Part 1 (below): you’re surrounded Part 2 (tomorrow’s post): how a liar’s mind works Part 3 (following soon): living well is the best everything
Liars lie, some of them big time, some with the intent to damage others, others to aggrandize themselves, and others to gain perceived or real leverage in life situations. This “Guide” is not to take revenge on liars. I leave them to their own devices.
Rather, it is for those of you, the majority of us, who don’t lie big time and who chafe at deceiving others. It is intended for those of you who are unprepared and ill equipped for scammers and liars who have you in their sights or, if you have already been victimized, to help you understand what hit you. I recommend filing it under “emergency help.”
Those of us whose spouses led double lives should have bumper stickers – I Climbed Betrayer’s Mountain or Honk If He Cheated. We are a large special interest group without social status or recovery programs. If your partner is alcoholic or a drug or sex addict, you have a 12-step program. Why not one for those of us were lied to, scammed, diced, and sliced?
As it was, I relied on my daughter and friends – and three medications and two therapists. Or the other way around, I’m not sure. I have only chards of memory like flashes of lightning against black from the first two years after my partner and husband of 18 years guided me into our garden and handed me a 3-page letter telling me of the other woman and their apartments in Beijing and San Francisco, and that from then on he would be spending half his time with her and half with me. I would always be the love of his life and soulmate, of course. She was mundane, really, and it had only been about sex but, alas, they had fallen in love. What could he do? He understood I might have “an initial period of upset.” He said so in the letter.
I was out of the house in 20 minutes with one suitcase that included, I swear, a cooking pan. That was six years ago.
I landed in an empty house we bought five months earlier that was under renovation. His vision, it turned out, was that she would stay with us often and teach him Mandarin script down by the Potomac River. Delusion and duplicity are intricately woven.
It also never entered his mind I might leave. (More on delusion and duplicity in Part #2.)
Over the next weeks, my hair went from straight to wavy, I lost 15 pounds, and one day I woke with the nose of a hunting dog. I could discern the separate smells of grass, dirt, rotting wood, and the river. I could smell a used washcloth across a bathroom. Grief and shock are physical.
We were written about as a “renaissance couple.” I believed he was the most honest man I knew.
People who have been betrayed become researchers. We are archeologists digging up ancient bones, historians of old letters and photographs, bio-physiologists of human development and sexuality, and amateur lawyers. We do research because we hope never to go through this again.
Reality #1: liars, liars, everywhere
Scientific reports show that one in every ten people is a liar on a scale unimaginable (taboo) to the rest of us. Even when secret, they are betraying our trust, and their integrity, routinely and deliberately. We do not suspect because things that are foreign to us do not enter our heads. This gives liars and cheaters free reign in the world of the unthinkable. (Prime example: Madoff.)
Now, when I go into a restaurant, a theater, any large group, I scan. Her? Him? I put a face on the statistics. I imagine every tenth person as a fraud. Who is betraying the person sitting next to them? Embezzling in the office? False resumes? Identity thief? Using their professional position to take advantage of others?
This practice keeps me alert, I recommend it.
Now, you and I lie. We all lie, but our lies are usually small ones and are usually meant to make other people feel good: “You look just like you did 30 years ago!” Or we smooth over an awkward situation: “It’s fine, no problem, really.”
But ten percent of us practice large-scale calculated deception for our perceived personal gain. We scam, cheat, betray and use others. We manipulate reality.
Of this ten percent, two-thirds are male and most of their lies are to enhance themselves to the world and themselves, or to conceal something from the world and themselves. That is, approximately half of all lying is fueled by the male ego’s desire for status and power. There’s no softer way to state that.
What is a “purple lie?’
Besides white lies, there are “purple lies” said by basically honest people who believed what they said when they said it. Usually spontaneous, “purple lies” often infer a commitment to the person they’re talking to: “doing lunch,” calling soon, being in love, going to Rome together. We’ve all been on both sides of “purple lies.”
The crucial difference between fraud and a “purple lie” is that the person who tells a “purple lie” wasn’t lying at that moment. They just should have thought more before speaking. Many lovely things said during passion fall into this category with the light of day. (On the other hand, passion is sometimes the only way to get to the truth, but that is different, possibly future discussion.)
Also, a basically honest person who tells a “purple lie” usually has some relationship with their conscience. He or she may then feel guilty and act weird. It’s a bad way to lose a friend, and happens too often.
My own code is that people prone to exuberant “purple lies” deserve leeway while deliberate strategizing liars are not entitled to leeway. Most, though not all, know they are deceiving. They seldom feel guilty. They seldom care what happens to others. They feel entitled to having advantages over the rest of us.
And they seldom give themselves away by acting abnormal. Lying is their normal.
Reality #2: good liars are, by definition, well disguised
A very successful friend of mine did not know for two decades that her husband was gay. She knew he was alcoholic, she knew he relied on her to make the money, she knew he could be nasty, but she had no idea he was having serial homosexual affairs. She’d never checked his porno sites. Now he lives with a man who matches my friend in size, color, and nationality, just not gender.
(Do you see the word “Liar” composing the face at right?)
Liars are everywhere and the best are indistinguishable from you and me until after you’ve already been had, whether by a mate, scammer, colleague, or stranger. The best liars are deceptive beyond your ability to perceive or anticipate.
Another friend was financially ruined when her prominent husband, whom she trusted with everything, was exposed in a multi-million dollar fraud. Public humiliation was poured on top as she lost her home, finances, and spouse.
My favorite example, however, of living with a fraudulent spouse is a male friend who found that his husband of many years had not been raised by an eccentric great-aunt backstage in Paris theaters after his parents were killed in a car accident. Nor had he been taken under the wing of Marlene Dietrich, despite the book he wrote, and that was published, about their relationship. One day an unknown woman showed up at their home outside Las Vegas, a woman who had finally tracked down her brother. His very alive parents, who had raised him quite ordinarily in middle-class society, turned up shortly after. My friend was not charmed, and the marriage was over. It also had something to do with the life-shortening illness that didn’t really exist.
Part #2 of the Guide to Liars will be posted tomorrow. Find out why liars lie and why they fight dirty.