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Pathological Lying

Question:

I believe my son may be a pathological liar and has been since child hood. He is now 28 and married with a new baby and a wife ready to leave him, after 5 months of marriage. He lies when he does not have to. He gets very angry when caught in a lie (that we can prove). Everyone who works with him thinks he’s a liar, so it’s not just me who thinks this is a problem. He is also in complete denial. My husband, my son’s wife and I want to help him get help. Do you have any suggestions on how we can get him to a psychiatrist – and once there, how we can get him to see his problems. Also, is there a particular field of psychiatry we should be looking for? He has symptoms of feeling inferior. He purchases very expensive clothes, just had liposuction to look better, (in his mind) buys excessively, and brags about everything and anything. He has had to have a new macho vehicle every few months, starting with a Hummer, yet he abuses these and turns them in for another kind of vehicle, which is never any better in his opinion. His birth mother didn’t want him and used him for the money his father has. She is an alcoholic who is now married to husband number 8. My son has had no contact with her for 7 years and asked me to adopt him, which I did. We are close as long as he feels I am on his side. While I believe he loves his wife and son, he is very active in sex on the internet and also phone sex. He is very intelligent and owns two successful businesses which permit him to live a lifestyle of excess. However, he feels that everyone else has more than he does, which very honestly is ridiculous. His father has until now believed every story or lie he has ever heard from our son, because he has felt that he had a horrible mother who never nurtured or loved him, and was very happy to allow his father and me to raise him at age 6. I am at a loss about what to do and also wonder if anything can be done. Please, help us.

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Answer:

To answer your second question first, what comes to mind when I read your account are what are called the “personality disorders”. Personality disorders are (to quote DSM-IV) “enduring patterns of inner experience and behavior that deviate markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture”. In English – they are chronic rigid problematic ways that some people interact with other people. Everyone has a personality or a way that they typically cope with the world, stress, etc. Most people are capable of flexibly responding to situations with a range of ways of coping. Some persons become (for whatever reason) rigidly locked into a singular way of approaching the world that causes problems, either for themselves or for others. Your son sounds like he possibly has chronic traits characteristic of several of the PDs including Antisocial (the lying, impulsivity, denial and aggressiveness) and Narcissistic (the insecurity, and preoccupation with success) traits. Of course, there might be something entirely different going on with him too. There is simply no way to diagnose your son over email. Assuming however that I’m on the right track – these conditions are quite hard to treat as the individual with the problem does not usually recognize or care that their behavior harms others. There are probably medicines that can help with the impulsivity some, but I’m not aware of any magic pill for this sort of condition. On the odd chance that your son becomes interested in therapy I would recommend looking for a more senior clinician with experience in working with similarly troubled persons.

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Comments
  • j

    I, too, have a relative that is probably a pathalogical liar. We aren't sure if this stems from his childhood since his parents are hardly involved with our side of the family. He married in to our family a coupe years back and the stories have gotten rediculously worse, when put on the spot w/ questions "he can't remember"... but, if you give him time, the stories/answers are overly detailed, but still general statements. I know he needs help, he has no friends and this is getting serious as the latest large lie deals w/ his ailing health. Only a few family members are aware of the seriousness and we have proof that he lies constantly. I'm not sure either what to do or if we could call a therapist specializing in this disorder, it will be hard I know to get him to admit any of this. But, it's got to stop. thanks for listening..

  • Karma

    I'm wondering if much of this behaviour does stem outright from trust issues. Is this some sort of survival mechanism that's been developed? I'm thinking certain folks behave this way to get their needs met, knowing few other healthy ways to do so. I have this problem myself and I'm struggling with uncovering the root of my pathology. I want to know why in order to end the cycle.

    What I'm seeing is I lie in order to manipulate the situation. What I'm also seeing is that when I simply tell the truth, the sky doesn't fall and those around me continue to stick around.

    There is no pill that will give someone an epiphany about his/her own life. It's also hard to find a competent therapist that suits the client and can have a strong rapport with.

    Best of luck to everyone.

