How do I deal with getting over dating a pathological liar?
September 15, 2008 12:02 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with getting over dating a pathological liar? I just found out that my loving, caring, earnest boyfriend of five months is the kind of manipulative, predatory liar that one normally reads about in True Story! magazine.

I just found out that my loving, caring, earnest boyfriend of five months had been lying to me throughout our entire relationship. As it turns out, he'd started dating me a month before he and his long-distance girlfriend of five years broke up, making me the unknowing other woman, and spent the bulk of our relationship trying to convince her to go back out with him again.

When I initially found out, I was crushed, but assumed it was a case of the classic rebound. Five years is, after all, a long time. When I asked him why he hadn't ended things sooner, he told me that he'd realized his "true feelings" for his ex in late August and started communicating with her then [as you'll see below, this is a lie], but had been reluctant to break up with me because I was "so nice". This was an ego blow, but something I could accept--he had lied to me a lot, but actually had planned on ending things with me.

Since it was clear that he'd never told his ex about me, I contacted her to let her know I existed. (I know some commenters are critical of this, but I've dated a cheater before and I've resolved never to stay silent if I have the opportunity to tell someone know the truth.) She was shocked, but grateful to know about me--she had, of course, been assuming he was single, and while she wasn't really interested in dating him again, she had been trying to let him down gently, and was at the point of considering opening up regular contact with him.

But as his ex and I compared notes, we not only realized that he had cheated on her with me, but I realized that he had no intention of breaking up with me, and that he had in fact been trying to maintain two relationships at once. For example, I broke up with him briefly in mid-August when I felt things weren't right, and he sent me a long email apologizing, wanting to talk, and asking how he could make things work. It turns out he'd also been sending his ex flowers and long, loving emails at exactly the same time.

This is awful, but it's also sort of ordinary cheating. What makes it truly insane is is the details. Previously he'd talked to his ex without telling me, and when it came out later in a very awkward way, he apologized and promised to let me know in the future. So in his long let's-stay-together email, he actually said, "I think [my behavior lately] is in a different category than what I did to you before--that was CLEARLY wrong, and I went through a lot of self-reflection thinking about why I'd planned on communicating with my ex without immediately telling you about it. That was really wrong, and I resolved not to do it again."

Yes, folks, that's what he wrote to me, trying to get back together with me, while writing love letters and sending flowers to his ex-girlfriend.

There's a million crazy examples like this. The cheater I dated before seems almost ordinary in comparison--it was just drunken find-a-girl-at-a-club cheating. (I don't mean to belittle that behavior; I was extremely hurt at the time, but there was no elaborate web of lies.) I've found out that the relationship I was in for the last five months was a sham, and that the guy who said he loved me can't be trusted to tell the truth for more than a minute in a conversation.

I'm not prepared for this kind of deception. I'm so angry I want to tell everyone what he's done, but I know that will just reflect poorly on me. Does anyone have advice as to how to get over this kind of breakup? On the one hand, I'm appalled and almost fascinated by the levels of manipulation and deception, but on the other hand, I still miss the person I'm now referring to as the "fake boyfriend"--the one who loved me, who cuddled with me, the one I spent most of my free time with, and the one I had hoped to eventually marry.

I'm going to go to the gym, hang out with friends, travel, and do all of those things you're supposed to do to get over a breakup. But this level of deception is practically beyond my comprehension. I actually feel like I'm exaggerating when I try to explain it to people. What else does one do in this situation?
posted by timoni to Human Relations (28 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
What else does one do in this situation?

I haven't been in your situation, but it might pay to let it continue to sit largely beyond your comprehension. Reflect that while costly, his systematic betrayal didn't cost you anything that you're not strong enough to withstand, whereas the costs of you reacting by ceasing to easily trust people in the future will be catastrophic, so you don't need to let it affect your ability to trust people or to give people the benefit of the doubt.

In other words, put it behind you, rather than letting it disfigure you.

