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What to Do if Someone with BPD Is Compulsively Lying

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BPD and compulsive lyingFrom “The Catcher in the Rye” to “Catch Me If You Can,” there are several references in media and art that showcase compulsive lying as a form of entertainment. But if you know a compulsive liar, chances are there is nothing funny or entertaining about the condition, which can be common in people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 

In fact, your trust might be broken if you’ve been seriously misled by someone who compulsively lies. This can lead to broken friendships and relationships.   

So how can you approach a compulsive liar and maintain a relationship with one without being fed, well, more lies? 

Use Common Sense 

Even when dealing with a compulsive liar, you are still dealing with a human being. You yourself may have lied at some point in your life, so you know what it feels like to carry around the anxiety of potentially being caught or, worse, the embarrassment of being found out. 

Although you might be frustrated with the liar, remind yourself that they experience these awful feelings all the time. Provoking the liar or increasing their load of guilt might not help repair your relationship, let alone stop the liar from lying. 

Before you make any moves to confront the liar, make sure you have considered what you perceive to be lies from every angle. Nothing is more embarrassing than accusing someone of repeated lying when in fact they have been telling the truth. 

How to Approach a Compulsive Liar 

1. Nip the lie in the bud. If your friend starts to say something outrageous, speculative, or clearly wrong, question them immediately. Do not stew in silence over how deceitful the liar is. Call attention to the problem as it’s happening. 

2. Make it clear that compulsive lying is not enough to end your respect or esteem for them. You can love a liar. But do also make it clear that your trust has waned or diminished. Liars often believe that if they stop lying, they will lose your approval. Explain that your approval is based on honesty, but that you still respect them as a person and want them to be better. 

3. Clarify your intentions. Your friend or partner will likely not take your observations of their lying to heart if they believe you are coming from a place of criticism. Wait for a calm moment to let your friend or partner know that you see that lying hurts not only the people being lied to, but also the liars themselves. 

4. Maintain respect. You want your friend or partner to get help, but remember that in order for someone to change long-standing behaviors and thoughts, they need to come to that decision on their own. This may take time, and you need to respect your boundaries. 

5. Accept the outcome. Confronting someone about lying is a courageous step. However, you may find that the person continues to lie, even if they are getting help. At some point, you will have to decide whether or not you want to continue the relationship. If your broken trust cannot be repaired, you may have to accept that it is time to move on. 

People who are getting Borderline Personality Disorder treatment will work on controlling their need to compulsively lie. For people who are not getting BPD treatment, it may take a lot of confrontations and damaged relationships before they address their tendency to compulsively lie. In either case, compulsive lying is something that can be addressed and managed so that relationships are not damaged.

7 Comments

  1. Alanna Hoban

    Though I understand what the author here is trying to say here, I have to say that I agree with some parts and disagree with others. I can understand loving someone despite their illness, but it is really hard to “respect” someone who is constantly lying to you about things(and to/about other people or events in their lives.). In the article, you mention that non-BPD’s should not be quick to jump to conclusions,(because the BPD just MIGHT be “telling the truth”) which I get BUT…You have to also understand that when dealing with a compulsive liar(BPD or not)for YEARS and YEARS, you start to discredit EVERYTHING that they tell you(even if they ARE telling you the truth!). You come to a place where you think: Who knows what is true or not anymore? They’ve told so many lies that they become the “boy who cried wolf” in your eyes after awhile. The stories(medical crisises, false accomplishments or events, drama/gossip about others to “boost themselves” and other attention-seeking behaviors)are often so bizarre, outrageous, extremely exaggerated or outright made up(and you know just by listening to them that you aren’t getting 100% the truth, but yet still you listen to try to be a “good friend” anyway. And I guess I have take some of the blame there by not calling her out on it WHEN it happened and letting it fester which didn’t help either of us.)that you feel like you are going nuts by allowing them to continue feeding you their stuff. And though I do get that they want love and acceptance like everyone else, the lying part is where I have to draw the line in a friendship. I couldn’t put up with it anymore. Other peoples’ lies play too much with your head! Could I still love a compulsive liar? Sure, I think I could still love someone(it is esp. true when it comes to them being a relative or very close friend as with those relationships, you just can’t easily sever them entirely)who lies. To me, “love” isn’t the question here though. It’s about being able to TRUST the other person. Regardless of how much you love them, it is very hard to have trust with someone who constantly lies to(or even about) you. Without trust and complete honesty, the relationship/friendship breaks down very fast.
    Regarding compulsive liars(particularly ones with BPD), it came to a point for me where I’d think to myself: How much time and energy am I really willing to put into a relationship/friendship when I’m always being lied to about something(or someone) AND sometimes the lies were for something so small and/or trivial that to me, it wasn’t even worth lying about! It didn’t make any sense to me and I didn’t understand why she had to do it.

