The Two Types of Liars

Boundaries in DatingThe ability to build a healthy relationship is based on the degree to which you are able to be clear and honest about everything, especially in a dating situation. Sometimes, people will deceive each other about the nature of other people in their lives. They may act like someone is “just a friend,” when in reality there is more of a history or more in the present than is being said.

For example, I (Dr. Cloud) was working with a man named Frank who was trying to figure out his relationship with the woman he was dating. He had a funny feeling that something was wrong. It seemed that she was just a little too connected to her work. Frank had no problem with her loving her job, but there was something strange about her relationship with her boss. He did not think that she was dating him, or having any kind of illicit thing going on with him. But, he still got a funny feeling about her work and her connection with her boss.

Finally, Frank found out that his girlfriend had once been engaged to her boss. And, there was still some sort of continuing tie between them. But, as far as he had known, it was strictly a work relationship. Instead, she had been lying to him.


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Frank felt horribly deceived, and from there the relationship went downhill. It did not falter because she worked with a former boyfriend, but because she had not been clear about the nature of her former relationship with her boss. Frank could sense some sort of tie that she was not owning up to. Later, when some other issues came up where she had not been clear with him, the relationship died. If she had not been deceptive about the former boyfriend, the later issues would not have been a big deal. But, once a pattern of lying starts, trust is difficult to reestablish.

Why do people lie, and how can you set appropriate boundaries? In our opinion, there are really two types of liars:

Liar Type 1:
There are liars who lie out of shame, guilt, fear of conflict or loss of love, and other fears. They are the ones who lie when it would be a lot easier to tell the truth. They want to be honest, but for one reason or another, cannot quite pull it off. They fear the other person’s anger or loss of love.

Liar Type 2:
There are liars who lie as a way of operating and deceive others for their own selfish ends. There is no fear or defensiveness involved, just plain old lying for love of self.

You will have to ask yourself if you want to take the risk and do the work if you are with the first type. There are people in the first category who have never had a relationship where they felt safe enough to be honest, and they tend to still be hiding. So, they lie to preserve love, or preserve the relationship, or avoid being caught in something because of guilt or shame. They are not really dangerous, evil characters, and sometimes when they find someone safe, they learn to tell the truth. This is a risk that some people want to take after finding out that deception has occurred. They hope that the person will be redeemed by the grace and love that they offer and will shoot straight with them from then on.

While we would not automatically recommend continuing a dating relationship with this kind of person, sometimes there is a good outcome. So, we do not want to make a rigid rule. But, our feeling is that dating is not a place for you to rehabilitate people. Rehabilitation should occur in that person’s counseling, recovery, discipleship, or some other context. For one thing, dating can become serious when your heart gets involved, and it may even lead to marriage.

Just because the person is lying out of fear does not make it acceptable, and serious devastation can occur even with fearful liars. No matter what the reason, lying destroys. By and large, the best policy is to stay away from those who lie for any reason.

Spend your time and heart on honest people. It is often too risky, from our perspective, to get involved with the fearful liar. If the person gets better and comes back repentant, that is one thing. But, you should not think that you are going to be the one who changes him or her if defensive lying is an ongoing pattern. There are some people who do this on occasion and confess it, and probably can be trusted over the long haul. But, patterns of this type are problematic. Whatever you decide to do, whether you stick in there or not, make sure that you do not go further until the lying issue is forever and certainly in the past. Remember the words of the wise instructor: Do not go on to other issues until the lying is solved.

The second kind of liar is a definite no-go. Tell him or her good-bye and save yourself a lot of heartache. Perpetual liars are not ready for a relationship, no matter how much you are attracted to him or her. Run, run, run!

A footnote: After Frank ended the relationship with his girlfriend, she soon was back with her former boyfriend (and boss). I told my client I thought he was lucky to have escaped her.


For more helpful advice to build the best dating relationship and find the love of your life, read Boundaries in Dating.


  1. Theresa says

    This is a great stratightforward article. I am devastated because I am coming to the realization after losing a wonderful man that I am Liar number 1. I am disgraced and heartbroken but cannot (will not) be honest with him even as he gave me a final confrontation to be honest about someone else I used to date and kept around to spend time platonically with when my boyfriend was out to town. Shame on me and I continue to be overwhelmed with denying I still care for him and lie.
    Where can I get help for this? I want to be in an honest long term relationship.

