Upside-Down & Inside-Out: A Blog About Abusive Relationships

Living with an abusive person means learning to live in a topsy-turvy world where normal rules do not apply. It is like the movie the Poseidon Adventure where the ship gets turned upside down and the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling the floor. Yet, somehow I did break out of the invisible cage my first wife had built around me even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done. So this blog is about how we learn to live with abuse and then unlearn; it's based on my personal experience.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Abuse And Lies: The Art Of Lying

This Is Part Of The Website

Like any good artist she learned to lie at an early age. And like any good artist she lived her lies.

My first wife was a master at deception. She was able to weave a reality so effortlessly, so seamlessly that people were drawn into her web and soon saw the world as she wanted them to.

After much thought, I believe now that she was hiding a basic truth from her childhood, probably some trauma. She was brought up by parents who never dealt with reality directly. While their house was rife with unspoken tensions and conflicts, disagreement was not allowed. During the only time I politely argued with her father, everyone else in her family was horrified and quite upset that such feelings were being openly discussed.

So she learned the art of saying a lot by saying very little. And since truth was never defined or required, honesty or reality became a grey area where she could shade things to her liking. At an early age she learned how to get people to believe what she wanted them to believe.

She even boasted to me, in a rare moment of honesty, that she had mastered the art of appearing to listen. When someone talked, she would smile and seem to pay close attention while her mind was miles away. The key was that she listened just enough to be able to laugh in the right places. Here and there she would repeat a phrase the person had just said, so that she created the illusion of listening. People often left her with the impression that she was attentive and receptive while she instead felt superior that they were so gullible.

After writing about abuse at this website, I realize that I could have written virtually the same material (how abusive people operate) from the perspective of lying. Abusive people lie, period. They lie to others, to the society at large and to themselves. They misrepresent who they are for a variety of reasons: it gives them power, it gives them the ability to manipulate perceptions and it can hide things they want hidden. It gives them a sense of control because while the rest of the world is bound by mundane concepts such as the truth, they are not. They are freer to create the world as they want. And it also gives them a sense of superiority because they are pulling strings from up above while the rest of us are dumbly following the restrictions of the real world.

My wife had many techniques which took me a long time to understand, because I naively thought she was struggling with the truth rather than avoiding it or shaping it. Perhaps her best ploy was to say, "Oh, you know..." and then let me finish the thought. She had usually set up the context to the final, "Oh, you know..." so that I filled in the blanks and connected the dots the way she wanted me to. In a sense she had not lied (I'm sure this is what she told herself), she had just let me fool myself with her help. Other techniques were to tell just enough of the truth that I would not feel she was hiding anything; yet she would leave out crucial details that she did not want me to know. And she often spoke in generalities while hiding specifics. Her mastery of half-truths was remarkable. It was like living on a Hollywood set with fake building facades and cardboard people which, when seen from the right angle, looked real.

When I started to get close to the truth (for example, she had been having an affair for years while being extremely jealous of any woman I was friends with), she even told deliberate lies so that she could admit to an obvious lie that would hide others that were more important to conceal.

At other times when I did by chance get close to the truth and asked her pointed questions, she became quite angry and told me not to be so domineering, so demanding, so overbearing. When that did not work, she would begin to cry. Most men are helpless when a woman cries, so it was a good last resort. And while she saved it for the most dire moments, she had an ability to cry for hours if needed (not an exaggeration). At the end of such a confrontation with her, I was exhausted. She had successfully prevented me from probing any further.

Another of her accomplished techniques was to come up with a clever response to remarks she saw as critical. These quick replies were especially notable because she was often 'spaced out' and moved slowly. I believe she felt that the best defense was an offense and that if she could deflect an initial comment, it would prevent further probing.

The problem with her lies was that it made her life quite complicated. I realize now that she lived in fear that I would discover her web of lies and leave her, which in fact I did. So from day to day, she had to keep track of what she had and had not said to me, how much of a half-truth she had told me, how much she felt that I understood and therefore what she should guard against. And at times I believe she suffered from terrible doubt and guilt and childhood terror that the world of illusions she had created would collapse.

And while she might have become comfortable, in a sense, with her web of lies, this approach to life was tragic. Living a fabric of deception, meant that she had cut herself off from her own feelings. In that grey area of reality she disdained were the core emotions that controlled her life and defined who she was. She thought she was gaining mastery, but in fact, the emotions she did not understand or avoided or would not admit to or that she refused to probe, had set her on a path over which she had no control.

Deep inside her was a well of anger, guilt, betrayal, and doubt. I was aware that she struggled with these feelings when I married her and naively thought my love could heal her.

At one point late in our marriage I said to her, just talking about how I wanted to live, that I was working toward a lifestyle that was simple and direct. Perhaps I caught her off guard, but she responded honestly with, "That's not what I want at all."

After we had broken up and it was clear that we could never get back together, she told me over the phone a truth that she never said when we were married, "You were my best friend and the only person I felt comfortable with." After she told me this and I hung up, I cried for a long time. It was now clear that I was a refuge from her life of lies and that, had circumstances been different, she might have built an honest life with me.


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