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Can't work out how I feel about my bizarre relationship (long, sorry)(141 Posts)
Have changed my name for this post. I don't really know where to start with this, and I fear it could turn out to be far too long, so will try to keep it as concise as possible (which isn't very). Apologies in advance if I leave out too many details.
Me and DP have been together since 2005. We have DD and DS, aged 4 and nearly 3. I fell head over heels for DP very shortly after meeting him: it really seemed we were soul mates, and I was sincerely convinced for many years that it was very, very rare for a couple to love each other as much as we loved each other.
Shortly after meeting DP, I received an email from someone I didn't know, warning me that DP was a liar and that I should check everything. It was a strange email in that there was info in there that could only have come from someone who had been spying on our instant messenger conversations and emails. To cut a long story short, it turned out to be from DP's ex-girlfriend, who somehow had gained access to his emails etc. She had used a fake name to send me the email. All in all, she hadn't given me any reason to believe she was a reliable source of information, and I dismissed her (after an angsty conversation with DP).
Over the next 6.5 years, I could never shake the sense that DP was lying to me - about everything. This seemed so implausible to me at the time - after all, who (outside of a soap opera) would lie about everything? - that I dismissed it, and attributed this feeling to the fact that DP's ex had written me that strange email near the start of our relationship. We went on to live together, to get engaged, and to have DD and DS.
To cut a very long story short(ish), it turned out that he was indeed lying to me about literally everything. The most shocking lie was pretending to be terminally ill for several years starting from around the time DD was conceived in early 2009 - even going as far to get a scar tattooed on. Aside from that, he would lie about our finances (I no longer had a bank account (because he saw to it, I later realised) and he pretended he was wealthy when in fact we were on benefits), his intentions to marry me (he 'made' literally hundreds of appointments for us to have a no-frills reg office wedding, all of which were cancelled due to unforeseen aspects of his 'treatment' - it later emerged that he was still married to his ex wife), and he borrowed £1000s from my family despite having no way of repaying them.
Throughout all this, I suspected him constantly, but dismissed my suspicions for various reasons. Partly it was because the lies simply didn't make sense: I was working on the assumption that if someone lies to you, it's because they stand to gain something by doing so, and as far as I could see, he stood to gain nothing (quite the reverse in many cases). Partly it was because, as mentioned above, I was afraid that I was being unduly influenced by his ex's email. And partly because, when you think the love of your life is dying, you are afraid that your mind is playing tricks on you: of course you would prefer to believe that they have made up their illness, because that would be preferable to them dying, so that is a reason to dismiss your suspicion that they aren't really ill.
So, fast forward to mid-2012. DD is 2.5 and DS is nearly a year old. For nearly 2 years, we have been living rent-free (or, rather, on DP's constant promise of paying rent) in a totally unsuitable and frankly dangerous-for-kids annex of the home of some lovely relatives of mine. I had not gone back to work after DD was born, and spent my days at home, in the middle of nowhere, with no car, no bank account, 2 small kids to look after, while DP goes out every single day for hospital treatment. All I would do with my life, every day, is feed the kids and take them out for walks. Almost every day I am expecting that we are going to have our no-frills wedding, and every time I hope that this time it will go ahead, but DP calls with some reason why it has had to be cancelled. And almost every day I am expecting that today, finally, after a zillion hiccups, our joint bank account will finally be sorted out and we can get access to DP's massive savings and repay my relatives the money we owe them - but this never happens (N.B. I am not mercenary, I didn't care about living the high life, I just wanted a normal life and not to be in debt to my relatives). Writing all this is making my chest constrict, and maybe you can imagine the enormous stress I was under. It was really difficult to cope with all this, but 'knowing' that DP had a far more difficult battle to fight (i.e. his illness) made me feel guilty for worrying about my own troubles.