(My angle is that, with you having gone from one cheater to a bigger one, you may be at risk here of becoming "damaged goods" - saddling future relationships with trust baggage. There are assholes out there, and you hit a doozy, but move on. Don't warp your worldview.)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:50 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Fucking... build and burn altars of hate. Get some anger out. Okay, get a LOT of anger out. Stab the fuck out of a watermelon, then eat it, shrieking. Buy a sledgehammer and a crappy desk to destroy with it. Go ahead and TRASH him to EVERYONE you know. Being very very angry and astounded is not really a terrible reflection on you, for a time. Girlfriends can totally rule at this. Get together and walk through downtown with your best friends stopping everyone you see to tell them, apropos of nothing, that MATT IS A DICK NEVER TRUST MATT. High five! You'll get high.

I know you're thinking long-term recovery. But hellooo? Have you done anything to express the huge amounts of shock and fury you must be experiencing? Um, not enough. Get started on that. Play out the power you have. You could kill that jerk, right? But you won't, of course. Just in effigy. Burning. On the beach, at the stake. Sell tickets, send him the money and include a note telling him to buy a spine, or a new toothbrush because you farted on his two months ago. Dammit, behave badly if you like. And laugh.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:03 AM on September 15, 2008 [6 favorites]

What else does one do?

Learn what you need to learn and vow to yourself that you'll never be hoodwinked like this again.

This guy was playing two women at once, so I'm guessing he's charming. Be wary of people who are extremely charming.

Make sure that the people you're dating have had a decent amount of time in between their last relationship and you. So, like, more than a month.

Also, be clear in your mind about what cheating is. Because you've been cheated on before, it may be tempting to be overly suspicious and label all kinds of secret-keeping cheating. But it's not. Cheating means that he was having sex with her. It does sound likely that this was happening, but it's hard to tell from your post.

Previously he'd talked to his ex without telling me, and when it came out later in a very awkward way, he apologized and promised to let me know in the future. Talking is not cheating. Not sure if you're saying it is, but I think it's important to make the distinctions. He may have been a scumbag, but if he wasn't having sex with her, he wasn't cheating.

I think the best thing to do is realize you learned an important lesson with a relatively cheap tuition (5 months invested). Look back over the signs you may have missed, learn what you need to learn, and realize you're now a little bit wiser and a little bit stronger. I think there's' an early 90s song with lyrics along those lines but my memory's failing me.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:34 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get over it, by any means possible. I mean that in a nice way; Ambrosia Voyeur has the right idea (if not necessary the best specific advice, see below), for sure. But keep this in mind, and it might help: from his perspective, he wasn't doing anything particularly bad -- he was just maximizing his chances of having girls to date.

Whether this is helpful or harmful to your circumstance, well, I'm not able to tell for certain. However, you seem to be very, very angry, and I assume that anger comes in part from believing that he was orchestrating this whole arrangement knowing that it would be hurtful, and perhaps even being okay with that. Odds are, though, that he gave your feelings no more thought than he would feel like he was starving his goldfish if he went away for a weekend without feeding it; hey, if he had to feed the goldfish, he wouldn't have been able to go away for the weekend.

Does that make him an awful person? Oh, hell yes. However, it does mean you weren't the target of an elaborate effort to hurt you; you were simply one of the people he happened to be working his careless and selfish strategy on. So there weren't really moments when he sat around chuckling to himself about how stupid you were, or regaling his friends with stories about the wool he pulled over your eyes -- he probably never mentioned it to anyone because it would have hurt his strategy, and he likely never thought of it at all except in the moments he was executing his strategy.

In short: the whole thing's really between you, his other girl, and you, and he doesn't have either of the girls any more, right?

here's the "see below" part: when you trash him, be sure to focus on the astounded and not on the angry. The reason why is simple: if it gets back to him that you were angry, he will give it some thought, and since he's a guy, it will make him happy that you were enamored of him enough to get angry. Or perhaps he'll use your angry to justify his own actions, that he didn't really do anything wrong because you are one of those "crazy" girls.

