5 Things I Learned From Dating a Pathological Liar

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

When I tell people I dated a pathological liar, most of them think I’m exaggerating. They don’t really believe me.

Some of them try to defend him — the ones who know him — saying he’s an upstanding citizen, a good student, a reliable friend, a nice guy. Sure, I guess he is. But he’s still a liar.

Other people will try to question me. Sometimes it even becomes a gaslighting situation. They’ll ask me if he really was lying this whole time. Why didn’t I do something? Was he really that manipulative? I mean, he was fine for a while, right? And sure, he was. But he’s still a liar.

The relationship started out fine — good, even. We were so happy. We fell in love with each other without much regard for the rest of the world. We were inseparable; we did everything together. Our worlds fit like a glove.

And then, I began to realize his pattern.

He was a liar.

He’d lie about everything — what he did that day, who he was hanging out with, what he was doing. When we first started getting to know each other, he’d tell me tall tales about the places he’d travelled to and the things he’d done. He even lied about his past relationships. And at the time, I thought it was the truth, but later on he would admit that he had lied.

He claimed he wanted to do all of these things with me, spend forever with me, that he’d love me always. He claimed he didn’t do drugs or smoke. He claimed he was completely committed to me, always faithful.

And then I started to become aware of the lies that were spewing. I’d catch him all the time. When he’d text me from family member’s phones, pretending to be them, asking me about my opinion of him, I didn’t notice at first. Then when I found out I’d pretend not to care. That was the first time I ever caught him in a lie. But then I’d forgive him.

Then I’d catch him doing other things. Once, on his phone, after I took a photo of us together, I accidentally swiped into his Camera Roll and saw a folder of photos of someone’s boob pics. I confronted him about it right then and there. He said it was his friend’s and that he had no idea that those screenshots were there. He deleted them. And actually, I believed him. But now, years later, I’m not so sure. There was something fishy about that situation. But when I think about it, I just want to cry. He was so good to me, always apologized, making me think he was faithful to me. Most days I wonder if it was just a facade. I believe that it could have been.

And even after our breakup, things were messy. He claimed he wanted to get back together with me, and we’d make plans and hang out together. But it turns out he really was dating one of my best friends behind my back. Neither of them ever told me until I found out from someone else. And when he and I got together for our post-breakup time together, if we ever kissed or hooked up, he was cheating on her. And lying through his teeth to me.

And that’s only scratching the surface.

Most of the lies he told, he eventually came clean about. But often it was weeks or even months later that he’d confess that he had lied. And after our relationship ended, there are questions that still, to this day, I don’t know the answers to. Partly because he won’t tell me and partly because I don’t see the point — it might just hurt me in the end.

But as shitty as the whole situation was, the relationship was a huge learning experience for me. It taught me things about life — and myself — that I would probably never have been able to understand on my own, without that experience to guide me. I’m obviously not condoning what happened, and I hate the way things transpired between us. But regardless, I came out much smarter and much more self-assured than I had been before we met.

1. Honesty is really, really, REALLY important to me.

First and foremost, I learned this. Before our relationship, and even at the very beginning of it, lying wasn’t a huge deal to me. I didn’t think white lies were harmful. I didn’t realize that small embellishments were really all that bad. But as our relationship went on, he began to lie to me even more. And the more he lied to me, the more I realized how hurtful it could be. I had no idea before what it was like, but now that I was the one taking the brunt of someone else’s lies, I understood how lonely and insecure it felt to be left out of so many significant parts of your partner’s life. And in learning that, I stopped lying completely, even the white lies, and honesty became one of my most essential virtues. Not only is it important for my next partner to be honest, but I’ve also developed an appreciation and expectation for myself to be honest all the time, and it’s made me a better person.