Anyway, in mid-2012, DP's excuses and stories started to build up to the extent that they become really quite implausible, and DP himself was starting to behave more erratically, presumably with the stress of keeping all the lies going. Even so, it was only after a long conversation with one of my relatives that I started to confront the possibility that DP was lying about his illness. (An aside: by this point, everyone else in my family had worked out he was lying, but they never said anything about it to me. Either they felt awkward about it or they thought I had access to more information to support my belief in him. But the fact that they all seemed to believe him itself made me think he must be telling the truth, and made me feel guilty for doubting him.) I spoke to DP on the phone - he'd gone to the hospital (or rather pretended to) as usual - and I gently asked him if he was really ill, and that maybe the problem was psychological rather than physical. Immediately he admitted it, if 'admitted' is the right term (given that, as I'll explain, he had trouble distinguishing lies from reality) - he said something like, 'yes, maybe you're right'.
From here, it's quite difficult to explain. It has turned out not to be a case of him consciously and maliciously deciding to lie. He genuinely seemed to have come to believe his own lies. I went to the GP with him and he was referred for a mental health assessment, and diagnosed with dissociative disorder, depression, and anxiety. He had large gaps in his memory and seemed not very capable of distinguishing reality from the fantasy he had invented. Over the months and years since (yes, we are still together), it has turned out that some very awful things have happened to him, and that he has been lying about things since childhood as a way to make himself feel better about himself and more important than he believes he is (he basically believes he is worthless). I think that he has been lying so long that lying comes as naturally to him as telling the truth does to the rest of us, and so it is very difficult for him to stop: much of the time, the decision to lie isn't a conscious choice.
He genuinely struggles wiith this and tries his best to get better. He has taken all the help he has been offered in terms of counselling - which isn't very much, and in my non-professional opinion he hasn't been offered the right sort of thing (basically he sees a counsellor and talks about his past, whereas I think he should be having something like CBT that would focus on getting him to stop lying, which is the root of all our problems). When I realised that we were penniless and on benefits, I saw that I would need to go back to work. I am very highly qualified but work in an extremely competitive industry where jobs are hard to come by. We lived in a shitty council flat, on benefits, for a year while I worked every spare waking minute at trying to get back to work, and eventually I did get a job. Last autumn we moved out of the shitty council estate and into a privately rented house in a nicer area.
My family, understandably, want little to do with DP after all this came out. However, whereas people tended to assume that he'd just leave after he'd been rumbled, he has not. While I've been working, he has tirelessly been a full-time dad. He is a wonderful father: far more patient than me, he adores our children and fills their days with fun things: they have planted flowers in the garden together, learned to ride bikes, etc, and he is involved with their pre-school as a committee member. At the same time he keeps our home in order, does all our grocery shopping, cleans and does the washing, etc. His only 'me time' without the kids are a night in the pub once a week with some friends who know nothing about his strange history (he doesn't get drunk, and doesn't drink much in general), and playing sport once a week during the summer. I am not trying to paint a romantic picture of him here - what I am trying to do is make the point that, whilst the lying etc might make it easy to view him as a villain, he has done his utmost to do the right thing since the problem has been identified.
The problem, though, is that he does still lie sometimes. I can't trust him not to. Sometimes he will admit it out of the blue, without me having pressured him to tell the truth, and he will be full of remorse. But sometimes when he lies, I know he is lying, but he won't admit it - and maybe can't admit it. He is not getting the right sort of mental health help to stop this, and we can't afford private treatment at the moment. And I'm left feeling that I'm dealing with it alone ... I don't really discuss it with people, and about a year ago he admitted it to his mum (which was a big deal because his mum has been through hell for various reasons recently, so he'd put off telling her). I was so pleased when he told his mum because I thought I'd have someone to talk to about it, but it hasn't worked out like that. His mum said she just needed time to digest it, then she and I would have a proper talk. But it's never happened. In the year since she found out, she's visited various family members who needed her help with various things, but she still hasn't tried to get to grips with what DP has been doing. And whilst I konw it must be upsetting for her, it also makes me see that maybe this is why DP is the way he is - he certainly doesn't seem high up her list of priorities. I feel like I've just been left holding the baby, so to speak: I'm dealing with it alone.
I never tell anyone about this. When the lies came to light, I had various friends who believed that DP was seriously ill, so I did tell them the truth in order to put them right. I rarely see them and they don't ask me about DP, perhaps understandably (what would they say?!). Everyone else - e.g. people I work with - just thinks we are a normal couple. I feel a bit like I lead a double life.
