How To Maintain Your Sanity If Your Partner Is A Compulsive Liar

Working On the Marriage | | , Senior Editor & Writer
Updated On: February 7, 2024
Maintain Your Sanity If Your Partner Is A Compulsive Liar
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We have all lied at some points in our lives. Most of these lies, called white lies, have been small fibs that are harmless and without any maliciousness in them. It is just a force of habit or a way to avoid certain situations. But how to deal with a compulsive liar in your life who is dishonest on the regular, and for no good reason?

Most of their lies are continuous, often dramatic, and usually told to make them appear heroic. A person who is prone to constant lying is called a compulsive liar. They simply cannot help but lie! There’s usually no malicious intent behind these lies either.

But what happens when someone lies compulsively or pathologically? How difficult is it to break up with them? How to end a relationship with a pathological liar peacefully? Through this article, we will help you learn more about compulsive and pathological lying, and explain how to deal with such liars and cut ties with them.

What Are The Signs Of A Compulsive Liar?

A compulsive liar’s lies are constant and tough to catch. Being in a relationship with them can feel quite frustrating. These kinds of liars tend to be very difficult to communicate with. It can also make one feel that there is no reward in being in such a relationship which, in turn, leads to depression and a feeling of worthlessness.

Confronting chronic liars doesn’t quite work all the time either and even if they are caught, they can turn a story around in such a manner that you might start to feel that you are the one who is at fault. With time, this might make you hesitant to even approach them. It could make you feel nervous and scared.

This kind of habitual lying can strain your relationship. However, you must remember that with some effort, you can still deal with it and introduce a cure though the right therapy and medication. But before that, it can be helpful to understand what exactly this chronic behavior entails and what a compulsively lying person may look like. We have a list of compulsive liar traits for you today — watch out for these:

1. Lies don’t benefit them

Compulsive liars often lie to simply get out of uncomfortable and embarrassing situations. It is just a coping mechanism for them to be able to get their way, which is their primary purpose. They don’t mean harm, they do not mean to change the outcome of anything. These lies don’t have an objective benefit associated with them.

Related Reading: 11 Worst Lies In A Relationship And What They Mean For Your Relationship – Revealed

2. Their lies are dramatic

Most people who are compulsive liars make up stories that are not only extremely detailed, but also quite dramatic. When such lies are heard, it is quite easy to understand that they are untrue and tall tales. So when a compulsive liar is cooking up a story, you can smell it from a mile away.

My old friend, Tash, was a bit of a compulsive liar. As someone who lies often, he had become quite adept at creating elaborate scenarios. It felt like he said those lies about himself just to feel better about himself. For example, he once lied to us all that he is a skilled surfer and scuba diver when in reality, he could barely swim! Quite a stretch, isn’t it? Makes one wonder how to deal with a compulsive liar when their stories can be so extreme.

3. A serial liar portrays themselves as a hero or a victim

What type of personality is a compulsive liar? Compulsive liars tell lies in such a manner that they appear to become either the hero or the villain in the entire tale. This kind of behavior has an almost-overlap with narcissistic personality traits. These lies tend to impress other people. They want to make a strong case for themselves and appear as desirable, strong, and as someone who has their life together.

This is done because they are always trying to gain admiration, sympathy, or more attention from others. For example, if someone is suffering from compulsive lying disorder, they will constantly try to appear as the most desirable person in the room and say bizarre things. They might say that in their free time, they devote their energy to human rights issues or something along those lines to appear wonderful.

4. They get delusional

This is where things become quite difficult. It is possible that at this point, a compulsive liar will need the help of a mental health professional. While there are many signs of a compulsive liar, and many forms of their craft, the most worrisome one is when they become so avidly delusional that they start believing their own lies.

Such liars tell untrue stories so often that there are times they begin to believe the stories they are spewing. As per experts, this kind of delusion in the compulsive liar comes from the fact that they’re not conscious of lying. This lying may come to them so naturally that they are unable to internally process the difference between what is real and what is not. If you’re dating a person like this, it can be very difficult to choose a life partner who is a compulsive liar. This disorder may strain your relationship in a lot of ways.

Some even wonder this: Is lying compulsively and believing your lies the two signs of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)? Well, to that, the answer is a big no. The usual notion is that those with OCD tend to say the truth more often. That’s clearly not the case here.

