Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via Amazon.com, just click on the title or book cover) will be published here on Lovefraud. To read prior chapters, please see the links at the bottom of the post.
Chapter 30: Down The Rabbit Hole
Paul had agreed to therapy under the condition that I would not tell anyone we were going. With the expectation of keeping my word, I promised. Normally, I honor my commitments, and secrets are safe with me. But I broke my promise to Paul after two months. I did it, because I felt like I was going crazy. I needed a reality check from an outside source to calibrate what had really been happening in our marriage. Paul’s version of events was too bizarre and devoid of any hint of his escalating selfishness and insensitivity. I know memory is biased and imperfect. Was my recollection totally off or were the “memories” Paul was sharing with our therapist not memories at all but purposeful distortions to paint him as a prince and me as a mad woman?
I needed a second opinion, and to get it I betrayed my promise of confidentiality to Paul. I am not proud of my decision, but what if a spouse is truly devious and untrustworthy? Was Paul’s insistence on not telling anyone that we were in marital therapy a sincere concern about privacy or was it more akin to a bully or abuser telling his victim not to “tell” in order to keep the victim isolated, perpetuate a charade, and have a green light for future abuse?
I called my mother. She remembered clearly my strong dislike of the house and my calling her in tears about Paul’s veiled threat of divorce if I did not buy the house and let him do everything he wanted to bring his dream house to fruition. She and my dad had been aghast but were determined to not interfere in my marriage and my decisions.
A “happy birthday” phone call from my parents brought a much-needed end to the marital counseling charade. Apparently, my dad had overheard my mom talking to me on the phone about Paul and me being in marital therapy. Whether or not he was asked to keep that information confidential, I do not know. When he was on the phone wishing Paul a happy birthday, my dad made an awkward attempt at conversation, asking Paul how his business was doing, how selling the house was progressing, and if Paul was finding marital therapy helpful.
Paul hung up the phone and, with one sweep of his hand, launched a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies off the counter. The plate and cookies shattered on the unforgiving tile floor.
“Liar!” Paul screamed and then stomped out of the room.
After that, Paul refused to return to marital therapy. The strain between us grew. I felt so guilty for betraying Paul’s trust at such a sensitive time that, like a good soldier, I continued trying to sell the house and being as accommodating and supportive of Paul as possible, hoping to win back his trust.
When the tension between us lessened somewhat, I told Paul how scared I had been when he sent the plate of cookies crashing to the floor. Paul insisted his behavior was totally normal. He said that my broken promise, and my betrayal of him, was the cause of the broken plate and cookies, so why on earth should he feel he did anything inappropriate or wrong? Not surprisingly, aggression, verbal abuse, a temper, and/or inadequate control of anger are among the signs that someone might be a sociopath. I had grown up in a household in which I rarely heard a raised voice and nothing was ever thrown in anger. After this episode, Paul tried to convince me that my childhood was incredibly odd, because yelling was a normal part of life for which my wimpy family had not adequately prepared me and that I was being a baby for not just getting over it. Nothing seemed right. Normal seemed abnormal. Weak seemed strong.
My mind grasped for some reference points on what a healthy relationship looked like. Seeing as about half of all marriages end in divorce, was this bad enough to seek a divorce when kids were involved? Was this something through which I had to work? I was becoming increasingly confused about what normal should be. How did I know what was going on behind the closed doors of other married couples’ homes, anyway? When was getting a divorce selfish? At what point did you decide to stop trying to work on your marriage? On the flip side, with kids in the picture, when was leaving the right thing to do?
Answers eluded me. All I had were questions, self-doubt, and pain.
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Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.