Below is an edited excerpt from my book that spotlights how my ex-husband’s, subtle, consistent, insidious devaluation of me throughout or marriage helped set the stage for his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior.
Devaluing Everyday Tasks
One of “Paul’s” favorite chronic erosion techniques was to devalue the need to do a task. If I went ahead and did the job, he showed no appreciation. Instead, he ridiculed me, because the task was clearly unnecessary. This technique not only got him off the hook, it had the added bonus of devaluing much of what I did.
Help mop up the basement? Just turn on a dehumidifier. Help shovel snow? His car could easily plow through it. Why did I even need to leave the house today, anyway? Help clean up the house before guests came over? It looked clean enough to Paul. Pick up cough drops for the kids? They didn’t seem all that sick, and I was just being an over-protective parent. Insist that Paul pick up cough drops? I can be sooooo controlling. It was a win-win for Paul and a lose-lose for me.
No Longer Able To See The Forest For The Trees
If Paul had done this to me early in our relationship, I probably would have left. But I had grown used to being dismissed and minimized, so I could no longer see the forest for the trees.
My perspective had become so warped; it was as if I was clinging to a branch that was so small I couldn’t even see the tree in which I was trapped, non the less see the surrounding forest.
Lacking a big picture perspective, was I going to divorce my husband just because he wouldn’t pick up cough drops at the store or clear his plate or put his socks in the hamper when he was (apparently) working past midnight every night and throughout the weekends to provide for our family?
Once They’ve Hooked You, Sociopaths Invest Minimally In Relationships
Once sociopaths have you hooked, they invest as little as possible in maintaining the pretense of normalcy, and their true, uncaring, selfish selves become more apparent. Given all the manipulative techniques the sociopath has unleashed over the years, the sociopath’s victim is well trained to accept his or her toxic life, too exhausted to resist and all too practiced at rationalizing the sociopathic partner’s behavior without even knowing he or she is doing it.
Attending a teacher conference, helping with “Daniel’s” physical therapy, and taking “Jessica” to a sports practice or music rehearsal were all way too pedestrian for Paul.
Yet, while playing less and less of a role with Daniel and Jessica, devaluing my volunteering efforts in any arena (“They’ll never appreciate your effort—why are you bothering?”), scolding me for helping the kids with homework (“You’re too involved. Let them figure it out themselves.”), spending too much time with them (“I can’t believe you guys are watching those stupid science shows again. Oh, just kidding!”), or getting after me about my work (“Why are you bothering to work anymore? I’m making enough money.”), if we were in front of Paul’s family or my family, he treated me like a princess.
The Good-Guy Persona For Adoring Fans
When his family came to visit, Paul made amazing dinners, cleared the table, washed and put away the dishes, put out the trash, and was affectionate to me as if we were giddy teenage heartthrobs.
Early in our relationship, I was thrilled to have a break from being the one accountable for everything around the house and gladly relaxed as I chatted with his family while Paul cooked.
Paul gently rebuffed all of my offers to help, creating the impression he was a caring, accommodating, and truly wonderful husband.
Warning! Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior is characteristic of sociopaths. The reason is obvious now that I know who and what Paul is. The nice behavior was all show, and he didn’t bother with the show when alone with the kids and me. He already had me in his pocket and so eroded that I no longer trusted my ability to perceive accurately and to have feelings that made sense. However, he had to maintain the charade of being a great guy in front of the other people he needed in his life.
Not Knowing About Sociopaths, I Ask The Wrong Questions
For someone who was brought up to be helpful and to please other people, the contrast between Paul’s private and public behavior did not trigger the question, “I wonder if Paul is a sociopath?” Instead, it kept triggering the very self-destructive thought, Paul is so nice to other people and can be so nice and considerable and loving to me some of the time. So what am I doing wrong most of the time?
It would take me several more years to understand that I was being played. It was that simple. The “nice” Paul was not real and never had been.
My own cautionary tale of unwittingly investing almost twenty years of my life into a relationship with a sociopath and sometimes diverting from the best path, is chronicled in my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via Amazon.com, just click on title above). As I don’t get a “do over,” hopefully some of my painful lessons can help others impacted by these toxic people.
Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.