Gaslighting – Emotional Manipulative Tactic #1

Like a stubborn child stomping his feet, having just returned from his ‘business trip’ Scott flatly refuses now to move his belongings into the guest bedroom or basement.  Not only that, he claims to never have agreed to sleep in the guest bedroom.  Nevermind our conference call with our marriage counselor and the half-dozen messages where Scott states he would move his belongings before I returned home. The guest bedroom is part of a walk-out basement with full-sized windows, a walk-in closet, and a full bathroom.  It’s larger than most apartments.  We live in a 6,500 square foot home, with a 2,500 square foot finished basement.  Scott refused to respect my boundaries. He has to have control. Always. With utter disregard for my privacy and the original agreement, Scott stated “It’s my home, my bedroom, and I have the right to come in any time I want.” Looking back I should have had that printed on a t-shirt for him, having heard it more times than I could count over the course of the divorce. So much for an amicable and peaceful divorce.

Then to add insult to injury while in bed that night, I couldn’t believe it when I heard Scott picking the lock on my bedroom door!  Frightened I quickly hit the recording button on my phone.  Scott nonchalantly entered and walked to the bed in his boxers and wife-beater t-shirt. To my shock, he climbed into my bed while I was still in it! He put his ear plugs in and blindfold on and proclaimed “It’s your turn to sleep in the basement.” Then he rolled over and turned off the light.  The Supreme Being had banished me to the basement — and so I went like a good, obedient girl.

 As I laid there in the guest bedroom bed I thought “If that’s how he’s going to act, the war over the master bedroom is on!”  What is his problem? It is pragmatic that I sleep upstairs in the master bedroom. Scott travels a significant amount of time.  I am the primary caretaker of the kids, waking them up in the morning and getting them ready and off to school every day.  Plus, that was our agreement with our therapist during our conference call when I was at the hospital in Florida with my father.  Of that I was certain — I’m not crazy or delusional. I can’t believe Scott now claims that conversation never took place. I thought to myself, “Who’s the crazy one now?”  I was so frustrated and sick of all of Scott’s games already.  I needed help, and a new attorney. 

Emotional Manipulation #1 – Gaslighting   

Gaslighting” was one of Scott’s strongest manipulation tactics.  Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt oneself, and to ultimately lose their own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth.  Gaslighting statements and accusations are usually based on blatant lies or an extreme exaggeration of the truth.  The term is derived from the 1944 film, “Gaslight”, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by forcing her to question herself and her sense of reality.  When someone is gaslighted, the narcissist will tell you, “That didn’t happen.  You imagined it.  You’re crazy. You’re delusional.”  In a nutshell, the narcissist will lie and that instills doubt.  Scott now proclaiming that he never agreed to reside in the guest bedroom during the divorce was a perfect example.  It’s easy to see how powerful this can be, as it allows the abuser to deflect all focus from their own actions and shift it to something completely irrelevant. Or, Scott would twist it so I would doubt my perceptions of what really happened time and time again.

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Obituary – death of a marriage

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January 8 – Obituary

I packed my father’s things and brought him home from the hospital today.  I set up interviews and hired a nurse to assist him over the next few weeks with his medications in preparation for his surgery.  There were just too many for him to keep straight.  

Obituary

After dinner my father pulled out one of his yellow legal pads and handed it to me along with a perfectly sharpened No. 2 pencil that he always managed to have around as a retired engineer.  As we sat there together, he asked me to help him write his obituary.  Somehow, it comforted us both.  He had lived a good life—married to the woman he loved for over sixty years.  He and my mother had raised three wonderful children and were surrounded by grandchildren in their later years.  He had run a successful company for years that he later passed down to my brother, Greg.  He had travelled the world, sailed the seas, and still went skiing even into his eighties.  He was truly blessed with a full life and loving relationships.

