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Here I sit, on the precipice of a new year, and all I can think is What The Fuck?? How did I get here? How did I become the one people whisper about in the grocery store. “Oh, you remember her, she’s about to lose her house, and I know…it makes no sense. How did she let this happen?”.
I used to be on the other side. I was the one in the grocery store talking about some other woman, most likely a woman I barely knew yet felt comfortable talking about. In retrospect, I acknowledge how brazen it was of me to presume I would never be her; there was something so unique and damaged about her I’d never walk in her shoes. But here I am. Not only am I walking in her shoes, I most likely purchased them at the Goodwill!
I’d like to explain how I got here. This may provide some useful information for someone on the verge of becoming me. Or it may not. It might only send me into the New Year feeling I’ve purged some of the bullshit that is my life.
To begin it’s imperative to understand the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath. Having a MA in Clinical Psychology I thought I was well versed in the difference. I also thought I, of all people, could spot either one. I was wrong. Looking back, I’m not even sure I recognized a difference between the two. At the time, Ted Bundy was in the middle of his killing spree, so the term psychopath was just beginning to appear in the popular print. This is no excuse for me though, since I was an Educated Psychologist. It is evidence though, of the power of the psychopath.
Here is the main difference between the two:
The sociopath exists on the fringes of life. He is unable to keep a job, he has few or no friends, he is odd, and he is easy to spot.
The psychopath feeds on life. He is charming, successful, surrounded by admirers, and easy to overlook. He might not be a murderer, but he is Ted Bundy. The covert narcissist is a psychopath.
They share one common feature: they each have no conscience.
Those of you reading who fit into neither category do not understand what this means. I did not understand what this means. Even after dealing with it for 25 years I did not fully grasp the significance of this characteristic. In fact, there was a time in which I would maintain such a person did not exist. I did believe that all people had some measure of goodness. Each of us, no matter how damaged, would do the right thing given the proper set of circumstances. How wrong I was.
Today I am 2 & ¾ years into a divorce with a covert narcissist. After 25 years together I decided I’d had enough, and I invited myself on one of his dates. Realizing I meant business, I was no longer willing to accept his outlandish lies and bad behavior, he asked for a divorce. I was onboard. Little did I know that divorcing one is just as difficult as living with one.
I won’t claim it’s more difficult, because my day to day existence is no longer filled with gaslighting, well placed silences, unexpected rage and nonsensical assertions of innocence. In this way I am more relaxed and healthier than I’ve been in the past 25 years. I’ve learned some important lessons though. Divorcing the psychopath comes with it’s own set of hellish issues and problems over which I have no control. I have no control over the fact that he has spent every dime of available cash and, by the time we are divorced I’ll walk away with nothing. I have no control over what he is telling people in our community, and the inevitable stares and whispers his words create. I have no control over what he tells our children, his family and his new GF.
Most importantly, and the reason I am writing this, is that I have no control over what bills will or won’t get paid. Having chipped away at my health in addition to my psyche, I am now on disability. (Many others in my situation are simply unemployed. Needing to keep them under control the psychopath has forced them to abandon their career, and they are now middle aged, out of touch with the current workforce and virtually unhireable for anything more than minimum wage, if even that.) I now have a part time job but it provides little income, and I am always on the verge of losing even that, because of my health issues. He on the other hand, has been busy hiding assets and spending large amounts of cash, making all of the decisions regarding how money will be spent (as he always did, although I didn’t see it that way).
So here, in a few easy steps, is how one loses their house of 16 years because they are dealing with a psychopath.
- Divorce is initiated. All seems hunkey-dory. He is going to continue paying for you & the children, and you can stay in the house with no change except his presence.
- He stays in the house. What he is really doing is openly screwing around with his GF because now he is in the clear, having asked for a divorce. You eventually kick him out.
- Reality sets in. He realizes that he can not maintain 2 households and hold on to the GF. (She’s a high demand girl; country club set)
- He hires an attorney for both of you, and they write up an agreement. He tells you not to hire an attorney, his only goal is to be fair and provide for you and the children, so you really don’t need one.
