[Editors Note: While this article is directed to women, its information can apply to both genders.]
OK. So you're involved in a relationship -- one that started out like it had a lot of promise. As a matter of fact, all the right chemistry was there from the very start, or so it seemed. The relationship took off like a rocket, and before you knew what happened, you were thinking this might be the one. Nearly perfect, or so you thought.
But now something is wrong. As a matter of fact, something is dreadfully wrong. You can't put your finger on it, but something's not right. It's a thought that races through your mind; it's an eerie feeling in the pit of your stomach. Something is wrong, but you don't know what it is. Welcome to the world of Romantic Deception.
Let's say you're a little further along in the relationship. If so, the strain is probably starting to take its toll. You're starting to get a little worn down emotionally. Chances are you're waging a one-woman battle to retain your own sanity; the contradictions and inconsistencies are more than you can take. You may even be obsessing about what's going on with the relationship, but you don't have the courage to openly question your partner.
The feelings and sensations I just described may be your first clue that you're involved with a Romantic Liar -- a man who's been lying about who and what he is. The web of deceit no doubt started weeks or months ago, but now you're getting in deeper. Unfortunately, you probably don't have a clue about what's really going on. It's possible you're starting to act a little crazy. Welcome to Romantic Deception writ large.
A Romantic Liar
A Romantic Liar isn't the man who tells a little white lie now and then to keep your spirits up or fails to tell you the whole truth because he wants to spare your feelings. By the same token, a Romantic Liar isn't the man who adds an embellishment here or there just to make a good impression on you when you first meet. Omissions and enhancements like that technically constitute lying, but they don't qualify as Romantic Deception. As you'll soon learn, Romantic Deception is far more.
Masters in the art of Romantic Deception get away with the game because they are just that -- masters. They know what to do and how to do it. When a Romantic Liar is operating in top form, you probably won't have a clue about what's going on. Some Romantic Liars specialize in concealing the fact that they're married, while others have a flair for posing as doctors or lawyers when they're not. Some Romantic Liars like to present themselves as decorated war heroes; others go a step further by impersonating intelligence agents for the federal government. As a rule, a Romantic Liar is limited only by his imagination and the immediate circumstances. The list of lies a Romantic Liar might tell you is a long one.
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Because he's capable of lying about anything and everything imaginable, there's no limit to the ways a Romantic Liar can harm you. You can lose substantial amounts of money to a Romantic Liar, and you might lose your job or career because of him. You might avoid the financial loss but suffer the emotional or physical consequences. Even if you're a self-assured, intelligent, and resourceful woman, you'll probably end up with a shaken self-image when you realize you were duped. Therapists' offices are full of women who've been the targets of Romantic Deception. Maybe you're one of them. If you are, you would do well to always remember: Romantic Deception is something that happens to thousands of women every day. You're not alone.
If you discover you're a target of deception, but you find out early enough to make a swift exit, consider yourself lucky. More than likely, though, the game's been going on long enough that now you find yourself emotionally hooked on your partner. If that's the case, you'll probably find yourself having to deal with a hefty amount of emotional damage. The aftermath of Romantic Deception is a fairly predictable emotional nightmare.
You'll probably go through a gut-wrenching experience when you try to untangle your feelings and understand how it happened. More than likely your first question will be why didn't I know what was going on? At some point, you'll be hit with a profound sense of loss over a relationship you thought was meaningful. The sense of loss will grow even more confusing when you begin to recognize that who or what you were in love with didn't really exist in the first place.
The list goes on. Self-doubt, sleepless nights, deep depressions. Weight loss, weight gain, anger, and resentment. Substance abuse or casual sex as temporary escapes. Embarrassed attempts to regain contact with friends you dropped along the way. The range of emotions is wide, but you'll almost certainly return to your original question -- Why didn't I know?
Of course, not every man who tries his hand at Romantic Deception gets away with it. Every day thousands of married men try to pass themselves off as being single, and even more try to embellish who they are. Even so, many of these would-be Romantic Liars fail. These men may have the bravado to attempt their hand at Romantic Deception, but they lack the necessary skills to really pull it off.
There are other men, however, who fall into a very different category. These are men who are skilled at the game of deception beyond your wildest imagination. They're masters in the art of deception, so much so that the charade can go on for months or years.