  • Kim

    Truthfully I don't see there being any help for someone who refuses to see his or her own lies. Our son has gotten to the point that his lies hurt others and he has brought so many women into our lives through his lies, we have 3 grandchildren from him, one whom he abandoned along with his mother overseas. we are done with im but not the girls, we love them, he on the other hand can get help or lose his family completely. It's one thing to take a pill and be able to get better but it's another when there really is no help for the person, love or hate he is dangerous and he's not welcome here anymore.

  • Audrey

    i'm actually reading these articles because i have no way to resolve a problem i have with a soon to be sister. my brotherinlaw is marrying a girl that he has dated for 6 years... and she is a pathological liar. she worked for me for almost 4 years, and having raised many girls, my intuition told me that her stories never added up. i gave her the benefit of the doubt time after time, and found that she lies again, time after time. i only see her lies because she can't cover all of them, and she always "don't remember things"... she says she can't remember bad memories... but to me, it's a lie...

    i have caught her in more than 100 intentional lies in the past... but what i am so sad about is that because she is so attention hungry, she always competes with me, and tries to be better than me. but then is see that when she works with others too... it's always competitive, and she always has to come out the better one, or the winner... as for me, i can't even compete with anyone.... i shy away from competition, and i shy away from dishonesty.

    so today, she mimics everything i do, say, and am. she looks exactly like me, she talks like me, writes like me, and believes what i do... but better than me, of course. i once tried compassionately telling her my pain, and told her it hurt me that i no longer have my own identity, she completely defended her selfesh and said she never copied me, or anything like that. so i felt like there was no resolution since she did not owe up to her actions. anyways, the lies continue... and she created a perfect image, and a perfect relationship. the relationship should never have gone this far, in my humble opinion, because there is completely no understanding and communication, but, she will make it work. she swears on a perfect relationship, and will not let him go... because she knows he's a great guy, and she may never do better than that.

    but being 8 years her senior, and having raised many girls, i know that she has a problem... a problem of feeling inferior, and insecure. she's a chronic shopaholic... starting at 18 and with no apparent income, she was addicted to designer products. at 24 years old, she owns more than 10 pairs of designer shoes, and more than 10 designer purses... again, with no apparent income to support such spending habits... BUT, because she sees me with a designer product her and there, and other people with it, she just can't stand it! she has to have it... and lie about it, and say it was a gift from a distant cousin... a gift from a friend... (she has no friends by the way, but she claims she does, we just will never meet them!)

    but my brother is going to marry this girl, who is a complete lie, but has believed herself and convinced him to believe her... only people to get to know her see that she lies... and not many people give her that opportunity. i guess it's nice to know that this is a mental disorder. it makes me able to forgive her a bit easier, and be a bit more understanding... but of course, hopeless, sadly...

  • christine

    I have a sister who is 19 years old she has always lied, and has always been real sexually active, which scares us because she's not carefull and does not use any protection. She lies over and over, and gets so detailed on her lies. Its almost scary. She also has a split personality, she is one way with the family but completely different in her circle. I know this because people who work with her describe a very different girl than I know. It seems that her lies are getting worse and worse and hurting more people. We have confronted her and told her that we love and want to help, but that she needs counseling, and that we would go with her and be with her all the way. She feels that there is nothing wrong with her life. Even though we have strangers telling us of her behavior. She gets really hurt when you catch her in a lie and confront her with all your knowledge. Now after searching for answers it says that you shouldnt do that. However thats the only way that she will finally state the truth, it then seems like we get passed it and then it starts all over again. Can we get help for her or is it to late? I cant even talk to her anymore because everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie. She tells us what we want to hear, and then becomes this other person when she leaves? She reminds me so much of this Casey Anthony girl on TV, all the lies, and her promiscuous personality. Help Help Help

