Character Assassination

I didn’t like reading how many of you relate to being gaslighted. It’s one of those areas that I know for me is still tender. There is much un-probed because it hurts too much to counter often-good memories with the knowledge of the duplicity and lies. And I finally realized that the daunting task of separating the strands of truth from the pot of lies is pointless. Even though I now know otherwise, I have chosen to find comfort in the fact that it was real enough to me at the time and that’s all that matters.

But that only works with the personal gaslighting, the stories told to me to keep me placid and distracted.

It doesn’t work with the external assault. The character assassination that carried nefarious seeds far and wide. That requires a different approach.

 

For much of our time in Atlanta, my then-husband and I were estranged from his parents by his choice. Over the years, we had many families “adopt” us for holidays and get-togethers, but one always stood out. The husband-wife owners of my husband’s company welcomed us into their family. We were at Christmas and birthdays. We knew the kids and the grandkids. We knew them as friends as well as employers. I loved the time with them and always appreciated the inclusion.

A few months before he left, my then-husband took a job with another company. It made the relationship with the family a little strange but we still kept in touch.

In the immediate aftermath of his abandonment, I did not think of them. Until a few days in when I found a note from the wife on my mailbox with instructions to call.

I picked up the phone expecting to hear shock and horror – the emotions expressed by everyone else I knew when they tried to digest the news. Instead, I got a more distant and guarded message. Condolences mixed with a dash of “well, what did you expect?”

I was shocked. Almost speechless. I asked what she meant. And heard about stories that my then-husband told at work. Tales of my cheating exploits, complete with a vivid story of walking in on me in his office with a man. Claims of staying late at work to avoid me and my wrath. He painted a picture of a horrible wife, a victimized husband and a marriage in peril.

This from the man that kissed me tenderly every night.

This from the man who knew where I was at all times because I was rarely anywhere but work, school or home.

This from the man that couldn’t keep his hands off me and bemoaned when work kept him away.

For years, I thought this family was my family.

But they never even knew me.

Because my monthly or so visits could never compete with his daily fictions.

I was too confused and surprised on the phone that day to try to defend myself. I simply hung up after muttering something in response to her request to keep her in the loop and ask for help if I needed it.

I never did call her back.

And I never will.

 

There are so many tears that come from this. I’m horrified that he was intentionally darkening my character for years. It’s hard not to wonder for how long. I’m embarrassed that people thought I was unfaithful and shrewish. And I’m sad that I lost these friends and others, as I chose to simply cut off those he had access to rather than to try to vindicate myself against his stories. Although I was tempted to send them a copy of his mugshot:)

He was telling them stories to cover his tracks. He was creating a fiction in his mind to defend his actions, both past and future. Perhaps he was desperate to see himself as the good guy so that he could temper any guilt. I’ll never know.

Much like I chose to walk away and cut my losses from the financial deception, I made the decision to leave those friendships behind. Some damage is too great to repair.

 

So, what’s the lesson in all this?

I know I first started to trust Brock when he actually encouraged me to have time around his friends without him there. It made me realize how my ex carefully negotiated my encounters with his friends.

I know I’ve had to let go of the concern of what people may believe about me and focus on what I know about me.

I know that realizing how my ex lived one way with me and another with others helped me realize that he was not the man I loved.

And I know that I’ve made many, many new friends who know me. The real me.

And that in the end, the only character he assassinated was his own.

 

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39 thoughts on “Character Assassination

  1. Your last post on gas lighting was a good one for me Lisa. I needed to read that this week, and this again hits home. There are fewer and fewer people now who remain convinced by him now (as he has left a trail of behind him all on his own), but the ones that do remain convinced and become entangled are the ones that deeply hurt. Not even something I can write about just yet. Thanks for continuing to write these posts. It seems I do need to return to them from time to time. Gaslighting is the absolute worst thing someone can do to your psyche.

    1. Gaslighting is the worst…..to realize that someone you trusted and loved could have ever done these things is the hardest thing to wrap your head around. Big Hugs to you! I often wonder what horrible tales my husband spun about me. The thought is overwhelming.

    2. It sure is. And you’re right about the trail. It now explains why my ex moved on from people – they had to be discarded when they learned too much or risked crossing into another of his stories.