Don't give him the satisfaction. The best offense is one where you get your personal frustrations out in private, or in a small group of people you trust, but focus your more external activities on casual character assassination. Don't make it an obsession, don't make it your life's work; just, when you have the opportunity to offer a solicited opinion on the boy, make it flippant, and make it brief: he's a bad liar who thinks he's a player, and it's pathetic. Hopefully that will be what gets back to him, and there's nothing a guy hates more than being pitied.
posted by davejay at 1:39 AM on September 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

er, duh: the whole thing's really between you him, his other girl, and you
posted by davejay at 1:40 AM on September 15, 2008

Talking is not cheating. Not sure if you're saying it is, but I think it's important to make the distinctions. He may have been a scumbag, but if he wasn't having sex with her, he wasn't cheating.

flyingsquirrel, I agree that merely talking to your ex isn't cheating, but I would say actively trying to get back together with them definitely falls in the cheater category.

To be very clear, I didn't think that his talking to his ex in general was cheating--I actually like it when people are friends with their exes. The problem in that particular case was that he'd hidden it from me on purpose and it only came out at a very awkward time.

Having said all that, as a sort of ironic footnote, it turns out he'd lied to me about that talk as well--he'd told me he just wanted to be friends with her, but then she explained he'd been expecting them to get back together. But then, he's insane.
posted by timoni at 1:58 AM on September 15, 2008

anonymous: "I'm appalled and almost fascinated by the levels of manipulation and deception"

Speaking from experience.

Don't ask for an explanation, doing so will prolong your pain and confusion. Confronting your sociopath will lead to them equivocating, guilt tripping, implying, storytelling, and appealing to you until your head is spinning. Just cut off contact, permanently. Likely, your ex couldn't spit out a real reason if he tried to. It was instinctual, habitual on his part. He wasn't cackling villainously and rubbing his hands together while thinking of all the hurt he would bring to you. He just lacks empathy and you were convenient for the time being.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I'm a very logical and direct person and the dissonance between appearance and actions drove me up the wall; I *needed* an explanation. I became completely dishonest with and very similar to my ex while trying to figure her out, and in the end I had no comprehensible/believable answers but some serious guilt over my own actions. Just leave it alone.

davejay made my point already, but I put some work into this post, so here it is
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:59 AM on September 15, 2008 [12 favorites]

errr, anonymous = timoni. my bad
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 2:00 AM on September 15, 2008

You know what? It's entirely appropriate that you feel angry and sad. It's just happened right? Avoid him, avoid her, think about what direction you want your life to take (work, home, projects, hobbies, achievements, education) and focus on that, except when you need to be angry at him. When you need to be angry at him, be as angry as you like. Scream, punch pillows, go for a run. In due course, possibly sooner than you expect, you'll be glad that you escaped that train wreck. Oh and be sure not to blame yourself for falling for his lies, he's practiced, how could you tell?

So in short, be angry for just long enough and move on.
posted by b33j at 2:12 AM on September 15, 2008

How horrible. I cannot imagine. You must be reeling with pain and confusion.

timoni, you are a good, honest, straightforward person. Sure, you might take the occasional pen home from work, or even *gasp* not mention it if the clerk gives you too much change. (But you'll probably correct him/her and return the difference). I know - I'm the same. Most people are, I believe. Most people are girl scouts/boy scouts, really.

That's why it is so baffling and shocking when we meet someone who isn't. WHO WOULD DO THAT? Seriously, I'm with you. I can't imagine lying to a stranger who asks me what time it is, much less lying to someone I care about. It is stunning that anyone can do this. That's where you are. You are reeling from the very idea that someone could deceive you in this way, because you are a good and decent person and would not ever, ever, behave this way.

That is a good thing. You are an optimistic, good person who deserves another good person. There is no shame in being fooled by a sociopath. That's what sociopaths do, and as derive and davejay pointed out, you are collateral damage. His agenda was not HURT TIMONI. His agenda was MAXIMIZE MY OWN HAPPINESS and you were an aspect of that plan but he did not consider your feelings for one minute. That's bad, in that he's nuts, but it is good in the sense that you were not the target of an evil plan. It's hard to stomach, but true. That is how people like him operate.