  • renee lost mother needs help

    I have a 13 year old step daughter-she too is a pathological liar. I married her father when she was just 8 and there is a history of child hood abuse from her bio mother along with abandonment. I myself have been in and out of counseling since I was 11 and I am now 36...I am drove crazy by this child and her constant selfishness and she will flat out say she has done nothing wrong and then has a twisted logic for the lie when I confront her..she hates me because she never gets away with anything I catch her all the time...she also steals and takes and uses her friends,family etc. and when no submits to her and gives her what she wants she will make problem after problem. She says she is miserable but is unwilling to change anything and wants all of us to hurt like she does. She has been in counseling for almost 2 years now and is on meds..she has improved in some small areas but the lies are all the time and if she is doing something good there is a hidden agenda behind it either to butter us up or to cover up what she does...I can see her eyes literally change color when she is being mean and evil. Her father and I have a great relationship and do not fight about anything (well) except for her we will fight about her or we used to she almost had us split up and divorced but we worked it out and now he sees everything I have told him about her but now he just doesnt deal with her at all no discipline no communication nothing he just doesnt know what to do and I am left to being the rule maker and the punisher. I know where she is headed and I am trying to keep it from happening but she butts heads with me every turn. Is there hope will she ever change

  • Anonymous-1

    I once had a co-worker who was a pathological liar. It was very difficult to deal with because everything that person would convey would come across as true (while later turing out to be a lie), and then I began to constantly remind myself that this person remains in a constant state of falsehood. Nothing was true and if it was, a portion of it was a lie. Nothing was ever 100% true. The dangerous aspect of pathological liars is that they can lie on you to others or even to your face, lie about others or adjust details to fit their perspective (essentially lying again), or create a very dangerous situation where the truth is needed but it cannot be given by this person because of their tendency to lie. Most pathological liars if not all tend to live within a make-believe world. A close family friend constantly spoke of boyfriends and fiances she never had. She spoke of family events including my family in which she was not involved, but proceeded during a conversation to give the impression that she was. She even lied to me and stated that we had gone somewhere that we hadn't. While growing up I could never fully grasp the understanding of what her lying entailed. But I now believe, some odd years later and many miles away, that she cannot help what she does. There is either a deep need for attention, an inability to stop oneself from concocting stories, or the lying provides some sort of self-gratification because of some emotional need. Separating yourself from people who perpetually and dangerously lie, doesn't mean you're being hateful, it just means that you are protecting yourself, your life, your things, and perhaps even your family. Essentially, I'm not sure the pathological lying can ever stop. It is something that continues to perplex psychologists and something that more than likely is not always under the control of the person doing the lying. With people who do such things it is important that we consider what the consequences might be in sustaining a relationship, even familial, with that person. I today do not speak with the two individual's above because of their pathological lying. Not only are they difficult to be around, but they are also people who live within a ball of confusion that will only extend itself to your life. Dr.T

  • Cindy Jordan

    My son is 28 and has lied since childhood. I believed him for a long time, knowing in the back of my mind he was at least partially lieing all of the time. He now never tells the truth. His father was an alchoholic (recently deceased). I left his father after my son said he was hitting him when I wasn't home ie working or grocery shopping. He was verbally abusing me mentally and emotionally, so I believed my son and am still not sure weather my son was telling the truth about that or not. He always spends more than he has. He has a wife and 3 children (2 girls and 1 boy), he wants me to forget they are alive and does not even talk to them. He has never supported them on his own and his inlaws (God Bless Them) have been there primary care givers. There mother has been abused in every way possible by my son and he abandoned them 3 years ago. My oldest grandaughter has type A diabetes from her fathers side of the family and he doesn't care. He lost his apartment a year ago and my husband and I are truck drivers (over the road) we let him move in (until he got on his feet), his car broke down and we let him borrow 1 of our 2 cars, he let it overheat and ruined it. He then said he left it at his only friends grandparents house, we have never seen it again. I told him he would have to start paying a little rent, because he brought his girlfriend and her 2 year old son in our house and made a pig sty of our home and told him if he didn't pay rent, he would have to move out. He moved out, stealing towels, a new coffee maker, our dresser, food, my dead mother's mothers ring and other assorted dishes and then had the nerve to tell me to take him to court and then turned around and said I gave them to him as a gift. I told him he needs mental help and he told me I did. I love my son, but I don't want him around me with all of the lies. He doesn't pay any support for his children either. I just can't handle it anymore. I am at my wits end. Someone please, what should I do?