5. Compulsive liar traits: They are eloquent and creative

What is most important to remember is that when you have a compulsive liar in your life, know that they are not dumb or silly in the way they come up with their lies. They are calculated, smart, and know how to make you believe what they want you to believe about themselves.

Compulsive liars don’t only speak well but also come with a creative bent of mind. They can talk eloquently, engage others in the group, and draw attention to themselves. They can also make up lies at the drop of a hat, without much prior planning.

6. It is tough to catch their lies

Compulsive liars have perfected the art of lying, so they don’t get caught. So, if you find that your spouse is a compulsive liar, you might not find them demonstrating any of the basic behaviors of lying like avoiding eye contact, stammering, avoiding conversations with you, or appearing to be fidgety and nervous when they have told a lie.

It is amazing really, how well they can hold themselves around you when they lie for no apparent reason. You won’t see anything off in their behavior, no sign of guilt on their forehead, and they won’t even react angrily if you accuse them of lying. Since they have convinced themselves so well that they are telling the truth, such people tend to be master liars.

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7. They beat around the bush a lot

If a compulsive liar is interrupted and is in a situation where they need to answer questions, get ready to never receive a straight answer from them. People who lie are not just good liars but are often good at evading situations too.

For example, you caught your lying spouse trying to fool you into thinking they have run their errands when, in fact, they have not. In this case, when you confront your partner, prepare to be taken on quite a ride. Even when you are trying to be upfront and direct, your partner will not respond with any specific answers and might, ultimately, not even answer the question(s).

8. Signs of lying The same story has different versions

Compulsive liars get so caught up in making their tales colorful that at times they forget the details. Hence, the same story tends to have different versions. This is the perfect spot for you to catch them. Pay close attention to what they say to you, and also to what they do not say out loud. Our tip on how to deal with a compulsive liar: Find these gaps in their stories and confront them, if possible.

Related Reading: How To Tell If Your Partner Is Lying About Cheating?

9. They will have the last word

In an honest relationship, couples work out their issues by adopting conflict-resolution strategies, having heart-to-heart discussions, and trying to understand one another when an issue or argument comes up. But when you are with a compulsive liar, expect none of that. One of the common signs of having a compulsive liar for a partner is that they might be one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet.

If one argues with a compulsive liar while they are telling their tale, they will keep arguing till they have the last word. This feels like a moral victory to them and it encourages them to continue with their story. No matter how much proof you have, you will not win that conversation.

What Makes Someone A Compulsive Liar?

While there is no statistical manual that can tell us why a compulsive liar behaves the way they do, research suggests several reasons for it. One of them primarily stands out.

One study suggests that this type of habitual lying emerges as a result of low self-esteem and a false sense of self. People who lie this way on the regular do so just to make themselves look better to others. Their need to fabricate a whole new sense of self or personality suggests their dissatisfaction with themselves, which is a common feeling.

But overall, compulsive lying is not due to a single cause; it is a mix of genetic and environmental upbringing and other factors. And if it goes too far, some people might even need a treatment plan for it. Some of the common reasons for their lies are:

1. A different brain structure

Yes, there is a brain abnormality in those who lie regularly. This is why they may even have to seek professional help as it can become a mental health disorder. Compulsive lying happens due to the differences in the brain matter of such people.

In one study, researchers examined that the white matter in the three prefrontal sub-regions of the brain in compulsive liars is more than others. It has also been seen that head injuries can lead to an abnormality in the hormone-cortisol ratio, which, in turn, leads to such lying.

Related Reading: How She Coped With Her Spouse’s Mental Illness

2. Dysfunction of the central nervous system

Here is another underlying cause of constantly lying. It has been found that compulsive liars have dysfunctions in their central nervous system. Such people are prone to not only infections of the central nervous system, but also epilepsy.

3. Deep-seated past traumas

Sometimes, compulsive lying has been associated with childhood trauma, past traumas, and past relationships. When one is unable to cope with certain stressors, they can develop awkward behaviors as a consequence. Habitual lying is one of them. To block certain uncomfortable thoughts or feelings from their minds, they learn the art of lying and then become used to it. It is not meant to cause any hurt and is, in fact, a way from them to preserve their own well-being.