I know you are asking not for an analysis of his buttholish behavior but a plan for you to move along, so I'll focus on that now. I think acknowledging that none of this was directed at you, but instead, knowing that you were a casualty in the living disasterboy that is him is an important step. Next, consider your chooser, which may be broken. I am referring to the mechanism that chooses men to crush on. My chooser was broken for a looooong time, and I consistently chose men who were (conveniently) unavailable, because I was unavailable myself. I wasn't ready to open up or commit or whatever, and I didn't realize this, and thought I was actually trying to have a relationship. It took some honest soul-searching to see that I was avoiding anything serious by dating men who had no more intention of settling down than I did! Meditate, go to therapy, read books, get feedback from friends - anything to get an objective opinion on what you're doing and choosing. Seriously, I was shocked when my therapist said, "You are CHOOSING these people" and disagreed with her for months until I finally saw the pattern.

What I'm suggesting is to take the focus off of him and the OMG WHAT A JERK thing, and look at yourself. By this I in no way mean you are to blame, but instead, I'm suggesting that you "date yourself" and treat yourself beautifully! What do you want? How do you want it? What would make you happy? What can you live with? What can you live without? Do you want to commit to a man? Are your goals with your career incompatible with that? And so on. Think about YOU, timoni - it is time someone did! Treat yourself as well as you would a new lover/crush - be constantly aware of, and solicitous of, yourself. Be kind and loving to you and listen to what you want. That way leads to happier entanglements. It is a process, not an instantaneous thing.

I wish you the best. Take care of yourself and know that you are worth so much more.
posted by Punctual at 2:47 AM on September 15, 2008 [11 favorites]

I was in a situation like this once. Comparing notes with my fellow cheat-tee was an eye-opener to the true nature of the person with whom we were both involved, but it was toxic after a certain point. You have cut it off and get past it.

Forget this guy. You dodged a bullet. Get away from his toxic influence and excise him from your life. Toss or give away anything associated with him, and don't look back. You're better for it.
posted by Locative at 2:49 AM on September 15, 2008

Laugh it off.

Fair enough, easier said than done, especially when you are hurting. This guy is not worth your time, the longer you spend agonising over him and his behaviour is less time you are enjoying your life. You strike me as being eloquent & educated. Maybe write it all out, on computer or on paper. Write everything that you feel in a notebook, in a letter to him or to yourself, or just in point form. Then burn it or bury it or just put it away.

In the scheme of things, five months is a very short time. Other people have gone on for much longer oblivious in these types of relationships and married, bought homes, had businesses & property, had children and are seriously entwined emotionally and financially and legally for many years. You've got out fairly early and easily. Be grateful you found out who he is sooner than later and pity him. Some people are just arseholes. You'll meet a few of them. Avoid them once you spot them for who they are, but don't close yourself off from the wonderful people that you'll also meet, trust your instincts and don't beat yourself up if you make mistakes.
posted by goshling at 4:03 AM on September 15, 2008

Listen to goshling. ANY breakup is hard. Some take longer to get over than others. Right now you want to tell everyone the story, because its helpful to get it out. That's natural. Hopefully you have friends who will let you dump. You don't really "need" a therapist, but seeing one once or twice might help. It's a place for guilt-free dumping, plus just the act of getting support from a professional can often expedite giving yourself permission to move on.

As goshling says, 5 months is a short time. It doesn't make the pain any less, but it usually means you'll recover quicker. (I survived divorce after 25 years of marriage.)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:24 AM on September 15, 2008

First, try to avoid letting this incident make you bitter or colour your vision of all humanity. There are decent people out there and if you're looking to be treated with the utmost respect, you should have faith in finding people who will provide that.

