By Quinn Pierce
I watched a special on television once about a magician. The show revealed secrets behind the magician’s act. I remember watching the assistant disappear through a trap door. The door was situated beneath a table that was sitting on an angle which the audience couldn’t see.
It occurred to me that living with a sociopath is not unlike living with a magician. A sociopathic spouse creates an illusionary life complete with spontaneous tricks, secrets, and a hidden escape route.
Distraction With a Touch of Flair
Most arguments within my marriage were subject to a minimum requirement of drama. It was very unusual for a topic to be discussed at face value; usually, my ex-husband would turn the tables by creating an argument within an argument.
He would provoke and accuse me of things that were not even conceivable, but he did it with a conviction that said he was absolutely convinced that his insane and irrational allegations were fact.
This was a classic deflection of guilt. It was his first line of defense, and it worked, in that I would usually just walk away from the ridiculousness of the fight. It was exhausting, but it was his way of protecting his secrets and not admitting his own guilt– by way of distraction.
Taking the Show to the Next Level
When deflection and distraction didn’t work, he would then resort to more drastic tactics. It was clear very early on that he would do just about anything to prevent admitting he was at fault in any way, no matter what the situation.
By the end of my fifteen year marriage, the outbursts and tantrums had reached a new level. He no longer seemed to care if the boys were nearby, and, oddly, began causing scenes in public, as well.
One particular disagreement stands out for several reasons. Not only was it one of the more memorable for its violent and destructive nature, but it truly reveals the ‘illusion’ of the rage-filled tantrum.
A Controlled Frenzy
I can’t remember exactly what began the argument, but I remember my ex-husband flying into a rage that, eventually, led us outside. I remember pleading with him to calm down knowing that our children were in the house scared and hiding.
He seemed oblivious to everything around him except what was in his path. I do remember making a remark earlier in the night about the amount of time he was willing to spend in his garden, and it caused an almost violent response.
He stormed over to his garden where he had dozens of large pipes and stakes in the ground to anchor the vegetables as they grew. He began pulling them out, some taller than me, and throwing them angrily across the yard while yelling, swearing, and threatening at the top of his lungs.
I was certain one of the neighbors would call the police, but apparently, no one was home, or no one was willing to get involved. The whole thing lasted under ten minutes, and when he ran back into the house to grab his car keys, then drove away, I was more concerned with letting the boys know they were safe than bringing the police in at that point.
It’s a funny thing when there are no physical injuries after a fight. For some reason, many of us feel it does not warrant calling for help or acknowledging the act as abuse, but that is one of those lessons that cannot be learned without education, support, and sometimes, hind-sight.
After the Storm
I was devastated after he destroyed the garden, because the garden also belonged to my 9 year old son, and I couldn’t imagine how he would feel knowing his father destroyed all his hard work. It was dark when my ex-husband had his tantrum, so I knew my son did not yet know what he had done.
I went out early the next morning to look over the damage, and that’s when I observed something quite remarkable. Even in the throws of his rage-induced hysterics, when he created the illusion of being ‘out of control’, it appeared that he was very much in control, after all.
As I surveyed the four separate raised garden beds, I noticed that several plants scattered throughout the beds were intact. That might not be unusual, given the fact that he was ripping out plants and kicking up dirt in the dark. It’s likely he would destroy whatever was in his path, but his path had a suspicious order to it.
The Truth Revealed
My ex-husband had planted several special plants that he had started from seeds given to him from a friend who ordered them from Italy. They were his pride and joy in the garden. Amazingly, not one of those plants had a leaf out of place while all the plants around them were crushed, mangled, or ripped out entirely.
His entire rampage was for show; his anger and indignation that created such a volatile response was an act. He only destroyed the plants that didn’t mean anything to him; he couldn’t actually destroy anything that he thought was important. This is true of all areas of his life. He will never inconvenience himself unless there is a greater return on such an investment.
Sadly, he had no problem destroying those plants that his son had worked so diligently to tend to and grow. It’s almost as if that was just an additional bonus for him, knowing it would cause me a great deal of distress for my son’s sake.
A Broken Mirage
When I look back over the years of disagreements, arguments, and violent episodes, it’s as if someone gave me the handbook revealing all the secrets behind the illusions. Every act was calculated and controlled, even those that seemed the most out of control.
It’s more infuriating to me now that I understand he was capable of controlling his emotions and actions, because it reinforces that he chose not to, despite hurting his own children in the process.
I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy watching a magician perform. Why would I? After all, I lived in that world for fifteen years before finally pulling back the curtain and escaping through my own trap door.