Christian women are often surprised when, as their attorney or coach, I tell them that their abusive, Narcissistic, “Christian” husband has another woman on the side. A quick look through his laptop computer typically confirms this. We should not be so surprised. A Narcissist, Sociopath, Psychopath or other domestic abuser is simply acting in line with his character.
You see, Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths and other abusers (what I call “NSPs” for short), have similar characteristics. So similar, in fact, that women in support groups often comment that their own husbands do or say the exact same things as what other women are describing that their husbands do. Once you know what you are dealing with, NSPs are quite predictable.
In addition to, among other things, lacking empathy, lacking a conscience or remorse, the inability to accept responsibility for their own actions (i.e. blaming others), deceit and manipulation, raging, and a sense of entitlement and grandiosity, NSPs are users. They exploit people for their own selfish gratification, whether that person is an employee, a friend, a wife, or a girlfriend. Sexual promiscuity – that is, superficial relations, numerous affairs, coercing or forcing others into sexual activity, and bragging about sexual exploits and conquests – is actually one of the Hare diagnostic features for sociopaths and psychopaths. While a man filled with the Holy Spirit will view his wife as a treasured gift and love-making as a time of giving and sharing, an NSP simply sees women as a means to an end and sex as a time of taking what he wants, when he wants, how he wants.
When we feel hungry and need to eat, we might like to go to our favorite local restaurant for a juicy steak. However, if that restaurant is closed or we are out of town, we are still hungry and, to satisfy that hunger, nearly anything will do. We don’t feel remorseful or guilty or a sense of betrayal about going to McDonald’s or Chipotle instead of our favorite restaurant. We’re just hungry. An abuser views sex in much the same way. He’s hungry and if his favorite gal is unavailable or he is out of town, he is still hungry for sex and nearly anything will do. Because he lacks the deep emotional and spiritual attachment to his spouse that healthy couples have, and because he does not view sex as a God-designed way to make spouses feel loved and cherished, he feels no sense of remorse or guilt for getting his needs met elsewhere. But, due to social norms which still value monogamy and view infidelity as grounds for divorce, he will usually try to keep his sexual escapades hidden (although some abusers just can’t help but boast about themselves).
“Love” is a word an NSP uses to entice a woman whom the NSP views as useful to him. The word “love” is used to get an emotional (and financial) “hook” into her, so that she will enter into a relationship and possibly a marriage with the abuser. He may view her as someone who can be good-looking arm candy, assist in his career, take care of his house and his kids while he’s busy making his fortune, provide financial means to him, give him prestige, or any number of things that he can exploit to meet his goals. Each relationship with an abuser has the same cycle of stages: 1. The love-bombing stage (the dating stage when he overwhelms her with effusive amounts of affection to set the hook); 2. The devaluation stage (after the hook is set – typically when they get married or buy a house together so that she is now emotionally and financially entangled – he begins the devaluation and abuse process); 3. The discard stage (after she has finally had enough abuse and can see the abuser for what he is – and therefore he has no further use for her – he will discard her with the same care and concern as disposing of yesterday’s newspaper). The NSP repeats this cycle with each primary relationship (and often with multiple “secondary” relationships simultaneously).
The NSP will have a woman “waiting in the wings” with whom he has already embarked on a new cycle of love-bombing while he is finishing up a cycle of devaluation or discard with the previous one. In other words, most women who have married an abuser unwittingly start as “the other woman.” Many Christian women find to their surprise, sometimes years later, that they were actually the “other woman” while their husband was married to another. This discovery is often made during the throes of a divorce, when she has separated from the toxicity and has done some digging for the truth, and things that were unexplainable before start fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle. This fraud often goes undetected for years due to yet another trait of abusers – pathological lying – in which an abuser tells his unsuspecting girlfriend that he is single or divorced, his wife left him for no reason, his wife had mental issues, his wife had an affair, all his exes are crazy, etc., etc., when, in fact, he is very much married to a lovely woman very much like her.
