It’s been 1 year, 329 days since my husband of 23 years came into the kitchen, looked me in the eye and said “I want a divorce. I don’t love you. Would you like me to make your eggs for you?”
I’ve come a long way since that day, yet still, 1 innocent sentence uttered by 1 close friend makes me question everything I’ve learned. One innocuous statement and there I am, trying to smile when I want to cry, and asking myself, yet again, are you sure it isn’t you? Are you sure he’s not the great guy others think he is? How can you know that it wasn’t you the whole time? And there I go, spiraling out of control, having to look no further then my own reflection in the mirror to plummet into that pit of despair.
On the surface it seems so clear to me. He walked away and 2 days later sent flowers to his new girl with the message #aomlaoy (all of me loves all of you) and, within a month, was parading her around our community, our children and his family, but he’s still considered a good guy by so many. Isn’t that evidence enough that something is wrong? Who can look at that scenario and think it’s okay, which seems to be the general consensus of those around me. What are people thinking; what has he been saying; what do they see that allows them to see him in any light other than a dark one? And this is just 1 small sample of who he really is.
My ex and I own a restaurant, and two of our regular servers were our nannies when I was working full time. When we 1st split up I had lunch with them and we all agree that they would be Switzerland. They would take no side, ask no questions, continue our friendship, and their work relationship with him. I was okay with that because I love these two girls, and they are counting on the income for serving at the restaurant. This seemed to be the only way for them to continue their friendship with me while working with him. For the past 1 year, 329 days this has worked. When we go out we don’t talk about him. We have plenty of other topics so it has not been an issue.
Last night I had dinner with one of them, and, as usual, we started talking children. She’s watched mine grow, and she now has two boys of her own, ages 10 & 5. Any normal person worries about their children’s moral awareness, and we often talk about that. Last night the conversation turned to sociopath’s, with each of us citing examples we feared might mean our children are sociopaths. For the record – none of them are, it’s just a constant worry, so we hash it out. Having spent the past year studying sociopaths, I ticked off a few characteristics which were evidence of the fact that our children were not. She started pondering how a person gets that way. How does a person with no feelings learn to act like they are feeling? I told her that my understanding is that sociopath’s observe and mimic, which makes them difficult to identify. She commented that they must watch an awful lot of tv to so cleverly mimic a full range of emotions, then she began spiraling out of control at the thought of how much tv her younger son watches. After assuring her that her children were not sociopath’s, we moved on to a different topic.
Later in the evening, the subject came up of my ex’s recent loss of his brother. She quite innocently told me she had been to the viewing and my ex was “really emotional; in deep mourning over his loss”. I said “really?”, and she, without hesitation, said “yes; he’s really messed up about it. And his poor mother; she’s a wreck too”. I wanted so badly to shatter her neutrality; to tell her what I’ve come to see as the truth that he, his mother, and his father are all sociopaths. I didn’t. I just said “I’m not so sure” and changed the subject.
Perhaps had this not come so quickly after our conversation about sociopath’s it wouldn’t have affected me as much as it did. I thought about the show he put on at the funeral, and it was so clear to me what an act it was. He got up to speak, but had someone pray 1st that he would “make it through without breaking down”. He had my 3 boys stand behind him so “they could take over when he broke down”. (Just to be clear, these were things he actually said while on the altar, with his boys standing behind him) After setting the stage, chapter one so to speak, leading everyone down the yellow brick road of his imagination, he spoke. For 20 minutes he was The Entertainer. He made people laugh, he made people sigh, he made women swoon. What he did not do was 2 things: 1) he did not break down and 2) he did not speak about his brother. He told 2 short antidotes about his brother, 1 of which his brother would have been horrified to find out was revealed. The rest of his show, and it was a Show, was about him.
Afterwards, my nephew, the son of the dead brother, spoke. He spoke for 10 minutes, without the need of a “prayer that he would make it through”. He spoke calmly, choking up a few times, and every minute of his speech was about his dad.. He told us about all the things his dad had taught him, all the times he had disappointed his dad but still felt the love, all the ways he would miss his dad.
As I watched what could only be described as the show of the century, I felt so calm and sure of myself. I saw right through him. I looked right past him, holding the gaze of my boys, knowing that the emotion on their faces and in their bodies was Real. I saw him for the Ring Leader his is; the showman; the man at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, turning away those in need rather then reveal himself a fraud.
This morning, I feel small. What if I misunderstood? After all, I was the one raised in an abusive and neglectful environment, while he was raised in idealistic community, surrounded by Christ loving church people and his own pious parents. It has been the “story” for 25 years – I am the crazy one, he is perfectly sane. It was his go-to claim to shut down arguments: “you seem really upset and out of control. Maybe you need to go talk to someone”. He was always the calm one, totally in control, unflappable. I, on the other hand, was a walking disaster. I was prone to unjustifiable outbursts, unwarranted accusations, unreasonable requests. I was the one who got sick, an invalid. I was the one who backed away from my family and friends. He was the strong one; he was capable and productive and social.
Today is my middle son’s birthday, so all my boys and I spent some time over dinner tonight, talking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. As is so often the case, the boys started expressing their concerns for me. They are worried about my future, they want to know what will happen when the divorce is final, they want me to set out on my own and not be dependent on the ex. (how much of this comes from him, I wonder?) In a new twist to this conversation though, my eldest son said “you know mom, you’re smart as F*** and can do anything you want.” I agreed that yes, I am smart and not to be messed with, but I also said that my time now is devoted to keeping myself well and alive, so I can be there for them. We dispersed.
Shortly after, my eldest was in the laundry room with me and he started talking more freely. He told me how screwed up it was that his dad is out there living a carefree life while I’m here, in our house, worried about the plumbing and the heating system and the electric bill. Since this is the 1st time we’ve discussed this I agreed, that this is indeed screwed up and that his father did need to “man up” and take care of the obligations he has created. This is complicated by our jointly owned partially cash business, of which he pushed me out of years ago, which, I explained to him.
My son then said that the separation has been good for his dad in that he has become more “sensitive”. His evidence of this was the fact that his dad had gotten the boys together and told them he loved them and they were “everything” to him after his brother died. And suddenly, I’m cured of my doubt! I think back to the funeral, when he made them stand on that altar with Him, to support Him, and I want so badly to say don’t you see? Don’t you understand this is an act? Don’t you realize that’s he’s love bombing the new girl and has to keep up the pretense?
I said none of those things. Unfortunately, the boys are on the cusp of coming face to face with the truth, and I can’t be the one to tell them. Again, it’s one of those things they have to learn for themselves. It will be a painful lesson I imagine. It’s been painful for me, and I can walk away. I can’t imagine how it will be for them, because they can’t just walk away from their dad; he will always be their dad.
For tonight I will be grateful that they are here to clear my head. They are here to remind me that I am one bad-ass chick, and they have faith in me. In saying that, they are reminding me of who I really am, in my soul; not the mealy mess he turned me into.
He’s a sociopath. I’m a bad-ass chick. Go Me.