Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following article from a reader whom we’ll call “Cherylann.”
I am really not sure where to start. My family and those closest to me refer to him as ”˜madman,’ ”˜the beast’”¦ or as my brother put it, I married a cardboard box. I never realized he had no feelings for me or anyone but himself until maybe 2 years into our divorce proceedings. I am not known for my writing abilities and this is difficult to do; not because of the subject matter but because there is just so much that I could share about those 11 years that I was with him. I am not sure how to put it in the most ”˜readable’ manner. Anyway, here goes.
Not love at first sight
Let me just start off with saying I grew up in a very loving home and not lacking for any material possession. I was smart, got good grades, had good friends and have never had a problem attracting quality people into my life. I graduated from college with a high grade point average, finished in 3 ½ years, and immediately started out in ”˜adult life’ with a good paying career.
I met him when I was 32. It was not love at first sight. I was with a friend at a local upscale restaurant in their bar. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. He came in and, just by looking at him, I knew he was trouble. He had such arrogance about him that it immediately made me blanch. He asked me to move a seat over so he could sit next to me. I said no. My friend thought I was being rude, so we moved over. He was so persistent about making conversation that he and my friend talked around me for over 30 minutes until I finally gave in and joined the conversation.
He spoke of caring for his mother and grandmother, fast-talked and was very knowledgeable on a lot of subjects. I remember how intent he was on me. He complimented me profusely on my looks, guessed correctly on my perfume, and was turning my first [and correct!] impression of him around, into thinking he was charming. He wanted to take me out that night; I declined but did give him my phone number. We went out that weekend, and after that, we were together everyday until he finally moved in 3 months later.
Talking and gushing
During those first months he seemed to never tire ”¦ of talking about himself and gushing over me. He met my mom and stepdad. My mom tolerated him; my stepdad said he was no good and wanted me to stop seeing him. My stepdad was a man everyone, including myself, respected. Why didn’t I listen? I had the same original instinct too ”¦ but I fell back on my feelings telling me, ”˜I didn’t know him at first ”¦ they don’t know him ”¦ how he talks to me, how special he makes me feel”¦
He was able to continue to pull that off long enough to marry me 2 years later and have 3 children together in the first 4 years of marriage. We built a very, very comfortable lifestyle by us working in our own business together.
Fast and furious
I think during those ”˜fast and furious years’ I just ignored all the warning signs that were all along our journey together. “STOP” ”¦ did you hear what he is saying? That he bankrupted an old girlfriend and wrecked her car, but he is so wonderful she still wanted to marry him? That he had once hired a pet psychologist to analyze him to determine what kind of dog he would make a good owner to? And she said “NONE” ”¦ your [at the time] drug addictions and bipolar disorder and extreme narcissism make you unfit to own a pet.
Let’s not forget the daily barrage of humor unfit for even some truck drivers. Then there was the ever famous dig when he was mad at me ”¦ “Look at my wife, isn’t she so beautiful? She would be even prettier if she kept her mouth shut!” This wonderful little ditty would come up if I disagreed with him or challenged him in any way.
Let me back up a bit. All of the charisma, and spoiling with gifts were still there ”¦ but the ”˜madman’ portion was starting to not stay put. People who knew him toward the end of our marriage would ask me, “how could I have married him??” I asked myself that too, but then had to remind myself, he was not showing his ”˜full blown’ nature when I met him.
It’s like a drug or alcohol abuser who loses everything in life. But when they took that first drink, or that first drug, they didn’t do it cause they believed they would be homeless someday. They did it cause it felt good; it eased some emotional trial or tribulation but then snowballed out of control.
I think back now and that analogy really kind of fits for me. I had relationships before him. However, when it came down to me having to open up, to really trust someone with myself, to commit for ”˜sticking to it’ no matter what came our way — I bolted. With him, I guess in hindsight I liked that I never had to go that deep into myself ”¦ to really trust. There was just so much chaos and workload and producing family and moving up in cars and houses that that was good for me. I was a better worker than a person that needed ”˜real intimacy’ with another person.
In all the time with him, I was convinced that he was the one with the feelings. He could cry at the drop of a hat. He could make you feel like he needed rescuing all the time and that fit my worker bee self ”¦ the now ever-present mother hen. Pump him up constantly; be at his beck and call”¦ and all the while withering away under the load of his demonstrative, emotionally absent personality.
Before we got married, he declared that the only way we ”˜could make it’ is if he gave up drinking and all use of any kind of drug. Okay then! Great with me. To support him, I too gave up alcohol, as that was my only social vice. I went to counselors with him, AA meetings ”¦ anything that would keep him straight and stick to his promise.