I discovered the “other woman” after I had separated from my NSP husband. I had left with only an overnight bag and gone into hiding because, to show me he was in control, he stalked and raped me every day twice a day for two months when I had written him a lengthy letter outlining his abuses and asking him to get counseling. In an effort to get me to return to the abusive marriage, he had cried crocodile tears, told me I was the most important person in his life, made a non-apology apology (i.e. “mistakes were made”), and even used the “L” word once or twice. But his actions and his slander campaign (claiming that I had abandoned him because of an affair and that I had a mental illness) did not reveal a broken and contrite heart that had repented. When I did not return home, his apologies quickly turned to vindictiveness, blame, and escalated verbal and physical abuse – which revealed his true nature. The night I met the other woman, I had stopped by our home to switch cars before going to our youngest son’s wrestling match. I found my husband and my replacement making out in front of the roaring fireplace on our couch in our family room drinking white wine from our glasses. (I knew he was interested in her because he would only drink red wine.) She was quite attractive and well-dressed, with the look of a well-to-do NorthShore real estate agent driving a BMW, which was parked in our driveway. A nauseous feeling came over me that I cannot describe. How could he be so lovey-dovey to her, when he could not say a single nice thing to the mother of his children and wife of 21 years? It was awkward, so Tom got up off the couch and walked over, introduced Diane to me with a big smile, and gushed about how wonderful she was to have gone to the pharmacy to get him some medications because he wasn’t feeling well. I couldn’t even get a thank you for all I had done for him, but now he was bragging to his wife about his obviously long-time girlfriend. I felt I was in a soap opera.
A few weeks later, I had lunch with Pam, his wife #1, to get a reality check. Was it me, or had he always been abusive? When we had first started dating, Tom had told me that he had been separated from his wife for nine months, and later he told me he had filed for divorce because she had essentially abandoned him and refused to go on trips or social events with him. He had at one point admitted to me that he had had a number of affairs over the years when married to his first wife, his latest being “Julie in accounting,” but I had naively assumed that, since he started going to church with me and he professed to be a Christian, those days were behind him.
Pam was a lovely woman and had been gracious to me as wife #2. She had offered to go to lunch, so I took her up on it. When Pam and I compared notes, we discovered that our mutual husband had not changed much in his 42 collective years of marriage, including his pathological lying. She shared that she had never refused to go anywhere with him, and his claims of abandonment were hogwash. And I shared that I had recently discovered that in 1990 he had purchased the home he now lives in while he was married to her, but had carefully hid it in a land trust and got a personal loan from Bill, a wealthy friend, to keep it hidden from their multi-million dollar divorce. But the bombshell came when Pam informed me that, in fact, she, not Tom, had filed for divorce because of his infidelity. Not for the affairs with the women that he had kept carefully hidden over the years, but with me! I had been the other woman! The reality sunk in that I had believed his lies for 25 years. How foolish and naïve I had been. I could do nothing but apologize profusely and thank the Lord that I was escaping from some Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath combination who has never cared about any of his wives, including the one that would come after me.
The pieces of the puzzle started coming together. Tom was repeating a page out of the Abuser’s Playbook that he, and all abusers, know so well: 1. Abuse the wife so she can’t leave, 2. If you miscalculate and she leaves, then start a slander campaign, 3. Play the victim, 4. Claim your wife abandoned you, 5. Claim you divorced your wife for her abandonment, 6. Falsely accuse her of infidelity, mental illness, and abuse to keep others from knowing about your own infidelities, narcissism/sociopathy/psychopathy, and atrocities (a useful tactic known as projection), 7. Go to church to appear respectable and where naïve folks will believe you, support you, and give you grace instead of accountability, and 8. Turn the unsuspicious other woman into your next wife before she figures all this out.
A woman in a marriage with an abuser often feels replaceable, expendable, and disposable because . . . well, because to an abuser, she is. She has been told that by his words and deeds over and over again. And when she has been defrauded by her own husband, the one she should be able to trust, to discover that she was the other woman or has been replaced by the other woman, she often feels guilty and foolish and dirty.
Daughter of the Heavenly Father, Princess of the King of Kings, Beloved of the Lord of Lords, you are not replaceable, expendable, or disposable. You are not guilty, foolish or dirty. Reject those lies that are straight from the mouth of the Enemy, the Father of Lies. Replace them with God’s Truth: you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you were planned by Papa God before the beginning of the world, you were designed in the workshop of heaven to be like no one else, there is no one like you on the planet. God loves you, He delights in you, He sings songs over you, He is with you, He is for you, He upholds you with his strong right hand, He will fight your battle for you, He will rescue you, and He has amazing plans for you. And He designed you to be in healthy, loving, life-giving relationships with those who love Him and cherish you, not with an abuser who can do neither.