A Repeat Performance
I looked around the room trying to assess the damage. With each tear that fell, I could sense a shift in the room. All I could think was, “Oh great, how can I possible convince this entire group of people that this is an act? These tears are not real! These words do not mean anything! He will leave here and continue to abuse and harass this child he cries for right now!”
Instead, I said nothing. Such is the reality of having married and divorced a sociopath. It’s a never ending struggle to maintain my composure when faced with lies, manipulation, deceit, and of course, his repeat performance as the consummate victim.
I have to admit that when we first met, I was already groomed to feel guilty for things that weren’t my fault. I couldn’t handle the thought of someone being unhappy because of me. If only I’d known that a sociopath is not capable of, well, feeling. Ok, maybe, it would be more accurate to say: A sociopath is not capable of feeling anything that makes him or her a decent human being.
As they say, hindsight is always 20/20 vision. At least I now have that vision looking forward,too. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand what a sociopath is unless they have experienced some type of relationship with one. Which means, those of us who have, spend most of our time trying to avoid drama, reduce the damaging effects, and avoid interaction at all costs while keeping our reputations intact from the ever-present smear campaign.
Pushed Past the Breaking Point
I have been very successful this year at avoiding face-to-face interaction with my ex-husband. But lately, necessity has prevailed, and I have spent several days in prolonged meetings along side my ex-husband as we (I) try to present a united front as we (I) fight for our son to receive the support he deserves in school while he struggles with anxiety disorder.
The entire process has presented a clear, and despicable, portrait of a sociopath. I can honestly say that before this summer, I could almost tolerate being around my ex-husband when I had to.
But, we all have our limits, and as I sat across from this sobbing man who was pouring out a soul he fabricated on the way into the meeting, I reached mine. I was so tired of defending my children against this man as he manipulated sympathy from strangers. I had no more patience for people who were quick to believe his attacks against me without any proof or substantiation. I did not want to look at him or listen to him for one more minute, but I reminded myself that in order to help my son, I had no choice.
At that moment, I felt like something inside of me broke. I started to cry. I never cry in front of strangers, which is one of the reasons I was easily portrayed as the cold-hearted, bitter ex-wife to the sensitive, charming, mistreated ‘good guy’.
A Flood of Emotion
And once those floodgates opened, there was no turning back. Without meaning or wanting to, I stole the spotlight from my ex-husband mid-performance, and re-directed the audience toward me. I realized my voice was over-powering my ex, I was blurting out everything in a rapid-fire succession, and I couldn’t stop. I don’t particularly like the spotlight, and I was embarrassed to show such emotion, but I guess I was frustrated, and fed up, and exhausted.
I watched this man take everything I had done and claim it as his own work. I listened as he took my words off the page and spoke them as his own. I sat quietly while he gave demands to people I hired to help our children, all the while acting as though he was a different father than the one who refused to spend one cent on anything that had to do with our children’s education.
The meeting adjourned with an extension for the following week. I had one more meeting to attend with him before the weekend, however, and I didn’t think I would make it through as civilly as the previous meetings. But, he must have sensed my simmering anger and frustration, because he stepped back in his role of aggressor for the duration of the meeting.
This was one of those occasions that I could predict quite easily that there would be repercussions.
Constant Need for Control
It didn’t take long. One thing I have learned over the past twenty years of dealing with this man is that he cannot tolerate the thought of not being in control of every situation. Especially, when he thinks I am the one who is in control.
Reality and facts have nothing to do with his perception. I suppose it comes from his own truth-challenged inner being, or maybe from his enjoyment of manipulation and harm of others. Either way, his reality never coincides with the actual reality, which makes arguing with him a complete waste of time and energy. (Another lesson I wish I had learned years ago.)
Predictability, on the other hand, is one thing I can always count on with him. That very night, his revenge tactics began, starting with the son he was so concerned about during his tear-filled performance earlier in the week. He bullied his way into seeing him, removed everyone else from the visit, harassed him with questions and comments that my son was not comfortable talking about, and kept him twice as long as my son thought he would, simply because he felt as though he could.
The next day, the torment continued on my younger son. Ironically, he refused to allow him to see his cousins, despite having requested the boys get together as often as possible with these same cousins just weeks earlier. It was a confusing and nonsensical situation for onlookers, but to me and my children, we knew exactly what he was doing, and why.
Projecting His Behavior Onto Others
He enjoys playing the puppet-master. He orchestrates a scene, only to change the rules and throw everyone off balance, relishing the control and soaking in the satisfaction of knowing he has disrupted, inconvenienced, and hopefully, upset everyone else involved.
We also knew this was a direct reaction to what he perceived as his son’s refusal of him the week before, opting to go to his cousins’ championship games rather than sleep over at his father’s house (a very uncommon request by my son, I might add). But, try to explain that to anyone who doesn’t know my ex-husband, and we would quickly appear to be bitter, alienating, controlling, vindictive individuals.
Hmm, everything he is quick to say about others, sounds an awful lot like what he actually is. Projecting is something my ex-husband does very well, and it is usually a good indicator of what he is planning at that moment. Lately, we have noticed that he seems more desperate to try to exert control, and he definitely has been more outspoken, rather than hiding behind others
Control Slips Away
It’s also becoming more apparent that his children are growing stronger and healthier and more secure every day. This is a real threat, because soon, they will be able to stand up to him and everyone defending him. They will also be able to decide on wether or not they visit with him, and on what terms. I guarantee that once he is not the one in charge of the visits, he will no longer want any scheduled visits. He will try to plan some ‘spontaneous’ get togethers that have been calculated to be as disruptive as possible for everyone, except him.
What he doesn’t realize is that while he stays in his static, prefabricated, un-evolved character, the rest of us are changing and growing and moving on. We will no longer be the unwilling players in his tiresome games, because each day brings us closer to independence from his legal hold on the boys. Then, when he is drowning in his sea of false tears, there won’t be anyone around to enjoy his performance, except his own shallow reflection.