Relationships: The Six Signs He's Lying (cont.)

That's why men lie about status variables, and I suspect we would find that women, at least in our society, are lying a lot about age, or the number of times they have been married, or the number of children they have.

WebMD: So, what are the six signs?

Caldwell: Glad you asked that because that takes us to the heart of the book.

First, romantic liars are very good at what I call information control. So that's the first sign -- if your partner knows far more about you than you know about him, there's a chance there's a hidden agenda in play.

Another sign is the presence of a lot of "impression management" -- you have an idea of what your partner is like, but you've never really had any of the information verified.

A third sign -- and this seems to apply in so many cases -- deceptive relationships usually take off like a rocket ... like love at first sight, if you know what I mean.

Another sign is all the "tending and narrowing" that takes place in the relationship. Romantic liars have a built-in need to keep their partners on a short leash -- out of contact with the real world -- out of contact with people who might know the truth. As a result, it is common for romantic liars to go to some rather extraordinary lengths to limit a victim's contact with friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Finally, a very strong sign that you're mixed up with a romantic liar is that your intuition will eventually signal you. That's just the way it usually works.

Member question: Are there common themes that connect these men's lies?

Caldwell: Yes, there are, at least if my research is any indication. As you might expect, a lot of romantic liars tell "availability" lies -- they present themselves as being more available than they really are. A married man claiming to be single would be an example.

Some romantic liars specialize in "status" lies -- they lie about their educational background, their occupation, social connections, and so forth.

One of the more interesting themes I discovered is what I call the "personal tragedy" lie -- this involves a lie about a personal tragedy such as the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one or something along those lines.

And finally, there's the category that I ultimately called the "just plain crazy" lies -- the lies some me tell about working for the CIA or the FBI, or lies about being a war hero.

WebMD: What was the most extreme set of lies that you heard while doing your research?

Caldwell: The first case that comes to mind would be the case of a phony physician -- a fellow who claimed to move to the U.S. from England to get away from socialized medicine.

He drove his girlfriend all over town in an expensive car, took her to the finest places for dinner, even took her out to his lovely home. Then it was discovered that he wasn't a doctor and he wasn't from England, even though he could come out of a dead sleep speaking in a British accent.

An equally dramatic case involved a phony attorney. He met a woman, dated her for about 10 days, and then had to go out of town on business. He called her each day just to tell her how anxious he was to get back into town.

He eventually got back, and they continued to date for many months. Then, quite by accident, she discovered that his business trip was actually his honeymoon.

WebMD: Where did these stories come from? How did you research this subject?

Caldwell: The stories came from women all over the United States. I also had a couple of stories from women in Canada.

WebMD: Were these women fairly forthcoming about these stories?

Caldwell: Yes, the women I talked to were fairly forthcoming about their stories. But I should point out that I talked to women who were ready to tell their stories. A lot of women remain very embarrassed about an incident of romantic deception.

The really sad thing about that is that the women end up taking their feelings (the shame and embarrassment) underground. Many just don't want to discuss what happened. If more women would step forward, we could really bring this into the spotlight.

There's also another thing that operates against women telling their stories. It is not uncommon for people to blame the victim when it comes to romantic deception. In other words, it is common for people to assume that somehow it was the fault of the woman. I deal with that issue at length in my book -- it is a very important issue to any woman who has been though an experience of romantic deception.

WebMD: Is there a specific type of woman that attracts these men?

Caldwell: No, there is no profile that I was able to discover. The women come from all walks of life and all backgrounds -- some highly educated and others with minimal education, some in modest circumstances and others very well off.

I would also add that the women are not necessarily emotionally or psychologically vulnerable -- even though part of the conventional wisdom on the subject says that this is something that happens to emotionally vulnerable women.

Member question: Are these men mostly out for money or is there some other motive like adventurism?

Caldwell: That is a really great question because it points out one of the common assumptions -- namely that a romantic liar is a fellow who is trying to con a woman out of her money or other material possessions.

I didn't find that in my research at all. I really think that is part of the myth that is portrayed in the media -- a myth than can, in a way, be a dangerous one. I suspect there are a lot of women who see stories about romantic deception on television (say a made-for-TV movie) and they tell themselves it is all very interesting but it "couldn't happen to them" (presumably because they don't have a lot of money). Unfortunately, that is the sort of thinking that sets up a woman as a perfect target -- the woman who thinks it could never happen to her.

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