    • B.Willis says

      If you sincerely want it to work then reach out to him. Evernone has trust issues and fear of what the person may react to the truth. Many times the other person will already know the truth beforehand. Just try to be as honest as you can and be prepared that he may catch you in a lie. Don’t freakout about it, understand that it will take humility in both of your parts to make it work. He probably understands more than you think he does. He’s got things to work on most likely himself. Two people become stronger as a couple when they desire to help each other a better person which will make the couple stronger. Reach out to him without fear if you truly care for him because not doing so will leave a void in both your hearts, and regret in yours.

    • says

      Call 1800 NEWLIFE and or find a great Christian counselor who knows the Boundaries and New Life material. Also gotta recommend “Avoiding Mr. Wrong” by Steve Arterburn. It and Boundaries & Dating are some of the best books on dating.

    • N. McDaniel says

      My recommendation (personal experience speaking as I have been in a situation similar to yours): cut the old friend loose. As long as you keep your past in your present, you will never escape it! You and the man you lost (maybe forever, maybe not) are both worthy of genuine and transparent love. It is super scary, but you need to find another woman that you can be really honest with, who is spiritually more mature than you and has a marriage that is good and Christ-centered. Learn from her. And GET YOURSELF INTO COUNSELING. It is all worth it. I almost lost my own husband because of my fearful dishonesty. Fear is not worth losing everything, girlfriend. Neither is shame. There is freedom in truth…both honesty and Truth in Christ! You do not have to live under the burden of guilt and shame. Blessings to you, my dear. I hope you get it sorted out. It is so worth taking those steps of faith.

    • Katherine says

      In your personal life, yake the time to write down and admit to yourself how things really are, in any part of your life where you haven’t been honest–probably you have trouble being honest with yourself first. Can you trust the paper, that no one is going to see what you admit right now, just you? And can you trust yourself to accept yourself how you really are right now, once you have admitted things that aren’t just peachy? When you can successfully do this with one little incident you’ll start to feel better about yourself and the kind of person you are. And give yourself time to go through all parts of life that are being affected by lying. It can start to be something you look forward to doing, as you feel better and better looking honestly at things.

      Then, think about who you really have in your life that you feel safe enough to be honest with, and imagine the scenarios where you would interact with those people. Pat yourself on the back for being honest with them, and promise that they earn your honesty and you will always be honest with them. Then enjoy the interactions you have with them because you know those are the safe places you can be most successful because you’re most honest. Over time, you’ll start adding good experiences like that to other relationships you have.

  2. Natalie says

    Thank you for this great article. Sadly, I have had too much experience with liars – one so bold to justify by saying ‘everybody lies.’ The end result is pain. As difficult as it seems to find honest people, it’s worth the continued wait. (still waiting) 🙁
    ‘Run, run, run’ is well seasoned advice!

    • Poppy says

      Miss, Natalie please excuse my mistakes. This is the first time I have ever felt compelled to reply to a comment.
      I feel the exact way. I’m beginning to think that I’m the one with the wrong beliefs. Maybe, the norm is to lie and deceive others.

      • Linda says

        Never comprise your core values!

        Stand up for who you are and know that, when people choose to lie and hurt others for their own gain, it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with how they are as a human being.

        Why would you lower yourself to his standards?

        Stand proud of who you are and move on from them. You have honestly not lost anything by doing so. Only the ideal of who you wanted them to be. Unfortunately, people who lie choose to hurt others. Learn from this and rise above.

        I spent 30 years with a man who chooses to deceive. I am walking away. Yes, it hurt like hell to find out my reality was a farse, however, experiencing pain is one of the prime moments in life to heal yourself, learn and grow. Don’t get stuck in a rut being angry or bitter. If you do, you are allowing another human being to define who you are and how you feel.

        Don’t ever give anyone your power like that.

        I am not underestimating your pain. I know how painful it is. I have spent the past two years in Trauma Therapy.

        Keep pushing forward and know their Lying and deception had absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with “who they are”

        Everyone takes their own amount of time to heal. Heal thoroughly before you seek another relationship or you will continue to attract the same type of men over and over again until you learn.

        Once you heal yourself and find peace within, you will attract the same.

        Like attracts Like!!!!

        When you stay stuck in a negative outlook, you will also attract the same.

        Like attracts Like!!

        Just some food for thought.


  3. Linda says

    I just broke up with Liar #1. He isn’t evil. He’s just hapless. Whenever I’d try to get him to talk to me about his crazy life with his bipolar ex-wife and their kids, it was always the same “I can’t talk about this right now.” Right now became never. I know he’s not a bad guy, but it’s just too difficult to be with someone who’s so unavailable. Besides, how can you get to know someone who doesn’t share what’s going on with them? I can’t have a relationship with a stranger. I’m so glad they published this article. I’m still processing the breakup and I need all the accurate input that I can get. Thanks, Cloud and Townsend. BTW, he ended up moving back in with his bipolar ex and the kids; I can only imagine the size of the bullet I dodged by breaking up with him when I did. My tender heart can take only so much!

