"I believe my husband is a pathological liar," says Mary Anne.
"I've lied to Mary Anne as far as where I was going, who I was seeing, what I was buying. If I thought that she would not agree with it, I lied to her about it," says Lyle, her husband of nine years.
Mary Anne goes over his long list of lies. "Lyle told me that he had a twin brother, Kyle. He told me that he was stationed in Saudi Arabia, and that he flew an F-15 fighter plane. He had my kids at school writing to his brother, and I found out that this brother didn't exist. But I married him anyway. He had an apartment, and when I did go once, there were women's clothing there. And he said, 'All those are my sister's.' Well, then I found out he didn't even have a sister. After we were married, he told me that that was his girlfriend's apartment."
"I remember it vaguely. I'm not sure, it's been awhile. You get caught up in everything. You forget what you've said and what you haven't," says Lyle. But he does remember one lie that led to a big fight. "Me and some guys from work had a meeting after work. And the meeting happened to be at one of the local strip clubs. Mary Anne would say, 'I'm not attractive enough for you? Why do you need to go there?' Her self-esteem was crushed. I guess I didn't take into consideration her feelings."
"I found out when the stripper called the house. And I confronted him with it, and he blew up," recalls Mary Anne. "He got violent, and he started choking me, and telling me if he wanted to go there, I wasn't his mother, and I wasn't going to tell him what to do." Mary Anne also believes Lyle's lying has kept him from holding down a job. "Lyle has been a car salesman. He's sold carpet. Been a paramedic." He's also lied about working when in fact he was gambling.
"I probably spent some money that should've been used on other things," Lyle admits. But he thinks the worst lie he told was about his affair. "Several times in our relationship Mary Anne would say, 'You're cheating on me.' I guess I kind of got to the point of, you know, if I'm going to be accused of it, I'm going to do it."
Mary Anne learned about Lyle's affair when a woman called and told her the truth. "She explained that he had taken her to Las Vegas, proposed to her, and had given her a ring. It was cubic zirconium. She didn't know that he was married."
As she looks over some of the items the woman gave to her as proof of their trip to Vegas, Mary Anne reflects. "Since I am 12 years older than he is, I just feel like if he doesn't want me, then nobody wants me."
Tired of his lies, Mary Anne kicked Lyle out of the house.
Now Lyle wants to change. "I don't want to be a nasty breakup. My lying days and cheating days are over. I want to save my marriage. I need some help in how to show Mary Anne that she can trust me again," he says.
But Mary Anne wants to know if she should believe him. "Dr. Phil, should I take him back?"
Dr. Phil asks Mary Anne, "Why have you been in this marriage the last 8 years and 11 months?"
"I guess I thought I could change him," she says.
"Do you have so little self-esteem that you just believe that there's nowhere to go?"
"Just about. I have no self-esteem," says Mary Anne.
Dr. Phil turns to Lyle. "What the hell were you thinking? Seriously, if you want to be a player, go play! Why are you taking this good lady and dragging her self-esteem, dragging her integrity, dragging her worth, dragging her life through your squalor?"
"It's not what I want to do," he says. "I've been trying to change this."
Dr. Phil goes over the long list of lies that Lyle has told.
Lyle responds, "I made big mistakes early, middle, all the way through into our relationship." But Lyle says he had a wake-up call when he worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. "That's when I really realized that my whole life is being a lie. I don't want to lose her. I love her."
Dr. Phil asks Mary Anne, "Under what theory or circumstance would you allow yourself to be vulnerable with this man again?"
"Well, it's going to take an awful lot, because I don't know if I can go through anything else. I've been through too much," she says.
"And you want back in the house, and back in the relationship, and back in the marriage?" he asks Lyle.
"In time. I need to prove myself to her," he says.
"You say, 'I'm a changed man. I went to New Orleans and had an epiphany. I am through lying.' And that to me sounds like the biggest lie of all," says Dr. Phil. "Because you can't say, 'I'm a changed man. I'll never lie again.' What you can say is, 'I'm going to commit myself to the process of learning what I have to learn in order to stop this.'"
"Do you know why he lies?" Dr. Phil asks Mary Anne.
"No. I wish I did," she says. "I want to know why he lies. We can't go to marriage counseling until he gets his problems worked out."
"Oh, no. No, you don't want to be in marriage counseling right now. You need to be in Mary Anne counseling right now," he tells her. "You need an emotional compass. You need somebody to tell you what is true. And I think you're going to find that one of the most enlightening and rewarding processes you've ever gone through. Because I think you are the best-kept secret in your own life."
About why Lyle lies, Dr. Phil explains. "He's lying because, in my opinion, he has such overwhelming feelings of inferiority and inadequacy that he can't stand himself. So he has to create this fictional Lyle. This fictional person. 'I'm going to pretend to be what I wish I was. I wish I was a decorated war hero. I wish I was a flight medic zooming in to make dramatic rescues of people. I wish I was a wealthy sports agent. And rather than do the hard work to get there, I'll just pretend.' Now, is that bizarre and unusual? No. No, not if you're 5. It has nothing to do with you being not a good enough wife, not attractive enough, sexy enough, smart enough, compelling enough. It has nothing to do with you. He would do the same thing, no matter who he was married to."
The only way Lyle can fix this is if he starts over and creates a new history of being honest. "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," says Dr. Phil. "And as you build a new history, where you say, 'Well, he hasn't lied for six months,' then that might predict, at least with some degree of certainty, that he might not lie for the next few months. And if you're still around, and you're still available when he creates a new history, and there's any basis whatsoever to be interested in rekindling that, then you know, you can cross that bridge at the time." He turns to Lyle, "But right now, you're out and you need to stay out."
"He has drained me of everything. I'll probably lose my house that I've lived in for 29 years," says Mary Anne.
Lyle says he continues to make her house payments, so she won't lose her house. "I am making sure it's paid for. I give her the money all the time when she doesn't have money for other things," he says.
"As long as I follow his rules," adds Mary Anne. "Well, you know, as long as I never see anybody, or anything like that. As long as I never became interested in anybody else."
Dr. Phil urges Lyle to cut the strings that are attached to his money. "Listen, you're not going to control her. If you really want to show yourself to be a man of integrity, then you're going to make sure that she keeps her home and a roof over her head. And you're not going to put a bunch of strings on it. If you're going to step up and be the man, then step up and be the man now. Don't step up and leverage her."
"The only thing I'm trying to do, Dr. Phil, is I want to maintain contact there," says Lyle.
"OK, let me just give you a basic rule, and you're either going to follow it, or you're not," Dr. Phil tells him. "You don't run it off in the ditch for nine years, and then start saying, 'Alright, I'll take care of what I'm supposed to take care of, as long as you do exactly what I tell you to do.' The first thing you've got to do is say, 'OK, look, no strings. I am not going to allow you to be put out of your home.' Now you've got to be willing to do that with no strings attached."
Dr. Phil tells Mary Anne to consult with him first if she's thinking about letting Lyle move back in.