How do you deal with a liar??

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2003
How do you deal with a liar??
Tue, 11-18-2003 - 8:52pm
My granddaughter's Mom may be moving back after being away over a year. I get along reasonably well with her but the main problem with her is that she is, as my son says, a pathological liar. She will tell you a series of things that are going to happen. Some of them may be true, some of them I think she makes up as she goes along. One time my said he asked her if she actually believes the bull**** that comes out of her mouth.

I just don't know how to deal with a liar. I can hardly confront her. I just cannot tell what is truth and what is fiction. My son says to assume that everything is a lie, but how can you do that?

She even lies to my granddaughter which really breaks me up. For instance, back in August she told her she was coming back on the 1st of September. Its now November 18th and she is not back. Yesterday she told her she would be back for Christmas but my granddaughter in tears said "that is probably a lie like everything else."

My granddaughter loves her Mom but she also recognizes that lots of what she says is not true.

Has anybody dealt with a liar like this? How do you have a normal conversation with someone when you can't tell what is truth and what is fiction?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-14-2002
Wed, 11-19-2003 - 12:00am
You could be talking about my sister. She is truly pathological - she tells lies, but doesn't even realize she's doing so - she believes what she says. Even when confronted with evidence, she worms her way out of it or changes her story. Been this way ever since I can remember.

How we (the family) deal with it? Just like your son says - unless you know it to be the truth, treat it as a lie. Generally, we just ignore it if it is a harmless lie (most are just stories she's embellished or added non-existent details to). If it's more serious, we (other family members and I) compare stories to get to the truth, then sidestep her if necessary.

Confronting her does no good, and never has. It only stresses everyone out, causes arguments, makes her already-high blood pressure skyrocket - because she believes (when this happens) that we're all out to get her. Suggesting therapy is no use, because she doesn't recognize there is a problem. Forcing evidence of her problem on her is fruitless - she only changes the story again, and forgets the lie ever existed. It's like chasing a ghost!

It helps to recognize that she does not CHOOSE to tell these lies - she honestly believes them. Somehow, it's a part of her psychological makeup. I do carry on normal conversations with her, and luckily most of what she says is the truth, so it's not difficult to sidestep the known lies and just go on with the conversation as if nothing's wrong. If there are details or suspected lies to sort out, I wait until later then compare notes with anyone else involved to get the facts straight.

There's no way to know why or how she became this way, or what to do about it. I guess we've all become so accustomed to it that we don't really even worry about it anymore. Her life is good, she has a beloved DH who dotes on her and takes good care of her (and she of him), and her lies rarely cause any big problems. So maybe we're (she's) fortunate.

In fact, now that you have me thinking about it more carefully, I think her lies seem to multiply most when she's emotionally upset or very worried about something. When things are good, she's mostly truthful. Something to think about...

For example, her son's ex-wife is currently in prison. Long story, short version: Son is raising two teenage girls alone, with his mom's help. The Ex has a long history of drug abuse and neglect of the girls when they were little. So now she's in prison for accessory to a robbery and kidnapping, but due out on parole next spring. But, as fate would have it, the ex has developed a terminal illness as a result of long-term drug abuse and may not live to see the outside of the prison gates. My sis (softhearted fool that she is) has been the ex's only source of moral and emotional support, and the ex's only lifeline for contact with her two daughters (since no one in EITHER family will have anything to do with the ex). All of this is a *very* emotional issue for my sister.

So we've adapted. I know that anything my sis may say about her son's ex is highly suspect to be a lie. But I also know that anything she says about, say, her husband's job, is probably the truth. It all depends on the situation and the emotions involved.

I love my sister dearly, and that probably helps me a lot in dealing with her. That, and long-term interactions to understand why and when she lies, and lots of practice in getting around them.

More to the point, how to help your granddaughter deal with it? You don't say how old she is, but doesn't really matter. Kids are more smarter and adaptable than we give them credit for. It may help to explain that her mother can't help her behavior, that she has some wires crossed in her brain or something, that causes her to believe the lies she tells. Kids are also more unforgiving than adults when it comes to moral boundaries, like lies. It would probably help her to seek family counseling to understand and deal with her mother's behavior. Both of my teenage nieces have been in counseling since they were little girls - at first to deal with the neglect and mom's drug abuse, and currently to deal with the prison sentence and terminal illness, AND their conflicting emotions about loving/wanting to see her, and never wanting to see her again. Both girls will tell you their counselor has been their lifeline and their sanity in dealing with issues about their mom.

Hope this helps... God bless.