Two Sense: If I Stay with My Liar Boyfriend, Am I Kidding Myself?


I'm dating a guy who is smart, funny, successful, handsome, considerate, and generous. His one weakness though: He's a liar. I've caught him in more than one lie and confronted him every time, so he knows that I know. My friends are all telling me to dump him because of this, but honestly, I don't want to. I don't plan on getting serious with him, and he has so many great qualities I enjoy, that I just want to play it out until I get tired of it. My friends think I'm fooling myself. Am I?

He Said: Not all lies are created equal. From the ethical (to avoid hurting someone or to insure your privacy) to the self-aggrandizing to the downright lazy, lies come in many forms. So to determine whether this is a fatal character flaw, we'd need to know more about the type of lies he favors. But let's assume, since it is obviously bothering you, that his goal is not sparing your feelings and his lying is rather more comprehensive. While it is tempting to see lying in moral terms, it really is probably more of a pathology that potentially might be addressed in therapy, assuming the roots of the behavior can be identified. You are correct to balance this negative characteristic against his many good ones. However, your future together (be honest: you envision one) will depend on his willingness to seek professional help and work on the problem. Since lying has probably become something of a psychological crutch, this will take a lot of courage on his part. Fortunately, he has a sympathetic friend in you, willing to work on the issue without the sense of moral condemnation that makes change more difficult.

She Said: Your course of action hinges on one detail, and that is not his level of honesty but your own. Are you truly not planning to get serious with him, or are you kidding yourself? In my experience, “I can just keep doing this, it won’t get serious” is more often a form of self-denial than a true statement. The longer you are intimate with someone, and the more of their faults you forgive, the more emotionally invested you become, like it or not. So first, do a little soul searching. Look at your own history. Have you had not-serious relationships before that you were able to extricate yourself from? Was the pain of breaking up worth the time you spent?

I agree there are many types of lies. If your BF is telling “white lies” about where he is and what he’s doing—for instance, the exact date of the last time he saw that ex of his—and the relationship is quite new, I’d venture to say it’s perhaps not a big deal. In new relationships, people don’t owe each other quite the amount of disclosure that they do later. Most of the “lies” of new partners typically fall under the category of privacy, but as time goes on and commitment ensues, these lies of omission and white lies usually disappear as most people value outright honesty in a partner they’ve entrusted with their heart, not to mention (eventually) their bank account, property, and future. If, however, his lies are more along the lines of “I graduated from Harvard” or “No, I’m not married,” then I agree with your friends: Leave now. True pathological lying is not something to toy with. It’s devastating and crazy-making, and the longer you put up with it, the more likely you are to adjust your reality to it instead of the other way around.

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