When Jen Waite stumbled upon a series of incriminating messages, her mind started spinning. Surely her husband couldn’t be having an affair – there had to be some mistake. She had just given birth to their only child, a daughter, and Marco had been working day and night to support his new family.
Little did she know that she would soon uncover that the man she married — the father of her child, and the love of her life — was a psychopath.
Waite chronicles her harrowing story in a new biography, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, which came out last week.
We chatted with Waite by phone.
SDTC: When you share your story, what are you hearing from other women?
JW: I’ve been really shocked. I did not know that this type of relationship and betrayal was so common. I’m getting a lot of messages from other women who have been through really similar situations. They’ll say their partner said the exact same things, using similar words. I’m also hearing from a lot of women who were ‘discarded’ right after giving birth, or right after some kind of horrible injury. A physically vulnerable time is when these disordered people like to give the final punch.
Another thing they tell me is that they haven’t really told anyone; they don’t feel they can explain it to anyone else, or they feel ashamed for having been in a relationship that ended so horribly — how could they not have seen it coming? It’s been in some ways comforting in some ways to know that other people have gone through this, although I would never wish it on anyone.
I guess part of the reason why it’s hard to extricate yourself is because when the relationship begins, it’s so seductive.
It is so seductive when you’re in it. Part of it feels so good, that I was ignoring a lot of bad behavior. That’s another reason for the shame, because there were red flags in the beginning that I was completely blinding myself to. I saw only what I wanted to see because I was so in love. The feelings that I had for Marco were so intense.
The biggest red flag is the love bombing at the very beginning. Psychopaths and narcissists will go from 0 to 60 in the first few days or weeks. Constant attention, flattery, texts, communication in person, saying all the right things — literally right out of a movie. It seems very genuine at the time, but if you can take a step back and think about a person saying these things after a week or two, it’s probably a sign that it’s not actually coming from a genuine place. It’s not real. It’s disingenuous and its actually scary and creepy — if you think about how fast they start having these intense feelings for you. The idealized phase where you’re placed on a pedestal feels really incredible. At the same time, I did have a little feeling in my stomach that wasn’t quite right. I was ignoring that feeling because I wanted to force the fairy tale. It’s difficult to admit that I definitely liked that, and it was feeding some insecurity or need for validation I had, so I was willing to go along with it. Now if anyone did that, I would run in the other direction.
Did you end up contacting the woman that Marco was involved with prior to you? Did she have a similar experience with him?
I Facebook messaged ‘Tania’ before I even left New York. It was before Marco had put his head in the oven. I messaged her something like ‘I am so sorry if what I did to you caused you the hurt of what’s happening to me right now’. Something along those lines. I wrote that I had just had a baby with Marco and he is having an affair with a coworker. She wrote back immediately with the sweetest, simplest message and said something along the lines of; I can’t believe people never change but you have a beautiful daughter, it will be OK. Cherish her.
It does seem like from her response she had gone through the same realization of how much better off she is without him in her life.
Are you tempted to creep on his Instagram photos now?
No, absolutely not. It really does feel like a death. The old Marco is dead. I really don’t think about him at all. He’s kind of dropped off the face of the earth. The last text from him I got jolted me, because I forgot he existed. I just think of me and Louisa. That’s the unit.
What will you tell Louisa [your daughter] about her father?
She was three months old when I started [writing the book]. I’m in a different place now and I do think about that a lot because it’s this tangible thing going out into the world. I will be truthful with her, not in a name-calling or derogatory or vengeful way, but just saying; “your biological father isn’t really capable of the same feeling of love that a lot of the other adults in your life are capable of. He doesn’t make good decisions and that’s why he’s not in your life”.
Does Marco know about the book?
I made a public Facebook post months and months ago announcing I had a book coming out. The next morning I got a notification that he had liked it. It was sort of creepy, I don’t know if there’s too much to read into it. Maybe he wanted to creep me out a bit, or maybe he’s enjoying the fact that he’s — this is probably sort of a dream for a narcissist, even to have that negative attention. Other than that, we don’t have contact about it. He’s unpredictable but I’m hoping he stays under the radar.
How did the act of writing this book feel like for you?
It was completely cathartic. That is what I took away. I am so happy that it’s helping other women. But if it wasn’t published — if it was just me getting it out and it never saw the light of day — that would have been enough because for me, it really just helped me to process everything. It forced me to really hold myself accountable for some of the behaviors I was engaging in. It was a really cathartic experience and helped me to understand. All the gaslighting that goes on, it’s hard to explain after the fact. So the fact that I was able to get it down while it was still happening — really, really helped.
What did you learn about yourself?
The most empowering thing for me was it’s much less about Marco being a psychopath, it’s much more what drew me to him in the first place. That really freed me. It’s not really blame, but pinpointing that I wanted to be validated by someone else. I didn’t feel whole without a partner — for a variety of reasons, some of them were personal, or the messaging we get throughout our lives. His MO was going after women without much of a support network. All of these beliefs that I had that about myself were kind of just stripped away. I don’t have to engage with people that don’t make me feel good, just to be polite. I can say no and make decisions for myself. I can create the life I want instead of the life I think I should have, that realization seems so obvious but it was really big for me.
Is it hard for you to look back and read your story?
There’s something about the vulnerability of giving birth while going through heartbreak — when I was recording the audiobook, the only parts that made me emotional weren’t about Marco. It was about being a new mother, and being so terrified and panicked. It is still an ongoing process.
What would you say to women who may be in a similar situation you found yourself in?
If they’re seeing some of the red flags that I’m describing — the love bombing, the sob stories, the murky past, seeing their partner lie or triangulate with another woman — if they’re seeing that kind of behaviour — if you’re not in too deep, run. If you are in deep but want to exit, try to set yourself up with a support system and be as boring as possible, and hopefully he will find something more exciting and move on.
What will you tell your daughter about relationships?
I’m definitely going to tell her the most important day of your life is not your wedding day. It’s great to have a healthy partnership. But I’m hoping to neutralize some of the messaging she’s going to be bombarded with, from everywhere. I will tell her, if you’re going to be in a relationship with somebody — look at their actions. Words can be nice too, but make sure actions and the words are aligning. That’s how you’ll see someone’s character.