpose for their dishonest behaviour. However, others argued that compulsive liars did lie with a purpose, because they use the lies to make them seem like heroes or victims. They would sometimes even tell self-incriminating lies, which is also one of the reasons why it is so hard to identify a compulsive liar.
- They are very social. Although compuslive lying can be a sign of sociopathic tendencies, most compulsive liars are social and empathic. This does not necessarily mean that a compulsive liar has many friends or likes to be the center of attention. It means that they are skilled in understanding and empathizing with others. They use this to get inside your head, and become the person you want them to be by telling the appropriate lies. After that, they will use this power to gain control over you, and hurt you.
- Their lying never stops. As mentioned before, many experts argue that compulsive liars lie out of habit. Lying is part of their human nature. That is why often compulsive liars start believing their own lies as well - making them come across even more convincing. They cannot differentiate between what is the actual truth and what isn't, because they really believe their own lies.
- THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LIES -
Thank you for reading this personal piece. It took me a year to find the courage to share this, another month to write this piece, and it will probably take me a lifetime to really overcome what has happened. I am still struggling to believe that people like that actually exist in this world. Even after a year, I am still waiting for a text message that says "you got it all wrong, I wasn't lying, because...", but that would probably be a lie too. Even though I have been mistreated, betrayed and used before by others, this was different. It was never on this scale that put me so off balance.
Why did this happen to me? How can I ever date a guy again? How am I sure that this person is not lying to me, again? I don't know. Life is always going to be a leap of faith. In a way, this experience taught me to be not afraid of taking big risks. Every way you take, everyone's path you cross, every thing that you do: It is a leap of faith. It doesn't matter if it's 'only' meeting a new person, or moving to a different continent: you have no fucking clue how it is going to turn out. The only thing that you can do is be prepared - kinda.
Although I try to see this as a life lesson, some lessons of life I would rather not have been taught. For every person that is reading this and recognizes the story: Please be careful. I wish I was aware of the warning signs of a compulsive liar, so I did not have to go through a similar experience. Being honest is the foundation of any relationship with another person. Don't get trapped in a web of lies. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded with amazing people that helped me get through this. Not only by actually helping and listening to me, but also by proving me that kind and trustworthy people do exist in this world. And on that note, I like to conclude this chapter of my life and put what happened behind me.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY EXPERIENCE WITH A COMPULSIVE LIAR?
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, so in no way should you rely on this article as a scientific source of information. However, I did do my research, and every 'warning sign' I mentioned is based on the following sources.