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.
Over the next year, with Dr. Davis’s help, I changed, but Paul did not. As my emotional strength and awareness grew, albeit slowly, I started to understand one of Paul’s key manipulation tactics, and I refused to be sucked in.
Paul had a habit of entangling me in things someone else had done to disappoint or upset him. To show support for my chronically busy and overworked husband, he encouraged me to feel that I should take care of these issues for him. Not understanding this dynamic, I often did his dirty work for him, casting myself as demanding and unreasonable to help solve Paul’s problems for him, all the while allowing Paul to maintain his coveted good guy image. Paul enjoyed playing golf, for example, and wanted Jessica and Daniel to learn to play as well. When neither child wanted to learn, Paul expressed to me how disappointed he was in the children. Through subtle and not so subtle cues, he encouraged me to pressure them into taking lessons so they could play with him. (This is the same man who refused to allow our children to play a sport I loved and at which I excelled—squash—because it was too elitist.) As I began to understand this unhealthy dynamic—that I was supposed to demand things that Paul wanted from other people—I refused to be a part of it.
“If you’re disappointed Daniel doesn’t want to play golf or you think a 3.9 grade point average is too low for Jessica, then tell them yourself. I don’t agree, and I won’t deliver your message for you.”
Surprise! Surprise! While Paul continued to pressure me to be his enforcer, if I held fast and refused, he rarely delivered the unpopular message himself.
Realizing that, in my desire to please Paul, I had allowed myself to be overly demanding with my children—who deserved my love, guidance, and support rather than more manipulation—I was consumed with guilt. I wanted a cosmic do-over, but I would not get one. Staying mired in a brackish bog of regret would only tie me to the past and make change even harder though, so I fought against the resulting self-loathing, apologized profusely to my children for not being the mother they deserved, and started to eke out a modicum of forgiveness for myself.
This was only the tip of the iceberg though. The patient, kind, loving mother I had been initially remained elusive. Sure, I was compassionate, supportive, and helpful most of the time, but I still snapped at Jessica and Daniel and continued to nag them, especially when reasonable request after reasonable request (e.g., “please put your dishes in the dishwasher” or “we need to be on time for your dentist appointment”) fell on deaf ears. Some of my bad parenting was part of the human condition; none of us are perfect, but I have to own much of it. The fact that I was emotionally frayed and fatigued due to incessant emotional and psychological erosion by Paul, which consistently slipped under the defenses of my conscious mind, explains how I morphed from such a great mom into being verbally harsh with my children far too often. Still, the behavior and the responsibility was mine. It is one of my deepest regrets.
Just as one of the Joker’s goals in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight, was to make the embodiment of goodness and justice, District Attorney Harvey Dent, embrace evil and injustice, it was as if Paul delighted in seeing his formerly sweet, nice, empathetic wife turn angry and impatient with her children. Moments when I was not the mother my children deserved added to the backdrop of feeling awful. Only looking back now do I understand that some of the dynamics with Jessica and Daniel resulted not only from my flawed parenting but also from them modeling the behavior of the person in power—Paul—and the role in which I had allowed myself to be cast—doormat. Why should they listen to me? Why should they respect me? Jessica and Daniel were absorbing what they witnessed—their father constantly undermining me, the subtle and not so subtle communication that all my requests and opinions were stupid or unreasonable and to be dismissed with thinly veiled and always denied contempt. Brush their teeth? Are you kidding? Put on suntan lotion? Mom, you are sooooo controlling. Be ready to leave on time? Dad’s always late. Sit down to eat for dinner? But Dad’s watching TV. Honor your commitments? Dad always cancels at the last minute. It was endless.
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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.