Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Keeping Away from the Scary People

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that when I first got divorced, I ventured on Frumster and immediately met someone wonderful. He turned out to be a pathological liar. He lied to me about EVERYTHING, including his name, religious status, education, career, etc. We went out for a couple of months (long distance). While I credit myself with being pretty astute, I was very slow to catch on to his lies. Why? Because when someone tells you his name is so-and-so, you generally have no reason to doubt that his name is so-and-so. When someone tells you he is Shomer Shabbos, you generally have no reason to doubt that he is Shomer Shabbos. Why would you think they were lying? Why would anyone think that? Who approaches meeting people with the idea that they might be lying? Who goes through life being suspicious of everyone?

How did I catch on? Well, there were little inconsistencies...obvious mistakes that he made, that someone who was where-he-said-he-was in life would not make. But in my mind, I kept covering for him; I really liked him. When I called him on the mistakes, he would say he was just kidding, or that he never said that. Finally, he made a collossal humdinger of a mistake, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I did some digging. I found out who he really was and it was, to say the least, shocking. I won't go into details. It was unbelievable. (No, he wasn't married, but it was still a shocker.)

There were other things about our relationship that should have tipped me off to his psychopathy. First of all, he was one of the nicest people I had ever met, 98% of the time. Sweet, warmly sincere, open, hysterically funny, and even loving. There were times when we would spend the entire night on the phone, just laughing and talking. But, then suddenly, for almost no reason at all, he would accuse me of something crazy and snap like a twig. He would slam the phone down on me and email me that it was over. This happened over the stupidest things. He would just blow; it was crazy. I would end up in tears, and found myself apologizing to him. I have the kind of personality that doesn't like upsetting people, certainly not people I care about. I would rather be happy than be right (to quote my old marriage therapist), and I have no problem saying that I'm sorry even if I know I didn't do anything. But this happened a few times and it started to bother me.

Then there were countless times he would make promises that just never happened. He would tell me that he was sending me something, and it would never show up. He said that it had to have gotten lost in the mail, because why would he lie about that (why indeed) and was I accusing him of lying? So I would tell myself to "dan l'kaf zechut," to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I chose to believe him.

Later on, I found out that every time he promised he sent me something, he just lied about it. Plain-old lied. Lied, lied, lied. Lied like a rug.

There were dates that he stood me up on (yes!), when he claimed that he had emailed me or left a message that he was unable to make it that night. The email/message must have gotten lost, after all, who would just not show up for a date? Who indeed? There were times he tried to lure me into going into business with him. Then of course, there was the incredible lightning speed with which he demanded that I see him and only him. That should have been a major clue. Instead, I was flattered by his wanting me all to himself and taken in. Hook, line and sinker.

Thank God, I had a close friend to confide in this whole time. It was she who started pointing out some glaring inconsistencies to me, even though I initially defended him and denied them. She was able to be more objective and to cast a little light on what she thought was going on. That was enough to make me realize that something was not kosher here. Something was very, very treif.

In my defense, I don't have too much experience with lying psychopaths. The Ex, regardless of his many other flaws, was as honest as Lincoln and as straight as an arrow. And normal. The Ex never exploded for no reason. The Ex lied about nothing. Of course he didn't. He wasn't a wack-job. He just wasn't very nice to me.

So end result, I wasted two months of my life with a psychopathic liar. Big deal. It could have been a lot worse. I'm grateful that I found out about him when I did, before I got more involved. Want to know why my friend was able to pick up on his personality type? Because she had married someone like that. Her Ex had been a controlling, pathological liar with a vicious temper that turned on a dime. He was also a loving, romantic, kind, sweet, gentle, attentive husband. She recognized the signs.

So what do you do when this type of sociopath turns up as your boss? Or as a colleague? Or someone who is in a position of personal or community trust?

At work recently, I had to deal with one of the vendors that we use for certain business services. Up until this week, their company had been performing well. It's the kind of service that is ongoing; once it was initially set up, there were very few reasons to need anything from them. I received their semi-annual bill, and I had Accounting cut a check to pay for it. When I looked on their website for a remittance address, I couldn't find one. When I went to their Live Help section, I asked their helpdesk person for their mailing address. I was told that they accept only online payments.

Now, the company I work for is a little funny about using corporate credit cards online. I would have had to use my personal credit card and then put in for a reimbursement. So fine, I was willing to do that. At this point the bill was past due. But when I went to pay online, I saw a $25 late fee posted. What the hell?