I am not sure when he first welched on that promise. I do know that when his mother and grandmother both were diagnosed with cancer in the same year”¦ he fell apart ”¦ unusually so. During these years he was drinking during the day, taking almost lethal amounts of prescription drugs and denying any usage whatsoever. Strip club bills starting appearing on credit card statements, extraordinary purchases in the tens of thousands on gold coins and artwork. This all started when I was pregnant with our third child.
All would be okay
Even in some of the darkest days, he could always revitalize me into believing it would all be okay. He always just needed ”˜something’”¦ another ”˜work deal,’ ”˜a little more money,’ a vacation ”¦ whatever, and it would all be all right. He was spending so much money on ”˜hard money investments’ that he started using several large credit lines to fund this habit. This is when I really began seeing that this wasn’t a ”˜phase;’ this was a man with no limits to his erratic behavior. No boundaries to his self serving activities and his ”˜post mortem’ rationalizations of ”˜he knows what he is doing;’ he will come out the ”˜victor’ of it all and I will be glad at the end, as we will have everything we could possibly want. I guess he was always referring to money, to look at it now.
The last 4 years, I begged and pleaded for a simplified life, a life of focus on our family. He didn’t do it. I now see he couldn’t do it. We were all just a part of his ”˜play.’ We were just characters he placed around him each day to give him some legitimacy. The smart and pretty wife, the 3 adorable little trophy children; his masterpiece homes. What we needed or wanted never reached him deeper than his surface talk of ”˜how much he loves us and if we just do it his way, we will all be better off.’
This takes me back to another one of his pre-marriage comments of ”˜when I married him, it was like marrying into the mob ”¦ there is no getting out.’ At the time, I laughed it off as if it was a figurative gesture of how much he loved me. Well, hind ight is 20/20. I believe now he meant quite literally what he said.
I could fill 100’s of pages with all the ups and downs and sociopathic behavior that took place over those 11 years of being with him. And maybe some day I will. The last 4 years of our marriage, I used to reserve my total despair until shower time, when I would stand under the water each night and pray profusely for a way out.
I never thought I could divorce him. That was out of the question. By now the comment of ”˜married the mob’ really seemed to be a reality. I prayed for an illness to take me, heart attack, Jesus to come back and take all believers, a fatal car accident for him. It was awful. I never shared with anyone. I used to get a lot of comments from people who knew us”¦ ”˜you are an angel for being with him.’
By the 2nd to last year of our marriage, our 7-year-old daughter had taken up the habit of pulling out her eyelashes. I took her to a psychologist recommended by our pediatrician. We saw her a few times; our daughter was stressed. The psychologist gave me some recommendations on how to work with her. My husband went to a couple of the visits with us.
Wanted to talk
A few months before we separated, I called that same therapist to talk. I hadn’t seen her in over a year for my daughter. I was not sure what I wanted to talk about, I just knew I wanted to talk. When I saw her, I remember now that I would talk about our marriage, his behavior and was seeking advice on how to be a ”˜better wife.’ I thought if I could get a handle on my perspective, then maybe I could get all these behaviors of his under control.
Sounds so ridiculous, now that I am thinking about it. It was she that read to me, on one of our visits, maybe around the 3rd month of seeing her on a weekly basis, some personality traits and asked me to answer yes or no regarding my husband. I answered yes to all of them. She then let me know she just read to me the profile of a sociopath.
As much as I wanted to believe that it would get better ”¦ that I could keep my life ”˜intact,’ the realization and admission that it was never going to be okay became my only thought. It was then that I began to talk to my family and close friends about my situation. To my surprise, I did not have anyone tell me that they thought I should try and ”˜work it out.’ They all came forward in telling me they had no idea how I have managed to live this long with him. It took less than 2 months and we were separated for good.
How awful he could be
I never knew the full extent of how awful he could be until this time period. He threatened to kill me; I heard more filth from him mouth that I had ever heard in my whole life. He hired private detectives to take video of me, ordered records of all my cell phone calls, placed audio bugs in the house.
He was on a supposed business trip the last month before the separation, and he would call drunk telling me he was going to kill me. He then would call another time and say that he loved me so much that please please we could work anything out”¦ then another call would be that he was going to start a fight and just fight until the other guy would kill him. It was so emotionally taxing I could barely leave my bedroom even to eat. I had 3 children, ages 7, 5 and 4, and was so scared of what he was going to do.
The day he came back into town, my parents came to my house to be there, and his own father drove from 6 hours away to be there, as he was afraid that madman would hurt me. I hate even thinking about it, as I can feel again how scared I was at that time.
