To Tell The Truth: The Frustration of Dealing With Someone Who Lies About Your Relationship Or Their Contribution
Posted Dec 01 2010 1:51pm
Several years ago I bumped into an acquaintance who I basically knew via my ex. She seemed caught off guard to see me and made references to me ‘visiting’ and how was I enjoying it now that was ‘back’. Odd really as I lived down the street. When we met up a few months later at a party, all became clear when she explained that she had been confused about seeing me because she had thought I was living in the US because, wait for it, my ex had told her that the reason why we’d broken up was because I wanted to live in America and he didn’t. I should clarify, this was a complete fabrication on his part but unfortunately not the only one…
A few months before the party, I’d attended a launch party with a mutual friend and for the sake of not creating an awkward moment with the hosts husband, I’d had to pretend that my ex and I were still engaged, which was ridiculous considering we hadn’t spoken for a few months. Part of me wanted to make a tit out of him for pretending that we were still together while he was knocking off someone else, but the other part of me just couldn’t be arsed with the drama.
There is a moment or even sometimes a lengthier time than that, where when someone tells a lie about your relationship or outright fabricates a chain of events, you have to pinch yourself and check that what they say happened isn’t true. Had I lived in America and somehow slept my way through it? Was it my imagination that he’d refused to discuss things after we broke up?
The worst thing? Even when he knew that the jig was up, he still tried to keep up the story for a while longer! When we did eventually bump into each other at another party, he was distinctly uncomfortable with reality catching up with him, especially when I made it more than clear to everyone who asked that I’d been living in London the entire time.
I’m not alone in this experience – I’ve come across many men and women who have been involved with someone who either during or after the relationship has totally distorted reality. When these people are confronted, they can veer between denying the lies, to actually having the brass balls to attempt to bully you into taking up their version of events, and may even become really aggressive. In fact the more aggressive/hostile that they become, the more you know they’re not liking you interfering with their version of events. They’d rather you disappeared under a rock so that they can weave their web of lies unhindered. Where it can be particularly dangerous is if your self-esteem is wobbly enough that you’d actually question your own version of events/reality and even take on theirs. Another ex of mine told a lie where he basically said that I’d said something when I hadn’t. I think he was covering for someone else. Of course I denied it, but he’d already put it out there and I was feeling so much negative repercussions that I actually wondered if I had said it, convincing myself that maybe I’d got really drunk and totally forgotten it. Trouble is I hadn’t actually known the piece of information before I was accused of the ‘crime’ to tell anyone about it.
I see people create a lot of pain for themselves by trying to have a debriefing session with their ex. The problem: while it’s one thing if you both agree on what happened, who did what and yada yada yada, the reality is that it’s only people seeking to get their point of view and perception of things clarified that seek to debrief in the first place. It’s another form of seeking validation and invariably they get disappointed because the fact of the matter is that no-one wants to be told how things went, even if it is what happened. Nobody wants to sit through a blow by blow account of what happened and be told where they failed and most don’t want or need the weight of expectation that comes with someone that’s seeking the ‘truth’ about their emotional experience.
The biggest source of pain though is where when you actively seek to ‘change the mind’ of someone who even though they appeared to share the same experience as you, has a totally different reality to you.
Much like when I caution against trying to get someone who treated you poorly in the relationship to treat you well now that they’re out of it, if someone was pretty deluded in the relationship, dodged accountability and responsibility, and often told lies, distorted things, and actually has narcissistic tendencies, they will be this and worse outside of the relationship.
Relationships are subjective to an extent because there are emotions involved, but what is tricky to dispute is the chain of events that happened and things that were said.
What also needs to be recognised is that it is you that gets to decide how well you were treated – not them. It’s all relative and one person’s idea of treating someone well may be a rapid departure from someone else’s.
That same ex when I was foolish enough to remind him of how badly he had treated me said “What do you mean I treated you badly? It’s not like I cheated on you or beat you!”
This is why it’s so important for us to not only have boundaries so that we recognise how good or how bad we feel and what we do and don’t want to accept, but to also be prepared to be emotionally open and honest with ourselves so that even if they are deluded, we don’t participate in it.
When you’re prepared to be emotionally available and have honest conversations with yourself, you’ll feel uncomfortable when you recognise things that you have done that are not in your interests. You’ll feel your emotions, let your thoughts exist and work through them rather than shutting down anything you don’t like or are afraid of, and you’ll be living in reality.
This gives you an enormous amount of strength because no-one can tell you who you are, what you did, that the sky is green, or that they’re treating you great when they’re walking all over you, because you’ll know who you are and are comfortable in your own skin and the truth, even when the truth brings you bad news.
I know how frustrating it is to encounter someone who tells lies, distorts what happened in the relationship by carefully editing out their contribution while amping up yours or fabricating it, and then has the audacity to try to force their version of the truth on you and others. I’ve seen abusive people swear blind that they love the people that they mistreat and particularly through this blog, I’ve witnessed many a woman in particular throw away their self-esteem, time, energy, health, friends, family, and even money trying to be right.
You’re right even if they don’t tell you that you’re right. Any person who will lie, twist, and bully their way around you isn’t going to just roll over and be present to the truth. Even though they won’t qualify what you experienced or admit to their lies or mistreatment or whatever it is they’re distorting, your version of things is just as valid.
Having boundaries, treating yourself with love, care, trust, and respect, and being prepared to be emotionally available will enable you to validate your own truth. You know how you feel, you know what you did or didn’t do – you validate you.
Pain in the arse that it is, you also have to leave them to their devices rather than trying to invalidate their version of events. Obviously if it’s stepping into legal/professional circumstances then there are ways to deal with them, but if it basically comes down to trying to get them to admit the chain of events in your relationship, or own up to their mistreatment etc, if they’re not decent enough to step up, don’t force it.
When there is a wide gap between your ‘realities’ this represents a difference in values and mentalities. It just confirms how incompatible you are.
Don’t travel from here to eternity trying to force someone to share your reality and own up to your version of the truth. If you both don’t share similar values, particularly when it comes to integrity and honesty, you’re never going to share an honest, healthy relationship anyway.
It’s also important to acknowledge that distance gives objectivity and when we are too close to a situation or our emotions are too raw and getting validation is high on the agenda, our own truth can be a little, if not a lot distorted too. If you have illusions in your relationship and are in denial about who and what you’re involved with, you can’t handle the truth. When you do handle it, you have to do something and get out of the relationship.
You’ll realise that you’re being really honest with yourself when you know the reality and you’re OK with letting it be and getting on with your own thing instead of making it your vocation to ‘teach’ others the truth.
For about a year or so after I broke up with the ex that lied about me moving away, it bugged me that he was telling porkies to myself and others. It bugged me that he thought of me a certain way, that I may be blamed for things I hadn’t done, or that people may see me in a certain light. As my self-esteem grew and I found other things to preoccupy myself with, I acknowledged the all important truth – you cannot control the uncontrollable.
The truth does prevail. It might not do it on your beat and you may not be around to see the consequences of the truth prevailing, but it does so anyway. Let it be.