- He presents you with a ludicrous settlement offer, which not only does not provide for you and the children but insults your intelligence.
- You hire an attorney. You are now in a state of shock. You now understand that he intends to leave you with nothing, a fact you think you understand but actually can not fully grasp yet.
- Your attorney suggests you freeze all assets. You say no, we own a business and the business cannot function without the ability to move money around, and you can not function without access to your savings and credit cards. Big Mistake. Huge Mistake.
- Within a month (that is all the time it took for all of this to transpire) he introduces his GF to your children and his family. She is now a constant presence in all of their lives.
- He emails you which bills he will no longer pay. He is in the driver seat. He always has been and he always will be. You are starting to understand that you are a mere puppet in his game of life, that he will base all decisions on his needs and desires in the moment, and that he will change the rules when they no longer suit him. You are also looking back on the 25 years you spent together and seeing how he pulled your strings. You’re getting angry.
- You attempt to start negotiations via settlement agreements. Each attempt is denied. No counter offers are made.
- He calls you into a business meeting. You are a minority owner, a fact you have tried to change over the years, but he has refused. The other owners are his parents, or some other people who will take his side, 100%, always. During this meeting you are told to either agree to the sale of the business or not. You do not, but it makes no difference since you are a minority owner.
- The business is listed at a low, low price. The selling agent is an old buddy of his. The ads are hard to find, and you aren’t really sure if he intends to sell it or not. You stop in to see the selling agent who skirts around the issue of whether or not the business truly is for sale. He uses the well know technique of diversion. When you ask him how to find the listing he says “hey, look at this great new software were using”. He provides you no useable evidence either way. They have covered their tracks and you have no idea what the plan is. He has always been 5 steps ahead of me.
- You consider selling the house but quickly realize this is not an option. If you sell the house, you can put the earnings into a trust to be divided when the divorce is final. This leaves you with no way to buy or rent a place for you and your child. You could divide the proceeds in some arbitrary way, and attempt to buy something. Unfortunately, the mortgage on a smaller place will still be unaffordable to you. In addition, he will take the cash he has been given from the sale of the house and spend it. As a result, 1 more potential source of cash will be depleted. You consider renting, but all of the rentals in your community will cost the equivalent of your current mortgage, which you can not pay. You come to the sad conclusion that while it will take the bank a full 2 years to foreclose and kick you and your child out of the house, it would take a landlord only 3 or 4 months to do so, so you stay put and pray the divorce will be over before payment of the mortgage becomes an issue.
- After a year he is presented with an “offer” for the business. He has to take this ridiculously low offer because it is the only one he’s been given in a year. And yes, the offer is from the wife of the current manager, but you have no compelling legal reason to question the authenticity of the offer. A date is set for the closing. The date gets pushed back. And pushed back again. And again.
- Having come to the realization that he can no longer pull your strings, and realizing his current attorney is not up to the task, he hires a shark. Your attorney schedules a deposition and you begin compiling your questions and evidence. This is now very, very real, and very, very ugly. You have come a long way from “I’ll pay the bills and this will be amicable” and are now in full out war mode, a stance you are uncomfortable with but he thrives on. You find yourself dead bolting the doors when home alone.
- The attorneys schedule your 1st hearing, which they attend without you.
- You have your 1st hearing, in which a “master” recommends what feels like a totally unreasonable offer. Your attorney assures you it is a good offer for you and you should accept it. You take a week to wrap your head around it, then advise your attorney to draft the agreement and send it to his attorney.
- He rejects this offer. (keeping in mind this is one of 5 offers you have now presented) He tweeks it. He’ll give you 100% of the home if you give up all your shares in the business & the rental properties. By now, 2.5 years in, you are acutely aware of how little you understood what was happening financially. You have no idea how many leins there are against the house. You have no idea how much of the huge line of credit he has run up, secured by the house, was actually used for your family versus his love life. You have been told how much the business and rental properties are being sold for, so there are allegedly solid, factual numbers, versus the unknown value of your home. You are puzzled because the business has not actually sold and, while you still hesitate to say you know what he’s planning, you feel fairly certain he does not intend to sell the business; that the sale was a ploy to get you to give up your share. You say no.
