I once dated a person who was, for all intents and purposes, a chronic liar. And when I say ‘dated’, I mean moved in with and tried to forge a relationship. I knew about 2 weeks in about the constant lying; about how very little of what she shared about herself and her life was untrue, yet I slipped easily into the role of placating and enabling. There was much more there, to my mind, so to me it was worth it. At least I went in with eyes wide open, I figured, and the lies were mostly unimportant, in that I didn’t care if a particular event happened or didn’t happen in her past – I was dealing with the person in front of me, instead. I felt at the very least it was a good exercise in learning compassion, empathy and patience. I tried to be supportive of the person standing in front of me, even as I took everything said with a grain of salt. Or a silo of salt, depending on the circumstance.
Anyway, this isn’t really about trying to defend either one of us. We all make choices, and we all live with them. Whatever.
The interesting thing is how the whole experience bled over into the rest of my life, even to this day, though to a much, much lesser degree.
I spent just over a year in that relationship, and apparently that was enough to form certain habits in my relations with other people. Friends, mostly, because I only had one actual relationship after that, but really, it’s affected everything in some form or another.
I didn’t notice it until that next relationship, but that’s likely because that was the first person I allowed myself to really get closer to, and be vulnerable with. It’s an odd experience, to remain vulnerable and honest when you don’t really believe what the other person is presenting to you. When you see mostly a façade, yet allow yourself to be open and real…it’s peculiar. One would think, looking at it from the outside, that it would be difficult to just be yourself, and not put your own guard up, as well. But I think it’s actually easier that way. Like how actors often feel more free on stage than in one-on-one scenarios. There’s something liberating about being able to just put yourself out there and not be too concerned with what will get reflected back to you. When you talk to a brick wall, you don’t worry about what it thinks of you; you just talk. And when it goes a step further to reflect only acceptance and love as a reward for opening up, it actually feels pretty good. You’re still aware that it’s a façade and only partly true, but part-real love is better than all-real hate any day.
When you are open to accept any amount of positivity, it’s amazing where you can find it, and how far even a little bit can go.
There are, of course, downsides. One is that eventually the lies will be about you, so if you’re not at least a little confident, that can be destructive. I lucked out somehow, because while most of my confidence was shattered by my own mind, at the time, where this liar chose to strike was in a ridiculous area that didn’t really affect me at all. The insinuation that I had removed a small amount of cash from a place where I didn’t even know there was any – after I’d just “loaned” her $1500 (which I also knew would never be paid back) – was pretty ludicrous. I think I actually laughed at the accusation, but I can’t really remember. It affected me that little.
No, the lies that turned on me were not very severe, and far too familiar to what had been said about her ex when they broke up. They were a non-issue, and nowhere near what I’d been expecting.
Weird to be in a relationship and just waiting for both shoes to drop and the lies to become more personal.
Another downside is the one that has stayed with me, and that is in the distance I create between myself and other people in my life now, and ever since. Whatever barrier I’d put up between her and I has basically stayed up. I guess it was more around me than it was between us, and I sometimes still catch myself questioning things more than I’ve been given reason to. Questioning or doubting…the assumption that no one is being completely honest with me is a tricky path to navigate sometimes. It doesn’t stop me from being open with other people, but it does stop me from accepting any kind of real affection or other positive emotion.
I just don’t believe anyone.
I mean, I can’t blame that all on this one person, of course. I know the sensation existed long before that; for as long as I can remember. But it was such an easy mindset to slide into, and not even notice it until more than a decade later. As well, it’s one thing to notice, but another to dismantle and re-create something else. My therapist has given me crap for that more times than I can count; for not looking at her during a session, for not allowing an actual connection to be established, for denying myself the ability to see for myself how someone else feels about me, and how in the moment they are. Even with her, part of my brain knows I’m paying her to listen to me, and thus doesn’t completely receive anything more personal from her.
Usually when she says something nice to her, I tell her she must be drunk. It’s our little joke; one that she only puts up with to a point.
I remember describing how my first therapist was kind of like a hologram to me; that she didn’t exist outside her office space. That she was just there for me to vent, and when I left the room, she ceased to exist. She broke the barrier one day by touching my arm out of genuine concern, and the realization that she was an actual human being crashed in on my consciousness with more force than I ever would have believed possible. Had anyone asked me before that moment if she was real, I would have said, “yes, of course she is” and thought the other person was a tad loony. But I didn’t really feel it – didn’t know it with my full being – until that day.
It’s a weird barrier. It allows me to feel safe enough to be open and express myself more than I did before the liar came into my life and I constructed this particular wall in response. But it doesn’t allow me to receive anything real from anyone else. As an added bonus, it also allows me to blow perceived negativity way out of proportion if I think there is any directed at me. It basically skews my reality, even as it allows me to express myself more.
In other news, I’m looking into possibly working with some cool writing prompts, just for fun. I maaay even post the results of some of those exercises here! Stay tuned!