Through the 3 ½ years of our dissolution process, it was hell. I lost everything. Homes, cars, all my retirement he took through an investment scam he pulled on me. I lost my way of earning a living, as I worked with him in our business. He took that too. I knew I could never win with him on the money. Money was his passion, his only love.
He had no bottom for how low he would go to take everything. After he went to live in one of our other properties — he returned a few days later when I was not home and stripped the house of all of our artwork, cars, anything of value. He fought so dirty, demanding absolutely everything and gave nothing.
He claimed bankruptcy right away and pretended to have sold off all of our investments via corporations to LLC etc etc. I could have gone to the DA and turned him in for what I knew — but I was too paralyzed by his outrageous calls and constant harassment. He sold properties that were in our trust by using a clause saying I was incapacitated to be a trustee anymore and pulled off it being notarized! I could have had a claim against the title company”¦ I just didn’t pursue it.
Every time I would go down that road, he would threaten me with the kids. He wouldn’t return them from his visitation time. He subjected them to wild adult parties, his use of pornography, alcohol, drugs. I would find this out from people I didn’t even know who starting to tell me what was going on. My energy during all this time stayed focused on documenting absolutely everything. I went through 2 different attorneys and over $150,000 in attorney fees, and couldn’t stop him.
Able to move away
Finally 2 years into our divorce proceedings, after 8 months of effort, I was granted a move away out of state that I was told would be impossible to get. I got it— physical and legal custody. We moved within 30 days.
The harassment didn’t stop. Calls, emails ”¦ I would never talk to him. It made him so mad. He was so mad that I had left him. I don’t think he even cared about our kids, except to hurt me with them.
He didn’t exercise his visitation rights for that whole first year and a half we were gone out of state. He then started up again in court. Filed contempt orders on me for not adhering to ”˜allowing kids to talk to him’ on phone, saying I didn’t allow visitation and on and on he went. I had to go back 3 times for court appearances. He said I was abusing our children, contested custody. It was awful. I hadn’t had an attorney since I moved out of state and was handling it all on my own. So was he.
Call from an attorney
I received a call from an attorney in the 3rd month of madman’s rant in dragging me back endlessly to court. The attorney had some dealings with madman and while on the phone with him, madman had told him he was going to kill me. I explained to the attorney I had been living with this now for 3 years, but nothing would ever come of it through the court as he had never physically harmed me. I asked for a declaration from the attorney; he gave it to me.
I filed for a temporary restraining order; I got it. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get him served properly ”¦ he kept dodging sheriffs and the PI I hired. So, I emailed him [improper service] the paperwork.
He was scheduling visitation for the kids ”¦ airline tickets for Thanksgiving”¦ it was awful. Kids hadn’t seen him in 2 years and I was so scared for their safety. Our hearing date was the week after Thanksgiving, so I told him in the email that they weren’t coming and to read the paperwork.
His arrogance made him show up in court that day. I couldn’t believe that he showed up. After the hearing, I was granted the maximum retraining order of 3 years, for myself AND the children. He can only see them if he pays all expenses AND all visits are to be court ordered supervised. I guess jail time is the only real deterrent for him, as all his communication ceased after that.
Life is quiet
Since I received the restraining order, it has been the quietest 8 months of my life.
I filed for child support just a few months ago, now that he can’t contact me anymore. He will never pay it; that is why I never bothered in the past. The reason I did it now is that I just want to pile it up against him, so that when my 3-year restraining order is up, he will have something else hanging over his head to keep him staying away.
I am remarried for over a year now. The kids are all doing well in school. I have a full-time job and am also starting to work my own business. I don’t think of him at all. I sometimes think about all that I had materially and lost, and that is hard. I then think of the mess of a life it would have been for my children, and thank God he gave me the courage to leave.
My mom and I talk about that first year of our divorce proceedings ”¦ how I could barely do anything. I was so beaten down and frightened of him. How I had gotten there from the strong self assured person I was before ”¦ and where I am getting back to today.
I think I stayed so long for one reason ”¦ because it was ”˜my life.’ How do you just leave everything you have worked for ”¦ your livelihood ”¦ and do what? Then you have the one you put your trust in constantly telling you a thousand different lies and manipulations with the theme always the same ”¦ “he’s not understood, I need to give him compassion—¦ The line between what I knew to be true and what I wanted to believe to make life okay just became blurred.
It is a process to leave. I encourage anyone who can identify at all with my story to hang in there. You can make it through and to the other side. Life gets good again. Really good.