And now, I don't know whether I want this any more. I'm so tired of it all. I will always love DP, and I think he is a wonderful father, but the head-over-heels aspect of my feelings for him have gone, and I don't know if they'll come back. It's like the person I loved never existed, and whilst in the early days I was desperate to get that person back, I've sort of given up now. I know he still lies, and I really don't want it to be my problem any more - I don't want to live like this, with the stress of not being able to trust him. But, at the same time, I sort of can't imagine life without him. The children adore him. I care deeply for him and want to help him get better - I think he deserves to get better, he certainly struggles so hard with everything. I don't know what I want.
Complicating my feelings is the thought that, even if I did want out, I don't know how to get out. We live in a very expensive part of the country, and if we broke up we would have to pay for 2 households on my salary. I'm nearly 40, and hoping to buy a house in a year, otherwise I'll be too old to get a mortgage. DP could work, but we'd have to pay for childcare in that case, so wouldn't necessarily be better off. DP has occasionally said that we're not a normal couple and that if I want he will move out and find somewhere alone (presumably a crappy council bedsit), but still come over every day and look after the children. This itself breaks my heart ... his self-esteem is so low that it wouldn't even enter his head to fight for the children to live with him. He believes he deserves so little.
I have sort of lost track of what I was even wanting to ask with this post. I guess I just want to tell someone my story so that maybe, in the discussion that follows (if anyone has read this far!) I might get some clarity to my feelings.
Why would you be paying for two households if you split ?
Firstly, you are not the first intelligent woman to have been massively imposed upon and lied to.
There was a story in the press a few years ago about some quite high-flying women who had been in thrall to a con-man who had told them that he was a spy or similar. They had been unable to get away from him and had given him thousands of pounds. I would scarcely have believed the story were it not for the fact that DH had come across one of the women at a work event in the City.
In my own, fairly ordinary, life I have come across two people who have lied to a pathological degree. I caught one of them out, by sheer chance, in an absolutely enormous lie (about whether or not someone had died)and it was the end of our friendship.
Maybe you have to forgive yourself for having believed it on some level?
It is not your job to cure him.
Why would you have to pay for two houses if you split? Once you split, your salary is yours to pay for your own house, and DP pays for his own living situation.
Ok. He had a scar tattooed onto himself to fool you.
This man has serious mental health issues. And if I were you I'd kick yourself for a day or two then make plans to get your life back again.
Off the top of your head, at this moment, how do you feel about everything that's happened?
That's difficult Op.
You say he got a diagnosis of 'dissociative disorder' -was that a clinical diagnosis from a psychiatrist?
Did you witness that personally?
If his lies are as a result of a serious mental illness stemming from an abusive childhood, he needs serious (and I mean SERIOUS) therapy, which is would be better to take place away from you and your children. He sounds extremely unwell. You cant fix him and you cannot pretend that this wont affect your children.
I have two cousins with a pathological liar for a father. He was a 'great dad'. They are in their late teens now and severely damaged by growing up with him. One is a fantasist herself, the other is depressive and self harms. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that growing up with a parent who could not distinguish reality from fantasy did this to them. They had no stable core, living with a father who told absolute whoppers (he also pulled the 'terminal illness' lie).
Honestly? If I were you I'd get out. See a solicitor. This is not a healthy life for you or your children.
I just wanted you to know that, having read the whole things, you impress me as level headed and resourceful. It seems to me that you need some counselling of your own, these ar extraordinary issues to live with with so little support.
He is the prime carer for your DCs isn't he, so custody wouldn't automatically fall to you. It occurs to me to wonder how his lies will/are affecting them. I think you need to get legal advice as a starting point. You've been incredible in your support of him but ultimately your responsibility is for yourself and your DCs
Thanks for the replies and for the advice and support ... after so long not talking to anyone about this I am on the verge of tears reading your posts.
