Listening to What He Does

Jun 25

When I was young and dating, (back in the 80s!) I was big on listening to what a young man told me. I believed what he said unless I caught him in a lie. If he said he wasn’t good enough for me, then I figured he was telling the truth so I dumped him. If I caught him in a blatant lie then that was the end. I don’t like liars.

When I was dating my ex-husband I thought he was truthful. He told me some things that sounded like possible lies, but then I found out they were real. Often exaggerations, but real.


Cute Grin!

Exaggerations presented with a cheeky grin and a flourish don’t seem like lies.

So I dated and eventually married this charming young man who liked to exaggerate. And for years I never caught him in a lie.

I finally learned that he would regularly make up plausible explanations when he didn’t know what was true. His explanations were usually about obscure scientific information and it didn’t really impact my life, so I never noticed it was a lie. He would lie about his plans, thoughts, and motivations. You can’t possible check up on someone’s thought life. He even lied about his religious beliefs.

Then one day he changed. Perhaps he was tired of hiding his true self. Perhaps it was a midlife crisis. All I know for sure is that he started telling the truth about a few things.

I’ve never really felt empathy. I don’t know what that’s like. 

Here’s another truth that came out in marriage counseling…

I didn’t forget Elizabeth’s birthday. I ignored it because I was angry at her.

Of course those truths were surrounded by lies and exaggerations. He may have Asperger’s Syndrome, so he shouldn’t be able to feel empathy. It’s not his fault. He had valid and important reasons to be angry at me. I made him do it. It wasn’t his fault.

Not his fault.

When it was waaaaaayy too late, I finally started listening to his actions. He ignored my birthday. He got angry about things that didn’t matter. He put me in last place and blamed me for what was wrong in his life.

He said that he loved me, but his actions told a different story.

I started listening.

Are you listening?

Elizabeth Siggy



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  1. So true! I think we often don’t hear what we don’t want to hear, especially when we’re young and dating. We’d all save ourselves a lot of heartache if we’d listen with our ears and our eyes instead of with our dreams and our fantasies.

    • Elizabeth /

      Yes! It’s easy to fall into the trap of listening with your dreams and fantasies.

  2. In the words of Dr. Phil, past behavior is also a great predictor of future behavior.
    That’s why it’s so important to really know someone you’re considering committing to: not only what they tell you, but what they’ve DONE in their past. Listening to what he does is spot on.

    • Elizabeth /

      That’s my plan. From now on, I’m listening to men with my ears AND my eyes.

  3. I am really glad you started listening!! Hugs!

  4. LaDonna /

    I completely agree. I had the same sorts of things go on in my marriage and had started really questioning things the last few years. A lot of time I had to fight myself over what I knew to be true and what I was hearing. I had even tried to talk to him about the fact that his actions weren’t saying the same thing that his words were. He insisted that there was “something wrong” with me. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but thank you for writing about it. It greatly helps to read someone else’s story and know I’m not alone.

    • Elizabeth /

      Oh, LaDonna, I think we’ve lived very similar lives in many ways. I’m sorry you’ve been there, too.

  5. So often women (and men) fall in love, or stay in love, with the person he COULD be – rather than the person he IS, today, right this minute. It’s important to take this step back and assess the relationship based on what IS, not the sweet words and promises that don’t come true.

    • Elizabeth /

      Beverly, you’re absolutely right! It’s so easy to be attracted to someone and make all kinds of assumptions about who they are. We have to stop looking at potential partners through rose-colored glasses and focus on who they REALLY are.

  6. Wow. What a tough situation. I’m glad you found your way out of it and learned from the experience.

  7. I knew my ex lied to other people. It just never occurred to me that he was also lying to me. Young and dumb, I figured it out much too late. My second-and-last husband shows me he loves me every day. It’s all about the actions. Words have no meaning when it comes to love.

    • Elizabeth /

      I’m so happy you’ve found a better man. It was a hard lesson, but I’ll never be that young and dumb again.