  4. Marie says

    Sad To Say, But I Have Been Dating A Liar#1 For 2.5 Years…It Took Him 1.5 Of Those years For Him To Finally Confess A Porn Addiction And Another 4 Months After That To Admit He Had A Drinking Problem…All Because He Didn’t “Want To Hurt My Feelings”. Its Absolutely Devastating To Date A Person That You Never Feel Like You Can Trust. He’s Getting Help Now But There Are Serious Trust Issues Between Us. Just Last NIght He Couldn’t Even Be Honest With Me About A Phone Call He Made To Get A Recipe From A Family Member Because He Thought It Would Hurt My Feelings Since I Don’t Like The Person. Yeah It Might Make Me Feel Wierd Because I Don’t Like The Person But It Feels Worse To Be Lied To….(Sorry For The Auto-caps On The Words. Smart Phone Issue).

    • Julie says

      I was married to a porn addict for 10 years. I didn’t know about the addiction until we separated in year 8. He never changed even after 2 years of counseling. We had a young son. Save yourself the pain… Leave him now. Don’t get married. This is a very powerful addiction and you will get pulled in or worse. My ex gave me a disease after he started acting out with prostitutes. What a horrible situation! I pray you will have peace in this situation and get help for yourself.

    • Jane says

      I am currently facing the separation & divorce from someone who I’d like to believe is “Liar #1” but after 14+ years of marriage, countless lies & catching him in numerous behaviours of extramarital endeavors … I’m more inclined to believe is actually “Liar #2”. It’s quite a devastating situation as I cannot work to support myself…granted, I was just approved for Social Security Disability, but $1,100/month doesn’t go very far these days (ESPECIALLY in light o/medical bills/medicines). While I can wish all day long, that I’d made the decision to “run away” before we got married, sometimes I wonder if this wasn’t a method God had in mind to provide for me during the 4.5-year long wait for disability approval process? I have tried so many times to reconcile to my husband, but it won’t work without him being as dedicated as I am. Unfortunately for me, I found out too late in this process (o/trying to reconcile), that my husband’s lies went far deeper than I thought…despite my purity upon marriage, & my faithfulness to him, I now have an STD that I will keep the rest o/my life. Please continue to count your blessings that you “found out” about the porn addiction, before you were joined together. Not all who are addicted to porn (or who are “sexual addicts”) progress to adultery & fornication…however, RARELY is an addiction anything less than the tip o/an iceberg o/serious issues.

  5. 4 good measure says

    We live next door to an “evil” liar (liar #2). We are the only neighbor on a dead end road, and it has been a 20+ year nightmare. In fact, we may finally have to actually move from our home of 24 years because of him. There seems to be no relief from the devastation he has caused by his lying about us to anyone who will listen. Additional advice for avoiding liar #2: Run run run as fast and FAR FAR FAR as you can! Very serious.

  6. 4 good measure says

    PS: Regarding the “evil” liar #2 neighbor, we are standing on Psalm 64 and Psalm 37. We know God is faithful.

  7. Pamela says

    i had , what I thought was, a close friend. My husband and I spent a lot of time with her and her fiancé one summer. We went boating, fishing, to the lake and it seemed ok except for some part of her that she kept close. She had told us that she had lost her 8yr old son 2 years prior, so I assumed she was still grieving. Soon, she had displayed a lot of anger outbursts and emotional highs and lows and made angry phone calls to me. I felt like I was a bad friend because I could not figure out “what I had done.” Long story short…her sone had actually passed 26 yrs ago and some of her “stories” were tall tales and lies. She had a lot of serious other stories that were not true, also and I started keeping my distance because of her anger. Her fiancé enlightened us as to what he was going through, but they are still together, I think. This friends drove me crazy and I really thought I was the one who destroyed the friendship.

  8. kevin says

    Interesting thoughts here. I’d like to know how many of you, including the authors have never lied and thus are unworthy of a relationship. How many have said “Yes, that looks nice on you” when you didn’t really mean it. Or maybe you answered an unimportant question wrongly and didn’t feel it important enough to correct it later. Or downplayed how much you spent on a gift. Or said you were on your way when you hadn’t yet left? Seriously. I just got dumped out of a relationship of two years because of such things because she would regularly dig around for proof of anything I might say that’s wrong. She has “trust issues” after being burned too many times. And then she wants me to be sure to tell her kids and mine that this was a mutual break-up.