When I say we'd have to pay for two households if we split, I mean that we as a family (i.e. me and DP) would be running two households. I'm not sure I can see a way to finance a split AND save to buy a house: say we split and he moved out and got a job, I would be living with the children and would have to find ways to juggle my job with looking after them, maybe paying a childminder to look after them while I'm not at home (I'm about to start a new job that will be over an hour's drive from home so I will be out a lot). If we did all that, I don't think I'd ever be able to save enough for a deposit on a house, and that would mean renting forever. We are already having to move out of our house in the autumn when the tenancy ends (at the whims of our dumb landlords and this country's moronic laws that say a tenant can be evicted even without doing anything wrong) and I want to own a home so that we have the security of being able to stay in one place and not paying someone else's mortgage.
*This man has serious mental health issues*: well, I don't think that's news to anyone.
The diagnosis of dissociative disorder was from a mental health gateway worker (or something ... basically the person you see when a GP refers you for mental health treatment, who decides what's wrong with you and what sort of treatment you need). I didn't personally witness the diagnosis but I did see the NHS letter that DP was sent, confirming the diagnosis and summarising what had been discussed in the meeting. I also attended the GP appointment where DP got referred.
As for how I feel about everything ... I feel angry at being deceived, angry at myself for believing it, and kind of resentful about the fact that the financial, grown-up burdens of the family fall on my shoulders. I also feel immense affection towards DP for all the effort he makes to put things right, and for the wonderful father he is. And I feel great sadness at the prospect of not being with him, and at the knowledge that if we did break up, he would view this as confirmation that he is worthless, just as he thought all along (but I do know I can't be responsible for his feelings of self-worth)
Re the effect of DP on the children. When I say he still lies, I don't mean on anything like the scale where he did before. In part this is because I know what signs to look out for, am more willing to challenge him, and he knows he is less likely to get away with it. I do worry about this, but I can't see a way that this could be affecting them at the moment. But I am alert to it, and looking for signs that he could have influenced the DCs with his lies, e.g. by telling me they did/said something that they didn't. Having said that, the stress of all this might be affecting them. They are basically happy, lovely children, but quite badly behaved and difficult to control. It's impossible to tell whether this is due to them somehow picking up on what passes between me and DP. He did comment the other day that the children seem to be more badly behaved when he and I are both there than when either of us is there with the children alone.
Does he have a psychiatrist overseeing his case?
What's the long term prognosis? Will he ever be able to work?
It's so easy to think from the outside how much better your life would be without him but I fully appriciate it isn't that easy for you. I really hope things get better for you.
Just one thing on the effect on the children - and I might be way off here. But in my experience as a developmental psychologist and then a teacher (and as a parent too) something that often causes bad behaviour in children is mixed signals or unclear boundaries. I would worry that your DP exercises his need to lie (and it does seem to be a need) with the children - telling them slight untruths that you won't find out about. What I have seen is that even very small untruths like "mummy will be late home as she is doing x y and z" when in fact you're not late home, can really confuse children as they have so little control over things and so few points of reference (because they don't use calendars and clocks) that they feel unbalanced when things aren't as they expect. It's for that reason that I make sure to be very clear on details with my own children and to inform them when details change. I would wonder if some of the bad behaviour is down to the stress between you two, but also down to the sense of instability that comes from relying on someone whose word isn't quite good. In general I would be worried about leaving the children with someone who I don't really trust. He might be a great father in terms of playing with them and doing fun things but if you can't rely on him being responsible and upfront about things then that's a pretty big problem, isn't it?
There is no doubt that you love him. But he has seriously and negatively affected your life, and still does so in some ways. There is a point where hanging in there and helping him becomes irresponsible and inadvisable. It seems to me like that is starting to dawn on you.
My exOH was (is) a compulsive liar - I think his comes from childhood trauma so I feel so sad and sorry for him. But, it's no way to live not being sure whether someone is deceiving you or not, even if you know they probably can't help themselves and behave that way in spite of themselves. You must protect yourself and your children - psychologically I mean. You say you feel like you are leading a double life - that must be mentally exhausting for you and is more than likely going to end up with you being ill. Other than that, all I can say is that I empathise with you and understand your struggle with your thoughts and feelings. Someone else further up the thread suggested that you should consider counselling for yourself - this was a route that I took and it did make things a lot clearer for me.