    For me, when it comes to having a close friendship with someone, I just want honesty and to know that a person is being REAL with me(to me, that means not just showing off the great things about yourself, but also allowing others to see your failures, flaws, weaknesses, etc…as well. That’s what we are-HUMAN!). In my opinion, if you feel you’re always have to put on a façade and can’t do that,then the friendship isn’t real at all, so what’s the point in keeping it going? When you have to make up good portions of your life or events that are exaggerated or never happened, you’re cheating yourself and the other person out of being able to be a true friend who would be more than willing to love you just as you are! When you lie, you KILL that! In my personal experience, I’ve learned that you can’t keep going on with those who compulsively lie, it just won’t work(at least not long term). Sooner or later, unless the BPD deals with their lying(through therapy)and stops the behavior, there WILL be a falling out or a loss of friendship with the people closest to them. I found for me, it wasn’t being fair to myself to continue on in with the friendship because her constant lying was becoming very unhealthy and toxic. When we ended communication, I was so mad that I was practically screaming at her(via email anyway. Yes, I know you’ll say it doesn’t help her or the situation, but I think I had enough and I finally just lost it and “let her have it.”). One thing both the BPD and experts on the disorder forget here(and often don’t understand or value)is that the BPD isn’t the only human being in the situation, I’m a human being with feelings too!). People do get frustrated and angry at the behaviors, especially when it continues and the BPD refuses to do something about it. Some are so good at what they do(esp. if they have the manipulation and twisting part down good) that it can make you start to question your own sanity after awhile.

    The other issue I had is this: How do you accept someone(BPD or not) who is not only compulsively lying about their life, but also lying on or telling lies about YOU(or others)? For me, there is NO excuse for this(whether they have BPD or not.). It’s just not(nor should ever be) acceptable. Many people with BPD who lie(and I’m not saying that all BPD’s do, but I’m specifically talking about those with BPD that do), don’t realize the damage that they do to other people by lying on/about them(it could pose a very serious situation for someone if they tell their lie to the wrong person/people!). It really doesn’t matter if they are doing it to be funny, fit in, or to get attention, it can get someone hurt or even killed! Many people with this disorder (and lie) are also very impulsive, so they aren’t always thinking about the consequences of their actions because they are too wrapped up in how they are “feeling” at the time they do it. Then there is the “pitting” behavior that follows. There was a lot of “pitting” going on(you know the game: Telling one relative/friend one thing about the other and then telling the other person something else in order to gain the loyalty, sympathy and trust of BOTH, even if it cost the relationship of the other two people because they were both lied on/gossiped about to the other.). BPD’s(those who constantly lie anyway) need to realize that this kind of behavior is not only wrong, but it can be dangerous! Because of that, I made the choice to disassociate myself from them.

    Many will say that they do care and feel remorse, so I don’t necessarily think it’s because they “don’t care(though it can sure seem like it at times with the things that they can say or do to people.),” I really don’t think they THINK about the consequences of their lies at all because they are so focused on their own self-preservation. They feel that they “have to do what they have to do” in order to keep themselves looking good to the outside world or not let them see truly how low they really feel about themselves(even if it means lying to or about another person. Like the article says, many of them fear that they won’t be loved anymore if they’re found out about.). For me, I can forgive them(but that doesn’t mean that I can be around this type of person.). For me(depending on what they’ve done or whether things are changing with them or not), forgiveness would have to be from A FAR. The way I see it, for my own sanity(and security), I have to do what’s right for me and those closest to me. Of course, many BPD’s who lie cannot understand this(nor will acknowledge or take any responsibility for any of it.) and may lash out in anger when called on them or things have to end. This is usually where more lies, manipulation, projection, “pitting” people against others, and indirect threats, etc… come in.

    Can I sympathize/empathize with their pain? Sure. I do feel sorry that some of these people often have that much pain that they will do anything to make it go away. Still, I’ll never understand how they feel that they have the right to cause great pain to others in order to make their own go away. How it’s alright to lower everyone else around them by gossiping for attention or lying about them to make themselves look/feel better, it’s wrong. I always read about experts who are always trying to get everyone else in the BPD’s life, to conform and “understand” to the BPD. That’s not realistic and I don’t think that helps anyone at all, because it doesn’t encourage those with personality disorders like this to change. It seems to just give these people a “free” pass to lie, control(or try to), manipulate/guilt, etc…”because of the disorder.” The fact is, these people are ADULTS who still have conscious CHOICES to make. If they choose to lie, cheat, manipulate, and hurt others with their “pitting,” then they have to face and accept the consequences of that and the inevitable “abandonment” that they feared so much coming true. The truth is, they often create their own “self-fulfilled prophecy,” one that they are doomed to play over and over again with everyone in their life, when they choose to continue lying.