That’s when I realized I didn’t quit my marriage.  I survived it.  I know deep down I am making the right choice.  It is hard to accept that my marriage had failed.  But I knew Scott wouldn’t be there for me to the end, holding my hand if I ever got ill like my father had for my mother.  Scott isn’t the type to hang in there when times get tough. Scott proved he was nothing like my father; Scott lacked compassion and integrity.  I deserve more.  I deserve better.  Filing divorce papers was like writing my own obituary:  “We had good times, raised three kids, travelled the world, blah, blah, blah…”  

Big Mistake

During the conference call with our counselor at the hospital I told Scott that I planned on returning home on the 11th and would prefer that he move out.  I wasn’t surprised when Scott refused.  Scott was not willing to look for an apartment claiming that we needed to save money.  Aware of Scott’s abuse over the years, our marriage counselor assisted us with this agreement as we hashed out the details.  Scott asserted with our counselor during that conference call that he will remain in the house, agreeing to sleep in the guest room until the divorce is final. Scott assured us both stating that he wanted the divorce to be an “amicable and peaceful process.” LOL

Having Scott remain in the house was a huge mistake. . .  I had no money of my own, all of our finances were joint.  And for the sake of the children I was forced to stay in the marital home during the divorce process, even when he refused to leave. I had asked for a monthly stipend, that he of course refused.  It wasn’t until later that I learned in order to get a mortgage, you need to show income for at least six months.  By his refusal, he essentially locked me in his invisible prison.  

I suffered through stalking, verbal and physical violence, hidden cameras, malevolent financial intrigue, and his flamboyant and unpunished violations of court orders.  I lived in a House of Horrors and was imprisoned in a dungeon built by his malice. Months following resulted in court hearings and appearances for Exclusive Use of the Home, and Personal Protection Orders – all because he wouldn’t leave or let me leave.  For the narcissist, its all about control — and in this case, about revenge.  How dare I abandon him.

I had no privacy, no safe place. He broke into my bedroom, my car, my files, my emails, –  stating it was his house/his property and that he had every right to invade my privacy whenever he felt like it.  On more than thirty occasions, he carefully orchestrated devastating attacks designed to make me look crazy, even staging events trying to put me in jail.  He set out to destroy me, just as he always threatened.  Words cant even begin to describe what I went through that year.  But somehow, I survived and lived to tell the tale. . 

Narcissistic Psychopath for Dummies

This is my first blog – as part of a series where I share my journey as I struggled to break free of a Narcissistic Psychopath.  I hope others, like me, will learn to recognize that YOU are NOT the crazy one.  Believe in yourself and a happier future.

The Narcissistic Psychopath for Dummies

I was everything my ex-husband, Scott, needed me to be. Scott picked me because I was a caring, loving person that he could exploit. I was brainwashed, manipulated, and orchestrated into an intricate web, which fed Scott’s insatiable need for control to mask his own insecurities. Gradually over time, Scott defined me. He told me who I was, what to think, how to feel.  As the years passed and my struggles continued, I suffered mental anguish, anxiety, and emotional pain.  I lost confidence.  I had self-doubt.  I was depressed.  I began to have problems sleeping, and the stress took its toll on me physically.  I became a husk of the person I used to be. 

Finally, I acted on my truth.  I stood up for myself and my children.  When my doctor asked me if I felt safe at home and I couldn’t answer “Yes,” I knew it was time to make a change for my mind, body, and spirit. I took my marriage vows seriously; however, my biggest obligation was to our children. To properly nurture and care for them, I had to be whole and functional.  With the abuse over the years, and because Scott was an uninvolved and detached parent, I felt a strong obligation to stay in the marriage for their sakes.  It got to the point where my vows were pulling me in one direction, and my need for safety and sanity pulled me in another.  I had to make a choice:  Either I keep my commitment to Scott, losing my peace and possibly the ability to properly care for our children, or I care for myself and my children, first and foremost. 

The problem was that Scott had distorted my sense of reality over the years through shame, guilt, and intimidation — to make me believe that, at some level, I was an unfit parent and couldn’t live without him.  I believed that by keeping the family intact I was doing what was best for our children.  This would have made sense in a healthy relationship, but ours wasn’t even close. I tolerated Scott’s abuse and my isolation, even allowing him to damage my relationship with our children over the years – the same children for whom I had stayed in the marriage to nurture and protect. 

