When their lips are moving! Har-dee-har-har!
A Shrink4Men forum member once shared an explanation about narcissists, psychopaths and borderlines’ propensity for dishonesty and the confusion it creates in their victims. It’s stayed with me ever since, one, because it’s funny and, two, because it’s true. When it comes to narcissists and other abusive personalities:
Words are just noises they make with their mouth.
On Monday she said she loved me and couldn’t imagine being with another man. On Thursday she was posting Facebook pictures of herself with her new soulmate, our neighbor from three doors down. Why? Who does that? Have you ever heard of something like that? How could she change so quickly?
He looked into my eyes and said he’d never met anyone as amazing as me. He said he’d call and that we’d go out over the weekend and then I never heard from him again. Why? Who does that? Have you ever heard of something like that? How could he change so quickly?
She said she wanted to have an amicable divorce. Now she’s lying about me having abused and raped her, won’t let me see the kids and is asking for maximum support while trying to get me fired. Why? Who does that? Have you ever heard of something like that? How could she change so quickly?
Many of my clients struggle with the disconnect between what their narcissistic or borderline spouses say and what their narcissistic or borderline spouses do. This behavior isn’t just confusing. It very quickly becomes crazy-making.
Sometimes these inveterate liars will contradict themselves within the same sentence, and then gaslight you when you try to hold them accountable. Some of them will deny things they’ve said minutes or seconds before. It’s maddening if you try to make sense of it.
It’s natural to try to make meaning of people or situations we don’t understand. No need to plumb the shallow depths of Lake Crazy on this one. You make sense of it by accepting the reality of the narcissist. They lie. They cheat. They screw people over. They say whatever is most expedient in the moment to get what they want in the moment, and that changes moment to moment to moment. They lie when the truth would serve them better. What’s more, they enjoy doing it. They experience a sense of duper’s delight.
Narcissists are pathological liars who are incapable of love, at least in an emotionally mature sense. If you a) don’t understand what love is and b) aren’t capable of loving anyone but yourself, words like, “I love you” or, “My love for you transcends all” have about as much value as a $3 bill. That’s painful to contemplate and accept, but once you do, you’re on the path to healing.
I wouldn’t say all of their words are meaningless. Narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other Unidentified Flying Crazies can and do tell the truth sometimes. But how do you know? That’s the thing. Even when pathological liars tell the truth, how do you know when to believe them or call bullshit? [*This is just one of a number of good reasons not to be in a relationship with an abusive, pathological liar, but I digress.]
So how do you know when a narcissist is more likely to be telling the truth?
When the narcissist is making threats. Or, as another forum member once said, “She kept none of her promises, but all of her threats.” Threatening others makes them feel powerful. The narcissist or psychopath may threaten something they don’t plan to do, just for the power rush of terrorizing you. However, they’re more likely to be honest about the harm they intend you than the moonlight and roses shtick.
If you’ve moved beyond the love bombing or idealization stage, the moonlight and roses shtick is exactly that — shtick. It’s usually a prelude to being manipulated or having your heart ripped out. Many abusers take a perverse pleasure in lulling you into an illusory sense of security before plunging the knife in your back, front or middle. Most of the time the truth lies in their actions, not their words. Sometimes the two match up, but when they don’t believe what they do, not what they say.
When the narcissist is being cruel. Many of my clients’ narcissistic or borderline partners or exes have said the most deplorably cruel things to them during and after the relationship. It’s wanton viciousness and, oftentimes, deliberate. After which the narcissist exonerates their cruelty by saying, “I’m just being honest” or “I’m just expressing my feelings.” Another variation of this is when they feign outrage and insult, “Are you going to hold something against me that I said when I was angry/drunk? Sheesh! What’s wrong with you?!”
Of course, many non-personality disordered people say things in the heat of the moment out of anger, hurt or fear, but then we feel remorse, hold ourselves accountable and make amends. Narcissists? Not so much. Their cruel words are their perception of you, not necessarily an accurate reflection of you. Since they know your sore spots and vulnerabilities, they typically mix a few grains of truth in with their cruel barbs and rest is exaggeration, distortion and projection.
When the narcissist is bragging about hurting you or others. Narcissists like to boast and gloat about how they plan to hurt and best you and others (i.e., do something shady, underhanded or backstabby). They also like to boast and gloat after they’ve hurt or bested you and others, or what I call the Narcissist Victory Lap™. This is different from making threats. That’s about intimidation and inducing fear. This is like the serial killer who reveals themselves to the police because they want the world to know how clever they are.
Seriously, these a-holes really do feel a sense of pride about hurting, cheating and duping others. Not shame, pride. Do you really believe someone who’s proud of hurting you and others is fixable? They’re not.