    I think experts and therapists need to realize that the other people in the lives of a BPD can only take so much. I also think many non-BPD’s finally just figure out that it’s a losing battle that they just can’t win(you learn real fast with a BPD that they will always “win” even if they ARE wrong. It’s pointless to even argue with them because they lack the ability to see things as clearly as most people can. It’s not even worth trying because it’s like trying to argue your point with a brick wall.). You just have to know when it’s time to give up and just “grab your ball and go home” as I’ve heard someone else once say. As hard as this is to say about BPD’s, it’s usually easiest and best to just walk away from them. I’ve had to do this plenty(and with this last falling out we had, it was enough to make things more permanent for both of us.). Do I like it? No, but looking back at YEARS of her lying(and for my own sanity), that’s what needed to happen. Do I love her? Of course and I will always will love this person, but I’ve learned that it has to be from a far now. I can certainly wish her well and hope for the best for her in life, but she has to do the work in figuring out why she needs to lie(and why she can’t STOP doing it)to people in order to create attention and love for herself. I don’t know why she does it and I’ll never be able to truly understand it, because I don’t live with the disorder. And maybe some people can handle BPD’s(or other personality disorders)and this behavior well and not let it eat them up, but in my case, it was too much for me(including being gossiped about and lied on, among other things that were wrong.). And when you start to feel like you’re losing it or going insane yourself because of what the other person says/does and you can’t trust the person at all, then it’s time to go! No one should ever have to constantly be paranoid around someone, especially one who has a history of lying or “pitting”(you know that “if they can lie to you on/about other people, then they can lie ON you too” feeling?).

    My advice to some in this situation? Wish them well and let them go!

  2. I agree with the above poster. This author whitewashes the issue and places the responsibility with the person being lied to. Cut and run…

  3. Julie Thompson

    Unless it’s your son…AWFUL!!! He lives in OZ….:(

  4. I have dated a bpd guy for 13 months after being single for 5 years. I fell hopelessly in love. Then out of no where he wanted out of the relationship, for reason I that don’t and never will make sense. Broken hearted.

  5. I’m finding it easier to look at it as a problem i can’t understand and will do my part because i love them. I was hurt for too long and in love, so i decided if i care I’ll do as much as I can, dispite their abilities. There are things they are better at then I am, I’m just better at this so i take control too the best of MY ability.
    It’s hard feeling as though I’m giving a cookie to the kid throwing a fit. I just acknowledge it when it happens and explain that I’m sorry they feel that way but i disagree. It’s not to upset you so if there’s anything i can do to help you, i will.
    I’m just trying to be the best me. I hope it is dealt will professionally sooner than later but years of denial i know I’m doing the best i ever have for the situation so I’m optimistic they WILL get there. There’s a lot of people who care and are rooting that they get help and recognize that it effects other too!

  6. I’m one of the people that’s become a wreck, full off insecurity because I don’t know when my BPD wife will lie to me next. I’ve tried the approach of asking her to prove where she’s going or who she’s meeting with by showing me texts or call history. She feels attacked and says I’m controlling. Well yes, It’s an attempt to be controlling. She refuses to offer proof; claiming I should just trust her. I’ve said directly, “you’ve destroyed any semblance credibility. I’m giving you a chance to gain my trust. Moreover, not proving this simple thing leads me to think you are lying?” Like so many others who’ve posted, this debate is like talking to a wall.
    A major part that baffles me is that there is no interest in gaining my trust. The conversation changws to the topic where she doesn’t like my toneand I put her down.

    Are there any tactics people have used to catch the liar red handed so you can work through it? I love her, but I’m losing this battle to insecurity. Like others, I’ve concluded she’ll admit to nothing unless I catch her red handed and then a fight ensues about how I made her lie….etc.

  7. Pavel, you story sounds all to familiar. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you handle it the result will always be the same. You are fighting a battle YOU CANNOT win. Long term therapy is the only hope and don’t expect quick results. I see this post is from September so I hope everything worked out. If not know that it wasn’t you, you are not crazy, and when you’ve had enough you will know. Good Luck.

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