Thursday, August 2, 2012

Because I’m not stupid. That’s why.

What do you do when you know someone is lying, but you can’t prove it?

A while back, Hubs’ brother came over with his two boys for an afternoon of video game playing and brownie baking. The boys, J and D (ages 7 and 5 then), kept us laughing with their antics and commentary.

As they were leaving, J announced that he had to use the bathroom. He disappeared behind the bathroom door while his dad wrestled shoes onto the younger one’s feet. A couple minutes later, we heard the toilet flush and the bathroom door opened.

J rejoined us near the front door, and Hubs asked him if he washed his hands. J replied that he had, and Hubs and his brother responded in unison, “No, you didn’t.”

J sighed dramatically, rolled his eyes, and again disappeared behind the bathroom door. We heard the water running, the squeaking of the towel ring, and the bathroom door opening again. J came back to the front door and started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” we all asked.

J sobbed, “I told you I washed my hands, and you didn’t believe me!”

Hubs and his brother quickly apologized. “You’re right, we should’ve believed you. We’re sorry.”

Now, it’s obvious that J was lying, right? The door opened the instant after the toilet flushed, a dead give-away that someone did not wash their hands after doing their business. (Germophobes like me learn to look out for such clues.)

But in this situation, I think pretending to believe J was probably the right thing to do. This was a great opportunity to role model trust and love to the child instead of distrust and suspicion, especially when the offense was so minor. J knew he was caught in lie, yet his dignity remained intact. The seed of the lesson was still planted. 

But what if you’re not being lied to by a seven year old? What do you do when a grown-up lies to you, but you can’t prove it? And what if that grown-up is your spouse?

I’m 100% certain that Beta Husband cheated on me. More than once. I wish I could say that’s why we divorced, but it isn’t. I knew it, but I could never prove it. He always had an explanation.

Not long after I moved across the country and into his apartment, I found a scrap of paper in a junk drawer.

[name of hotel]
[phone number]

When I confronted “Beta” about it, he fed me an obvious lie. Funny thing, when this incident came up years later in another argument about his lies, he gave me a different explanation for the mysterious woman's phone number. See, that's the thing about the truth. It doesn't change, and it's not hard to remember.

A smart girlfriend would’ve investigated before confronting him – called this Sarah person and found out who she was, but I was twenty years old, vulnerable and desperate. I refused to believe that I had rearranged my whole life for nothing. I gave him the chance to lie to me, and I welcomed that lie. His explanation was thin, but plausible enough for me to marry him five years later.

There were other lies, too.

After we were married, he began “working late” a lot. Many nights, I struggled to sleep and pretend to not know what I knew. The familiar, aching knowing made a heavy knot in my stomach.

Every confrontation was met with more lies. And not just lies about cheating. Lies about everything, even small stuff that wasn't worth lying about. (Oh, that's your friend's porno tape that he left over here? That's weird. When girls visit each other, we bring wine. Or ice cream.)

He turned each confrontation around, making it sound like something was wrong with me, turning himself into the victim.

“What’s wrong with you, Melissa? Why can’t you trust me?”

“Because I’m not stupid! That’s why! Because I’m not a complete, fucking moron!” I wanted to scream, but I didn’t.

If I didn't trust him, I was a bitch. If I did trust him, I was an idiot. Either way, I lost.

He was going to stick with his story no matter how full of holes it was, and I couldn’t disprove it. Any jury would believe he was guilty, but “because-I’m-not-stupid” isn’t solid evidence.

Eventually, when I told him I wanted a divorce, I never brought up the lies. I kept my reasons to things he couldn’t deny.

You’re mean and disrespectful.
You call me names.
You’re selfish and impossible.
You make me feel small and worthless.

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I had had the courage to leave him the first time I knew he lied to me. But then I wouldn’t be right here. And right here, where I am right now, is a beautiful place.

What do you do when you know you’re being lied to, but you can’t prove it?