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 16: You Have But Slumber’d Here While These Visions Did Appear
I chalked up Paul’s honeymoon comment to the shock and stress of us both returning to our grueling careers after our wedding and week off in California. Like a dream, the clarity of the incident and subsequent confusing and unsatisfying conversation with Paul faded. Life went on. Perhaps because Paul and I saw so little of each other, our marriage seemed to work. The primary demand our relationship put on Paul was a fifteen-minute phone conversation each day, because we were rarely home at the same time. Even on days when I was not traveling, I typically fell asleep alone. Paul arrived home consistently well after midnight.
Although I cannot say I loved my job, I was good at it and received a promotion a year after joining the firm. Paul continued to invest inhuman hours into his consulting career and advanced from associate to manager an unprecedented year earlier than anyone in the history of the company. We spent most of the limited overlapping free time we had together looking for a house. Like studying together at Yale, we had a common goal once again. I felt a resurgence of our relationship. I enjoyed sharing time with Paul as we learned about the various neighborhoods and suburbs in Minneapolis, went to open houses, and looked for the perfect starter home. We were thinking about the house in the context of wanting to start a family.
To accommodate Paul’s work demands, we bought a house ten minutes from his office, increasing my commute considerably. Ironically, Paul did not seem to be able to spend any more time at home, even though our new address cut his round-trip commute by over an hour. Around the house, the workload that had been split fairly evenly at first in our apartment quickly devolved to ninety-five percent me and five percent Paul. When I asked him to pitch in more, he pointed out how much harder he was working than I was and that he was too tired and needed some downtime. (Sociopaths have an inflated sense of their importance. Once they have you where they want you, helping around the house with everyday tasks is not going to be high on the list of an inherently entitled person.) To be supportive of my superstar husband, I let him off the hook.
Although I rarely saw Paul even after we bought our house, if I wanted to be reminded of just how awesome he was, all I had to do was to stop by his office on a Saturday to say “Hi,” or to bring him lunch. His dedicated team, mostly young, attractive female junior associates, were always there working alongside Paul. They adored him. To them, Paul was saint-like. He was so helpful, smart, kind, and patient. Such a great mentor. When I met them, they could not say enough wonderful things about Paul. Sally, one of the analysts on Paul’s team, told me that she didn’t mind working past 1:00 a.m. night after night on Paul’s projects, because he would never ask someone to do anything he was unwilling to do himself. He was simply the most amazing man she had ever met. She felt fortunate to be working with Paul and gave him her unquestioning loyalty and time. I felt lucky to be married to such a wonderful person, such an unrivaled superstar.
Reports like this from his young, female work associates made me dismiss the sinking feelings I had about my odd and upsetting interactions with Paul. He was a wonderful man. Everyone thought so. Still “moments of weirdness” (or, in retrospect, examples of sociopath math) continued.
One night after completing a six-month assignment, I was having a celebratory dinner with my team from work. While at the restaurant, my pocketbook was snatched from my chair, but I did not discover it missing until I got up to go considerably later.
My license (which showed my home address), car keys, house keys, cash, and credit cards were gone. The restaurant manager let me use his office phone to alert my credit card companies and cancel the cards. (This was before the days when everyone had a cell phone.) The thieves had acted quickly and had already racked up thousands of dollars of charges. As I hung up the phone with the last credit card fraud-protection agent, I felt a little panicked. This theft had been carefully orchestrated. These people knew what they were doing. Now that my stolen credit cards were no longer useful, would they target the house?
I was twenty minutes away from home with no way to open or start my car. I called Paul at his office, told him what happened, and asked him to pick me up. It never occurred to me that he would say anything other than, “Yes.”
But he didn’t. Without hesitation he said, “No.” He did not even seem concerned about me or sorry about his inability to come to my aid. It was 9:00 p.m. He explained that he was still working on a deadline and would be at the office for several more hours. He could not leave. I could figure it out, right? There must be someone else who could help, right?