In my opinion, men are genetically programmed to seek multiple sexual experiences. This will explain the "getting drunk and picking up a stranger in a bar" phenomenon you have encountered with other guys. Some women are also prone to this, although (bearing in mind that I Am Not A Biologist), it is my opinion that only a minority of women seek multiple sexual experiences, whereas most derive greater fulfilment from developing a strong pair-bond.

Most of us don't act out these biological urges, but the degree to which we can resist is dependent on a number of factors including our upbringing, our lust for excitement/change, our self-respect and the extent to which we're happy to get caught out. The fact that this man was willing to hurt and lie to two women simultaneously is an indicator that he was pretty far away from the norm, but do understand that such men exist.

Finally, ask yourself whether subconsciously you are seeking out or being drawn towards people who are likely to treat you badly. It is not uncommon for a woman to enter a relationship with a man she knows for certain is a philanderer or has violent tendencies. I've even known women who have boasted about the fact that their partners could beat anyone in a fight.

My explanation for this is that many women have genetic urges that conflict with their emotional or intellectual values. If a woman is attracted to an alpha male, or a physically strong guy, or a devious and wily rake, or an adventurous loner, she should understand that there is a possibility that he will act out those characteristics at some stage during the relationship. I've heard women say "He'll never do that to me", or "He's changed" but often as not it's just wishful thinking.

It may be that, even without your conscious mind knowing it, you are attracted to the kind of people who are practically destined to cause you harm. If you cannot bear the hurt this entails, learn to retune your faculties of attraction towards those who will act with honour and decency. There's no shortage of such people in this world.
posted by skylar at 5:26 AM on September 15, 2008

nthing the whole express rage (I found it best to wander the streets in a drunken rage, but OrangeDrink = boy, so I maybe shouldn't advise a girl to get drunk in alleys), but also nthing the fact that you can't let this change how you look at romance.

Here's my caveat - you've dated two cheaters. Not to be an asshole, but maybe you're attracted to the type? Compare the two and see if you can see any similarities, and avoid those people, but once you're in a relationship, try not to get paranoid - that will only hurt you in the long run.
posted by OrangeDrink at 7:18 AM on September 15, 2008

Waaay back in high school, I went through a somewhat similar (albeit high schooly) experience. Because it was a long distance situation, I only found out that there was another girl involved through a friend of his, after six months of visits and talks of deep feelings.

The only way I was able to get over it was to totally cut off contact. Totally. After half a year of mooniness, a month or so of no-contact let me really evaluate how many warning signs there were. Sure, I felt foolish at times--but more importantly, I was able to recognize him as a scum bucket and move on. Keep dating, with a whole new set of experiences under your belt. Experiences are good! They'll help you avoid mistakes in the future.

And don't feel like you've been through something totally beyond most people's sphere of experience. I think plenty of people have gone through this sort of thing--I know I, for one, didn't doubt for a minute that you weren't exaggerating.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:31 AM on September 15, 2008


On the one hand, I'm appalled and almost fascinated by the levels of manipulation and deception, but on the other hand, I still miss the person I'm now referring to as the "fake boyfriend"--the one who loved me, who cuddled with me, the one I spent most of my free time with, and the one I had hoped to eventually marry.

This, to me, is the most problematic thing in your question. Because you were putting the cart way, way, way ahead of the horse. Five months into a relationship is little more than happy brain chemicals--you're not going to really get to know someone until the love haze lifts a bit. In the future, I would certainly recommend that, while you should enjoy the brain chemicals, you act with a little more trepidation early in the relationship and don't go picking a China pattern until you've at least hit the one year mark. Because clearly, as your experience with this guy has shown, it's not that difficult to deceive someone early in a relationship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:36 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is all about faith--the faith that you have the necessary recovery ability to get over this. You do have this system--you were born with it. Accept that you are going to feel shitty for a while and just wait it out. Things will get better.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:43 AM on September 15, 2008

However, it does mean you weren't the target of an elaborate effort to hurt you; you were simply one of the people he happened to be working his careless and selfish strategy on.
This is worth repeating. Don't make this about you. You were simply the person it happened to. It wasn't done because of you, or with you as the centre of the plan, or because of any facet of your personality. It's all about him and his story.