  • Anonymous-2

    My son has been lying to me since he was a preteen. Now, 31, he has no job, lives in a city 800 miles away, and apparently needs help. His old car has disappeared, and he appears to be without transportation and money, but he sends me e-mails that are very short without any detail. In the last year, I sent him 24000 for school that he did not attend, and he expects me to support him. He has always told me lies that increase his worth, and make him out to be a nice person e.g., that he lacks a few courses finishing school, that he donated bone marrow, that he saved someone's live, that he saved a woman from being attacked, and that he had saved and invested the money I gave him in earlier years. I believe he needs professional help, but I don't trust him to seek out the help if I gave him the money. What should I do?

  • Anonymous-3

    My daughter is 24 years old and lies about anything and everything. She lies shen she doesn't even need to and it is very difficult for my husband and I to understand. She has 100 credits toward her college degree and can't seem to go to class. She spends money she doesn't have on things she doesn't need....many books....dvd's.... electronics....She is loving and cares about us but not enough to be honest and open. We recently learned that yet again she was not going to class and when we confronted her we had a big scene and she said she had been working on how to tell us. I am at my wits end . She has a history of sexual assault (I think??), cutting, depression, and several suicide threats. She took pills one time several years ago but I think it was attention seeking as she took a handful of acetominophen. She hops from therapist to therapist, psychiatrist to psychiatrist and I am not sure she is ever honest with them either. She has been prescribed antidepressants but takes her meds on an irregular basis.....Anyone out there have any ideas??

  • Anonymous-4

    I wish i knew how to make it stop. I'm 4 1/2 months pregnant & my fiance & I just split up after 2yrs. I couldn't take the lies anymore. he would lie about the shoe's he wore that day. he would tell people he was a cop, a state trooper, a fire fighter. now that we've split up he doesnt want people to think he's a bad guy for telling me to get out, so he's telling people I cheated on him & the baby's not his. He has a Nine yr old daughter from another relationship & she is starting to lie all the time now too. She looks up to him & wants his attention & she thinks lying is acceptable. He has a sucessful business and money to live the life he wants. He can't control his impulses and never thinks about how his actions effect the future or the people around him. I wish so bad there was help for him. i love him so much but i have to think about my baby & the life i want for her. It's so sad, he has such low self esteam but acts like he's full of himself. I wish i could understand it better. I wish i could do something to help him. But he's been this way since he was a child. He has ADHD & type 1 diabeties. The mood swings, the lying, the impulsiveness, the false sense of reality, the emotional & mental abuse and lack of empathy is no longer bearable...he has a good heart deep down & I know that he cannot just STOP this behavior. I wish there was a cure. It hurts the people who love them the most because they only want to see them happy. It's so hard to see the person you love in so much pain deep deep down. But I have a daughter on the way & now she is the most important thing to me so I have to leave him behind and never look back. But it's still going to hurt me when he falls.

  • Alison

    I to have a son who is lying He started with little white lies as all kids can do However over the last 4 years it has become progressively worse He is now 17.5 years he is my 4th child

    in the last 12 months or so he is in full swing of his lying and thinks that he is very good at it

    We have laughed it off, tried to embarrass him out of it, Used treats Fought ,

    The list goes on and on i guess the break through for us was the day he lied and it really hurt him

    I have found that constantly asking him when he speaks to me Is that the truth or a lie? everywhere and anywhere Constantly talking to him in a manner that is none accusing but compassionate explaining to him that i am not judging him that i know he is unwell and cant help it Ect I asked him to trust me and told him why he can trust me as i realized that he as the liyer looks at the world through his eyes and he cant trust as he cant even trust himself

    This has taken a very long time to were him Down but i think i am getting there he only tonight opened up to me about the lying And wants to stop that he can see that he will have no future if he keeps going

    he even allowed me to ask some questions about why he thinks that he lies he was able to explain some things to me he seems to be taking responsibility for his lying

    he has asked to see a doctor and wants help >>>>

    but this as i explained to him was going to be a huge undertaking on his part as after all the lies how do i now know that he is telling the truth or just manipulating a situation to get his own way

    i asked him to talk to me about what trust is The answerr seemed Right for me but i also told him that it would take time that his words were worthless and that time and actions would be the truth for me

    He seems to understand that i need evidence of a real change before i believe him again

    but after years of never giving up i think i am getting somewhere

    I am so tired he has run me down but i cant see him go through life like this

    i think this disease is not unlike all the others in terms of the drain they are on the primary care giver what a pity there is no respite for us

  • kk

    My husband lies all the time. He has repeatedly sought after multiple women and has been caught but refuses to admit wrong-doing. He lies about details and embelishes and tries to make himself look "good" in front of his friends and family. He has spending issues and flaunts his wares continuously. We are filing for divorce after 15 years of being a big fat liar. He still can't come clean with all his lies.....