Riley, a 21-year-old graduate from Minnesota, underwent a lot of emotional abuse in her high school relationship. Since that caused severe low self-esteem, compulsive lying started as a way for her to cope with the same. In the same way, toxic relationships can indeed create liars who lie to protect themselves.

4. Substance abuse

Substance abuse like alcoholism or drug use are also factors that can create a person who lies habitually. As this is one of the coping strategies they use to deal with their mental health issues, they lie about it so people cannot see through it. This is not only because they want to hide their self-harm acts for the fear of being judged, but also because of the neurological triggers that cause changes within their body.

Related Reading: 5 Ways Drug Addiction Affects Relationships

5. Depression an underlying medical condition

It has been found that undergoing depression causes changes in the brain. Hence, this mental health issue also leads to compulsive lying at times. In this case, availing the help of a professional therapist is a must as it can be a difficult task to deal with all these emotions alone.

How Do You Deal With A Compulsive Liar?

What if you fell in love with a compulsive liar and wanted them to work on themselves? Well, the lies of compulsive liars are so pointless that having to maintain a relationship with such people can be extremely frustrating and annoying. But if you don’t wish to end the relationship right away and want to give them a safe space in the relationship to heal instead, you can take up certain actions.

Dealing with a compulsive liar can be done in the following ways:

1. Stay calm and find out the underlying reasons

You know that the person is lying to you because they do it almost all the time. Yet, the best way you can navigate such a situation is to:

  • Be kind and calm
  • Stay firm. And don’t start believing their lies
  • Practice self-care and keep your mind at ease
  • Find out what could’ve caused them to lie in such a manner

2. Speak openly but don’t accuse, blame, or react angrily

Someone who is habituated to lying will not own up if you call them out. Instead, they might just get angry and tell you a lot about how shocked they feel about being accused. So, if your spouse is a compulsive liar, confronting them aggressively or with histrionics may not help. Rather, do this:

  • Tell them that they are already important to you
  • Assure them that they don’t need to say anything to impress you or appear better than they are
  • Know that they might already be suffering
  • Give them more emotional support and safety in the relationship

3. Don’t take it personally

When it comes to dealing with a compulsive liar, don’t take it personally. It is not that they are lying because of you or your reaction to them. Rather, they are flawed and are unable to control their exaggerated versions and false statements. They may have a hidden insecurity or may just be lying for attention and sympathy.

4. Don’t encourage them

When you understand that a person is lying to you, don’t ask them leading questions that could make them add more drama to their untrue story. Rather, ask questions whose answers are tough for them — this might make them stop telling their compulsive lies.

Related Reading: 13 Distinctive Traits Of Female Narcissists Revealed

5. Trust them at times

If you know your partner is a liar, you might be tempted not to trust them at all. However, this would be a mistake, as it could cause trust issues in your connection. As a partner, you have an edge over others and may know the topics they lie about. At other times, you could trust them as that is the best thing to do.

In fact, by showing a little trust in them, you can create a positive environment. This might make them want to tell you the truth more often; that’s a great step toward transparency in your relationship.

6. Consider speaking with mental health professionals

If you know your partner is a compulsive liar, one of the best ways to help them heal would be to ask them to seek professional help. Such habits can lead to other kinds of personality disorders in the future. They can seek support from a mental health professional or consult a counselor. Be prepared, however, for this to take some time, since they might not agree or even accept that they have an issue.

But once they do, Bonobology’s skilled panel of counselors is only a click away for those who want to seek treatment.

Differences Between A Pathological Liar And A Compulsive Liar

Is compulsive lying the same as pathological lying? No. Today, we are happy to clear up the common misconception that a compulsive liar is the same thing as a pathological liar. The two, in fact, are pretty different from one another.

Let’s answer this, for instance: What type of personality is a compulsive liar? Does the one who lies pathologically tell their lies differently? Where does the compulsive liar vs pathological liar psychology overlap? Let’s find out:

