A GUIDE TO LIARS: living well is the best . . .

This is the final post of the series. Part 1 focused on that you are surrounded by liars and they are well-disguised. Part 2 examined the mental-emotional processes of deceivers, scammers, and narcissists and how their minds work differently than ours. It looked at delusion, empathy, guilt, entitlement, and conflicting impulses of superiority and inferiority. It touched on how liars project their qualities onto you, allowing them to blame you and fight dirty.

This post focuses on you and how to recover from injuries by deceivers. While it is not necessary to read Parts 1 and 2 to appreciate this post, you are encouraged to read the entire series – and file it nearby, just in case.

Part 3 of A Guide to Liars

Reality #9: your right to joy is inviolable

You have a right to joy. No one has a right to take that away from you, and you should not let them. I am not talking about fighting for goods or reputation. I am talking about your happiness.

Your first duty is to yourself as a miraculous creature on this earth. This is different than an aggrandized sense of your importance compared to other people’s importance. Your joy is intricately tied in with the joy and care of those around you. They are inseparable.

Your job is to sort out how best to care for yourself in relationship with others. That includes sorting out who supports you and your happiness and who doesn’t, and if any one person’s support matters or doesn’t, and, consequently, who should then be in your life and who shouldn’t.

Your job also includes protecting yourself in ways that will not set up or continue cycles of damage, i.e. the boomerang hit me in the head again effect. Winning battles with liars is seldom a productive goal, or realistic. Winning the battle to return to joy is both productive and reclaims – or perhaps claims for the first time – the golden chalice. It is realistic, and it can expand you into new levels of compassion, greater understandings, and more nuanced relationships. It also gives you the muscle, experience, and desire to help others.

Besides, you’re too good to keep down.

Reality #10: betrayal demands grieving

Betrayal is a kind of death, whether of your plans for your future or as the end of a relationship. Especially painful is to be betrayed by someone you loved and were, or are, committed to, someone you identified, or identify, your being with.

Betrayal by your mate can be as painful as a physical death. I have had recent widows say to me, “This I can survive, it is easier than betrayal would have been.”

Your trusted mate slipped away, abandoning you to face a stranger who is willing to harm you a lot and who, unfortunately, looks exactly like your missing mate – has the same gestures, same mannerism, same hands. Love does not turn around quickly. You stand, grieving the loss of your dearest friend as you have to become a warrior against a sudden enemy. It is immensely confusing.

And it will have the same grieving cycle as for a physical death even though you try to fast forward it because of the circumstances, even though people may not understand why you don’t instantly hate your betrayer. One day, months or years later, the grieving will be over. There is a release. It may be quiet, but you know when it happens.

I’m just acknowledging that for those of you to whom it has happened or are in this process; and I am telling those of you it hasn’t to remember that when this happens to a friend, male or female, that love isn’t turned off by fraud or savagery by their mate. It takes time and the grieving process is mucked up.

We have to learn to save ourselves with as much elegance as we can muster.

Reality #11: even stunned, you need to do some things immediately 

So, you’re reeling, your world has been turned upside-down, your money was scammed, your spouse blind-sided you, the child isn’t yours, the list goes on.

Gather your team immediately. Contact your friends and ask for support, secure your funds, get therapeutic help if you need it, find a great lawyer, make a budget, change your will and estate planning if pertinent – and start preparing yourself to walk away if it comes to that.

My double-life husband who never expected me to leave nonetheless had a lawyer by the next morning. A really nasty lawyer. It foretold what was to come. Do NOT expect deceivers, once exposed, to play nice. They might, I’ve heard some do, but for most you have become an obstacle to what they want now.

That said, do not engage in tit for tat. It is bruising and he or she is the pro, not you. I once watched a self-made Park Avenue lawyer swear under oath the truth of a story he totally fabricated, complete with detailed conversations, time and place. Now, he was a pro. You, however, whether in court or other conversations, need to rely on truth. It has to do with your relationship to yourself. It has to do with honoring your future.

Regarding your lawyer (if that’s where you are): check and re-check that they are doing what they agreed to do when they said they would do it, change them if necessary, see them only with a note-taking friend if you get confused, micro-examine and negotiate their charges, and strategize with them when to be tough and when to be yielding because most lawyers are stuck in either being “tough” or “compromising,” which can be another word for “giving in,” sometimes too soon.

Your lawyer is not in love with you, and he or she has other cases. You know better than they what might be best in dealing with your “adversary.” Trust, with scathing self-examination, your intuition. You get to mix it up, gentle one day, unyielding the next.

With your “adversary” – mate, business partner, other – save records of all communications, past and on-going. I advise witnesses. Taping conversations is allowed, just not as evidence in court if you didn’t tell the person you were taping that you are taping them. Reasons to tape? Liars change their stories, deny or forget what they said, renege on promises, and set you up.

I personally have never taped anyone without their knowledge, but I have refused to have conversations unless they were taped. It brings some element of carefulness and rationality to a conversation.

While it may feel weird, even alien, to strategize against someone you may have loved and/or trusted and/or worked with, get it though your head that he or she is strategizing against you. Get clear that someone who deceived you does not have your interest at heart and does not have a viable concept of justice. Instead of seeing their culpability, most liars blame you (specifically or as a representative of humanity) and they want revenge. You’ve messed with their projected happiness, you caused their troubles. She or he will not wake up tomorrow and stop lying because it seems like a nice thing to do.

Other concerns: eat well, dress beautifully, exercise, dance, change your hair, take a shower or bath very single day at least once, cry often, hug, don’t drink too much, never ever listen to sad music, and watch only happy movies – or movies where good conquers evil. I watched the entire seven year series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in two months. My daughter brought the set over as immediate first aid. It was a brilliant move. Little girl kicks the crap out of evil non-dead people. (I love Angel, but ultimately preferred Sting.)