  • jen

    hello. just started dated one. noticed he is getting better and is self aware in his selfish behavior, but havent addressed his lying yet, just something i noticed. i have already declared that he will not get anything he wants by lying and that he will be fulfilled by simply telling the truth. he had several past relationships where he cheated and was careless, he admited. he does still talk a lot about sex. the late economy effecting his high paying job and the loss of a serious ex girlfriend after many years have hurt him and seem to have helped build & surface a self awareness, which to me is the construction of a conscious. it seems as though they are a bare subconscious, if you look up the job of the subconscous. and the bare subconscious has many similiarites to a polterguist. i know it sounds crazy, but a polterguist is a fresh spirit who doesnt know its own tidentity and is desperately seeking to know who it is. in those who have experiences with them, you can tell them what they are and they will claim it, even if it is a boot. they are known to copy and dulicate, always on a search of what and who they are. it seems as though the person is already a new underevelped human being, who are known, spiritualy, to be impusilve, a fresh subconsciuous with not yet a devetloped conscious. it seems, that just before they start the learning process as a child, abuse will have them add an extra degree or disinterest in connecting with others as they will then see it as a painful thing. in response to great pain in abuse, they will completely amputate, in self defense, the passage way to connect to others, which also l takes the e ability to empatihize or feel for others. on a new spirits journey to find self identity and worth it is only guided by social media, and material gian as measurement. its idea of self worth measured by superficial hollow things or witness of anothers power is what influences the new spirits idea of self worth. since he doesnt undrstand 'feelings' or the feelings that drive people, he doesnt understand that trust is built that way. he believes that life is measured by ones ability to manipulate and have power according to his observations minus the ability to understand feelings that motivate success and relationships. the best thing, i think, which is a good teacher anyways, is the school of life, hardship that will knock the persons technique into reevaluation after he has been hurt several times,, will force him to look at self and create a separation: which then creates self awareness and conscious that will now protect and monitor the impulsive, childlike, ever learning subconscious. i think this is the case with my new boyfriend who is slowly learning how life works with feelings and not hollow manipulation of superficial ideas and things to measure self worth.

  • Hank

    My friend and I work with vulnerable children in a day centre. A young girl was recently employed by our managers after succesfully completing an interview to determin her ability to work with such children. After a couple of months, the girl in question was absent from work and told our employers she had suffered a seizure at home. Obviously we were all very concerned at the time but recently we have grown concerned due to her behaviour at work. She has said she is epileptic but from working with children and adults with epilepsy we are not sure this is the truth. We know she is having appointments at the hospital as she has had to work whilst having a heart monitor attached. The doctors have suggested anti depressants which makes us think they believe her 'seizures' are not as dangerous as she makes up. During one 'seizure' at work a colleague and I engaged her in a conversation whilst she was 'fitting'!!! She has not provided us with a medical plan from the NHS, just a handwritten plan she has written herself. She also has made a small pink card that she says she will hand to staff in the classrooms if she feels a 'seizure' coming on, after handing the pink card to staff she is able to run 15 metres to the office, use a magnetic swipe card to unlock the door and then move to an open area in the middle of the office before laying down and having a 'seizure' Her 'seizures' at work have all managed to occur in the office, in front of employees. She recently had a 'seizure' and when recovered walked towards the main desk and proceeded to lay down on the floor, an area that connects all offices. She remained on the floor for 30 minutes until two colleagues persuaded her to let them drive her home. Is it just us being intolerable of her constant attention seeking or does this sound a little bit not normal?

