Are you dating a ‘Legion’? Here’s how to spot and deal with a pathological liar

Pathological liars come in many forms, but there are tell-tale signs to look out for.

Reesa Teessa, Who TF Did I Marry, Tiktok saga, pathological liar, relationships and dating, Black love,
Pathological liars come in many varieties, though there are a few tell-tale signs. (Photo credit: theGrio)

In the wake of TikTok user Reesa Teesa’s viral 52-part saga, “Who TF Did I Marry?” in which she recounts her experience dating and marrying a pathological liar she aptly dubbed “Legion,” many have shared how familiar her story is. 

While Teesa’s story is filled with details, red flags, and glaring signs of lying, dishonesty can still be complex to detect at first. Once identified, it can be hard to forge a path of trust with that person. However, according to experts, there are warning signs one can look out for and strategies for navigating relationships with compulsive liars. Below, we break down expert advice on what pathological lying is, the characteristics of a pathological liar, and how to navigate life with one. 

What is a pathological liar?

Experts define pathological lying as when someone lies for no apparent reason, regardless of the outcome. The lies tend to start out small and then build over time to be elaborate, multilayered and told compulsively or constantly. 

According to Psych Central, pathological lying differs from general dishonesty because it is usually done without a clear goal. 

“When we look at lying generally, we see that people tend to lie when they have a motivation or an incentive to lie,” Dr. Christian Hart, Ph.D., said on an episode of the “Speaking of Psychology” podcast. 

A person’s motivation to deceive could be to avoid getting in trouble, to spare someone’s feelings, or to control a narrative. 

In the case of Legion, according to Teesa, he would go out of his way to lie. He initiated conversations about buying a house and purchasing cars. General dishonesty would have been more at play if he hadn’t initiated the situation and was instead lying to save face.

Characteristics of pathological liars

Pathological liars come in many varieties, though there are a few tell-tale signs. These include excessive or constant lying, a lengthy history of lying and being aware of one’s lies. 

It may seem as though a pathological liar is unaware they’re lying, but Hart said point blank, “lying is an intentional act.” It’s actually essential to be able to distinguish between someone knowingly compulsively lying or whether they’re suffering from a personality disorder or more profound delusion.

Other signs to watch for are someone telling contradictory stories, unverifiable details, and long outlandish tales. 

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How to navigate life with a pathological liar

Everybody lies. Because of this, if you catch someone in a lie, while it can be enraging and hurtful, experts suggest remaining calm and leading with compassion when calling it out initially. Understandably, one simple white lie could make you reconsider your trust in a person, so it is also important to be honest and open about your need for trust

If the lying becomes habitual, it could very well be a compulsion or a sign of deeper insecurities and not intended to cause any harm. In addition to suggesting they seek professional help, some recommend setting boundaries or drawing a line with how much dishonesty you’ll take. Maybe lying about some experiences is acceptable, but lying about health and safety is where you draw the line. It may also be a good strategy to keep track of things you discuss with this person and compare and contrast if their stories change or take dramatic turns.   

Pathological lying, whether a new trait or a habit stemming from childhood, can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy. There is a root cause typically that, once detected, can lead to healing. Hart and other physicians have pushed to have pathological lying considered a real condition not only to better study the habit, but also to allow for greater accessibility to treatment. If it were a recognized condition, insurance would more likely cover therapy for those in need. 

It’s not a habit that can change overnight, but it is one that can be stopped over time. 

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