Divorce and Transitions: Mardi Winder-Adams
My last blog started with the bold statement that everyone lies.
“Knowing the type of liar you are facing can help in structuring conversations to help avoid conflict.”
I also pointed out the common reasons for lying and how we sometimes justify telling lies in relationships of all types and levels of importance.
In this blog, I want to share some insight into the types of liars. In my role as both a mediator and a divorce coach, I hear the term LIAR in almost every conversation. Unfortunately, saying someone is a liar doesn’t help you determine how to address their behaviors and statements. Knowing the type of liar you are facing can help in structuring conversations to help avoid conflict.
Just The Basics:
There are four possible considerations when thinking about liars. Keeping it to just these four factors will help you gain insight into what is going on for the person telling the lie and how you can possibly change your questions or interactions to avoid these situations.
In the most basic terms, people lie to others or themselves.The second set of considerations is why they are lying. Are they lying about “facts” (or their version of the facts that they believe to be true), or are they lying about their values?
Lying about values is murkier than lying about facts. For example, a person may say they value health and wellness but continue to eat an unhealthy diet, refuse exercise, or continue drinking or overeating. In a relationship, a partner may say they value loyalty and commitment but then have multiple affairs or engage in open flirting with others. When the inner values don’t match the outer, observable behavior, the individual is often both lying to themselves and about their values.
With that in mind, let’s look at the four basic types of liars. These are in no particular order, and each type of liar can destroy the foundation of a marriage or a co-parenting relationship.
1. The Intentional Liar – Lying About Facts To Others:
These liars are often very childish in their behavior. They make up facts or tell the person what they want to hear rather than telling the truth. The deceitful liar knows what they are doing and justifies the lie based on personal gain or avoidance of a negative response.
“These liars are often very childish in their behavior.”
However, white lies also fall into this category, which was also part of the last blog. These deceitful lies, such as telling a work colleague you are OK when inside you are humiliated by a comment from a supervisor, technically make you a deceitful liar. However, we typically think of these types of liars only when they do something harmful or misleading.
2. The Avoidant Liar – Lying About Facts To Themselves:
The avoidant or delusional liar is all about deceiving themselves or avoiding the truth when it doesn’t suit their purpose. This self-deception allows them to tell a more positive and self-promoting story, which they eventually begin to see as the truth. Some delusional lying is normal. For example, we may tell ourselves our friend didn’t mean that sarcastic or negative comment and that she was probably just having a rough day, even if this is an ongoing pattern of behavior.
People can become delusional about other things that derail a relationship. They may tell themselves having an online relationship with another person is not cheating because they have never met in person. They may delude themselves into thinking they are a great partner because they are not as bad as someone else’s spouse.
It is important to note that these types of lies are not the same as a person with a mental health condition who cannot distinguish reality from delusional thinking. Instead, this is a deliberate way to wash away uncomfortable truths by convincing ourselves and trying to convince others of a different reality.
3.The Manipulative Liar – Lying About Values To Others:
These individuals lie about themselves to others, creating a false character and façade that is often seen as authentic to friends and colleagues but known to be a lie by family. This is the person who is the life of the group in social situations but then becomes verbally abusive at home.
They create an image of what they want to be and then do whatever they want, failing to align their behaviors with the values they claim to internalize. These people understand they are creating a false front or message about themselves but are comfortable making this choice.
“While narcissists are definitely manipulative, people can be manipulative liars without being narcissists.”
While narcissists are definitely manipulative, people can be manipulative liars without being narcissists. Some people become very good at manipulating people with lies, which often takes the form of gaslighting, presenting themselves in the best light while spinning the version of the story to put the other person in the role of the bad guy.
4. The Shameless Liar – Lying About Values To Themselves:
People with narcissistic tendencies often fall into the category of lying about their values to both themselves and others. However, the lie starts with the story they create about how wonderful they are, how they embody the best values, and how everyone else falls short.
With this type of liar, the ability to lie to themselves becomes critical to their sense of self. They are so enmeshed with the distortion of who they are and what they value and embody they have managed to completely “brainwash” themselves.
People who are not narcissists can also exhibit this type of pattern of lying to themselves about what they value and hold as important. It is not exclusively a factor in any mental health diagnosis.
Real And Alternative Facts:
Knowing the type of liar you are dealing with can help structure conversations. For people that lie about facts to themselves or others, avoiding asking factual questions or getting into debates about the “real facts” and the “alternative facts” is the best technique. Those who lie about values may be more willing to look at the facts as long as they do not have to accept blame or admit they are at fault.
Practicing different communication styles can help you interact with liars and still honor your boundaries and need to communicate, particularly through divorce and ongoing co-parenting communications.
About the Author:
Mardi Winder-Adams is an Executive and Leadership Coach, Certified Divorce Transition Coach, and a Credentialed Distinguished Mediator in Texas. She has experienced her own divorce, moved to a new country and started her own business, and worked through the challenges of being a caregiver and managing the loss of a spouse.
Handling life transitions and pivots is her specialty! In her professional role as a divorce coach, Mardi has helped hundreds of women before, during, and after divorce to reduce the emotional and financial costs of the process. She is the founder of Positive Communication Systems, LLC.