There have been many “light bulb” moments along the way over the course of the last year. But I would call them low wattage light bulb moments. Dim, just enough light to see but not enough to read by, or see the entire picture clearly. And only one at a time.
The more I am reading about narcissists, the more I am learning about my life for the last 25 years. The more I am understanding that it wasn’t all in my head. Sad, isn’t it? I had no idea, or just didn’t know what to call it I suppose. I just thought it was me, I was causing it.
One of the traits of a narcissist, according to almost every book and article, is that they lie. They lie about details, small things, big things, it doesn’t matter. They will make you think that you are the problem, you are the crazy one, you are the one who should not be trusted. But the bottom line is that they will lie to you – and then make you believe that you are wrong, overreacting or just plain crazy.
I never thought of my ex as someone who could lie, or would for that matter. One of the things that I truly loved about him was the idea that he had integrity, and was a man of character. I respected him, even when I didn’t like him, even when I questioned if I loved him. I even respected him during most of our divorce proceedings. He didn’t need to lie, because he was sometimes brutally honest, like a small child that doesn’t realize telling someone that they’re ugly is hurtful. It’s just a fact.
So, reading up on narcissism lately – is there a college course for this? I’d like to at least earn credits or something – while I’ve been nodding along to all of the other traits, I’ve skimmed by the “lying” trait, because that’s just not who he is. He doesn’t lie.
At least that’s what I thought.
Then something tickled the back of my brain. Something very recent, that made me wonder, but I pushed it out of my mind earlier. We had to agree to make a shared “family calendar” to add to for everyone to see and use. The idea being that the kids would know when he would be in town, so as not to make plans without checking with him first, and we could both communicate our plans without having to actually speak to each other. It would keep us accountable for our parenting time, too.
It’s a tool to manage our split family. We all have iPhones, so iCalendar made sense.
If you’ve ever used a shared calendar, you’ll know that once you put something on it, it pops up for everyone in the group to let them know that a new “event” has been added. And it shows up on everyone’s calendar, in whatever color they choose. My oldest son has used it for dumb things, like when he’ll be thinking about his car or eating or sleeping, just to be funny. But it showed up on all of our calendars each time.
This weekend was one of the weekends that we (the two younger sons and possibly me) were scheduled to go camping with our scout troop, so I added it to the family calendar. But I didn’t stop there, no I added every campout weekend for the rest of the year through August to the family calendar, including summer camp dates.
I did this in November, before we were even officially divorced. I’m a rule follower.
I then added to it as things came up, one being my youngest’s cello recital two weekends ago. This one I added only two weeks in advance, because between the teacher being a scatter brain and the details of things slipping by me, I just didn’t get it on there any sooner. I added it to the family calendar, but never mentioned it to my ex otherwise.
The day of the recital came, and as we walked into the building, my youngest turned to me and said, “Dad just texted me to wish me luck on my cello recital.” He smiled. I smiled and said “that’s great”.
Only two weeks later, on a Thursday morning, my ex is texting our youngest about making plans for this Sunday. I remind my son that we have a campout this weekend, remember? We get back around noon on Sunday and then go to Grandpa’s birthday party at 3pm.
He texts back this information, and tells me that my ex said he didn’t know about the camping or the birthday party, but I began thinking “what is the point of a family calendar if he never looks at it?”
I have added multiple things to the family calendar. So, I checked my calendar again to make sure that they were all on there, and they were. My dad’s birthday party was not added to the calendar because, according to our agreement, my ex would see the boys every other weekend and he had just been in the previous weekend and didn’t bother to make any real plans with them (with the exception of trying to force them into meeting his new live-in girlfriend, but that’s another post) so it was a non issue in my mind.
Later in the day, we had our typical heated email exchange, and in his ranting about my being uncooperative, he claimed that he didn’t know anything about a camping trip this weekend. I replied that it had been on the calendar since November and maybe he should learn how to use his calendar, or check his settings.
Then this morning, when I awoke…light bulb.
He didn’t know about the campout, but he knew about the cello recital enough to wish our son luck, minutes before the concert began?
He had also added an event to the shared calendar over the summer, once. A comedy show, that he didn’t intend to take the boys to of course, he just wanted to let us know that he “wasn’t available that night”. So, he knows how to use it.
But the basic idea still stands out, he knows how to use the family calendar and sees events to know about the cello recital, but not about a weekend campout? His text to my son made it look as if I was keeping secrets from his dad. I was getting in the way of his dad being present, being around. I was the spiteful jerk, or the lazy ass. The bitch.
Now, I am not “that mother” who sneaks into her kids’ phones to see what they are doing or who they are texting, but this one bothered me for some reason. When I got a moment, I checked my son’s texts from with his dad, and it irritated me. His texts were dripping with sweetness, and disappointment. He added that he wasn’t aware of the camping trip.
But he had to have been. He knew about the cello concert, and only from the calendar.
It was a “Scooby Doo” moment for me. And I was one of the meddling kids.
Then it all came rushing back to me, so many hanging questions over the last twenty years. So many times that I had “that feeling” or felt like I was losing my mind because I thought he said one thing, but he insisted that he said another. He insisted that his relationship only started before the summer, but did it? Was she in the picture since that holiday party three years ago?
And it’s not just about the divorce and the sickening details around it. It’s so much more, everything that I thought to be true, and now I wasn’t so sure.
Had he cheated on me before? How many times, and with who and when? One time I found a nail polish bottle of clear coat in our suitcase while on a weekend away with him, and knew it wasn’t mine, but he convinced me that it was and I just forgot it in there from the last time we traveled. The late nights working, the convention trips in fun places that he never invited me to, and the many times he full on ignored me at company functions while he hung with the very young, female managers.
He would also leave his phone at home while he “ran errands” on the weekends.
And the time that I had that ugly gut feeling watching him talk to a “retiring” female partner (who was rumored to have slept her way to that position, and now felt that she needed to retire, possibly to save her marriage) He was part of a group of men surrounding her like a pack of horny dogs, hanging on her every word, and it seemed odd. He seemed enthralled with her, almost too familiar, and that was my impression from across the room.
Was I that naive and that trusting? That stupid?
He lied about never making me move, about the details of taking that new position in California, that we wouldn’t have to move if I wasn’t ready. He lied about having me keep the house for the kids to grow up in once we agreed to divorce. He lied about having someone waiting in the wings, when I asked him point blank, that ugly night of truth. I could suddenly see the last twenty years in flashes of moments that I had questioned.
And with this knowledge, something came over me. The light bulb switched on and I could see him for who he truly is, and realize that it was never about me or because of me. And it gave me some sense of peace, some sense of acceptance, that I can’t quite explain. I trusted him for half of my life. I believed him, respected him, and I thought I knew him.
But, he lied.