I am 18 months out from D-day and 12 months from divorce. Your blog had helped keep my sanity in check and I do reasonably well with no contact. However this past weekend, I had a new experience happen.
I received a call from one of ex-husband’s ex-girlfriends (she didn’t know she was an ex-girlfriend). She reached out because she wanted to apologize because she thought maybe he was married to me when they were dating, even though he told her we were not. I confirmed that we were divorced when they dated and then the crazy stories began.
Stories of me having XH arrested in front of the children (not true). Stories of his son’s friend being hospitalized after and accident where he was unrecognizable and he had to take our child to visit his friend (not true). And the king of all stories — a girlfriend who died in a terrible car accident and he had to give their child up for adoption because he was too young to care for him and he turned out to be a national rodeo star (he even gave a name). This ridiculous story is also not true.
We were married 22 years and have two children together. I am struggling with: 1.) Is he coming unhinged? These are such bizarre stories, it threw me completely off. She asked about 10 different things, all which were untrue. 2.) Could it be true that 25 years (22 married) were all to someone I never really knew?
I did relatively well (as good as one can) with the initial cheating and divorce. I was mighty, kicked him out immediately after I knew what was going on, got an equitable divorce settlement, and am feeling really great about life, but this phone call threw me. He is on his 8th girlfriend since D-day, which didn’t bother me all that much, but I am struggling with the lies he tells about me, my children, and even his own history.
It is like I never even knew this man. I started dating him when I was 16 and we are from a small town, so I know all of his history and this is such bizarre behavior, I am not sure if I should be concerned about his mental state. I do not want to spend the rest of my life getting calls from his random hookups, but I don’t like that people think bad of me so I want to set the record straight.
Any insight would be appreciated.
I’m going to choose Door Number 3. He’s a sociopath. Of course, I don’t know the guy, and there’s an outside chance that the ex-girlfriend is inventing these stories, and had random details like the names of your friends and acquaintances, but as you say he lies about you too. Did he suffer a blow to the head? A stroke? Dementia? Or has he always been a lying, cheating douche who likes to control the narrative? Given the character assassination and 8 girlfriends in 12 months, I’m going to vote disordered freak.
Having known a few up close and personal (well, as personal as you can be with a human reptile), their breathtaking ability to lie — fluently, calmly, outlandishly — is their calling card.
I’ll give you an example from my life. I’ve got a relative by marriage who made up cancer. The elaborate lie went on for months. It had metastasized. It was in her liver. They found a spot on her lungs. It was in her breast. Oddly, this person had no oncologist or stage to her cancer (“We don’t know what we don’t know”) — and she “didn’t like” her doctors. She was looking for the right one. I once questioned the veracity of these stories and was told how traumatic my distrust of her story was. Why, THAT VERY DAY she was having surgery for a tumor! HOW COULD I BE SO INSENSITIVE? So cruel.
(My husband refers to this affliction as “Cancer of the Imaginary Glands.”)
The story just got bigger and crazier. And then it was replaced by another one. (A fake pregnancy.) Point is, highly disordered people lie as easily as they breathe.
I’m not saying every cheater is a sociopath (but I’d hazard a guess that every sociopath is a cheater). People have reasons for lying — like to hide bad conduct. But the people who lie recreationally, pointlessly, recklessly, reflexively — are DSM Nut Clusters.
Why do they do it? That’s untangling the skein — just RUN far and fast (or press charges, or vote them out of office) — but here are a few observations from the snake pit.
1.) They’re gauging empathy. Looking for a chump? See if their heart bleeds. All the examples of your ex’s lies, are him telling sad stories (in which he features heroically) to garner sympathy. He’s testing the humanity waters. Is this person chumpy? Do they care? Do they invest in the story? Do they have a hanky? Can they help a sad sausage out? Or are they skeptical, wary, ask probing questions, and have boundaries? Or are they cold and indifferent? (A fellow freak, no thank you. Bad kibbles. Next!)
2.) They love the power imbalance. I know something you don’t know! Freaks thrill to withholding knowledge you don’t have. (I made up the rodeo, Suc-ker!) They call this sociopathic trademark “duping delight.” Makes them feel superior to you. They happen upon a situation where they can withhold knowledge — or they can create one. Lies are just little opportunities to get high on power. And the more you push the envelope (he was reincarnated as a rodeo clown!), the more bliss you get. Nothing like a high-wire act to pump the adrenaline.
3.) Their lies are useful. They don’t have other life skills, like diplomacy and hard work, so they must rely on lies to get the things they want. Your ex couldn’t live a good life to win people’s good opinion of him, so he must tear you down. Play on people’s sympathies. Create shortcuts. Disable his opponents. It works a lot of time, until it doesn’t. And when it stops working? Repeat #1 — find a new chump.
I do not want to spend the rest of my life getting calls from his random hookups, but I don’t like that people think bad of me so I want to set the record straight.
The way you live your life is setting the record straight. You don’t need to respond to all his lies. You can’t. It’s exhausting and you have no idea the breadth and depth of the lying. You can call out shit when it comes to your attention — “No, that’s not accurate” — but you can’t save everyone from fuckwits.
You saved yourself. Rock your own life, be true to your values. The people who matter GET it. And the people who don’t? They’re not worth knowing. Or they are his next victims and they’ll figure it out for themselves.