Reality #12: revenge is a two-way sword

There is fighting to reclaim – material goods, reputation, and other losses – that might have been taken away from you or at least to get some recompense. Then there’s “getting even,” which is about your anger and hate. “Getting even,” as usually used, means deliberately injuring the other person, business, corporation, or organization for personal vengeance, as a vendetta.

I believe that people are accountable for deception and calculated harm – rape, scamming, fraud, all of it. I also believe in going public, which you may have noticed. That is, I am not willing to cover up for liars, deceivers, bad actors. The shame is not in being deceived, it is in being a deliberate deceiver. I believe in holding up mirrors because I believe people should act decently towards others. If public knowledge, transparency, helps stop that, then good. Note: people who deceive, like other abusers, usually continue unless revealed.

That said, I’m not an expert on hate or anger. Fewer women than men are. It is men I hear say “I’m going to get that s.o.b.” and “(S)He’s gonna wish (s)he never messed with me.” Problem is, you can’t cut others without inflicting self damage. Hate corrodes. Revenge gives away your moral core.

I’m not saying women are nicer than men. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. What is sure is that we have learned that the court system is weighed against us, we are physically weaker than men, and society is quicker to condemn our bad  behavior, i.e. we have training in anger management and creative solutions in order to survive.

But let’s say you, male or female, are in a rage and feeling hate. (Hate is the hard top coat over the “softer” and more “vulnerable” emotions of grief, fear, and humiliation.) Therapists, friends, time, exercise, and art are aids to get past that, but first you must be willing to get past it.

Important: to get past rage and hate, to reclaim your right to joy, you must recognize that actions by you with the goal of doing harm, even in exchange for harm done to you, makes you (also) an aggressor. They change you in negative ways, and will cling to you through your life. Anyone can do harm. It takes more courage to find and walk the path where you receive justice as best possible without perpetrating gratuitous cycles of damage.

What you want is an end to it, what you want is to live well again, which is, after all, the best revenge. But you want to live well on your own, reclaiming your joy without constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure your injurer knows you are living well. Move on.

Now, this does not mean you can’t have some fun in the “make it public” area. A woman I knew in Brazil took out a huge billboard on the busiest street of Rio near her husband’s office that showed a photograph of his fancy sports car with its license plate. It said the person driving that car was having an affair. It was the first he knew she knew.

A woman I don’t know did something similar with a huge photo and announcement at Times Square in NYC. There are ways to vent and regain a sense of personal power that expose but are essentially fair. As one of my husbands said, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want on the front page of The New York Times.

Reality #13: trusting again is a choice. Choose it.

Trusting again is a decision. You can, if you wish, stay outside of humanity and intimate relationships and never invest again, financially or emotionally. But do you want to live fully or not? Do you want to be creative or not? Do you want to be juicy or not? Do you want to dance or not? Do you want to expand your life and work and contributions or not? Do you have the courage to trust yourself to trust?

Will you answer to your fears or to your right to joy?

Now you’re older, wiser, have more compassion, and have learned what matters most to you, what is to be cherished and celebrated for its rarity and beauty. Cherishing and celebrating require sharing yourself and that requires trust.

Trust and gullibility are not the same thing. Enlightened trust is not gullible, it is grounded and watchful and does due diligence. It looks carefully, and checks for discrepancies. Not everything, every proposal, every person is to be trusted. Now you know. You know to look for the gems, usually people, and savor them more than you did before.

And now, when you do trust, you understand in advance that there may be a gap between what you prefer to happen and what may actually happen. But understanding that the gap may occur, you are prepared to leap over it or go another direction. Your trust can be both adventurous and flexible.

Without trust you cannot experience the warmth of people who want to be with you, who want to be nearby, who want to know about your life and be, in one way or another, loved by you and to love you.

Reality #14: you can forgive if you want to

Yes, I know forgiveness is essential to happiness and good health. I also know that so long as you don’t forgive, whoever abused you by any kind of deception has a hook in you. They may or may not care, but you sure feel it.

I’m not airy-fairy about forgiveness. For me it is somehow irrelevant. I just don’t want bad behavior to continue, and I think people should be accountable, but I’m used to that many liars appear to get away with deception, and I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t find these people very interesting. I find people of truth and courage to be interesting.

I also probably don’t like the exchange of deceivers owing me an implied apology. It leaves a kind of connection while I prefer neutralization.

If, for you, neutralization includes an internal act of forgiveness, then do it the quicker the better and again and again if you need to. Work it out. Come to it. Bring your full self back to joy. Don’t leave part of yourself behind, snarling in the dark.

Reality #15:  . . .  just to know, deceivers don’t get away with it

Even when liars appear to have gotten what they wanted, they are, unavoidably, alone. Surrounded, they are still alone. It’s unavoidable because they are not really there. There’s only a stand in, a fake, a deceiver, a pretender. People lose their own good company when they deny their authenticity. They sacrifice their right to joy, which always comes from inside, from the honest place, the hard working place, the place of love with others and recognition of kinship, the place of “two or more gathered . . .”

Reality #16: honesty

No one hasn’t been hurt. No one hasn’t lied. Most of these hurts and lies have been, or could be, laid to rest. They don’t need resurrection. They are compost.

Having free will, we make choices. Honesty works best over time because it keeps our own good company and, by processes I could not possibly explain, celebrates our right to joy.


A GUIDE TO LIARS: you’re surrounded

 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.”

Why me?

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.