The good thing about that is it means you can lick your wounds and walk away. You don't have to carry it.
posted by bonaldi at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

The "missing the fake boyfriend" really speaks to me.

Once you're over the pain of the breakup, think about what was good in the relationship. You'll be able to find that AND the honesty too with someone else.

Worked for me. I had a similar experience and a horrible, horrible breakup where I really thought I would go over the edge. Then I vowed to swear off dating for at least a year.

Two months later, I met Mr. Sidhedevil.

I think that opening yourself up to love that goes horribly wrong, and living through the crash, gives you a kind of fearlessness that can serve you well in your next relationship(s).

But care for yourself during the grieving process.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2008

You don't mention in your post what you said to him after you found out about his lying. Did you have a face to face conversation in which you confronted him? Did you tell him that your relationship is over? Or have you just cut him off? I have been in a similar situation, full of anger and the desire to avoid the liar, and had a similar problem as you about getting over it. In my case, it was caused by withdrawing too soon.

Don't cut off contact with him right away because you need to express your anger to him. The more details you express to him, the less they will be just bottled up inside and the faster you will get over him. Your urge to tell other people sounds like a displaced need to tell him how you feel and what you think. There is also the question of guilt if you cut him off too abruptly. Even though he behaved terribly, the right thing to do is to announce the end of the affair and the friendship and then give him a chance to respond or ask questions. I'm sure the last thing you want to do is to have a conversation with him, but you would be doing it for your benefit, not his. Afterwards as you think of more details, write them and send them to him. Think of it as discharging built-up energy.
posted by conrad53 at 9:42 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

conrad53, I actually did talk to him yesterday (the day I found out the sordid details). There was a lot of yelling and swearing on my part, and embarrassed silences on his part. The only time he displayed any real emotion was when he found out his ex now knew about me (oh, how that stung!). But I agree with you completely--it's good to ask questions. Some people argue against it, but I learned from the last cheater that the more I knew, the more I was able to deal with the situation in a constructive manner.
posted by timoni at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2008

My last boyfriend was a somewhat "normal" cheater (I was away for the weekend, he invited random chick over and got drunk). However, the more insidious part was that he had lied about his previous (very risky) sexual experiences and hadn't been tested for STDs like he'd claimed.

I dealt with it by driving around in the middle of the night blaring loud angsty music (Evanescence was popular at the time). I went to the beach and hurled rocks into the water. I cried, a LOT. I rode my bike until I was gasping for air. I whined to friends about what a jerk he was until I got sick of hearing myself whine. I stopped seeing myself as his victim. Looking back, there were signs that he was not Mr. Perfect. I forgave myself for not paying heed to those signs.

Of course, I also got tested for STDs.
posted by desjardins at 12:16 PM on September 15, 2008

1. If someone is willing to lie to you about something major, they will lie about anything, including saying anything possible to win you back. I know this firsthand.

2. In the future, if you feel ANYTHING is wrong in a relationship break it off immediately. I have had this problem more than once (not cheating, but pathological levels of deception, living two separate lives, secret debt, hidden drug usage, making excuses that literally make no sense at all)... from men I have loved.

3. Get therapy to figure out what is drawing you to this type of man. Do you want to be the holy grail for them? Are you trying to fix them? Stop. You can't. You're human, nothing else.

4. Be willing to do the battered woman style breakup; confront the liar, remove all access to your home/belongings/whatever, block numbers (this can be done through AT&T for a price) and set up filters to autodelete any future emails. Change your locks; resist temptation to initiate contact on any level. This sounds harsh, and it is. It hurts like hell but is the most effective way to stop enabling each other to be codependent.

