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 25/26: Last week, I skipped a chapter. When someone pointed out the oversight, I backtracked and added it to last week’s post.
Chapter 27 is so long, half of it appears below and the second half will appear next week.
Chapter 27: Nightmare On Elm Street (part A)
While Paul worked in Connecticut and the kids and I were still in New York, I barely saw him, although we talked on the phone in the evening when we could and saw each other on alternating weekends. On those weekends, he proudly showed me all the expensive light fixtures, granite countertops, hardwood floors, and other items for the new house. From the decisions he had made, it was clear that he regarded the house as his not ours. If I did not like something or if I felt he was spending too much money, he either ignored me, told me the decision had already been made, or accused me of having bad taste. I never won. I gave up. If he wanted black pedestal sinks for the bathroom, he was going to get black pedestal sinks for the bathroom. I wanted a counter so I would have a place to put my toothbrush and toothpaste and storage space below. He thought counters didn’t look upscale and classy enough. His objective was appearance, appearance, appearance. Mine contained a large dose of convenience, convenience, convenience. But, just like everything else in Paul’s dream house, getting impractical black pedestal sinks was nonnegotiable.
I overheard him talking to our builder, confirming the pedestal sinks he had selected. Paul joked that he was getting them because he wanted to be sure that his bathroom would never be cluttered with “his wife’s stuff.” What stuff? A toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush? I didn’t even wear makeup anymore. According to Paul, that would have made me look whorish. Heaven forbid that anyone, including me, regard me as attractive.
Paul’s treatment of me became increasingly contemptuous and dismissive. If I shared with him that the purging of no-longer-needed possessions, organizing, and packing was hard and emotionally draining at times, he said I was just a complainer. He and Anne-Marie were the only ones who were really working hard. His whole demeanor changed as he spoke of her—his eyes became almost dreamy, the muscles in his face relaxed, and his tone softened. Anne-Marie worked around the clock side-by-side with Paul. Anne-Marie was brilliant. Anne-Marie had a valuable perspective on any business issue. Anne-Marie was willing to jump in and do anything for Paul. Anne-Marie never complained.
I didn’t get it. Anne-Marie was neither attractive nor charming. She was smart and hardworking, but I had graduated near the top of my MBA class at Yale, even ahead of Paul; how much smarter than me could she be? Paul never talked to me about business, and he certainly never solicited my opinion about critical decisions.
No matter how much the gap between Paul’s treatment of me and his regard for Anne-Marie grew, I could not bring myself to think that he was having an affair with her—not even when Paul told me that the company rented an apartment near their office so Anne-Marie would have a place to stay on those evenings when she and Paul worked ‘til the wee hours of the morning. Not honorable, honest Paul, not the man who bristled at any inkling from anyone else of dishonestly or lack of integrity.
Our New York house closed in mid-July. With tears in my eyes, I said good-bye to my home, my neighborhood, and my friends. It was difficult. Even though our builder had promised that our new house in Connecticut would be ready for a July closing, it was clear to me that we would be lucky to be in the new house by Thanksgiving. As Paul insisted that we would close “next month,” then “next month,” and then “next month,” he refused to rent an apartment or house. Instead, Jessica, Daniel, and I moved in with Paul in his extended stay hotel. It would have been fine for a week or so. We were there for almost five months.
Paul often returned from work well after midnight. When he did come back earlier, he had nothing positive to say. He would ignore me, snap at me about some trivial issue, or criticize me for the slightest thing. I tried often to reach out to connect with him about something, anything. But if I tried to talk to him about his day, he rebuffed me and disparaged me for sticking my nose into his business. What did I know about his business? I wasn’t a part of it. He reminded me of that often.
I was not trying to pry but to stimulate conversation. I enjoyed talking about business issues, too, not to mention the fact that our financial future was riding on the success of Paul’s venture. If I tried to talk to Paul about the kids, he couldn’t believe that I didn’t see how tired he was. Why couldn’t I just respect how exhausted he was and leave him alone? He missed Halloween night with Daniel and Jessica. He missed Jessica’s sixth birthday celebration. Just too busy. Had to work. I understood, right? On the few occasions he did join us for dinner, he brought his laptop to the table, clicking away on the keyboard and checking emails while the kids and I ate. He would feign not being hungry. I think it was just a nonverbal way of communicating to me how little the kids and I mattered. Message received!
Living in a tight space, away from family and friends, ignored, dismissed, or criticized on a daily basis by Paul wore on me. When I was talking to my mother on the phone one day, I dissolved into tears. Throughout my life, I had not been someone who cried easily, except perhaps when my dog died or when my grandparents passed. A friend of mine had become clinically depressed following business school. While I supported her as a friend and I understood depression intellectually, I had never experienced anything like it personally, not even in my post-partum months. I always viewed problems in life as challenges that I was confident I could tackle. But now? One teary day followed another. What was happening to me? I had long daily phone conversations with my mother, trying constantly to make sense of Paul’s latest slight, criticism, or “setup,” in which it seemed he was looking for excuses to accuse me of being selfish, inconsiderate, controlling, or incompetent. Nothing I said could convince him that my motives were not suspect or that my judgment was sound. I found myself pouring a glass of wine at the end of each day, anticipating it longingly just to take the edge off. Prior to that, I was a virtual teetotaler, only drinking wine or champagne on special occasions—perhaps, at the most, seven glasses of wine or champagne a year. Now I drank that much in one week, week after week.
Frequent crying, increases in alcohol consumption, and feeling sad and anxious are signs of depression. I wasn’t depressed though, I reasoned. I only felt sad, scared, unworthy, and constantly apologetic around Paul. Once away from Paul, perhaps to visit my parents in Vermont, my normal confidence and feelings of self-worth and hopefulness rebounded. They evaporated the moment I reentered Paul’s world.
I told myself that it was just an exceptionally stressful time in our lives and that I needed to be strong, not sweat the small stuff, focus on what was important—my kids and my marriage—and soldier on. Paul had started a new business, we had moved, we were living in cramped quarters, we were building a house, and our income had been decimated. It was a stressful time, but it would pass. I was not depressed; it was just that my life was depressing. I needed to make some changes, and if I did, the tears would stop. Hopefully, moving into the new house would be a step in a positive direction.
We moved into the house in late November. I had almost no help from Paul emptying boxes and setting up the house. I had no close friends yet who could lend a hand. My ability to service my previous clients waned. Most of my work was concentrated on three major clients. I lost one of them due to my unavailability.
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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.