- He stops paying the mortage. You are now on your own paying all living expenses and the mortgage. You have no choice but to file for a temporary support order. By now he has found a job paying less than ½ what he earned through the business, because the business is being sold, right? The hearing officer uses his new income for the calculations and includes what little you are earning through disability and your part time job, and you are left with nowhere near enough support to pay the mortgage and the bills.
- The 1st notice comes from the bank. He drops it off at your house because he has changed the address to his GF’s house, where he is living rent free.
- You call the lender, as directed to do, and begin the process of applying for “forbearance”, a break in the payment of your mortgage till the divorce is finalized. If the house were in your name alone you would be granted a forbearance in a heartbeat. Alas, it is also in his name, so his income will be included. You complete your set of forms and request that he do the same. You have no way of knowing if he does.
- Your attorney deposes him. You find out that the business might not sell because the buyer is having difficulty obtaining the loan. Also, this new “owner” is getting many complaints so alas, he might be forced to keep the business. In addition, he has been collecting income and benefits from the business & his new job, a fact he neglected to mention in the support hearing. More importantly, he has now been thrown into a rage because he realizes you have been collecting evidence to use against him during the 2.5 years you’ve been separated. And, not only have you been collecting it, you are now willing to use it. You have escaped the chains he bound you in, the chains that kept you in a fog, accepting blatant lies, living a life of insanity and bullshit. He can no longer manipulate you and he is Pissed. You have committed the final sin: breaking free emotionally.
- It has been 3 months since the mortgage has been paid and he is furious. You receive a notice that you are eligible for financial counseling which will, at a minimum, forestall the foreclosure process for 4 months. You must have your counseling session with 33 days of the notice to make use of this process. You send him a copy of the documents required and begin compiling your documents.
- His rage is now uncontrollable because he has lost control of you, he has been proven a liar, and now he’s being asked to provide documents which will provide unquestionable proof of his financial indiscretions. He directs his attorney to file an emergency petition to force you to sell the house. You respond to his assertions, pointing out his numerous lies and your inability to pay the mortgage and/or rent on another place. Your attorney’s have an emergency hearing with the actual judge assigned to your case. This hearing is 4 days before Christmas. Despite how obvious is appears to you and your attorney that your case is valid, while his is not, the judge declines to make a decision. He states he will issue his decision at some point in the future.
- You are now heading into the New Year. The future has yet to come; you have no decision from the judge. The deadline for your counseling session is 4 days away. You realize that even if the decision from the judge comes today, and it is in your favor, there is no way he will be able to compile the documents required to have your counseling session within the 33 days granted.
- The day before New Year’s Eve you admit, finally, that you are totally screwed. You were from the day you said “I do”. You were from the 1st day you had lunch with him. You were from the 1st day he walked into your office and decided you might be a good one to snag. You start the New Year fully aware that your house is being actively foreclosed, you have no power or ability to control any of this and, while those around you believe the whole thing will end soon, you know the truth: this can go on forever. There is no end to the filings, lies and manipulations he will engage in to “win”.
You now understand the full meaning of the word Psychopath. You finally understand what it means to have no conscience. The psychopath will stop at nothing to get what they want. All bets are off, they will do whatever they have to do to meet their own needs and desires. They will hurt children, spouses, parents, even themselves, as long as they get what you want in the moment.
Heading into this new year your loved ones begin saying “this next year will be better”, “think positively for the new year” and “karma” – and you chuckle to yourself. They said this last year. And the year before. And while they mean it, you know it’s not true. You acknowledge that in merging your life with a psychopath, you have abdicated all control, normalcy and logic, and your life never will be yours again. Next year will never be better.
& Happy New Year.