He told me he loved me, but I kept noticing what he said didn’t add up. I wasn’t trying to catch him in a lie, but I noticed one person told me one thing about him and another said something different. They didn’t know they were contradicting each other. I quietly observed his behavior, made mental notes, and compared stories. I asked questions of others. I discovered that he said whatever he thought I wanted to hear, then told someone else what he thought they wanted to hear. He lied and schemed his way through life. He lied to get our church to give him money. He angrily accused me of all kinds of terrible things when I asked him questions. He tried to convince me I was just stupid. It ended in a big blow up with him shaking me in frustration, eyes bulging from his head, and screaming that I knew him and couldn’t actually think he was the monster I accused him of being. (No. Perfectly sane gentlemen shake their girlfriends and scream at them. Really.)
I threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave. And when he finally left, I laid with my face in the carpet and cried for hours. I wanted to call him back and tell him it was all a mistake and surely he wasn’t a monster. It took me months to shake myself free from him, but I finally did it. He was like kudzu, creeping in and taking over everything, looking pretty from afar, but full of poison.
I met him soon after moving to Nashville. I was 22 years old, ready to meet the man of my dreams and get married, and very, very lonely. He was strikingly handsome – extremely tall with jet black hair and aqua blue eyes. People regularly stopped us while we were out to tell us how good we looked together. He adored me, pampered me, and made me feel like a queen. We had fun together, seemed to have everything in common and complemented one another well. Yet I felt constantly suspicious of him. I knew I couldn’t trust him, but had no reason to suspect anything until we’d been dating for nine months. I made it three more months with him, trying to work it out, unable to believe the truth.
I was dating a sociopath.
After this experience, I find myself very sensitive about lying. I cannot stand to feel like someone is trying to manipulate me. And yet, it still happens. It happens because I am trying to be the sweet, kind, forgiving, gentle young woman who is gracious to all and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause discomfort to anyone else.
Many times in the past I’ve been guilty of glossing over someone’s lie and hoping for the best. I’ve quietly resented the person who hurts me, rather than speaking up and getting to the bottom of things. I use the word “guilty” here because the right thing to do is to go to the person and discuss the situation with them as soon as possible.
It is possible I’ve misunderstood or don’t have all the facts. In that case, what does it hurt to ask questions? Rather than silently watch them to confirm my suspicion, I can go to them immediately and give them a chance to set the record straight. That does two good things. First, it allows them to explain their reasons for the behavior in question. If there is wrongdoing, we then have an opportunity to work on the problem together, apologize, and move on. If there is no wrongdoing, it clears the air.
If there is a problem and the person confronted refuses to admit it, then at least it lets them know I’m aware of what’s going on and might prevent the problem from getting bigger. Secondly, it makes our relationship more real, more open. It makes it a real relationship, rather than an acquaintance.
When I don’t confront a situation immediately, hurt builds on top of hurt until there’s an explosion. The explosion doesn’t have to be loud, and the other person doesn’t even have to know it has happened, but once it happens there’s often no going back.
The problem is that confrontation is hard. How do you look someone in the eye and tell them you think, for example, they lied to you or they are trying to control you through anger? I want people to like me. I don’t want to cause offense. It hurts me to hurt someone else.
Confrontation also opens you up to accusation. When a person feels defensive, they often come back fighting. They may throw wild accusations your way, and then their accusations might not be that wild. They may know exactly what to say to hit the sensitive underbelly, the thing you work so hard on and don’t want to fail in. That is NOT fun.
I write that the truth hurts because it really does. It’s easier to just walk away. It’s not so easy to say the hard thing, ask the tough question, and handle the anger or hurt that comes your way. But if hurt, confusion, or pain isn’t discussed, something inside the person who has been wronged dies. Maybe it’s the love they once felt. Maybe it’s the respect or their self-respect that dies.
You’ve seen them – the couples eating their dinner in silence, scowling at one another and looking around the room for anything more interesting to focus on. They look like they’ve been married forever and would be happy if their spouse disappeared for good. They try to talk, but they just end up fighting, so they sit in silence. What happened? Were they ever in love? What happened probably wasn’t one big thing, but hundreds of little things over the years that they didn’t think they needed to discuss so they could keep the peace for today. Then one day they woke up and despised one another. They can’t point to one specific thing, but it’s there. Years of resentment and anger and hurt, and if they try to talk about it now it just turns into an all-out war full of acid words and no understanding. They are cowards who couldn’t talk about the little irritations, so when the big problems came they had no skills to deal with them either.
If I had stayed silent and continued dating the beautiful man with the luxurious lifestyle and black heart, what would have become of me? I might have married him. I might have had children with him. And something inside of me would have died.
What’s your story? Have you experienced anything like this? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.