      1. Yes. That moving on and that’s a good way to summarize it “when they learned too much or risked crossing into another of his stories”. And well, I tell you, I very much appreciate that you and others continue to write about this. Coming out of the ‘fog’ is one thing, but continuing to have the clarity and ability to speak about it (especially with impending legal action and possibly having to do self representation for myself…unbelievable…) is quite another.

  2. I had this too. Character assassination. I began to question whether I was going insane. Was I really like that? Did that really happen? I do agree that it is the worst torture because it makes a mockery of the whole marriage. You cannot hang on to anything as real. I realize now that he had developed this distorted image in his head. He still carries that to this day. I have just had to keep on keeping on the way I want to live my life in the manner I believe is respectful to others and ignore whatever it is he says about me.

    1. And that’s all you can do. I actually giggle now to think of what (if anything?) he tells people about his ex wife. I can be pretty sure he doesn’t give them my name or blog site, though:)

  3. What you’ve been through is unimaginable to most people. Its not things anyone should have to endure, and I’m sorry you did. I’m grateful for you that you’ve come through it stronger, eyes wide open and better now because of it, despite the pains nd torture of it all. Thank you for sharing your story and being an inspiration to so many.

  4. Lisa, it is so typical of a narcissist/psychopath to slander their victim just prior to discarding them. The cycle always goes as so:
    He meets the new victim, he loves her like she has never been loved before in her life, she can not believe her good fortune to have met such a loving, romantic sensitive kind man. he is everything and more than she ever wanted in a partner. If he doesn’t win her over right away he will work at it an amazing amount of time until she finally relents because how can she pass up a man who loves her exactly the way she is and treats her so well?
    Once he has her firmly hooked which can be symbolized by moving in together, marriage or the birth of a child; he starts to devalue the victim. All of a sudden the victim feels like they can do nothing quite right for the N. They excuse his behavior as him having a bad day, I actually feared he had a brain tumor or something because he was acting so out of character. Just when I would think I had enough he would be his old loving self again. We could be out in public and we would have a great time, get home and he was withdrawn and sullen. This went on for years. We broke up and got back together because he would beg my forgiveness, promise to go to counseling, even told me he had been given 6 months to live..
    he always bragged about me to everyone he worked with, by all outward appearances he was madly in love with me so no one believed me if i told them he acted like he hated me so I thought I must be crazy like he said I was.
    Once he ad drained me of all my resources and destroyed my business the discard started and he started complaining bitterly to anyone who would listen about how unloving I was, how he worked his ass off and I was sitting at home eating bonbons, doing drugs and drinking, demanding he bring home more Tim Hoton donuts and drugs. BTW they usually accuse the victim of exactly what they themselves are doing. If he says the victim is cheating it is him who is unfaithful.
    He must always be the victim, the good guy, and he sets the stage to be the poor soul who was taken advantage of. Plus he must discredit the victim so no one will believe her when she find out the truth. He MUST get all the friends and sympathy. He wants her broken and devastated when he leaves and then he can say, “See she is nothing without me.” He has already told everyone you are a lying, cheating psycho bitch so when you start to tell people how he used and abused you everyone thinks it is sour grapes; after all why would he lie?
    Mission accomplished! He leaves with everything you once had including your friends and family if he can manage it.
    They are soul sucking bottom feeders who leave a trail of destruction behind them. They estimate they make up 4% of the population but I think that is a low estimate because many victims never speak out about what happened to them and go off in a corner to quietly lick their wounds so absolutely devastated by him.
    They are predators, pure evil and they are born without a conscience, no capacity for guilt or empathy. They go after what they want without a 2nd thought for the damage they do. In fact they get off on the pain they cause. To them the devastation they cause is proof of their power.

    1. That pattern sounds horrible. Glad you’re out.

      I don’t use the terms narcissist, psychopath or sociopath to describe my ex. I tested each one and none seemed to completely fit. In this case, he began the character assassination years (5? 6? more?) before he met his other wife, just 3 months before he left. He was never cruel to me or withdrawn. He was always present and loving and attentive. My best guess is that a combination of desperation (due to finances) and addiction (that I only discovered after) created sociopath-like behaviors. But who knows.