But I didn’t realize Scott was the sick one, nor did I consider the impact that our modeling had on the children until my “light bulb” moment. Children learn to do what they live with.  In a severely dysfunctional home like ours, our children learned dysfunction.  We were unable to co-parent as long as Scott dominated the household and alienated me through his manipulation and brainwashing.  This made it nearly impossible to have a full and healthy relationship with my own children. 

In the end, it finally came down to safety.  Our home was not emotionally safe for me or the children.  My obligation as a parent was far more important to me than the obligation of staying in the marriage merely to keep the family “intact.”  It was time to break free and set a new and better example for my kids.  I knew Scott would continue to turn them against me.  I only hope that I didn’t wait too long to act; that someday they will see the truth and learn to identify and enjoy healthy relationships. 

I knew divorcing Scott would be difficult.  But there was no way I could have anticipated or prepared for the level of discord and calculated manipulation that Scott aimed toward me to ruin me and my relationship with my children, along with the threats of poverty.  I had married a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It was during this process that I discovered Scott truly is a psychopath. 

What is a Psychopath? 

A normal relationship might use love and trust as its currency, but a relationship with any psychopath has a wholly different purpose. They use you, benefit from you, and thrive off of controlling you.  They lack a sense of empathy, a conscience, and guilt. Scott presented himself with a flawless veneer. Every now and then, between the good moments, you would catch a glimpse of his true self, blowing up at a person or impatiently smashing something.  This is who he truly is.  It’s in those instances that I slowly learned that a psychopath wants to inject chaos, anxiety, and insecurity into your life.   

Half the time I didn’t know right side up.  A psychopath is frightening for many reasons as they are incredibly sharp and intelligent. They’re calculating, capable of planning ahead, scheming, and concocting plans that leave most normal people confused. Psychopaths understand exactly what they’re doing to you.  Match that with a charismatic personality such as Scott’s who was then the perfect salesman, showman, and entertainer.  Scott was very successful in his company position. In social settings, the party started when he arrived.

Of course, Scott was smart; he realized the need to keep up appearances. His need for social status to accomplish his goals was one of the few things that held him back from being even more ruthless and devastating. Scott possessed many masks, all of which hid his true self, reminding me of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Scott was toxic and abusive, always overstating his ability to be kind and compassionate to hide his true character. 

I learned during my divorce that I was dealing with a completely unpredictable human being with zero conscience.  Zero empathy.  Zero remorse.  While the normal person understands the ramifications of divorce, the psychopath sees it as only one thing:  a game to win regardless of the costs.  No matter how much money it took, no matter how it affected his children’s lives, even when he lost his job in the process, Scott had to win.  Mix that need for power and control with a self-absorbed ego, and you get a Narcissistic Psychopath. 

What is a Narcissist?

A narcissist is a person who is completely and overwhelmingly absorbed in themselves. They are the center of their own universe, and they carry that belief into how they interact with others.  What is difficult to assess in the beginning is that narcissists can seem very nice, generous, charming, and caring.  Then slowly, as their masks slip, things begin to change.  They will morph into a black hole of need, demand, and criticism.  The list of things that can upset them continually grows until you’re walking in a minefield, trying not to be punished for offending them. 

A narcissist will commonly choose someone who was raised to be co-dependent as prey. Co-dependent people tend to be nice, sweet, reasonable, and eager to please.  That was me. They can be taken into the narcissist’s sphere because they don’t see what is coming, and they don’t believe people can be toxic and cruel for no reason.  Most people don’t know how to defend themselves against a chronic and malicious controller.  They just can’t see the hurt coming and, over time, are destructively conditioned to take more and more of it until they start to think they are the “crazy” ones.   

My relationship with Scott wasn’t unlike the old tale of a boiling frog that goes something like this:  If you place a frog in a warm pot of water and slowly increase the temperature over time they don’t react or realize it until they end up getting cooked in the boiling water. Whereas, if you placed a frog into a boiling pot of water, it would immediately jump out.  By letting the small and seemingly harmless wrongs slip, it could overtime, add up to deadly. Scott was bad for me.  I just didn’t realize it until I nearly boiled to death.  Once I made the conscious decision to jump out of the pot in order to survive, I wished there was a guide to which I could have referred – How to Divorce a Narcissistic Psychopath for Dummies. 

