Dear Sylvia: QUESTION – How Do I Know When She’s a Lying Liar?

This email arrived from a man who asked that I not share his name:

Dear Sylvia,

How do we separate the wheat from the chaff? How do we know we have an honest, genuine woman who says what she means and not just a deceptive person with an agenda?

Stealth and guile is a survival technique that has protected the physically smaller female for ages. In modern times, it’s a weapon. How does one perceive this accurately and defend against it?

Not everybody out there is honest, it would seem.

– Suspicious

Dear Suspicious,

How does anyone know whether the person they’re dating is honest?


When my ex husband and I started dating (as practically-teenagers), I was into writing. So, one night, as we stood outside the restaurant in the cold, smoking cigarettes and getting to know each other a little bit, I asked him, “Do you write?”

He smiled and said, “Yeah.” (I learned later about that smile. “Lie!” it screamed. “Lie!”)

“What do you write?” I said.


“Really.” And: wooed.

Of course, he did not write poetry. At all. He was, in fact, the opposite of a writer – he was a MATH guy. He wanted me to date him, he thought saying he was a writer would make me like him, so he lied. By the time I figured out he wasn’t a writer, I was already hooked on him.

(Let this be a lesson to you, Suspicious, that deception isn’t exclusive to the “physically smaller female.” Also, a note: we aren’t cave people, anymore. I appreciate a good survival-of-the-fittest explanation for modern behavior as much as the next girl, but come on – we’ve evolved.)

“Not everyone out there is honest, it would seem,” you say. Well, of course they aren’t. Are you always 100% honest? Not, “Do you say words that are true,” but do you give of yourself fully, honestly, and without holding back? Do you ever put up a shield? Do you ever pretend to be more or less of something than what you really are?

The kind of honesty you’re asking about is tricky to respond to, because people tell little lies in the beginning, and those lies often don’t really matter in the end. “Uh, sure, I like fried goat cheese. Thanks for ordering for us while I was in the bathroom.” (*GAG*)

Others lie about their overall intent: “Yeah, I love you, baby. And, um, you said you make $X/year, right?”

In either case, you can’t know until you know. Don’t be paranoid, but pay attention. You’ll spot clues when they aren’t being true. The more you see of the same thing, the easier it’ll be to recognize, and the better you’ll get at looking for something else that isn’t the same disappointing kind of person you’ve been encountering. (You’ve heard that tired definition of “insanity,” yes?)

Best of luck to you in your search for an honest woman,




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