Stop enabling liars

They can only upset you if you’re willing to believe them

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Jan 4 · 5 min read
Photo credit: fbigao/Pixabay

When I saw him on a dating site last winter, my eyes lit up. I sent a message to him: “Haven’t I dated you before?” It was almost two decades ago and I definitely thought he would’ve been married with some kids by now. Although he did have a daughter, he was as single as a dollar bill, judging from his profile. But he still looked like his old self sans cornrows. And I was interested.

Rewind to the year 2000. A friend and I went on a double date with him (yes, just him) after a friend of his bailed out at the last minute. We didn’t know that until he pulled up in his car. The three of us went to a carnival and had a blast. It was more like three friends hanging out as opposed to a “date.” We blasted Erykah Badu and Dr. Dre’s new remix “Bag Lady” at top volume, and I sang along (off-key) from the passenger seat. I asked to be dropped off first. I found out about 30 minutes later that my friend said she kissed him in the car. That was all I needed to hear — he was officially hands off.

He denied kissing her after calling me the next day. I shrugged. What’d my friend gain from lying? I stopped talking to him anyway. She did, too.

But decades later, it wasn’t particularly a big deal. I brought up him kissing my friend again in casual conversation. His response was, “Are you sure? I don’t remember kissing her at all.” I showed him photographs of her to dust off his memory bank. Again, he claimed he didn’t recognize her. Ah well, she and I hadn’t spoken since my grad school days. It wasn’t like I was stealing him from her. I decided to hang out with him to see if we had any chemistry. Just CTRL + ALT + Delete on old dates. I was willing to give it a new go as though he was a “new” person.

Quite frankly, I really should have just considered him to be a virus and wiped out the whole machine.

Prolific liars tell five and a half lies for every one white lie told by an average person.

“You should lie more.” My mother has told me that and claimed she’s joking. (She’s not.) I’m a wee bit too honest because I just don’t have the attention span nor the memory to keep a lie going. Halfway through trying to add sugar and spice to a conversation, I’ll just go ahead and say, “Hey, the truth is I just don’t like ________” and be done with it. I have the mouth of a senior citizen who just doesn’t give a f — k.

But there’s something tricky that happens with people who are too honest. Some of us think lying is so counterproductive that we’d like to believe that others are exhausted by the idea, too. Not so much.

Photo credit: Murati/Pixabay

People who are more familiar with certain situations and/or people they are talking with have more baseline information and contextual cues to refer to.

Within a month’s time, this guy had told me:

  • “I don’t remember having a second daughter. I just had a beer and then my friend claimed she was pregnant. Maybe she drugged me. I didn’t ask her who the father was. She is one of those man haters, but then she waited until the baby was born to say it was mine.”
  • “I’ve got a job lined up. I’m just letting my short-term disability run its course. I own property so I’m living off that.”
  • “If I don’t answer the phone, it’s cause I’m doing Uber to stack my money up.”
  • “I never said I was coming over today. I have a job interview tonight.”

On the surface, these clearly sound like preposterous stories. But if you’re someone who doesn’t really understand why someone would lie about such random things, you can believe: 1) Yes, men can be the victim of date rape. 2) Yes, it is indeed possible to want to recuperate from an accident before going back to work. 3) Uber drivers shouldn’t be talking on their phone obviously. 4) As a work-from-home writer, I definitely have had to complete overseas interviews and talk to clients from other countries during evening hours.

Very clearly imagining events can trick the brain into labeling them as memories.

But then the lies just became strange. First, he was an international basketball player who hurt his knee. Then he was a sales representative who worked at Marshall Field’s. Then he was a telemarketer. The only legitimate job he seemed to have was owning an apartment. I believe this one is true primarily because he griped about why you should never let family live in your property because they won’t pay rent on time or at all.

Either he genuinely believed all of his stories or really convinced himself that I did. I’m a fiction author who enjoys a good fiction book. Sometimes the lies were just flat-out entertaining. I wanted to know what he was going to blatantly lie about next so I could tell a friend.

If you suspect someone might be lying, an easy way to find out is to ask them “Why?” questions. If someone struggles to explain their intentions, it’s a major red flag that they are lying.

Confession: I’d already started dating someone else. I let that be known to him because we were not in a committed relationship. And I finally just asked him flat-out “Why do you lie so much? Do you gain anything from it?” A combination of me choosing to date someone else and him not being able to explain why he told so many grand lies made the text messages come flooding in. Then the “texting-ship” he’d become quite fond of became actual calls, which evolved into shouting matches. I shrugged and changed my phone number.

The Science of People has many tips about what you should know about liars. According to the National Geographic, “The average 18 to 44 year old tells two lies over a 24-hour period.” But what neither of these studies do is point out what should be done when talking to liars: simply don’t.

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We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 4x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

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