5. Get tested for everything, check your credit score, if you live in a home install a lock on your mailbox. I'm serious. Pathological liars can become ugly when confronted with their secrets. harsh as these measures sound... THEY PROTECT YOU FROM FURTHER MANIPULATION. WHY HE DID IT DOESN'T MATTER NOW. WHO HE REALLY LOVES DOESN'T MATTER NOW, can you understand? Nothing he says to you EVER will be trustworthy again, so why agonize about it?

If he has NOTHING in your home, there is no reason to call. If he can't reach you, he can't leave a message of himself crying over "what he has done." There are a million manipulators in this world and the more relationships you have with one, the more likely you are to become one yourself or lose all faith in humanity and potential partnerships.

Will you be that girlfriend that goes through her man's phone when he's in the toilet? Or installs a keylogger on your laptop and invite him to check his email during an overnighter? You decide what kind of person these experiences are going to make you become... paranoid, or healed, or some combination of both.

Be alone for as long as you can before dating someone again. Stop analyzing this relationship and this other person RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Clam up, work out, reestablish your routine, and HEAL. I am sorry if this sounds harsh but I have been through breakups that dragged out forever and ate up chunks of my life I wish I could get back and can't. Don't be like me... cut this experience out of you like a cancer, don't feed it day by day with "what ifs" and "why me?" statements. They only chip away at your self-esteem and don't solve anything.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:34 PM on September 15, 2008 [10 favorites]

This is not (just) about being involved with a cheater. This is about encountering a psycho, a total nutjob. Thank whatever/whoever it is you thank that you found out when you did, that you didn't marry this piece of shit, have a kid with him -- gawd. I've had a couple of these people in my lives, never one as a lover, thank god (whatever/whoever that is or might be).

/ASIDE Yeah, sure, I've had your common, everyday, lying, thieving bitches a time or two, married a liar once, but that's just life; if I don't have any scratches and scars, the odd broken bone, torn clothes, etc, I've not been riding that bike on the best trails. (Not to mention that I've lied and thieved and bitched and drank and drugged in my time, also, and it's evened out, or I hope it has.) /END ASIDE

One of these psychos married a very close friend to our family, a sister of mine, for all intent and purposes, and they had a child together, I worked for him off and on for ten years, in formative years, to boot; by the time I staggered away from all that, I was reeling about. He's been -- of course -- a horrific father to my nephew, who just now, finally, after all these years, has totally and completely given up hope of ever getting anything from this guy.

Recently, the guy has had lung cancer, close to death, they cut out a lung, the whole show -- surgeries, chemo, blah blah blah, on and on, home nursing, he's close to seventy, I thought that maybe, just maybe, he'd have turned into a human being, got his number, called the son of a bitch. He's the exact same piece of shit he ever was, he'll go to his grave lying, charming, bitching, moaning. Gawd. I thanked him for the positives he'd brought to my life -- we'd had some fun fishing trips, and I know for a fact that I'd never have gone deep sea fishing if not for him, almost certainly would not have been given the gift of living in Texas. So I listened to his jive for a few minutes, gave my thanks, got off the phone laughing.

So in some ways, you got off easy. Though I know you didn't get off the phone laughing yesterday. I'm surely sorry you're hurting. It is a nightmare.

These people are really damaging, or can be. You can turn hyper-vigilant, on your guard from every direction, and I think that we have to be, to some extent -- get references, plenty of time before allowing your heart into any show you're planning on participating in. And I do think that time is probably the most important variable, that over any length of time -- and much less time, now that you've got your eyes wide open -- over any length of time you'll begin to see these sorts of people and cut them out fast.

You've got lots of jam, I love that you called 'the other woman' and compared notes, I love that you have spoken with him and held him to account. Though I know you're hurting just now, and hurting bad, take at least some comfort in knowing that you are strong as hell, that you do the right thing under fire, you don't cut and run -- no one ever knows until they're in the crucible. You know now.

