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 35B: The Weeds Always Win
Consistent with sociopath math, Paul’s refusal to help knew no bounds. One Sunday, I went down to our basement to do laundry, only to discover two inches of water on the floor. The water heater had broken and flooded our basement with over sixty gallons of water.
Grumbling about being distracted from watching a football game, Paul sized up the situation, went to another part of the basement, and returned a minute later with our seventy-pint dehumidifier. He placed it in a remote, dry part of the basement.
“That should do it,” he said, and then turned it on and started back upstairs.
“Paul,” I said, “a dehumidifier isn’t going to help. There’s too much water.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied. “Of course, the dehumidifier will take care of it.”
Paul is smart. He had to know that a dehumidifier was an absurd way to clean up sixty gallons of water in a cold, damp basement. But he neither wanted to be bothered with the cleanup effort nor distracted from watching the football game, so he pretended to do his part. He suggested that if I did not think a dehumidifier was a great way to clean up a flood, that I was clearly misinformed. If I suggested that my knowledge of the behavior of water was correct, when he was saying it was not, that just indicated how unreasonable, stubborn, and—his favorite word for me—controlling I was. It wasn’t worth arguing. The water had to be cleaned up immediately to avoid more damage. I did it myself.
Only years later did I realize that this was one of his “go to” manipulation and erosion techniques. To begin, he devalued 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 do I need to leave the house? Help clean up the house before guests came over? It looked clean enough. Pick up cough drops for the kids? They didn’t seem all that sick. I was just an over-protective parent. It was a win-win for Paul and a lose-lose for me.
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. 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. Lacking a big picture perspective, was I going to divorce my husband just because he would not 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 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, his victim is well trained to accept her toxic life, too exhausted to resist and all too practiced at rationalizing her partner’s behavior without even knowing 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.
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, especially his mother, 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.
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.
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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.