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.
It was the first time in years I had known what I wanted, had gone about the decision the way I wanted, and had not let Paul convince me of what I should want. Knowing that I had not caved in to what Paul told me I should do was satisfying.
Yet, pride in myself soon gave way to another feeling—an unsettling mixture of anger and confusion. Why should I be so proud of myself for fighting to have my needs met? If I was going to use the car 99.9 percent of the time, why was I being pressured to buy a vehicle that fell short of meeting my needs? Why was I even arguing with Paul that maintenance record, reliability, and gas mileage were more important to me than styling and status? This was absurd. Why did I have to explain to Paul that my needs and values were legitimate? It was as if I believed that if I just illuminated my perspective more thoroughly or in a somewhat different way, he would understand and support me.
The absurdity of the situation penetrated me. Paul pressuring me to get the car he wanted was really no different than Paul trying to convince me that my favorite color was red when it is, and always has been, blue. It was crazy! Why didn’t I get to have a favorite color? Why didn’t my needs count as valid? If you love someone, shouldn’t you want what’s best for him or her? Shouldn’t you want to help the person you love have his or her needs and goals met? Not if you are a sociopath! Any need of mine multiplied by my value to Paul (zero) was and always would be zero. Paul had married me to fulfill his needs—period. There was no quid pro quo. To him, my needs were an inconvenience to be molded, extinguished, or adapted to his own ends.
Over years of Paul delegitimizing my needs, perceptions, and values, I hardly knew who I was, what I valued, or what I wanted. This made it easier for Paul to manipulate me. How could I possibly make a meaningful decision when my identity was all but gone? As one of my all-time favorite books, How We Decide, highlights, decisions are based on emotions. Emotions derive from a combination of who we were when we were born (we are all hard-wired a bit differently), past experiences, current situations, and how we think. There is no right or wrong emotion, because we are all individuals. For some, playing golf will make them feel good and become their life’s passion, while others will feel bored and frustrated by the game and have no interest. Some will spark to the excitement of city life, others to the tranquility of the mountains. There is no right or wrong to such decisions, just what feels right to each of us.
But what if you have lost a sense of who you are and what you value? How do you make decisions when what you care about and value has been trampled and you are functioning on life support? Once Paul had damaged my internal gyroscope, decision-making became virtually impossible. As a result, I would defer decisions to Paul, because he always seemed to have a stronger, almost instantly formed opinion or valued something more highly than I did. By design, Paul created a void where a strong person had once stood, and then he filled the void exclusively with his needs, values, and priorities. He decided where we would vacation and with whom we would share our vacations. He decided that much of our furniture was too old and that we should redo our once warm and inviting house with a new man-cave decor filled with black, brown, and tan as well as lots of leather and faux fur. (Yuck!) He decided that we could never visit my family for Thanksgiving. No wonder Paul expected to dictate what car I should buy. When I did not agree to buy the BMW, Paul must have detected a significant shift in me. Action was required.
It started with mind games, couched in a loving, “I only want what’s best for you” and “you deserve to have nice things” tone. Then, when I did not make the instant decision Paul wanted me to make, he indicated that I took too long to make decisions, overthought everything, didn’t know what I really wanted, and didn’t know what I should want. Wouldn’t it be easier to just get the car Paul was so confident would be right for me? Shouldn’t the speed of his decision-making and the voracity of his conviction be evidence of the rightness of his conclusion, compared to the lumbering quality of my decision-making?
But my labored, deliberate way of making the decision about my new car was not the problem. The problem was that I had regained some of my former self and strength. Paul wanted me to want what he wanted me to want, but for the first time in a long, long time, I wanted what I wanted, and I knew what that was—a Toyota. I was not going to be convinced otherwise.
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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.