So I went back into their Live Help section, and asked the helpdesk person to please waive the fee. He responded by getting the owner of the company online. The owner proceeded to accuse me of trying to wheedle out of paying my bill! I kept my cool and tried to explain to her what I was trying to do. She started to spiral out of control. She wouldn't hear anything I said and ended up terminating our account with her company, giving me two weeks to find another service!

I was in shock. Where did this come from? I cut and pasted the chat from the Live Help section and emailed it to my boss. His response was, "what the hell was this woman's problem?" I read the chat over and over, looking for any comment that I made that might have set her off, but even from a purely objective viewpoint, I was being calm and logical and she was getting more and more unreasonable.

My first instinct was to email her an apology. But why? Who was at fault here? I prided myself on my professional behavior in the workplace, and hated leaving things so ugly.

Suddenly, a bell rang in my head. Ding ding ding.

Ah. This was one of the crazy people.

Dating the pathological liar was, if nothing else, an unpleasant educational experience. These people are out there. They are. You don't want to believe that there might be people who are in a position of trust and power who are just plain pathological, but they exist. They run companies. They run countries. They should probably be on meds. You might cross paths with them in life. Your professional/personal fate might be in their hands. It's scary, to say the least.

Your strongest armor against the wack-jobs is first recognizing who they are. Once you are armed with the knowledge, you can maneuver your way around them. If it's a social situation, get out, period. If it's a work situation, know with whom you are dealing and tread very, very lightly. Obey your instincts. If something feels false, it probably is false. Be ready for an explosion and make sure you let people further up on the ladder know before that you suspect a few loose wires. Above all, don't trust these people.

It's very, very frightening. God save me from marrying one of these sociopaths.


Marni said...

I guess you are definitely one of the lucky ones. But this brings up another point that I cannot wrap my head around, as observant as you are, you still have the awareness to date for months before taking things to the marriage level. So what happens those who REALLY observant, and get engaged after a few dates/weeks? Do they just have faith that the person they are marrying is a good person? Do they turn a blind eye should they discover discrepancies? Does their matchmaker do a background check much like you did on your the man you were dating?

As a non-observant yet passionately Jewish woman, I think it is interesting to read articles about shidduchim and the so-called "crisis" that apparently affects unmarried women over the age of 23. But when I hear stories about yours, I can't understand why anyone would even feel comfortable marrying someone they barely know, let alone sleeping with him. Not to knock the way things are done, because I do understand the "method behind the madness" so to speak, but I would think having to have sex with a man you have met a mere handful of times and are now married to might feel a bit like rape, if not at least totally uncomfortable. And G-d forbid she marries someone with certain dysfunctional personality traits.... Is getting married really more important than to whom one is getting married?

WebGirl said...


Most people who get married after 4 or 5 dates are under the tutelage of their parents and yes, they check out the person very thoroughly (almost too thoroughly). Of course, some things, like a violent temper, can be well hidden until after the chuppah. And the wedding night...well, by the time these young couples get to that point, they will have seen each other quite a bit, as they will have been engaged for a month or two. Usually, they are around 18-21 or so, so the hormones will still be raging. So, no, no one cries rape. I have heard of cases where couples have waited a few days to consumate, taking the physical part very slowly, at the girl's request. I think this is sort of nice.

As far as the 21 plus crowd, it's buyer-beware. The friend I spoke of who married the pathological liar dated him for 7 months. These people are very good, very smooth. It's only once you've been bitten by them that you know what to look for, whom to trust. It's not a question of going quickly, it's a question of going carefully.


Marni said...

So then is another reason behind marrying so young is to assure that the couple, whose personalities and maturity are undoubtedly still developing at that age, somewhat grow together and that neither develop any ugly character flaws? Being sarcastic for a minute, I mean when does the lying psychopath trait start to rear its ugly head...22? 35? Is it a genetic defect or something picked up in the environment that hopefully an eshet chayil and 12 children will be able to overcome?

I was in a relationship for 2 years and it took that long for me to realize that as great as he was, he had a lot of nasty characteristics that only came out after spending basically everyday together. 3 months into the relationship and I would have married him. And I don't see how my parents would have been able to pick up on anything. I mean asking someone yes or no questions is not the same as spending a great deal of consistent and quality time with one another, right?

I have a very religiously observant cousin who is seeminly in a happy marriage with her brood living in the Shtachim who married after 6 weeks at 21 and popped her first out 9 months to the day after her wedding, so I know that happiness isn't a rarity. But maybe this is why they marry them off when they are young and idealistic before they begin to question the way things are done as I am.