A few years ago, I wrote about a former “friend” of mine that started to show me red flags. He later killed his wife and then himself. When it happened, I was stunned that he’d gone so far, but at the same time, I wasn’t totally surprised because I had started to see through him months before.
Today for some reason, I started thinking about the first time this man confided in me about his wife leaving him. He was really more of an acquaintance than a friend, and from what I knew of him, he was a nice, easy-going guy who was well-liked within our social circle.
One night after I’d left my narcopath ex and the smear campaign had started, this man sent me an email about his wife. She was a much younger, pretty woman and he said she was cheating on him and breaking up their marriage. I had no reason not to believe him. I told him I was sorry to hear it, and we chatted while I tried to be supportive. I wondered why he was telling me this personal information about his marriage and its break up, but then I was flattered that he trusted me as someone to talk to. That made me feel good. He must have thought I was a good listener who could keep secrets, and I felt like that was a compliment to my character.
Looking back, I know better. It was weird! There was no reason for an acquaintance to randomly tell me about his marriage problems. That was a big lack of boundaries. He wasn’t confiding in me because he thought I was a good listener. He was smearing his wife to me to get people on his side. And he wasn’t sharing with me because I was good at keeping secrets. He was telling me because he wanted to destroy her reputation with anyone who would listen. He was a fairly outgoing and popular guy, so he probably did the same with dozens of people or more…telling them his sob story about his sociopathic wife who used him and was going to divorce him for another man. And who wouldn’t feel bad for a nice guy with a cheating wife?
This incident gave me insight into how sociopaths fool people into thinking the abuser is the victim. He contacted me first with a sob story–a story that seemed believable, and a story that would sound awful to any normal person. I imagine the fact that I was dealing with my own abuser led him to believe I’d be more likely to be empathetic on angry on his behalf. He also knew that the person who tells their story first, and tells it to more people “wins” in a battle between an abuser and a target. He got a head start.
As I mentioned, I started to catch on. I noticed his stories and claims of how badly his wife was using him didn’t match up with his behaviors. I also noticed that he was putting on a huge show on social media by buying his kids expensive items and showing off with tons of pictures. It was quite obviously what I call a public image campaign. He was also trying to buy his children’s love and bribe them into testifying that they wanted to live with him. I was going through enough with my own sociopath ex that I recognized something off about this man’s behavior, but most of our acquaintances felt terrible for him and never questioned the fact that things were not matching up.
Even when he murdered his wife then himself right around Christmas, our acquaintances insisted it was the wife’s fault. They believed, (because the man told them,) that she had destroyed him and pushed him to it. It’s amazing how clueless people choose to be once they’ve initially been fooled by a sociopath.