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 45D: Whack-A-Mole Returns
The next morning, I wrote furiously in a journal that I had started to keep only recently at the recommendation of a friend. More pieces of the puzzle fell into place, my hand barely able to keep pace with my thoughts. What kind of person would manipulate his spouse as Paul had done over the past two years and probably even before that, perhaps even from the beginning? Moment of weirdness, vignettes from my life with Paul, flashed through my mind. Paul’s anger on our first New Year’s Eve when I was too tired to stay up until midnight. His behavior on the eve of Daniel’s birth. His refusal to help with Daniel’s ongoing therapy. Paul’s absence when Jessica went through her invasive medical testing. His refusal to help me when I had my surgery. What kind of person would disregard even the medical needs of his children and spouse?
“No empathy! He has no empathy. THAT explains it all,” I wrote, underlining the words repeatedly and with such force that the paper nearly ripped. That alone accounted for everything. My head was spinning. The ramifications were profound. Pieces from my past that had never made sense before became clear with meaning. If Paul had no empathy, that meant he had never had empathy. It meant he had never cared about me. It meant the past twenty years of my life had been a sham, a massive investment of my life, my emotions, and my compassion into a black hole, consuming everything and paying nothing in return.
Nausea rose within me, and despair crashed down upon me. Fear sparked somewhere deep inside. My head slumped forward and rested on my arms, which lay crossed on the table. My hair slipped over my face but was unable to shield me even temporarily from the blackness of my realization. Sobs wracked my body. Who was this man?
Drowning in a sea of confusion and blackness, I called my mother, seeking both emotional comfort and a second opinion. She could not bring herself to believe my conclusion was true.
“It can’t be,” she said. “How can someone totally lack empathy?”
She could not understand it, because she was so filled with empathy for others that fulfilling her needs is often challenging. It was the only way she could perceive the world, and I had inherited my vast capacity for empathy from her. It had kept me blind to what was right in front of me for almost twenty years. I had been played. It was that simple. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!
What no one in my family, including me, understood was that some people are simply abusive, and it does not matter what their victim or target does, they will still be abused, because that is what abusers do. Abusive people, like sociopaths, cannot be healed by unconditional love, understanding, flexibility, or any once-in-a-millennium alignment of the planets. They are different, not even damaged, just different. They are devoid of something the rest of us value beyond measure but also take for granted—the ability to care for other human beings, to empathize. Searching for validation of my chilling conclusion, I thought of the one person who could help me—Sally. I still had her number. I had not spoken to her in years. Would she even talk to me after we had been out of touch for this long? Of course she would; she was one of the nicest people I had ever met. I dialed her number, hoping it still worked. She picked up.
“Onna,” Sally said, “every Christmas I hope to get a card from you saying you’ve left Paul. I don’t use this word lightly, but, Onna, he’s evil. I’m so sorry it’s taken you this long to see it.”
I cried, and Sally stayed silent on the phone as I did. Crying yielded to sobbing, my body convulsing uncontrollably. Betrayal is an intense emotion. I sobbed for the charade that was my life, for the wasted twenty years, for my children’s and my uncertain future, for the emotional investment of a lifetime that had left me with nothing. I had devoted more than half of my adult life to a man who had never cared about me or our children. The despair was physical, as if a large part of my insides, my heart and guts, had been ripped from my body. This happens to people in movies, not to real people, not to people I knew—not to me!
“Onna,” Sally said after waiting patiently like the good friend that she was, picking up right where we had left off over a decade before, “there’s a book you should read. It’ll help you understand who and what I think Paul really is.”
“What?” I asked, hungry to understand the mess I had made of my life and the lives of my children.
“The Sociopath Next Door. I think Paul’s a sociopath. They have no empathy. None.”
I was silent. A sociopath? Could Paul be a sociopath? It wasn’t a question I had ever known to ask. It certainly did not fit my flawed preconceptions about sociopaths.
“I could send you my copy,” Sally offered.
“No, I’ll get one,” I said, skeptical but willing to entertain anything that would bring clarity and understanding.
Sally and I agreed to stay in touch, and we have. Her nonjudgmental, “How can I support you?” approach was and continues to be incredibly comforting.
I got the book the next day and read it that afternoon. I underlined paragraph after paragraph, each perfectly describing Paul. Once done with the book, I poured through relevant websites about sociopaths, or psychopaths, as they are called sometimes. (Sociopath and psychopath are laymen’s’ terms, not medical terms. Narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder are the closest official diagnoses.) It was all there; the book and the websites described Paul perfectly. If only I had known that “Could he be a sociopath?” was a relevant question. If only I had known that the moments of weirdness were not signs of sleep deprivation, stress, childhood hurts, or depression. They were signs of something dark and sinister—of a soulless human being devoid of compassion.
Not only are sociopaths characterized by a complete lack of empathy for other human beings, another equally key characteristic is their complete disregard for the rules of society. They lie easily and proficiently, often engage in illegal or unethical behavior, and never feel what they have done is wrong. I thought back to the countless times I felt odd about Paul’s explanations. They were too numerous to count. If there was validity in my concern even half the times I sensed something was off, it suggested incessant lying, not to mention multiple affairs. I tried to recall a time in the past when Paul had apologized to the kids or me. There were only a few, and they had occurred in extreme situations—to keep me from walking out on him. I shuddered at what this mean for my future.
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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.