  9. Born says

    Of course some people like out of love of an idol hidden in thier hearts or lives. Rachel lied while sitting on top of an idol she stole from her father. She died prematurely and of course the truth came out, it always does. Her husband buried the unclean thing with her. Or perhaps it and her love of somthing God was jealous of led to her intimacy death.
    Little children keep yourselves from idols. An idol being anyone or thing that has the wrong place in our lives. It should be fiftieth but we value it more than our finance ‘.

    • Borney R Bergantine says

      Born your self checkout a wise man. I think you meant to say, “untimley” death not intimacy death, nevertheless there is a connection between the two realities. Ha

  10. says

    I married a perpetual liar. This is my second marriage. After 3+years of on and off confronting him about a pot addiction of which he would finally confess and promise he was done with only to return to. It was a vicious cycle. I discovered he was lying and stealing from me so I pursued a divorce to free myself and my 2 sons from the conflict. In the process of the divorce I discovered that one of his master lies was that he was never a Navy Seal as he had proclaimed he had been. I was very angry and hurt and deeply troubled at how creative and convincing his lies and stories about his Navy Career had been! The separation that we had during the divorce proceedings bright out the truth and brought about repentance and what I believed to be a convention and I halted the divorce and allowed him to return!! Now 2 1/2 yrs later….I am finding that he is stil unable to be truthful. I have had to confront him about pot several times. Each time he responds in anger and defensiveness and turns the tables on me saying if I were a better wife….if I would only get behind him and support him as I should…and then proceeds to attack my walk with the Lord my character as a mom and on and on and then ends in tears and manipulation…that he Ioves me and doesn’t want to lose me. Ugh!!! I am trapped!!!

    • Liz says

      You can get out of the trap. Ask God to show you the way. It has taken 3 &1/2 years but I am free from 50+years of oppression. My husband was finally saved and the marriage survived but I had a very hard road to follow. I wanted to die I hurt so bad and nearly did several times. God will take you through to victory but you have to do it HIS way and listen to Him. Read up on spiritual warfare and deliverance. It is real and God fights for us.

  11. SJP says

    I have just come to the realization that my husband is a liar (#1). We’ve been married 14 years and for the past 2 months he has been saying that he wants to divorce me. We’ve been through a lot in our 14 years and now when I look back a lot of the turmoil was created from lies he spun and pulled in others and hurt me and him. I really hope he is liar #1 and is doing this out of his hurt, pain and emptiness from a separation from the Lord. We just had our second counseling session with our Pastor last night and she was able to bring this to light. I am beginning to see the pain and suffering inside my husband instead of focusing on me and how his lies are hurting me. I am now choosing to pause and listen to the Holy Spirit tell me to quiet myself and my emotions and instead IN LOVE ask my husband for the truth. Please pray that all that is hidden be made light (Luke 8:17). I pray every morning that my husband will choose God’s way, the way of truth in his life in every word that comes out of his mouth.

