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 34: The Illusion of Hope
As a sociopath, Paul’s black, vacant soul is not capable of change, but as a good actor, he transformed his behavior quickly and profoundly. He just had to dust off a character he had already perfected—that of a doting companion. If he wanted me to continue as his stagehand, and if he wanted to avoid a divorce that was not on his terms and his timetable, he needed to put on a good show. He could do that, and he did.
After we slashed the asking price of the house, it finally sold. Paul was too busy to help pack, organize, and clean the house to make it ready for its new owner. Fortunately, his mother, Ruth, came for a week to help. Sharing the work with someone was so much better than facing the time-consuming, thankless task alone. I appreciated her help with the purging, packing, and cleaning as well as for giving me much needed reassurance and emotional support during an exhausting time.
Almost two years to the day after leaving New York, and just over one and a half years after moving into Paul’s dream house, our moving van pulled out of the driveway to take us to our new, much more manageable home in a town forty-five minutes away that was known for its good, up-and-coming public school system. Ostensibly to deal with his struggling startup, Paul still worked nonstop, leaving me in charge of the closing for both properties and settling the kids into our new life. The rest of my life—including my career—stayed on hold. I had no other choice.
Paul’s obsession with Anne-Marie seemed to cool, and his behavior around her and his references to her became those of one professional to another, not someone obsessed. A few months before the house sold, Paul told me that the startup was now meeting all of its revenue milestones and profit goals but that the investing partners wanted out. Apparently, they did not want to continue supplying the cash required for the business to grow. All of his explanations seemed odd, because the investing partners had deep pockets and had known Paul since his uber successful days as a consultant. If the startup was meeting all agreed upon milestones, why terminate their involvement prematurely? Part of me was sure I was not getting the full story. Could the investing partners be noticing alarming, financially irresponsible decisions Paul was making involving Anne-Marie? Could this be why they wanted out? I would never know the truth. Who would ever tell me?
Paul found a buyer for the startup. Prior to the sale, Paul elevated Anne-Marie to be equal to his position, and one of the conditions of the sale was that Anne-Marie would get a position equally lucrative to Paul’s at the acquiring company. Thanks to Paul, only three years out of business school, Anne-Marie now had a senior director title and a salary equal to Paul’s in a large public company. To seal the deal, Paul forfeited any immediate payout for his share in the start-up in return for a payout for both him and Anne-Marie if they helped the acquiring company meet certain goals. Again, I thought Anne-Marie got an amazingly sweet deal, but Paul’s relationship with her appeared professional now, and I did not want to pour salt in an open wound. Also, Anne-Marie was pregnant with her first child. I hoped that, whatever had gone on between Anne-Marie and Paul, it was in the past, and that Anne-Marie’s budding family would distance her further emotionally from Paul.
Yet, the ink on the deal was hardly dry when Paul and Anne-Marie grew dissatisfied and wanted out. In retrospect, it was hardly surprising given the need they both have to be in control. They claimed the new company had rearranged their responsibilities and compensation in violation of their employment agreement and the conditions of the sale. They resigned, and major legal action ensued. Ultimately, Paul and Anne-Marie prevailed. Yet, the lawsuit cost us two stressful years and plunged our cash flow to almost zero when Paul resigned to work exclusively on the legal case. Not only did the household bills add up quickly, the legal and forensic accounting bills also grew to alarming levels, tapping virtually all of our assets.
Still, a common enemy creates strong alliances. It was financially frightening, but aside from the nagging suspicion that Paul had been involved romantically with Anne-Marie, I had always considered him a man of high integrity, exceptional intelligence, and business acumen. With the lawsuit challenging Paul’s integrity and our remaining assets, I stood by Paul and his effort to defend himself.
One day he returned from testifying to report that his lawyer had praised him for being the calmest person under pressure he had ever witnessed in his entire legal career. (Little did I know that was not a sign of having the truth on his side, because sociopaths like Paul do not experience fear and hence can lie calmly and often with impunity.) Apparently, a string of email communications were so damning to his former boss that she had been reduced to tears while testifying about them. These emails and Paul’s testimony were a big factor in convincing the arbitrators that his former boss, not Paul and Anne-Marie, was lying, and that Paul and Anne-Marie were exemplary employees who this large firm was trying to cheat out of the payout they were due. I was so proud of Paul for taking the ethical and moral high ground, standing up for what he knew was right, and prevailing to the end. David had slayed Goliath.
And yet, I’ll never know what really happened. In retrospect, it is more likely that Paul’s depiction of his boss and his carefully orchestrated, but difficult to refute, lies were what brought his former boss to tears, not guilt about her supposed attempt to undermine him. Years later when I became Paul’s adversary during our divorce, I realized that not only is he a dangerous opponent due to his considerable intelligence and intense motivation to win, he is also truly gifted in his ability to twist the truth, misrepresent facts, and lie so convincingly that it would never occur to you that he was lying.
Paul crafted email after email during our divorce, leaving “evidence” of events that had never occurred. He referenced facts selectively and distorted them to make it appear like he was taking the high ground and that he was the wounded, aggrieved party. All the while, he was violating any semblance of ethical behavior in addition to, at times, violating the law. Had I not learned to document my understanding of even my most trivial interactions with Paul, his emails would have laid the groundwork for proving behaviors and communications on my part that he had hoped to use against me, but which had not, in fact, ever occurred.
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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.