Friday, May 01, 2009

Adventures in Dating a Pathological Liar

Dear Terry:

A friend of mine suggested I write to you about my bizarre experience. I like your techniques for visualizing a healthy, positive relationship with a wonderful partner. I was in a serious relationship for three years. I ended that relationship three months ago. I acknowledge that my ex had major issues and was a codependent. He did not communicate in a forthright manner and I had trouble trusting him. I can accept that he was not ready for commitment. But I am still trying to figure out reality. I need help with this other mess so I can put the final nails in the coffin. (I am seeking therapy, taking dance classes, went on vacation with old friends, etc. to refocus on myself).

I worked in the same office as my ex for three years. He said that his Catholic family would have a hard time dealing with me because I am not a Catholic. Due to his rigid boundaries, I never saw the inside of his apartment. I met his family when he moved back home but was introduced as his co-worker. We were very private and slow in revealing that we were together because he had supervised me at one point and did not want accusations of favoritism. A year into the relationship I went to grad school in another state and we became long-distance. That's when I found out through friends he was engaged to our former boss. I always knew my ex was good friends with this woman, although I did not get along with her. He withheld information from me until I confronted him. He admitted to being engaged but said it was only for immigration purposes because he was under threat of deportation. Because we all worked for an immigrant rights organization, I believed his story. He said I had expectations of marriage and that's why it was easier to be publicly engaged to a friend. I had never observed any flirtatious behavior between them. A year later I found out through friends that she was telling people she was married to my ex, there was no immigration case, and that I was a stalker. But my relationship with him was always consensual. I told him point-blank that I would not be romantic with him if he were married. At the time of the engagement, my friends and I had made some calls to him, his family, the supposed wife, his workplace, and the supposed wife's family to figure out whether the gossip was true. I never harassed them. I was simply on a fact-finding mission. I wanted our relationship to work. He told me his maybe wife had poor mental health, had started believing that she was married, and was in denial that I was his girlfriend. I thought by him talking to her she would put to rest these rumors. But close to our third anniversary, friends mentioned that the woman still acted like they were married, living together, with no immigration hearing. I searched state marriage records and no evidence was found to indicate they were legally married. I tried talking to her but she never returned my calls/emails. I tried calling his lawyer and the courthouse and no records were found on his deportation hearing. Given his close working relationship and long history with her, what am I supposed to believe?

Was he an evil man who played two women against each other? Or is his story true, that he is dysfunctional in his personal life and being silent comes easier to him than humiliating his boss/good friend? He was gentle, nice, charming, and cordial to all my friends/family so I fell for it. Where was his wife when we were all over our home computers carrying on conversations? Did his sister who befriended me know he was married? Either way he was disloyal, deceptive, and selfish.

Was I attracted to a manipulative sociopath/compulsive liar? Or was he simply a passive coward, and the truth is stranger than fiction?

With your experience, I hope you can help me solve this mystery. I want to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Your response will help me move on.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta Know the Deal Here

Dear Gotta Know-

First off, congratulations on getting therapy and taking steps to move on with your life.

You pretty much summed it up when you wrote, "Either way he was disloyal, deceptive, and selfish."

He was, and that's all that matters, really. Whether he and the former boss were ever married is irrelevant. The guy has shown himself to be disloyal, deceptive, and selfish, and you deserve much better than that.

Just so you know: You're not alone. I've known other (two just off the top of my head) women who were conned by seemingly charming men who came up with some ridiculous fairy tale with regard to some other woman in their lives. And guess what? In the end, both of these women ended up being confronted by the other woman (or, really, the wife or the true girlfriend) who called them -- guess what?-- stalkers.

This seems to be a technique of pathological men: Pit two women against each other and sit back and enjoy the show (to be fair, I've known women who love to get men to fight over them, too). It's narcissistic, pathetic behavior.

The good news is, you know what you don't want: A guy who's disloyal, deceptive, and selfish. So now you know what you do want: A guy who's loyal, honest, loving, and generous.

To stop yourself from 'making the same mistakes,' write an affirmation around what you do want:

"I am happily married to a loyal, honest, loving, generous, fun man."

What would that look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, and sound like? Bring it to life in your imagination (at least) twice daily. Over time, the details will start to fill themselves in.

(This sounds simplistic, but it really does work.)

Definitely keep seeing your therapist. Keep the focus on enjoying life. Keep bringing this new and fresh relationship you desire to mind, filling in details as you go, letting your subconscious mind accept it as fact. (Also, by honing in on what you do want, as opposed to what you don't want, you ensure you'll recognize it when it shows up).

Napoleon Hill said it best: What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

Good luck. I'm thinking good thoughts for you.