Romantic Liars don't just openly lie or speak falsehoods. Truly skilled Romantic liars use all sorts of techniques to paint a false picture. That's why I use the term misrepresentation to describe what's at the heart of Romantic Deception. Romantic Liars tell straight-out lies, to be sure, but they also engage in overstatement and understatement. Sometimes Romantic Liars lie through their silence, and sometimes they deceive with the help of friends.
If you think the only lies that count are the ones coming out of someone's mouth, you're in for a rude awakening when it comes to a Romantic Liar. Some actually say very little, but misrepresent a lot. Indeed, most Romantic Liars are quite content to let you draw your own conclusions.
The Scorecard on Deception Research
When it comes to the mysterious world of deceit, misrepresentation, liars, and such, the truth is a little unsettling. There's still a lot that we just don't know. Deception, as a topic of inquiry, has caught the attention of a lot of researchers, but there's so much that still remains a mystery.
A lot of the problem stems from the fact that most deception research is conducted in laboratory or experimental situations -- environments far removed from real life and even more removed from the reality of intimate relationships. We always have to ask the question of whether or not the findings would apply to deception in real-life situations.
Beyond that, the findings and discoveries from the laboratory and experimental situations are often inconclusive, at best. For example, some deception detection studies have found that a group of college students perform no better or worse than members of the law enforcement community when it comes to identifying which of two or more research participants is lying in an experimental situation. It's also safe to say that most deception research is focused on deception detection. When it comes to the question of what motivates a liar to lie in the first place, we're still very much in the dark.
If we were ever to fully investigate real-life deception, as opposed to deception in laboratory settings, we would eventually have to delve into the world of the person telling the lies. And that may pose the biggest problem of all. We really know very little about deception detection to begin with, but we know even less about liars. Two monumental problems stand in our way.
First, significant liars (i.e., people who make it a practice to lie on a regular basis) are rarely available for study. In a word or two, liars are reluctant subjects. Don't count on a Romantic Liar or any other big-time liar to march into a counselor's office because his lying has become a problem. The fact that he lies on a regular basis might be a problem for his girlfriend or any number of other people, but it isn't a problem for him. In fact, for someone like a Romantic Liar, the lying may be the very thing that allows him to cope with a scarred identity. The lying may be the one thing that lets him get through the day with his self-image intact.
Second, there's a serious question as to whether or not you could believe anything a liar said in the first place. If someone is the sort who lies on a frequent basis in any number of circumstances, there's actually little reason to presume he would stop his lying in the interest of scientific inquiry. Even if you had the luxury of interviewing a serious liar -- say in a clinical setting, for example -- it would be difficult to put much faith in what he told you about anything.
The Forging of a Deceptive Relationship
Short of getting involved with someone you've known for the greater part of your life, there's no such thing as a fail-safe way to meet a potential partner. A Romantic Liar can come into your life from any direction, but yes, some settings are obviously more inviting of deceit than others. Chat rooms on the Internet, personal ads, and singles bars are obvious examples of where you're likely to encounter a dyed-in-the-wool Romantic Liar. But you can also meet a Romantic Liar at work, school, church, or through a friend who's just as clueless as you are about a potential partner's true character. More than one woman has ended up in a relationship with a Romantic Liar as a result of a blind date that was set up by a well-intentioned but totally-in-the-dark good friend.
A Romantic Liar's ability to forge a deceptive relationship begins with his ability to tell a plausible story and to tell it in a way that makes it believable. It doesn't make any difference whether he's lying about his marital status or his occupation or education or anything else, for that matter. It's his ability to tell a plausible story in a believable fashion that gives birth to a deceptive relationship. Many people mistakenly assume that a deceptive tale always has a fundamental element of implausibility or unbelievability and that there has to be something wrong with a woman who would fall for such a story to begin with. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All it takes for a long-term lie to be successful is that it be launched with the right amount of skill.
This article is excerpted from:
"Romantic Deception - The six signs he's lying"
by Sally Caldwell.
Radical Honesty, The New Revised Edition: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth
by Brad Blanton.
About The Author
SALLY CALDWELL has a Ph.D. in sociology and currently teaches at Southwest Texas State University. The author can be reached by email at [email protected].