This man has serious mental health issues: well, I don't think that's news to anyone.
No, I was meaning 'serious' as in 'not bizarre, but very serious and really not to be responsible for the care of your kids' serious.
Twinklestein, he has been offered very little. After he was first referred, he was put on a waiting list, then sent for 6 weeks of group therapy (a couple of hours a week). Then that ended and he went back on a waiting list, after which he saw a counsellor one-to-one every week for a few months. Then we moved counties and he went back on a new waiting list. He now has weekly one-to-one counselling at a 'complex needs' centre which is about to be shut down because of funding cuts by our fucking useless government.
In all honesty I am not 100% sure whether he is actually having counselling or whether he is making it up. In both cases of the one-to-one counselling, he has told me that he has sort of gone to the top of the waiting list because the counsellors were so personally interested in his case. But this actually sounds like just the sort of thing DP would lie about: he makes things up that makes him sound more impressive/special than he believes he is, and being an especially interesting case for a counsellor would tick this box, at least in DP's mind.
I don't know about long term prognosis except what I've read online about dissociative disorder, which has said that the problems can be alleviated after a couple of years of counselling, but who knows - every case is different and dissociative disorder is an umbrella term for a lot of different conditions.
DP has never seen a psychiatrist, presumably because he does not have medication needs and because it was judged that the counselling he needed could be provided by someone less specialist. (A cruel irony: I know a lot of psychiatrists through work, but couldn't entertain discussing this with them!)
As for whether he could work, well, there is no reason why he couldn't. He has very low self-esteem, which might affect the sorts of jobs he can bring himself to do ... he is actually very well-qualified and experienced in his area, but his line of work was quite stressful and maybe requires more self-belief than he currently has. But DD starts school next month, and DS will be going to pre-school 3 days a week, and DP has said several times that he will start working then - but we'll see.
Re his suitability for llooking after the children: I see every day that they are in good hands with him. But there are perhaps things that have been mentioned here that I hadn't considered. So, thank you for this advice.
Counselling for myself? I see why people might say this, and DP has in the past suggested this quite insistently and even made a GP appointment for me to discuss it, but I'm quite sceptical of the benefits for myself. I've had counselling in the past, and my experience was that it dredged up a load of upsetting stuff without necessarily making things any better. At the time when DP made the GP appointment for me, my view was that I was stressed because I didn't have a job, was living in a council flat on benefits etc, and that what I needed wasn't counselling but practical solutions like getting a job! But now, while I'm having trouble making sense of my feelings towards DP, I can se that this might be something I should revisit. Actually my reason for posting on here is pretty much to use this discussion as a form of counselling ...
So essentially he was diagnosed by a gateway mental health worker and that's it?
Afaia, gateway workers are generally for low level mental health issues, and they're mainly nurses, occupational therapists, social workers. They're not qualified to diagnose serious mental illness, that requires a psychiatrist. At best his diagnosis thus far is just a ballpark figure.
In your position, given that he is carer for the children, I would insist that he is referred to a psychiatrist for a full evaluation. With something like a dissociative disorder, I would want to be sure that he has no psychotic symptoms, no hallucinations, no delusions etc. This may also result in more relevant treatment for his needs. I think you need to tell the GP that you don't even know if he goes to his therapy - it could be another lie.
Being bumped up the waiting list for being an interesting case is definitely a lie I'm afraid.
With regard to his looking after the children, I would be concerned from what you have said that, while you know when he is lying, the children may not, and he may lie to them when you are not there.
I have to go now.
There are many red flags about his diagnosis. I suspect most of what he is suggesting is just fabrication.
Start again on the diagnosis. With you present, ask for evidence of follow up plan. I think this man should not be looking after children.
OP he so badly needs to see a psychiatrist. I don't wish to alarm you but if he does actually have a disassociative disorder, the children are not safe in his care, at least not until he has been properly assessed and you have been consulted about the kind of care the children need from him, whether he can provide that care, etc.
disassociative disorders can be extremely serious and life-limiting. Not just for the sufferer. you have NO idea what he is saying or doing around the children. he needs to be properly assessed.
I strongly urge you to access counselling for yourself too.
