My Dad lied. There were the white lies, the bald-faced lies and lying by omission. His ultimate goal when we were growing up was to keep the peace, no matter what the cost. So he told porkies. Sometimes they were to cover up his mistakes; sometimes they were to keep us kids from my mother’s wrath; sometimes they were to get his own way, but they were ever-present. So I learnt to lie too. I parroted his behaviour. I lied to get myself out of trouble, to hide embarrassment, to match up to others, to hide truths about my life. His failing was getting caught out by forgetting what he said. I didn’t. I made sure to remember what I said to whom.
Then in my early twenties, I met my first love. I fell head over heels in love with him. And he lied to me and cheated on me. I felt like I had been punched in the gut when I found out. That was when I first started realising the impact of lying to others. I don’t know exactly when, but in the next couple of years, I stopped lying. It became important to me to not continue that pattern. I learned how to tell the truth in a more tactful manner, whereas before I thought I was doing myself and / or the other person a favour by being misleading.
Enter stage left, my ex-husband. He gas-lit me on numerous occasions, which of course means that he is a liar. As I write this, I wonder if there was anything in our marriage that wasn’t a lie. I kept the facade in place that everything was fine, fantastic even. I had much to be grateful for, I really did, so I just told people about that stuff and hid the rest. There were very few that knew what went on behind the proverbial closed doors.
In the last few years of the marriage, I was often in the dwang for telling the truth, mostly because it showed him up as a liar in front of other people. The retribution was the castigation that started at around midnight and would go on into the wee hours of the hours of the morning. How I was a terrible wife – unsupportive, unloving, unkind. If only I could be as good a wife as X, Y or Z, then our lives would be so much better. Just look how THEY supported their husbands and worked as a team, instead of destroying everything I touched.
I clung to the truth though. When you are being perpetually beaten down by a narcissist, you start to think you are completely crazy. It becomes harder and harder to know what is normal and what is not; to know what is true and what is a lie. You try to memorise every conversation so that when it is used against you, that you can regurgitate large chunks of it to prove that what is now being touted as the truth is, in fact, a lie.
I now pull myself up short anytime it crosses my mind to lie. I don’t want to wreak that havoc. And I don’t want people to lie to me. Especially as I have become quite good at spotting a liar. When someone I care about lies to me, it hurts deeply. I don’t care what type of lie it is and if they are doing it to “protect” me or to “not hurt” me. I am an adult. I have coped with much shit in my life. I will cope with the truth. I may wear my feelings on my sleeve; I may be sensitive and soft, but the lie is more damaging to me than the truth will ever be.
Truth doesn’t have to be harsh and unyielding. It can be spoken with love and care and respect for the other person. I don’t always get that right, but I try and aim for that.
I had a friend lie by omission on one occasion and on another, claim that something was never said, when I know for a fact that it was. I know I didn’t imagine it. I have not confronted the person with either lie, but when I think about it, it rankles. I know that I will have to bring it up eventually, because for me, it will become a cancer.
My father still lies. He is not going to change at this stage of his life and has become so habituated by it, that he probably doesn’t even know that he does it anymore. I hope to not be that person, now or ever.