  • Helen

    i got the same problem too, im dating someone, i've heared lots about him that he lies so much about silly things .. he lies about things that there is no need to lie about it, like what u slept, what time u woke up, ate, dressed .. etc.

    im feeling really bad about that, and i really love him, and i wana change him.. sometimes he admits he's lying about stuff, im glad he admits that but he just dont stop. so once i tried to be honest and tell him that he keeps lying and stuff and that he's sick.. but it didnt work, i really love him and wanna be with him...

    hes a really good looking guy, got money and can get whatever he wants in a second! but though he still got the idea that hes the best and keep showing off, but i was able to go deep inside into him, and he really got a white pure heart and i can feel it he loves me and hes trying his best to show me that, but it still annoys me that i cant trust him because he keeps lying!

    and i really hate it when i have to believe his lies and just go on with him ..

    anyways do you think that one day he might change??

  • Shilo

    I am a Pathological liar. I understand that about myself but I can't stop and I am damn good at it. I always have ways to prove i am telling the truth. I have never been caught and everyone around me always trusts me. I love everyone in my life and look out for them. But I lie about the dumbest things. I need help but I cant tell anyone. I want to be the good person I know I am. Help me?

  • Ayelah

    I am a pathalogical liar as well. I too am very good at it and lie about the smallest things. It started when I was very young, I use to really believe the lies that I told. In my head, I would create them to be real. As I've gotten older, I've noticed that my mother has some of the same traits as me. She too lies about small things and I catch her every once n awhile. Someone would look at me n say "there is NO reason for you to lie about anything, your beautiful, hard working and at heart a good person".....but I guess in my eyes that is just not enough. I'm not sure where to begin to start not lying in my everyday life its been like this for me for a long time. Is there a baby step process anyone could recommend for me? I'd really like to get help. No real relationship can be formed on little lies.

  • Linda Power

    I have a n 18 year old grandson that is also a chronic liar. He is also a drug addict. He is in re-ab right now and is convincing telling the therapist he misses his girl friend and she is 5 months pregnant. None of it is true the girl he is talking about is a friend not a girlfriend.

    I am a foster parent as well. I have raised 4 fetal alchol kids and confabulation or chronic lying is part of fas (fetal alchol syndrome). Also taking on others reality is also part of this. I also believe my grandson is fae(Effect). So, when someone mentioned he missed his girlfriend, then he had to tell them he understood because he missed his girlfriend and she was 5 months pregnant.

    I am nopt an expert , but I do know alot about this so I was just wondering if it is all related. There are differences in mri's of patients with fas or fae.Let me know what you think.

    Linda

  • worried mom

    my daughter went to live with her father a year ago. she has done nothing but lie since she got there. she lied a lot when she was little, then when we caught her on it, she began to improve a bit (only lyiing over little things) but now shes got the full on lies big and fast. since moving in with him she has made him pay for physio therapits, expensive bed for her "bad back" new glasses she didnt need becuase we had her eyes tested a few years ago (her dad wears glasses) but to top it off she has now said she has had seizures. now her little sister did have seizures when she was little, so she knows what those type look like, but when she found out her father had absent seizures she said she did too.

    She even went as far to say she had them in class while living with me, and her teachers gave her detentions for ignoring them. (which I sure I wouldve known about!) she has recently had tests and of course nothing showed (as you can really test for epilepsy - ecgs etc often show up normal)

    But they have started her on epileptic mediaction! even though no one has seen her have a seizure! so it seems to me she said what she thought was a wee lie to make herself seem closer to her dad, and it just blew up into a HUGE lie she cannot dig herself out of.

    At leasat she is into see a therapist and hopefully she is good enough to see through the lies

  • Anonymous-5

    I am deeply concerned about the future of my two little granddaughters, ages 15 months and 2-1/2. Their father is my son, a decent, hardworking man, but incredibly gullible. The mother is a rehabbed drug addict who lies constantly, and he believes her (unfortunately) but I see through her. Both children were born with substance abuse, and my husband and I were "foster" parents for 6 months after the birth of the 2nd child. My son has full custody of the girls, but for some reason, has taken up with the mother again and intends to marry her. I cannot seem to make him understand that she has lied to him repeatedly over the past 3 years, which is obvious to me and my husband. What is wrong with him? The woman has been arrested 3 times for retail theft, besides being involved with DCFS for substance abuse.

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