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'Who TF did I marry?': Reesa Teesa's viral TikTok series sheds light on pathological lying — there are the signs to watch out for

Content creator Reesa Teesa went viral for sharing her experience marrying a pathological liar. Here's what to know about lying and how to recognize it.

Content creator Reesa Teesa went viral for sharing her experience marrying a pathological liar. Here's what to know about lying and how to recognize it. (TikTok/@reesamteesa)
Content creator Reesa Teesa went viral for sharing her experience marrying a pathological liar. Here's what to know about lying and how to recognize it. (TikTok/@reesamteesa)

A viral TikTok series from a U.S. woman is stirring up conversation about pathological lying, after she said her ex-husband's behaviour left her with PTSD.

Reesa Teesa created a 50-part video series called "Who TF did I marry" — with each video garnering between a million and more than three million views — detailing alleged lies her ex-husband fabricated. These spanned from his career and financial status to interactions with his parents, who she had come to find out are actually deceased. Teesa also posted a 10-minute summary of the situation.

"The amount of red flags — you'd think I was colour-blind," Teesa said.

She allegedly met the man, who she calls "Legion," online in March of 2020, right before COVID-19 lockdowns hit the U.S. She was told "Legion" was a VP for a "major" condiment company and a former professional football player. In fact, he was working a temp job as a forklift operator.

"He would pretend to take phone calls from the company president... He forged emails... It is scary how brilliant he was and how much energy he put into the lie," she said.

"He paid all the bills, he gave me spending money," Teesa recalled, explaining she felt happy to be taken care of by her partner. The two even agreed to buy a house together, which "Legion" said he planned to do for them, and they found a $700,000 one. "I watched him sign his name on a legally binding document for an all-cash offer."

When she said she had a miscarriage, he allegedly failed to pick her up from the hospital on time and "pretended to be his own executive assistant," Teesa claimed.

The ex-couple was married in January 2021 and divorced by August that year.

"I have severe PTSD. I know it's my fault, I know I didn't trust myself... I got pulled into something my brain couldn't comprehend."

But why do pathological liars lie and how can you recognize this behaviour? Here's what you need to know.


What is pathological lying?

Dr. Michael Woodworth, a registered psychologists and professor at UBC Okanagan where his research focuses on psychopathy and deception, tells Yahoo Canada pathological lying is a form of deception characterized by its compulsive nature.

"It's a fascinating concept... often someone continues to tell a great number of lies, even if it might not be particularly beneficial for them," he explained.

Pathological lying is a type of lying that can be quite destructive.Dr. Michael Woodworth

This compulsion, rooted in complex psychological motivations, sets pathological lying apart from ordinary lies.

While pathological lying isn't officially recognized as a disorder, Woodworth said it is associated with various mental health conditions. He noted, "There are a number of different mental health issues and disorders where pathological lying may be present." These include psychopathy, narcissism and borderline personality disorder.

Pathological lying is a hallmark trait of psychopathy, which "often involves manipulation and deception for personal gain."

3D render of fake or fact concepts with alphabet wooden block. Lying is a form of deception characterized by its compulsive nature. (Getty)
Lying is a form of deception characterized by its compulsive nature. (Getty)

Why do pathological liars lie?

Pathological lying as a compulsive behavior is often driven by a deep-seated need for attention or validation. Pathological liars, Woodworth explained, can feel "great pleasure" in lying, whether it's to impress somebody, get attention or for an ulterior motive.

Dr. Chris Hart, the director of the human deception laboratory at Texas Woman's University and a leading expert in lying, emphasized low self-esteem as the biggest personality correlate with lying. Hart explained individuals with low self-esteem or psychopathic tendencies may resort to deception as a means of self-preservation or manipulation.

"Having psychopathic tendencies, that is this tendency to just see others as pawns in their own game, is a another variable that we see consistently associated with lying," he said. Some people, on the other hand, have "very permissive attitudes, and they just don't really think lying is wrong."

Woodworth pointed out pathological liars find it difficult to stop, even when they've been caught.

"It feels like they just can't help themselves. They really want to keep lying and then one-up those lies... Even if it's fairly clear they're being caught in a lie, they will take that as incentive."


Red flags to look out for in a pathological liar

Pathological liars find it difficult to stop, even when they've been caught. (Getty)
Pathological liars find it difficult to stop, even when they've been caught. (Getty)

The TikTok saga of Reesa Teesa's marriage to an alleged pathological liar can serve as an example of how far some people are willing to go. "That volume or extent of lying would certainly be something that may occur with a pathological liar," Woodworth noted.

He said it's challenging for partners of pathological liars, urging vigilance and critical thinking to avoid being manipulated. Documenting inconsistencies and seeking support can empower you.

Hart echoed this, adding that probing and asking following-up questions can lead to a slip-up.

It's extremely difficult to tell when someone is lying just based on their behavioral cues.Dr. Chris Hart

"If someone's being honest, the facts are going to align with what they've been saying. If they've been lying, you're going to see that things start falling apart pretty quickly, when we start pulling at the seams," Hart advised.

According to both Hart and Woodworth, the best way to know whether someone is lying is to fact-check. Place of work and family origins are examples of things that usually can be verified online.

However, some red flags to spot in liars can include:

  • inconsistencies in stories

  • excessive detailing

  • unverifiable claims

  • manipulative behavior using deception

  • patterns of dishonesty

  • lack of remorse or empathy for the consequences of lies

  • permissive attitudes towards dishonesty

  • impulsivity in lying

  • antisocial traits

But, no method if fool-proof. In Teesa's case, Woodworth explained that even though "people would now be aware" he's an alleged pathological liar, "she did warn others not to engage with him."

His need to continue to lie was so severe in her mind that even being forewarned, she felt the need to tell others like, 'Look, don't engage with this guy.'"

It's a fine line between someone who's really great at engaging and someone that might be pathological lying.Dr. Michael Woodworth


Can you 'fix' a pathological liar's behaviour?

Hart said pathological lying is "nothing more than a habit formation, usually one that began early in life." It can be compared to abusing substances or other harmful coping mechanisms. "It's just like any other habit: the more we do it, the harder it becomes to change."

However, he believes it is possible to change, but it "requires a great deal of effort."

For those around pathological liars, the "best advice" Hart gives to people is "to call them out on the lies," he said. "The longer we remain complicit by going along with the lies, or by not making note that we don't believe what's being said, we're just encouraging that behaviour to persist."

Woodworth suggested that addressing underlying needs — attention, praise, a reaction from others — could reduce the need to lie. "I'm not saying probable, but possible," he noted.

However, both researchers agreed the best thing to do is to simply not have liars in your life, especially when it comes to romantic partners and friends.

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