What to do? Jesus. Breaking up is hard to do -- they even write songs about it and stuff. Do whatever the hell you need to do or want to do, whatever movie, whatever vacation, go visit your good friend in Hoboken, take sick days and lay around, scratching yourself, watching old favorite movies, reading old favorite books, the cool autumn breezes coming in your windows. But not old favorite movies with happy endings maybe -- do you have any favorite movies where everyone dies a horrible death in the end? Or at least the reality of life is shown as it is, which is to say don't watch hollywood crap now. (Or ever, but hey, that's off topic.)

I don't know that it's any good to stab watermelons or jump up and down hooting or burning anything. That's cute, and symbolic, blah blah blah, but the fact is that you've just gotten burned, and stabbing a watermelon isn't going to change that. You've done the right things, you've confronted his ass, you've told the other woman (the other woman that you know about -- god only knows). You surely have the jam, you might want to shame him at his work if that's possible, have a huge screaming festival there, but pick your topics, don't look like a shrill, rather stick to the facts, he's a lying piece of dogshit and never, ever to be trusted -- he might be sleazing around with a few gals there, and in any case he's not just a liar to women, he's not just a shitbird in this sort of thing, he's a shitbird in every possible way, and you could tip off his co-workers the same way you tipped off 'the other woman'. That's probably overkill, though. You want to be careful in this whole thing, not to sull yourself -- if you pick up shit to throw at him you'll end up with shit on your hands, and that's no good.

Sum: You are doing as best can be in this thing. You've done what you've needed to do. Go get laid, if you have a boy-toy at hand, especially if he's a friend, a good fuck-buddy; it's amazing the comfort of human touch, and an orgasm or eight doesn't hurt anything either. Take a trip or not, whatever you want. Lean heavily into your friends and family. Pray, meditate, if that floats your boat. Call upon any of the sympathetic voices from here -- this is a good community, there's a lot of good here, and some greatness. If you're an artist, get those brushes or knives cutting across that canvas, or get the words spinning out, or whatever it is that your muse calls you to.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Read about sociopathology/antisocial pathology, and allow yourself anger as mentioned above.

I haven't had this problem directly, but am close to people who have. And from an outsider's point of view, time helps. And don't beat yourself up or do the whole "how could I have fallen for it" thing. It's incredible how easy sociopaths can manipulate warm, sane people--it says nothing of you. Also, if schadenfreude helps at all, remind yourself someone who does these sorts of things cannot end up happy. It's true. It's pretty much the only mental/social disorder where I feel fine and confident saying that. The person I knew two degrees removed who was a sociopath and a mind-blowing, epic liar has fucked their life up beyond comprehension, and nobody is there for them now because it's impossible to trust them. (Shrug)

Time. And reminding yourself you're a decent, good person who just had the bad fortune of getting tangled with one of these people.
posted by ifjuly at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here are some quick links (admittedly mostly lame wiki links, but maybe just knowing the terms and seeing it coldly delineated again and again could help) about sociopathy and its related disorders. You make a point to distinguish this guy's clear-eyed ability to stare you right in the face (so to speak, emotionally) and lie about deeply intimate feelings from some horny boyfriend's drunken hook up, which I think is awesome and important, especially when people try to start with the "well, men are programmed to be horny..." reel. You're right, and good for you.

Sorry if I seem a bit...invested in this. It's only because I was talking about it on another forum pretty recently, shortly after the socially local drama surrounding the sociopath I indirectly knew came to a head and we all finally had some closure. The inability to fathom the levels of manipulation is something I can completely relate to, and realizing this has a name, has been pointed out as outside the realm of normal human fallibility helped.
posted by ifjuly at 7:56 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's what I do when trying to make some sense out of an incomprehensible wrongdoing:

acknowledge that the wrongdoer is crazy, and then remind myself that the things crazy people do don't make sense to normal people.

In other words, if this exboyfriend were in a wheelchair, you wouldn't ask him to dance, right? So since he is a pathological liar, you wouldn't expect to have a normal interaction or conversation, right?

So acknowledge you were dealing with a crazy person, soothe and mend your broken heart (sorry for that, of course), and be glad you can now make room for a normal BF in your life.
posted by agentwills at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

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