My colleagues had already departed, because I assured them I would call Paul and everything would be fine. I had no money to pay for a cab. The kind manager of the restaurant—a man I had never met before that evening—did what my own husband would not do: He invested a significant amount of time to help me. He arranged to have someone cover his responsibilities at the restaurant and then drove me to Paul’s office.
The manager waited in the parking lot while I found Paul. Paul hardly stopped working long enough to toss me his house key so the manager could drive me home to get a spare car key and then drive me back to the restaurant to get my car. No hug from Paul, no “I’m so sorry this happened” or “How are you doing?” Nothing! It was clearly an inconvenience for him to take a minute of his time to retrieve his house key and give it to me.
It seemed surreal. I felt unsettled. Sure, Paul was working late to meet a deadline, but I had just been robbed and was going to be returning to our house, only about ten minutes from his office, in a situation in which two shady, unscrupulous characters had our address and house keys. Shouldn’t there have been more to Paul’s reaction, to his concern for me? Shouldn’t he have been willing to make some sort of tradeoff for my safety and benefit? Shouldn’t there have been some expression of empathy? There was no reaction on Paul’s part other than subtle bristling at the inconvenience it caused him to deal with me calling and stopping by his office while he was working. His lack of reaction penetrated me, and it lingered.
A few days later, shaken more by Paul’s reaction than by the theft itself, I talked to Paul about it. I explained that our brief interaction the night my pocketbook was stolen left me feeling trivialized and unimportant. Paul looked surprised. With the gentlest, silky voice, he suggested that if I was in any way upset due to his reaction that night, it must be that I was too sensitive, too demanding, too needy. After all, the thieves had not come to our house and, due to my credit card companies’ policies; I was not responsible for covering their spending spree. So, other than losing some cash and an easily replaceable pocketbook and wallet, it was really no big deal. Alternatively, his work demands were very important, pressing, and nonnegotiable. He did not see why on earth I would feel any other way. His feelings and decisions had been totally right. My feelings, on the other hand, were clearly wrong.
To bolster his argument, Paul used a couple of handy tools from his sociopath’s toolkit—diversion and putting me on the defensive. He suggested that if I could not see how important it was for him to stay focused at work that night, perhaps it was because I was jealous of him and subconsciously wanted to undermine him. We both knew how competitive I was—Yale, Harvard, formerly top nationally ranked squash player, promoted early at work, and so on.
To support his view, Paul pointed out that while he adored his career choice and new firm, I didn’t seem thrilled about the job I had taken. While I was probably in the top ten percent of new hires at my firm, Paul was in the top one percent—the type of employee who was becoming legendary in his excellence and devotion to the company. Everyone was sure he would make partner in less than six years, while the typical fast track was seven. No one had ever made it in less than six years. But Paul was special. Paul was superhuman. I should be happy to be married to someone as wonderful, accomplished, and successful as him. I should understand that diverting him from his superstar path for even an hour could only reflect, subconsciously of course, competitiveness or selfishness on my part. Maybe it bothered me that he was even more successful than me. Now, what was it that I was concerned about?
Not only was I immobilized on this occasion by the not so subtle suggestion that I could possibly be jealous of and therefore not supportive of Paul, but, in general, I was naive and far too trusting (the perfect wife for a sociopath). The theft episode aside, it never occurred to me to ask why Paul needed to put in such grueling hours at his consulting firm. Other people from our class at Yale were also working at Paul’s company. Every one of them was working long and hard, but he alone was constantly at the office past midnight. To prove himself, was he taking on more work than the other new hires? Did he have such high standards that it required considerably more of a time investment for him than for any other new MBA?
Twenty years later, when I ran into a woman with whom Paul had worked during his first year in Minneapolis, she expressed regrets about my recent, horrible divorce from him. As she walked away, she turned and said, “You know, Paul worked hard, and he’s very smart, but he never worked as hard as you thought he was working.”
I wanted to vomit.
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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.