  8. It sounds like you have good intuition. I’m glad that you started “listening” to yourself.

    Wishing you much happiness in your future!


  9. Actually, Asperger’s doesn’t necessarily prevent someone from feeling empathy, and often, it doesn’t prevent someone from feeling it so much as it prevents them from expressing it, when it comes as one of the symptoms of the disorder. My opinion is that he was an asshole and he thought he could use the word “Asperger’s” as an excuse for his behavior. But “Asperger’s” isn’t synonymous with “jackass” Just like he could list the “valid” reasons to be angry with you, and to ignore your birthday, he tried to parlay incomplete understanding of a complex disorder into emotional manipulation. I’m glad you were listening to his actions and not his words. He sounds like someone who could have been very dangerous indeed.

    • I’m glad that Jester Queen pointed out that lack of empathy can’t be blamed on Asperger’s.
      Interestingly enough, many adult autistics write about the challenges they face in verbal communication with neurotypical people since they often use language in non-literal ways and don’t say what they mean. Your advice to listen to behavior is useful for everyone.

      • Elizabeth /

        I finally figured out that lack of empathy is usually a characteristic of the sociopath. I’m just glad I’m away from him.

  10. Wow, sounds like a real winner. I used to not listen to men, would impose my imagination on them and make them into something they weren’t (usually prince charming). I’m glad I outgrew that, and I’m glad you told this story.

  11. Lying is a tough one – I often find myself desperately trying to believe someone close to me is being truthful – mostly because I’m terrified to find out why they feel the need to lie. It’s especially harder when it is someone you love. I’m glad you were able to break free of the lies, and of this person, because quite obviously, you deserve something much better and more honest. Great post!

  12. Great writing here. You made me feel your pain, even though I’ve never gone through anything like that. It reminded me of a Taylor Swift song. ;D

    PS, in case you aren’t a Swiftie yourself, I mean that as a compliment. You told a genuine story of having been deceived and overcoming it.

  13. Someone really smart once told me that when it comes to relationships, ignore what your partners says, and focus on what they do. Pretty good advice I think. I’m glad you listened to your intuition and got out when the time came.

  14. Listening to actions–yes. Great thought and great way of putting this into words. Ugh, what a turd he was. I’ve been in relationships similar to this, and the advice I was given was this: stop focusing on the good, like everyone says–focus on the BAD. Because it really may be bad enough to leave.

  15. Thank you for sharing this story. I also finally “heard” the advice to pay attention to actions instead of words and I’m lucky I listened. What a hard lesson to learn, but I’m grateful you got out when you did, brave woman. Hugs to you.

  16. Good lord, your ex sounds like mine! Big, childish, fibber! I’m married for the 2nd time (15+ years) and have always told our kids that when evaluating people, don’t base y our decision by what people say, base it on what they do.
    Thank you for reiterating!!

  17. I’ve been forced to reinvent myself this year, too. My husband of 17 years, formerly a generous, kind, sensitive soul, has decided rather suddenly that he doesn’t want to be married to me. But he does want to carry on with a 28 year old married woman (he’s 40). I’ve been paying attention to his actions because I don’t trust anything he says right now. Not a word… And he’s neurotypical and personality disordder-free — no excuses other than midlife crisis.

    • Elizabeth /

      I’m so sorry. He’s obviously not as kind as you thought or he wouldn’t have taken up with her.

  18. He sounds like someone that you are better off without, for sure!

  19. It sounds like he has issues. Don’t you love when someone blames everyone else and takes no responsibility for their situation?

  20. Yes, and I’ve always told all my children, male and female, that actions speak louder than words, and what a person does will tell you more about their character than anything they say. I’m not sure they’re all listening to me, though.

  21. My favorite line: “I’ve never really felt empathy. I don’t know what that’s like “

  22. he sounds like a sociopath. I am listening!

  23. I see someone already mentioned that lack of empathy is not correlated to Asperger’s…that does sound more like a sociopath. That’s pretty scary that you can be with someone for so long and not see the truth until decades later. The point I guess is to see it.

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