I thought I was prepared. In hindsight, I was naïve.  A narcissist will take control by any means at hand. The entire basis of Scott’s case in this divorce was to prove me mentally unstable and an unfit mother.  I was neither, but over the years my marriage to Scott had me doubting myself and questioning everything I previously held to be true about myself and the world. The psychological warfare I endured both during the marriage and through the divorce was crushing.  Here’s a list of what I learned in my battle with a narcissistic psychopath: 

How to Divorce a Narcissistic Psychopath for Dummies:

  • Keep a journal and record everything – this is SO important. 
  • Get the BEST lawyer – even if the cost seems too high. I paid for his. 
  • File.  DON’T TELL ANYONE, not even your friends, until they are served the papers. 
  • You want to be the Plaintiff. Attorneys will say it doesn’t matter, but it does to a narcissist, and I believe it will sway a judge.
  • Stash money away. You can bet they have — and planned it many years ago. 
  • Hide anything that has value BEFORE you file. They will try and take those things.
  • Spend now, ask forgiveness later.
  • Lock up everything.  Files, journals, your car, your purse. 
  • Change all your passwords. 
  • Buy a burner phone. 
  • Open a new and private email account to communicate with your family, friends, and attorney(s). 
  • Get a good grip on your finances and record every expense. 
  • Do not believe ANYTHING they say – EVER. 
  • Demand a psychiatric evaluation. 
  • Breathe.  You will waste many tears and have many sleepless nights. 
  • Take the case to trial.  I should have. 

There were so many times I said to myself, “I can’t believe Scott did that!”  I couldn’t have anticipated his actions.  It was impossible to wrap my head around how a person could do such inconceivable things.  I was a faithful wife for 27 years, sacrificed my career to support his, and gave Scott three amazing children.  I was a good mother and wife.  No, I was an amazing mother and wife.  How could I have been so blind, so dumb?  Nearly 30 years went by in a blink. 

I was mad at myself for not seeing it sooner and angry at Scott for everything he did and would do throughout the entire process.  The hardest part of the divorce was learning to forgive myself and accepting that it wasn’t all my fault.  I had been brainwashed, manipulated, and controlled by the best of the best; I was the boiling frog.  I could never have foreseen what Scott would put me through in that year, and even if I had, I couldn’t have done anything differently. Scott gave me no choice.  Everything I did was in reaction to his actions.  I didn’t have time or space to plan any offense of my own; I was forced to continually play defense and play his game. For Scott it was all about winning.  Over the following year, Scott would do whatever it took to win, conquer and destroy in our own version of War of the Roses.  This is what happened, and you may expect when attempting to divorce a narcissistic psychopath: 

What to Expect When Divorcing a Narcissistic Psychopath:

  • He will sabotage your relationship with your attorney (I had three). 
  • He will break into your room and your car. 
  • He will steal your files and journals. 
  • He will hack your personal files and email accounts. 
  • He will stalk you. 
  • He will place hidden video cameras in the house to watch your every move. 
  • He will stage dozens of events designed to get you arrested and jailed. 
  • He will commit forgery. 
  • He will perjure himself without any thought for, or fear of, the repercussions. 
  • He will physically attack you. 
  • He will go on a vacation rampage.
  • He will hide money. 
  • He will call your friends and family. 
  • He will call you crazy, delusional, and mentally unstable. 
  • He will never accept defeat and will fight literally to the bitter end (even over something as trivial as used gift bags!). 
  • He will never leave you alone. 
  • He will turn the children against you. 

When I told my friends I was writing a book/blog, I would reference the old movie War of the Roses, explaining that I was writing the modern sequel, only no one dies in the end. Throughout the following blogs I will be drawing from my personal journal of my daily struggles and discoveries during my Year of Thorns.  I’ve also referenced the 17 Emotional Manipulation Tactics of the narcissistic psychopath that I learned to identify in my path to recovery.  This was an important tool in my research to understand what happened to our family while we lived with someone with a severe personality disorder, and the challenges I faced throughout the divorce process. 

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