Why do they lie? Why do they say things they don’t mean or mean in the moment? F-cked up people do f-cked up things. If you’d like higher level psychological theories to explain this kind of behavior, they’re out there. But when you break it down to it’s most basic explanation, it’s because f-cked up people do f-cked up things. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll recall the scene when Cersei tortures Septa in which Cersei explains why she’s committed her many atrocities — because it feels good.
So what’s the more reasonable choice? Continuing to try to figure out why the narcissist is a narcissist, or figuring out how to end the relationship with the narcissist?
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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Another brilliant analysis & mixed with enough satirical comments to bring some levity to such a tough issue.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for saying so.
Kenneth Macauley says
I found your site on accident, using Stumbleupon extension. Life changing for me. I was dating one of these women. We had lunch with her parents.
They were meeting us for lunch to meet me. This was on a Sunday. Had lunch, went home had sex. Monday, could not reach her on the phone. Tuesday same thing. I looked at her Facebook page on Tuesday night. Relationship status….Single. All our posts and pictures of us gone. I’d never been Ghosted before. I think you should write about that, because I couldn’t find anything in your search bar about Ghosting. She was back with her ex husband that she had arrested for keying her car……………….
If not for your site, I would have lost my fucking mind…..you are truly a miracle. Thank you. Sometimes I can’t believe your not actually in my life watching, because what you write about is so real….they are some scary effing people.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for stumbling upon Shrink4Men. I’m glad the information here has been helpful. I’ve written about Ghosting, but wrote about it when it wasn’t called Ghosting. Some abusers continue to circle back like a boomerang. Some cut you off and disappear without looking back. Both are painful, but being cut-off or Ghosted is actually better in the long run.
Thank you very much for these resources, they have helped me understand the actions of a wayward employee (ud BPD waif f) who idealised me and was clearly in fantasy about our relationship foundation, but extremely emotionally manipulative and ultimately, as we now all know, utterly untrustworthy.
This old joke about “How do you know when they are lying?/When their lips move” used to be attributed to lawyers; I am a lawyer.
There is a follow-up punchline, which is particularly appropriate to waifs.
“And when their lips are not moving?”
– still lying
(but by omission)
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You’re welcome. Hadn’t heard the lying by omission joke. Good one!
It is so validating to read this. It is as if you had a recorder during my joke of a marriage that lasted 28 long years. I have been out over a year now, and the divorce is proceeding. It took me almost a year to realize the extent of her abuse. I am finally coming out of the fog and I am getting myself back. I am truly amazed at the abuse I accepted.
One thing that really helped me is this: Things did not change until I stopped asking why she acted this way, and started asking why I was accepting it. That made a HUGE difference.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
YES! This times a million! Ultimately, why the abuser is the way they are doesn’t matter. The most important question is why are you tolerating it and sticking around for more of the same or worse?
I’m glad you found the strength to leave and am happy for you.
I’ve said before that in 2011, when I was sent toward the 13 signs article, it was as if Dr. Tara was living with me during my 30+ year marriage.
My ex would insult me to my face, saying how ugly I was, how if she should meet me today she wouldn’t hang out with me at all, how I didn’t deserve/hadn’t earned love, respect, or even friendliness and civility, how she wanted nothing to do with me. On the rare occasion I was complimented for completing some task or other, the compliment also included a list of failures. I could do NOTHING right. For years I wondered what was wrong with me. Was I losing it? I finally realized that my imperfections were typical of most husbands. (Female friends would point out their husbands’ flaws and laugh about them, but my ex’s pointing out MY flaws had all these accompanying angry, hateful tones and expressions, how it proved I didn’t really care one whit for HER.) It started to dawn on me that I wasn’t the crazy one.
Sornord, I’m with you on that one. In my case whenever I tell my narc wife no to something then this list of things I’m doing wrong or “never done” seems to pop up. Usually within a day or mostly in the next hour. This level of pettiness started to really get on my nerves and I had to respond to her saying the things that she isn’t doing/or haven’t done. Just like some of the earlier articles this witch just starts acting like some teenage brat. She cusses at me in Spanish and gets on the phone with her friends to continue the rant.
Yet later (after she knows she messed up, or her friends tells her she is in luck to have someone to put up with this s***) she comes to apologize.
The first thing I notice is the tone. It’s like that child that got caught red handed doing something they wasn’t supposed to do. It’s also done JUST to get instant forgiveness and that she acknowledged that she can be hard to deal with and that she loves me etc… Then it’s the hook, “Aren’t YOU going to apologize” She would then ask. This infuriates me because she is the one causing these problems with this childish act and then EXPECTS for people close to her to just deal with it.
Trying to get out now but thanks to her sabatoging my finances I have to try to find a trusting lawyer to do the divorce pro bonno.