      Regardless of the label, this kind of stuff thrives in secrecy and keeps people victimized in shame. I share so that others know they aren’t alone and to help bring some light to the conversation.

    2. You said it. I think the 4% is a low figure because this behavior is common and there are few social supports to counteract it. Predators target their victims based on an excellent chance of success. By the time the victim recognizes the degree of damage, their social supports have been removed. Few cherish this unfortunate soul either, as they are generally blamed for being naive, ignorant in, denial, a nuisance and more. Further, they face rebuke for “not moving on.” Because their lives have been destroyed and they don’t understand what happened, they are emotional disasters and thus a burden. The game of life is played with social currency, everyone keeping careful account of their worth and standing. The predator steals from trusting souls because they’re easy targets. Predators have no social merit or means of attaining any, so they must steal merit and goodwill by accusing trusting souls of mistreating them. This feeds the addict within.

  5. I can relate to this a little. Towards the end my ex turned on me over aspects of my character. He was suddenly appalled (loudly and aggressively) that I’d had a breast reduction eleven years previously. He was suddenly nervous about me spending time with his niece (who loved me) because I was a bad role model (apparently being financially self-sufficient with a great job and lots of friends and being kind and generous and nice means nothing if you like the colour pink. Pink is evil and anti-feminist). I know this is nothing like the scale or impact of what you are describing. But when I told my therapist about it, she said this was his way of painting me as the bad guy. He couldn’t actually find anything to criticise, so he just turned on me. It made life easier for him. It seems like your ex-husband painted an entire world of his own with you cast as the bad guy. But his painting was just that: a mirage.

  6. I can completely relate to this. When me and my ex broke up it was amicable until we saw each other again. He was definitely the bad guy in the situation and because he saw our mutual friends a lot more than me I’ve just had to completely cut them out of my life, this post has definitely made me see that it was the right decision for me. I know exactly what he would say to them (he already told me on fb messages) and I don’t feel the need to constantly defend myself against his lies. I’m happy to say after 4 years I’m now in a great relationship and have completely moved on, with absolutely no contact and no mind games 😉

    Great post.

  7. During my divorce I had a discussion with one of my husbands Uncles. After 17 years together, I heard the stories he told and though I was hurt finally my reaction was to burst out laughing. Then I told the truth, given the very ‘Christian’ bent to this family I used their religion and logic to point out the idiocy of what they believed about me. Then told his uncle I simply did not care, believe what he wanted I knew the truth and the rest was simply not important.

    Did it hurt? Yes, but the truth was it had hurt for years I just didn’t realize it. Your last post was important. This one is also. Thank you for both of them.

  8. I am sorry to hear you have been subjected to this awful form of abuse. When i was still in contact with my narcissistic mother she would routinely gaslight. The degree would vary from twisting an event to completely denying it ever took place. I have also caught her gaslighting about unimportant things, like the place of an object in my room. She always snooped through my things and didn’t bother putting them back to their initial place, so when i would ask her if she had entered my room she would claim that she never touched anything and i am ”in immediate need to contact the therapist”. The only one i should have contacted immediately was the police! They can really make you question your sanity! No contact all the way!

    1. They sure do. My ex admitted in a text to my mom after the suicide attempt that he “started to believe his own BS.” Truth twisting had become so commonplace that he lost touch with his own reality. Scary stuff.

  9. I know my ex probably spread tons of lies about me after I broke all ties with him… He needs to be the martyr, the good guy. The thing is, I’ve burned all my bridges. It’s the only way for me to move on, so I’ll never know. It’s probably for the best.

  10. This is so scary to me…the ability and desire to deceive especially on this level. I am so thankful I am not one of them and reminded that self-evaluation and evaluation of those in our lives is critical…

  11. I am glad that you were able to gain some insight. Most people never find out what the asassinators were saying behind their backs. I had a similar situation, but it was at church. I only had a feeling until one day, about a year later, so one told me some of the things he had been saying about me.

  12. So much of what you have written about brings back memories. The lies and deception are just amazing. My ex finally admitted to me once that he could deceive anyone because he knew just what they wanted to hear and no counselor could catch him because he was smarter than the counselor..

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