How To Know You Are Dating A Pathological Liar

Pathological lying, also known as mythomania and pseudologia fantastica, is the chronic behavior of compulsive or habitual lying. Unlike telling the occasional white lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings or getting in trouble, a pathological liar seems to lie for no apparent reason, according to Healthline.

And according to a 2021 study by researchers from Oakland, Alabama, and Wisconsin-La Crosse universities, most people tell zero to two lies every day,

About 88 percent of the lies analyzed were classified as little white lies, such as saying you like a gift when you hate it. The rest were characterized as big lies, which might be insincerely telling someone you love them.

But, how can you know that you are dating a pathological liar?

The Two Types of Liar

Lying can become a problem when we do it continually. A MedicineNet article states that there are generally two kinds of prolific liars: compulsive liars, who lie out of habit and often without any real goal, and pathological liars, who lie incessantly to get their way.

Man hiding
A man crouches behind a desk, as if he's hiding something. Pathological liars lie continually to get their own way, so having a relationship with one can be extremely hard. Getty Images

Compulsive Liars

Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything because for them the truth is awkward and uncomfortable, while lying makes them feel comfortable.

This kind of behavior usually develops during the early stages of childhood, and can be due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary and/or routine.

Compulsive liars are not overly manipulative and are quite easy to detect as their stories tend not to add up.

Pathological Liars

This behavior is also thought to originate in early childhood. It can be related to antisocial or narcissistic personality disorders, or might develop as a coping mechanism for abuse or other trauma.

The falsehoods told by a pathological liar are usually goal oriented, and these people are usually seen as manipulative and cunning. They are harder to catch because they lie so often and sometimes believe their own stories.

How Do You Identify a Pathological Liar?

Chloe Carmichael, psychologist and author of Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating, told Newsweek there's not a formula that will necessarily detect every pathological liar, but you can pay attention to their stories and see if what they're saying now matches what they've said before.

"As a rule of thumb, maybe somebody has to cancel plans, because they had to work late, you understand, and then maybe if it happens again, this time, because their mother is sick, you understand, but then if it's the third time, either the third time in a row, or in kind of in very, very, very close proximity, then it's becoming kind of an outlier in terms of just, social norms," she said.

Claudia Diez, a psychologist in New York City, said other tell-tale signs were inconsistencies in stories, inability to verify amusing stories, self-aggrandizing anecdotes, and the person refusing to let you "in" too close (you don't meet their friends or family, you don't travel together, you share little, you don't know where they are most of the time).

How To Deal With a Partner Who Is a Pathological Liar

Diez told Newsweek that you shouldn't expect a pathological liar to confess, "because that defeats their purpose for lying."

Instead, she said, you should "believe your intuition and seek to verify or [disprove] the dubious statements you hear, independently of their assertions.

"Try to seek the truth—it is OK to become a bit of a private eye—and confront them when you discover it. Their reaction to your challenge will speak millions about their character."

Carmichael believes confronting your partner will work only if they really want to change. "If you're discovering that they are lying and then they're saying that they're going to change, there's always the risk that that's a lie as well—that they're only saying that because they got caught," she said.

"If they come to you and they reveal it, that's a different story, because it's coming from them. They're showing an internal desire to change, rather than potentially saying this as a way to manipulate others."

Carmichael added that they need to demonstrate they are serious about changing in order to save the relationship, which might include accompanying them to therapy sessions.

They should "realize it would be unreasonable to expect you to trust [they are] working on this lying problem—because of the very nature of the problem—so maybe they could also agree on you going to one therapy visit per month."

Working Out When It Is Time To Leave the Relationship

If you confront your partner with the truth, but they deny it and persist in their attempts to deceive you, you know the relationship is toxic, Diez said. "Lack of honesty is the kiss of death of any healthy relationship."

Next, you have to think about how invested you are in this relationship.

"If you've been on three dates with somebody and it looks like they have a problem with lying, it's probably best to just leave at that point, because problems with honesty are going to make it very difficult to even create a foundation for a healthy relationship," Carmichael said.

"On the other hand, if you're married to somebody, and they have a track record of having been honest and straight with you for 10 years, and then something comes up … then it's worth going to counseling over, at least in trying to see if you can repair it."

Diez warned, however: "Do not give them too many chances if the behavior repeats. In order to stop, the individual must have a burning desire to stop lying and be a better person."

She believes these pathological behaviors necessitate treatment or catastrophic emotional losses for the person to extinguish them—and you should always preserve yourself and choose to surround yourself with good people.

Have you noticed any red flags that made you end a relationship? Let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.