2. It’s not always easy to stop loving someone (or get over it), no matter what they have done.

I couldn’t get over this person for the longest time. I didn’t care what he had done to me. Lied to me? Manipulated me? Cheated on me? Faked his love for me? The possibilities were endless. I cared that he was lying, but I also couldn’t stop my feelings. It’s hard to get over someone sometimes, no matter what they’ve done to you. There was a long road ahead, and I didn’t expect there to be. When I broke up with him, I thought it was going to be a smooth recovery because I knew I had made the right decision. But it turns out, getting over someone is hard — even harder when you find out that they’re not even the person you thought they were. But that’s okay. It’s important to remember that when someone does something like this to you, it’s never your fault. The process is long and difficult, but it’s worth it in the end, and every feeling you have is valid.

3. Sometimes friendships are just as powerful — if not more — than romantic relationships.

My ex had a huge role in my life. We were together almost ALL the time. We did so many things together, had so many plans. He was someone that I always saw in my future. So when we broke up, I was left feeling quite devastated. It felt like there was one sad, lonely, gaping hole where he used to be. I doubted that I’d find someone who could fill his place ever again. But it turns out, I did — it just didn’t look the way I thought it would. His space came to be filled with fantastic, dependable friends, ones who never lied to me and who trusted me with their secrets and understood me deeply. It took me several years to build trust with people again and develop relationships that provided me with such support and meaning. But I did, and I’m never looking back.

4. Recovering from a situation like this is a never-ending process.

Now that it’s been several years since all of this went down and since we broke up, you’d think I’d be 100% healed. But that’s not true. Recovery in any form — whether it’s addiction, mental illness, grief, or a relationship — is an indefinite journey. It’s not something that you can dust off your hands as soon as you reach a specific milestone. It crops up sometimes in daily life, giving you flashbacks, or making you sad again. Sometimes just when you think you’ve gotten over it completely, something comes along to remind you again of how much you still hurt. And that’s what it’s like with me. Am I doing great? Yes, absolutely. I’ve worked really hard to find a place in life that I can be comfortable with, and to surround myself with wonderful people and things. But it’s not easy, and it never will be. Sometimes my trauma coughs back up my throat and I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, just the same as I did when he first broke my heart. But I’m healing. Every day, I learn, and every day, I become stronger. I am so much more than I was with him.

5. Knowing your values, identifying them, and enforcing them with others is crucial to the healing process.

After I broke up with my ex, I did a lot of thinking and soul-searching. And it took me a while, but I realized the best solution to prevent this from happening again was to make sure that the people in my life who I let in were ones that I could completely trust, ones who shared my values. Honesty, kindness, acceptance, ambition — those are some of my values. And so when I meet new people, I gravitate towards friendships where that is immediately noticeable. When people share my values, my relationship with them is so much healthier. And I try to share in other people’s values, too. If something is important to a friend, I try my best to make it happen. I try my best to stay within their comfort zone and respect their boundaries, and I don’t generally tolerate people who can’t do the same for me. Relationships are a two-way street, and mutual respect is fuel.

So yes — I did date a pathological liar. And in many ways, this story is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much trauma and manipulation and sadness and heartbreak that I can’t even articulate in words, and even if I tried, it would take more than an article’s worth of time to explain it.

But what I learned was valuable. I am a much better person because of it, and I am grateful that I now know my own strength. It’s a priceless lesson.

If none of this ever happened and I had loved him blindly and decided to stay with him in blissful cluelessness, I’d probably be feeling over the moon right now. We’d probably still be together (as deceitful as he was) and we’d probably be fairly happy. But it’d be a lie. And I wouldn’t be respecting my values. I wouldn’t have the strength to understand my own boundaries and practice respecting others’. I wouldn’t know what it was like to truly take care of myself as I healed from something that tested my faith in the world.

So I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we just take a path and it leads us somewhere unexpected — or even painful. But just because we wouldn’t choose suffering, doesn’t mean that we can’t learn.

It doesn’t mean that we can’t make something beautiful out of our experiences.

Writer. Creator. Teacher. Feminist. Just trying to spread love, talk about equity, and be a good human. She/her. Follow me on Instagram @brooklynxreece!

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