How do you know when someone is a psychopath? Experts don’t agree 100%. But when you meet one, you will eventually know. I have read countless books, perused numerous blogs, scoured newspaper articles, watched documentaries and television programs. Spoken to survivors who have related their heartbreaking stories.
If I could point to one consistent trait that is always present, it is lying — the inability to tell the truth. Psychopaths will tell big lies and little lies. Psychopaths will tell lies that seem to serve no purpose whatsoever, or even seem to work against their own best interest.
When I was getting to know my wife, I had the constant sensation that the things she was sharing with me were not true. And yet for a long time, I had no verifiable proof that she was telling me lies. Or as she would call them, “porkie pies.”
The first lie I caught her in, factually and without a doubt, was that she owned her home. It was perhaps the most stupid lie of all time, because I couldn’t have cared less whether she owned her home or whether she lived in a cardboard box. It became a factor, however, after we were married and I had to apply for a spousal visa from the UK Border Agency so that I could move to England to be with her.
That “one” lie was really a long series of lies. To get my spousal visa, I had to provide proof to the UK Border Agency of where I would be living, which meant I needed a copy of the deed to her house. I waited for months for her to send me the required documentation, but at each juncture, there was another excuse and another lie.
And she never would have told me the truth — I learned the truth from her cousin, Esther (pseudonym), quite accidentally. On a Facebook chat, Esther had asked me when I’d be moving over, and I’d innocently replied, “I’d be there NOW if Paula would send me a copy of the deed to her house.” To which Esther responded, “That would be hard for her to do since she doesn’t own her house — it’s a council house.”
By the time I had learned the truth from Esther, my wife had already escalated her tales to claiming that her sister in Canada had “stolen” her house — had managed to get the deed transferred to her sister’s name. And oh yes, Canadian authorities had arrested her sister, who was being extradited back to the UK for prosecution. (The whole story is much longer and convoluted and astonishing, but I will save that for another blog post.)
That “one” lie dragged out so long that I wasn’t able to move to the UK until July of 2011 — a full YEAR after we were married. And I was a fool for going, but that’s the power of the psychopath’s charm, you see. I really loved her — or I loved the false facade that she presented to me.
In May of 2012, my beloved dog, Otis ended up dead and I was on a flight back to American soil in less than 24 hours. Otis is the inspiration behind DogDharma, and you can read my post about her. But the story didn’t quite end there. No, Paula wasn’t done using me, and I was so heartbroken, I looked for a way back, a way to salvage our marriage.
In the United States, I am classified as “legally blind,” and in the UK I was classified as “severely sight impaired.” In practical terms, what this meant for Paula was that she got a reduced fee for her TV license. In October of 2012, four months after the death of my dog and my escape from England, Paula wanted me to release documentation of my vision impairment so that she could continue to get the reduced fee for her TV license, but I refused.
Well, the throwback was that Paula claimed she had been unable to pay the bill for the TV license, and as a result, all of her furniture was confiscated by bailiffs except for the beds that she and the kids slept in. On the face of it, this stretched my imagination because her furniture would have been rejected by Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift shops…
But I didn’t know the UK system first-hand, nor the penalty for non-payment of the TV license fee. Surely bailiffs couldn’t come into one’s home and take away everything except the beds?? I did some research online and asked what few people I could, and while it seemed that there were sometimes stiff penalties for failure to pay the TV license fee, the scenario Paula presented was unlikely. I didn’t question her directly, but to “prove” to me that she was telling the truth, she sent me some photographs of her home, purporting to show the missing furniture. In reality, it was obvious that the photographs were staged so that nothing much could be seen…
However, the whole business was a set-up. Later that month of October, Paula began to tell me she was being evicted from her home because she owed back rent. She and her children were going to be put on the street!! Once again, this defied believability — what judge would put the sole parent of four children, one of whom had Down’s syndrome, on the street??? Yet Paula blamed and guilt-tripped me for the loss of her furniture, and so on the 1% chance she was telling the truth, I sent her a large sum of money to cover the back rent.