  12. ApologyGirl says

    Hello all,

    I’m liar #1 🙁 I will tell you briefly what happened. I had been with my ex for a year and a half, lived with him for 3 months before he broke up with me. Everything was perfect in our relationship, we never argued and got along in every way imaginable. But I made a mistake, I had an extremely abusive childhood..although it is no excuse, I had an incredibly hard time communicating my feelings specially if they were negative. I had the stupid idea of creating a fake Facebook friend and use it to talk to my ex when I was having a hard time with something having to do with him. So using this “friend”, i would send my ex a message stating the problem and suggesting he go easy on me. I used the account 3 times during our relationship. Once I sent an image accidentally through the account and my ex immediately suspected it to be me, he confronted me about it but I was so terrified I denied it. I denied to the point where my ex apologized to me for doubting me. I felt bad but I also was too ashamed for him to know the truth. Our relationship went on fine for several more months. I wanted to delete the account but I didn’t know yet how to make this friend suddenly disappear. I was having some issues with my family that were affecting me a lot back in September, my grandfather suddenly died, so because of the difficulty and affect my family was having on me, my ex wanted to end things. He did, said it was because of my family. I ended up in a mental hospital for two weeks because it was just so overwhelming, i didnt have the will to live anymore. My ex messaged the account telling my friend (me) that he had to end things because of the issues with my family but wanted me to have someone to talk to. Since it was me who was the account, i used it to tell him mean things for the first time, i was so sad, hurt and angry i basically told him he was worthless…that i deserve better and that it was his fault i was in the hospital. I blocked him from messaging the account after that and I wanted to delete it but I just left it there and didn’t use it. I got out of the hospital and am going through therapy since, working on all my traumas and problems. Eventually the problems with my family all got cleared up. My ex and I were getting along again and it seemed like we were going to get back together. But recently he said in order to move on and see if things can work out, he needed to know the truth about this account or he wouldn’t be able to have contact with me. I denied it again, I was extremely scared. So he ended contact. A week later I wrote a letter explaining everything and apologizing. He thanked me for coming clean, told me he felt a lot of emotions but mostly he felt very angry, like I fooled him and played mind games with him. I didnt mean to do that but I understand I did. He said he wishes the best for me but that right now he cant talk to me because it doesn’t feel good and he doesn’t know if he will want to in the future or not. I feel absolutely awful. I’m truly sorry for what I did, I would give anything for him to forgive me and give me another chance. But I know that may very well be not possible. I’ve told friends and family what I did and they all say although it was wrong, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world and it wasn’t bad enough for him to just cut all contact with me and not be willing to talk to me. But I feel like what I did is unforgivable..can i possibly rebuild trust with my ex after this? How bad is what I did to him? I’m working really hard on myself and my communication problems.  Is there any way I can come back from this with him?

    Thank you for any advice you can offer.

  13. Pam says

    This is so distressing Are our fears so great that we cannot be honest with our own hearts and others. For the blog I don’t think you should ever enter into a relationship when you are vacillating between two people. It causes heartbreak – terrible thing to do to someone and is so destructive ! To enter into a relationship for the sole purpose of deciding between two people…..That is playing with people’s hearts! Do people really do this…. ? Felt so sad reading of the hurt that has been caused in so many people’s lives. Makes me afraid of relationships as there is so much uncertainty and so much potential to have your heart broken and it takes so long for one’s heart to heal …. if ever. And then you hold back not totally sharing your heart with the next person …. so afraid. Is that not a form of untruth too? Which means we are all guilty …. how do we get past this …. how do we share from an open heart, be vulnerable? Just did a short online course about fear ….. they said at every point of fear one should say to oneself… ‘Real (my fears) but not True (possibility of it not being fact or truth) …. guess it takes practice to not believe our fears and anxieties, wait for the storm of emotion and fear to pass so that we can see clearly what is really true, Jesus’s truth

  14. Nancy says

    Feeling compelled to lie in certain situations, for me, came from 50-some years (nearly my entire life) of living with abusers. Hiding and avoiding are what it becomes. Awareness and professional help are critical. And then not to allow myself to be too closely involved with unsafe people, or put myself in a vulnerable position.
    There’s something to be said about being with emotionally unsafe and emotionally unavailable people. Therefore, this is one example of a certain type of person and history. Not simply Liar type #1. Just sayin’…

  15. Trish says

    I have been married for 17 years and for the last 3 year’s have found out my husbands lies alot. It started out with finding bad images on the computer then he was looking up his ex girlfriends he had sex with. Now, a couple years later, he is working with a girl. I ask him about her. He lied about her age anf tokd me she was older only to find out she was his age. He told me she was married. I found out she was single. And he told me they did not contact one another and I found out he has been deleting their messages. We have 4 beautiful children and I dont want this to end in divorce but he lies continuously. If I try to talk to him he gets mad and says he cant deal with that right now. He acts like I annoy him. I live in anxiety because I always find out more lies. I am so hurt. I love him. I dont know what to do.

  16. says

    From my ongoing personal experience with one, a liar never wants or likes to be confronted. After making ridiculous excuses and defenses, in my case, he gets angry with me and takes it out on me when confronted even though it is his problem. I have found out that they are usually blamers, Remember the sexually abusive Catholic priests that were being found out? They blamed the victims. Also. I know that after many years, no one, including counselors or pastors, can fix that person. They have to want it, repent with a contrite heart, and ask God to heal and help them. You can pray to God, stay for the long haul, or separate and wait and see. They rarely change. They do not fear God and they do not fear you or a warning of a drastic outcome. They live in denial of their sin most of the time.

  17. Elise says

    Maybe the answer is to run either way- but, when confronted, my man says he’s a liar #1. He says it’s my fault for my reactions to it. But my gut suspects he’s a liar #2 because he also lied to the ex girlfriend before me and we started fighting so much because of the lying. Lying came before the reactions.

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