My step brother is a liar. Apparently we are dead. Tragic stories.
Has children with different woman, has made up medical conditions, faked fits, lied about money. Nothing can be believed. He has been sectioned several times. I wouldn't trust your DC's with man, its not your fault nor can you fix him.
Re his suitability for llooking after the children: I see every day that they are in good hands with him. But there are perhaps things that have been mentioned here that I hadn't considered. So, thank you for this advice.
Hmm...would you be happy if your childminder had been found out with this level of manipulation and lying? If she had tattooed a scar onto her body to prove she was diagnosed and had been operated on in some way? Are you qualified to say that he is safe with your kids.
Wow. You have my sympathy for the nightmare you've endured up to this point. I suppose you need to question how much more you want to put up with? Because that's the choice you have. You are now armed with the facts after so many years of being oblivious to the real truth.
I don't know how you move on from so many lies but you're an intelligent woman and you're strong. You don't have to spend the rest of your life with this man but he will always be part of your life because of the DCs and that would be a concern for me. If he lied to the extent he did when you were in a happy relationship then what on earth will he resort to if you split up?
If your family are aware of what's happened could you ask them for more support to help you through a split?
I feel for you and I'm sorry I can't offer any more constructive advice. I think it's time you take care of yourself.
Thanks for the responses. I have decided that I should discuss DP with one of the psychiatrists I know through work - I have become quite friendly with one of them and I think I could confide confidentially. I am 100% confident that DP is a wonderful father to our children, but the fact that so many of you are expressing concern makes me think that I should not rely solely on my own judgement, and that I should take steps to ensure that I am right about this. (But DD, in particular, is highly articulate and I believe I would have heard of any strange goings-on.)
Something about the dissociative disorder diagnosis: as far as I understand, people who are diagnosed with this are often previous victims of abuse, but this isn't the case with DP. His problems stem from abandonment: his father left the family when he was very young and basically cut all ties with DP and his siblings (both of whom are now dead). According to DP's mum, DP was extremely disturbed by this - had it happened in more modern times he would have been marched off to see a psychologist, but this happened in the 1970s. Then, DP married very young and had children, but his wife went off with someone else and took the children with her. This was in pre-internet days, and DP never saw the children again. (This last bit might sound outlandish and like another of his fabrications, but in fact I long suspected that that something like this might have happened - after we met I uncovered a lot of internet searches on our computer where he'd been looking up the children ... I asked him once if they were his children and he denied it, but admitted it after the other lies came to light. He said he had looked them up online because he wanted to satisfy himself that they were ok.)
His abandonment issues seem to explain his behaviour. He claims that all his lies were designed to make me stay with him, because he was afraid I would leave. This is bizarre logic; having a terminally ill partner is (in my mind) more likely to test a relationship than cement it. Frustratingly, though, the fact that I am still here even after discovering the truth doesn't seem to have put his mind at rest. In fact he has sometimes indicated that he believes I am still with him because he is a convenient babysitter ... although it occurs to me that he hasn't done this for a while, so maybe that is progress.
From my own ignorant perspective, DP's dissociative symptoms amount to amnesia about big chunks of his past, and his invention of an alternative, 'impressive' (as he sees it) personality to present to others in lieu of his real one. The amnesia seemed mainly confined to the period just after the lies came to light - at this point he became aware of the fact that he was living a lie and then could not recover memories of his real life. I think that over time he has managed to fill in a lot of the gaps. As for the invention of a new personality: he still does this, although not with me. He puts on a facade for his friends, none of whom know about his issues. My feelings are mixed about this ... I hate the fact that he puts on a pretense, and that his friends unwittingly encourage it, and possibly thereby confirm to DP that he needs to be someone else in order to be likeable. On the other hand, DP's confidence is at rock bottom and he finds it extremely difficult to meet new people as himself (IYSWIM). So, being able to relax and be who he wants to be with his friends a couple of times a week might at least give him the break he needs from his problems.
Sorry for this long, rambling essay of a response ...
Totally agree with thestamp.
For one thing, dissociative states can be part of other serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar - so it's vital he's evaluated thoroughly.
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