But the following month, November of 2012, Paula made a faux pas. Halloween had just passed, and she shared a picture of her children in costume:
It was hard not to notice that the children were sitting on a sofa — in fact, the very same sofa that had been there while I lived with my wife. And so I said, “You told me the bailiffs took everything, but you still have the sofa?”
“No!” she exclaimed. “It’s not the same sofa!”
I said, “But it looks exactly like the old sofa!”
Paula responded, “I promise you, it’s not. It’s the same color, but my friend gave it to me. My friend was going to throw it in the dump, and so I took it so me and the kids would have something to sit on! It’s the same color, but it’s covered in cloth and old and beat up and torn.”
Well, I dug around in old pictures from the time I lived with Paula, and found a couple that showed the old sofa. Compared, and boy, it sure looked like the same old sofa to me. In fact, I found some old videos I’d taken while in the UK which plainly showed that same old sofa! What to do?
Anyway, I was still holding out hope that Paula and i could reconcile, and she was trying her best to get me to return by then. After all I’d been through, a part of me knew I’d be putting my life in danger to return, and yet another part of me still loved this woman. I decided to make a last trip to the UK to get my answers, and I figured that finding out the truth about the sofa would tell me all I needed to know. If she had the same old sofa, then she would have concocted another lie, and that would have validated my worst fears. But if it was a different sofa, then I would have misjudged, and perhaps I’d misperceived past events. So I booked a flight to spend the month of January 2013 with my wife.
Paula picked me up at Heathrow and drove us back to Shoreham-by-Sea. When we got to her house, she planted herself in the doorway to her living room. I tried to nonchalantly peek around her, but she is a large woman. I could see that there was a sofa in the living room, but it was covered in a dark blanket. Paula insisted that I must be exhausted after my long flight and nearly shoved me into the bedroom for a nap.
While I rested in the bedroom, I could hear banging and scraping coming from the living room. After I got up, the first thing I did (with great trepidation!) was make a beeline for the living room. And there was no sofa… I don’t know if I was frightened or relieved, but I asked, “Where’s the sofa?”
Paula sighed and explained, “Well, I didn’t want to tell you, but I had a ‘falling out’ with my friend, and she demanded the sofa back. She came to get it while you were asleep.” Hmmmm…… There are lies and there are outrageous lies, but I’d like to know why a sofa that was destined for a landfill was quite suddenly and conveniently demanded returned moments after my arrival??
If I had been able to see the sofa with my own eyes, i would have immediately known if it was the same or different, but I wasn’t given that chance. All is murky when you are dealing with a psychopath. The sequence of events and the facts as i know them speak for themselves. I guess it was then that I was forced to honor my fears and instincts. Not completely so that I was ready to let the marriage go, but just enough that I was able to keep myself safe for that month of January 2013.
Paula seemed to have thought that I’d believed her lies and that she’d “worked her magic.” My final crucible was dealing with my spousal visa which was due to expire in July of 2013. If there was to be any hope of me moving back to the UK, I needed an extension on the visa. I tried to get Paula to drive us to London so it could be dealt with while I was there, but she balked with a string of excuses. Toward the end of January, before my visit was over, we did sit on the bed together and complete, as far as possible, the lengthy application that would request an extension of my spousal visa.
And she surprised me and almost won me over by changing her surname on her passport at long last:
Several more twists and turns and curve balls along the way, but in the end I did not return and that was the last time I saw my wife. Probably the biggest curve ball was Paula getting involved with another woman while managing to scam yet more money out of me and while still begging me to return.
Several months later, I discovered that her son had updated his profile picture on Facebook:
Look closely. Do you recognize the sofa?? Yup, the same old sofa!!! The reader may reach her own conclusion, but as for me, I say she removed the sofa for my visit and had it returned once I left — to cover up her lie about bailiffs taking her furniture, which was to cover up her pity ploy to get money out of me by claiming she was about to be evicted!!!
PLEASE NOTE: The faces of Paula’s children have been obscured to protect their identity.