Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I’ve gotten myself into a truckload of trouble and I don’t know what to do. My husband is so embarrassed, he’s ashamed to go to shul and my so-called friends have turned their backs on me. I want to fix what I have done, but am afraid I will only sink deeper into the quicksand I have fallen into. What has become abundantly clear is that I am a habitual liar who can’t even have a conversation without injecting some sort of fabrication.
Ever since I was a little girl, fat and not particularly cute, I found that people, even family members, would pay attention to me when I made something up. Like the time my brilliant and beautiful older sister got top grades in school, so I faked test grades, changing my failures into a 100%. I wrote glowing notes to my mother from my teachers saying how gifted I was – I even altered my report cards. This worked fine for a while and my parents boasted to everyone who would listen how terrific both their girls were.
I never even thought about the rude awakening they would have at PTA. That’s when the roof crashed in and my wonderful run of joy ended. After that, no one ever believed me about anything. My teachers labeled me a compulsive liar and I had to figure out a way to be more creative to make friends. For example, I told one girl that my father was a very important person in the government and no one was allowed to know because his work was top secret. This got me into many of the upper clicks, which caused me to create bigger and better stories.
When I got a job, it was so easy to manufacture a false profile of myself, because I started to believe my own stories. And they were never lies, just stories that made my life sound better and opened many doors. I dated boys who were fascinated by all the things I had done and all the things I was “going” to do. Yet, somehow, none of them wanted to go out a second time. I watched from the sidelines as most of my friends got married, many of whom didn’t even invite me to their weddings.
Finally, after some years, one guy said yes to a second date with me and I really went into hardcore mode to make sure he didn’t get away. I told him I was up for a promotion in the company at which I worked and that I had my eye on the top spot in a few years. He proposed soon after and we got married. Surprise, surprise, I had about three girls from my class show up out of the twenty-six I invited. I guess the others were busy that night.
Lying became as real and as natural as breathing. I made new friends who invited me to their gatherings and were enthralled to hear about my accomplishments and adventures. As my children came, I was the star of the PTA, directing traffic, organizing fundraisers all under the guise of being an amazing wiz in the business world. Little did anyone know I worked for the same small accounting firm in another borough for many years. In shul, I sat with the women of means and would often talk about the exotic vacations we went on and the luxurious hotels we stayed in. I often spoke about well-heeled relatives in Paris and Portugal who would fly us in on private planes. When asked why we didn’t live in a far more auspicious house than the one we owned, I would explain that I didn’t want too many people to know how wealthy we were because we didn’t want to attract collectors and organizations that hounded wealthy people.
Last week, my husband got a call from our rav inviting him to sit in on a meeting of the board of directors and other high-end members of the shul to discuss plans for building an annex. He didn’t tell me about it until he had one foot out the door.
Mrs. Bluth, when he came home, he was livid and could not look at me, much less talk to me. When I pleaded with him to tell me what was wrong, he said the rav opened the meeting by expressing the hope that those people present would finance most of the building expenses because of their financial stability. Everyone whipped out their check books, some writing five figure amounts. When the rav saw my husbands check for $200.00 he laughingly waved it towards my husband saying “Martin, you realize you left off the three zeros before the decimal point?”
My husband was mortified. When he said that was the amount he could cover, the laughter in the room died. Then the rav asked whether his companies were in a financial bind. My husband explained that he worked for an import export company as a salesman and did not own one company much a few. Then he asked where they had all gotten the idea that was a business owner.
Well, it turns out that my “stories” about our life had become what everyone talked about. But now, the truth was laid bare. My husband was shocked. He had been treated a certain way in shul, but never realized it was because they thought he was as wealthy as them, or even more so.
These last weeks have been a horror. My children were uninvited to many of their friends’ homes, and we were not included in two very visible events to which we had gone in the past. My husband doesn’t speak to me and made it clear that he doesn’t trust anything I say. He says that I have become a stranger.
I am so miserable and wish I could take back every lie I ever told. Is there a way for me to rectify this before my husband asks for a divorce.
What a fetid kettle of fish you’ve cooked up for yourself and what shame you’ve visited on your husband and children.
I have to ask: are you sorry about the lies or that you got caught? That’s something you need to think about.
You are an individual who is addict to lying. Yes, there is such an affliction, just as there is an addiction to anything destructive that is fueled by an impulse we can no longer control. Lying is as destructive as any other substance abuse, as you now know, and it is as potent and debilitating. It kills marriages and relationships. The loss of trust is incredibly difficult to reinstate. And as you are experiencing, just as an addict is shunned and made an outcast, so too is the liar. And just like any addictive habit, lying, too, is a hard habit to kick.
But there’s always hope that you may have learned from your situation. Professional help is a must if you are going to rebuild. Hopefully, with the help of a counselor or therapist – and a sincere effort on your part – your husband and children will rethink their hurt and distrust. I hope the person that emerges at the end is a stronger, wiser and far more interesting and worthy than the one you falsely constructed.