How to Handle Liars and the Tangled Webs They Weave
It’s a very human behavior that has a lot of emotional charge tied to it. From the time we are small children, we begin engaging in this natural behavior in order to avoid the negative consequences of making a mistake. We spill the milk and cry out that the cat jumped on the table in order to avoid a very sleepy and irritable mother’s wrath. We struggle as adolescents with the tension between becoming our own individual and still being under our parents’ roof, so we lie to maintain a sort of “double agent” status.
And all the while, we are constantly aware of the social taboo against this prevalent dishonesty. Those who are lied to often become angry or upset and rush to call out the liar, emphasizing shame in the act itself. Unfortunately, the underlying reasons for dishonesty are ignored for the weight of the lies in and of themselves, issues fail to become resolved and the tangled web of deception only becomes thicker.
If you find yourself caught up in someone else’s messy and fabricated web of lies, you may begin to feel desperate. The way many people choose to confront lies, though usually emotionally justified, will often leave them more stuck and confused than before. In the same way the insect catches itself in a spiderweb by trying to resist, a person who tries to fight a liar directly will often make matters worse.
Knowing what to do about liars takes reflection, emotional stability and focus on good communication skills. You must be able to let go of the need for vengeance you may understandably feel when you’ve been lied to and instead confront the source of the lie directly. To understand how to confront a liar, you need to understand why they have lied in the first place, what their lie has done in your relationship and beyond, and what to do when you are ready to resolve the issue.
So why do people lie in the first place?
I don’t have to say it, we all know it, we all lie. When navigating the social world, it is often so much easier and non-confrontational to let little lies go here and there throughout the day rather than fully explain the truth in every circumstance. This is what we all do as situational liars, and it is to be expected out of anyone.
If you’re trying to understand why your partner or someone in your life is, or seems to be, lying to, you can start by thinking about the reasons that you lie from time to time. There may be a social norm in place that this person does not want to break, they may have a habitual behavior they are ashamed of, or they may just find their lie is much less complicated than giving the full story.
It is often as a result of these typical reasons for lying that a web begins to be spun. But if you’re dealing with a habitual liar, there’s a good chance those small lies will begin connecting to other lies until your entire relationship is surrounded by these constant fabrications.
What a lie can do: These things can get messy
Lies can literally turn into an alternate reality that is far removed from the real experience of either party of a relationship. While the one who lies knows their own experience, they put considerable time and effort into trying to make sure the pieces of the alternate reality they have created through their lies stays together. It’s imperative to them that you do not see the holes in their story, so they keep filling them with more and more lies. Eventually, the truth is so steeped into the lies that there is no telling what is fact or fiction. You may start to feel like Skylar White of Breaking Bad, wondering if your own Walter White is on some kind of killing crime spree.
Well, hopefully it isn’t that serious.
This will have a detrimental effect on your relationship, but it can also have a detrimental effect on the people around you. Anyone, such as children, who are invested in some way in your relationship will also be caught up in the web and misled as to what the truth really is. Everyone involved with this person’s network of lies will find themselves looking on confused as they each try to make out a portion of a story that isn’t true to begin with.
This situation can get out of hand – and fast – and it’s important to know what to do to get yourself and others out of the dark.
How to confront a liar:
Confronting a liar effectively can be a counterintuitive and frustrating process, and it can also take a lot of patience. Because it’s very possible for a habitual liar to fabricate reality so thoroughly that there seems to be no going back, I’m going to give you two options:
Solve the underlying issue.
If you feel overwhelmed and you wouldn’t even know where to begin putting back the pieces of a relationship with a habitual liar, do not hesitate to run away. You may want to, for the sake of closure, take the time to resolve your feelings with this person about their behavior (being very careful not to be sucked back into their games), but if the lies you have endured have truly broken your spirit, do not try to mend the loose ends.
If, however, you believe you can see the source of the lies in your relationship, you may be able to heal the situation. It is always possible that your partner is dealing with a personal struggle (addiction, depression) which causes them, to avoid shame, to weave a web of lies in some area of your relationship. If you believe you can find the source of the dishonesty, confront your partner by using non-judgmental language which invites them to be open with you. Do not start the conversation by asking, “why did you lie to me”, but rather open it by saying “there’s something I have been noticing that I’m concerned about, and I want to talk it through with you”.
This kind of confrontation is never easy, but the more emotionally calm you can be, and the more you can keep yourself from the anger and hurt associated with being lied to, the more effectively you can begin to clean the cobwebs and find the truth lurking behind the false creation. Above all, be good to your heart, and remember that you must take care of your own emotional well-being before compromising to anyone else.