Compulsive LiarPathological Liar
Compulsive lies usually have no meaning: And even if they do, these lies do not actually affect anyone’s well-being. Compulsive liars are not emotionally draining. Rather, they are just frivolous in their tall claims. They throw around random remarks like they mean nothing, not because they want to accomplish something, but simply because they canPathological liars have an aim in mind: On the contrary, when it comes to pathological liars, they have a game plan in mind which is why they lie. Their lies are not random and are crafted very carefully to attain the goal they want
It is a force of habit: Compulsive lying is something the person perhaps developed in childhood as a coping mechanism to deal with certain uncomfortable situations. It is simply a habit and not something that is unchangeable or requires a lot of extra effort to undo. That is what makes it so different from pathological lying
A pathological liar has a manipulative bent: As opposed to compulsive liars, those who lie pathologically do so for a good reason such as fulfilling their own needs. They usually have an idea behind why they want to lie and that is usually because they want to manipulate someone, extract information, or get their way
They behave like regular people: What makes a compulsive liar? They are not outlandish in their personality traits; they just resemble a regular Joe. They behave and talk normally, which is why it can be difficult to spot a compulsive liarTelling lies is actually a mental illness: Here, lying is a cause of a serious underlying personality disorder or mental disorder. When it comes to pathological liars, it is observed that people who have an antisocial personality disorder (APD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) indulge in such type of pathological lying. They may even act similarly to someone with a factitious disorder, a serious condition in which someone deceives others by appearing sick, by purposely getting sick, or by self-injury

Related Reading: 11 Signs Of Dishonesty In A Relationship

Can A Compulsive Liar Change?

We are sure you must be wondering by now whether compulsive liars can change. Well, why not? The process is hard, but it begins with the acceptance that a person has a problem. If this first step is achieved, the liar can go ahead on the path of self-recovery pretty easily. So, how exactly can such a liar change their habits? What is the best decision they can take to become a better partner? We’ll look at two major solutions to this issue that will make it easier for you to take a few steps ahead:

1. There is hope if they have a will to change

This is important or you’ll be compelled to figure out how to end a relationship with a compulsive liar. The problem is, even if such a person is forced into therapy (which is the best option for them), it is unlikely that they would cooperate. For example, there could be lies told to the therapist so they could evade treatment. Such compulsive lies can be difficult for experts to catch too.

So, the lying partner should first accept that the problem exists and then be ready to seek help. Only then can one start unraveling the underlying causes behind such behavior.

2. Medical intervention can help a lot too

Diagnosing this person can be a challenge, and just speaking with them usually isn’t enough. For this reason, experts in clinical practice often use a polygraph when dealing with compulsive liars. Most often, it’s not to find out the truth about liars but to see how well they can beat the test.

Sometimes, even those who are in a relationship with compulsive and pathological liars, alongside their family members, are interviewed to diagnose the ailment of the liar. A treatment plan usually includes psychotherapy, and therapy is often accompanied by medication.

Medical treatment helps resolve underlying causes such as depression, whereas psychotherapy involves group or individual sessions and even couple sessions to help the liars get over this phase. Do not underestimate the benefits of counseling and intervention in this scenario.

Key Pointers

  • Pathological and compulsive liars are both chronic liars who lie constantly
  • There are some subtle differences between pathological and compulsive liars. For instance, compulsive liars lie habitually and almost about everything, whereas pathological liars may lie to achieve an end
  • There are many signs of a pathological liar. They can get delusional and dramatic, they tell different versions of the same story, they can be creative, and they cause a difficult time in your life
  • There are many causes of compulsive or pathological lying, such as mental health issues or personality disorders like antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder; brain structure; or past trauma-related coping strategies
  • You can manage a relationship with a pathological or compulsive liar by not taking things personally, not accusing them, and trusting them at times. You just need to know how to deal with them
  • Wondering how to end a relationship with a pathological liar? You can end a relationship with someone who lies pathologically by recognizing the signs, finding proof and gathering facts, letting them know you know the truth, avoiding them by stepping back and setting healthy boundaries, and focusing on yourself and loving yourself 

Dealing with a compulsive liar who is your loved one can be quite frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it is an issue that can be dealt with in most cases. So, if you are in a relationship with a compulsive or pathological liar, you can wait and watch what they do when their other lies are exposed. There are differences between a compulsive liar and a cheater, and such liars may not necessarily be cheaters.

But keep an eye on what they do when you confront them. Do they defend themselves or come up with excuses? Do they own up and accept that they lied? Do they wish to change? Remember, it’s not up to you to change them. The most you can do is help them recover from their lying habits. But the moment you see they are turning your connection into an emotionally exhausting relationship, take the liberty to stay away from them.

One thing to note is that it might take you some time to recover from dating such a person, but it will be worth it. After all, everyone deserves a healthy relationship.

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