What it’s Like to be Hated by People I’ve Never Met
It’s all your fault. You’re a narcissist. I hope you suffer. You deserve to die. These (and many more) are among the hundreds of comments I’ve received in the past few days after the interview I did with ABC 20/20. I knew there would be division. I knew there would be criticism. And I honestly welcome opposing voices and viewpoints. But ill-informed opinions and hate speech serve no purpose, and in fact, do more harm than good. Here. Or anywhere.
I didn’t write a book or go on national TV to tell my story for notoriety, moral support or sympathy. Nor did I, despite what some uninformed commenters suggest, do it for money.
On September 6, 2019, ABC’s 20/20 aired the story of my extramarital relationship, my wife’s stalking of us, and ultimately her murder of my girlfriend followed by her suicide. They had interviewed me for hours, in my home and in their studio, and from those hours, a handful of scenes were selected for the show. Within minutes of its opening scenes, airing on the East Coast, social media was flooded with condemnation of me, the vast majority judging me the one responsible for the deaths I never once imagined would be our destiny.
I didn’t write a book or go on national TV to tell my story for notoriety, moral support or sympathy. Nor did I, despite what some uninformed commenters suggest, do it for money. I did it to share the truth of what had happened and to admit my fault and shortcomings as a man, as a friend and as a husband. The perfect marriage painted in the 20/20 episode was far from the marriage I have detailed in my book. After years of being isolated and controlled by a woman I loved but who put me down endlessly, I fell in love with someone and started a relationship while I was still married. Yes, I cheated and because I had fallen in love with another woman, I decided to leave my wife, and in doing so, I broke her heart. I’m not shirking that responsibility. I am owning it and sharing my experience and lessons from this tragedy with others. If that makes me a “classic narcissist” in the minds of some, then there is little hope for changing their minds.
But if anyone thinks that I haven’t suffered tremendous psychological pain and won’t continue to suffer for the rest of my life, then they’re just dead wrong. They judge me based on how I appeared in an edited television show, not in my real life. But how could they know what I’ve been through? Those who judge me weren’t there. My friends, my family, multiple psychologists and my psychiatrist were. I’m not writing this post to convince anyone of the depths of my pain or the purity of my intentions. But facts are facts. And more than anyone, I know the facts all too well.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” my friends warned. “Are you ready for the shitstorm of hateful comments?”
The truth is, I expected personal attacks on my character. I’ve already been through it once. After the tragedy of April 23, 2018, I hid from the press and said nothing. And as I hid, my wife Jennair, my girlfriend Meredith, and I were all vilified. Sixteen months later, when I felt I could no longer hide from the truth, I shared mine. And again, a legion of misinformed people pounced on the internet to attack.
I’m glad there is so much sympathy for Meredith and for my wife out there. They were both amazing women who I loved. But Jennair was sick. She had been suffering from depression for years. And she had an obsessive need to control her life, our life, and my life, for the two and a half decades we were together. I had long ago given up pushing back. Instead, I learned to do whatever I could to avoid the fights, to let her control the money, to give up my friends, to let her decide what we would do and when we would do it. The “wild side” that had once attracted me was an unstable side, and I’d been negotiating her instability for so long I no longer knew my own direction.
Anyone who thinks that Jennair’s murder and suicide were understandable responses to having been wronged should be put on a watch list.
To suggest that Jennair wasn’t mentally ill, as many commenters have, is an insult to her. To somehow normalize or justify the weeks of secret planning and premeditation that went into her determination to kill is to imply that she was evil or a bad person. She was neither. Millions of people go through up and down marriages, infidelity and divorce, but they don’t meticulously plan and perpetrate vicious, murderous acts. To say that I drove her to that end is both dangerous and ignorant and a distraction from the lesson I am hoping to share. If anyone thinks that it’s normal or acceptable behavior to take a life because someone was deeply hurt, then God help the people around them. Anyone who thinks that Jennair’s murder and suicide were understandable responses to having been wronged should be put on a watch list.
We all have an ugly side, an angry monster inside us, anxious for its day in the sun. If you have a passion or strong opinion about something, voice it. If you think you can change something or right a wrong, speak up.
But what service or greater good do people who spew hate and discord think they are serving, other than hearing their own voice, sitting on their perception of a moral high ground and making themselves feel better by tearing other people down? When any of us has an urge to condemn another, we also have a responsibility to educate ourselves beyond what we see produced for TV. As for those who have urged me to kill myself, accused me of being responsible for the tragic deaths of Meredith and Jennair, they have a responsibility before just spewing their vitriolic hatred after watching a 40 minute show about a 28 year relationship they know little or nothing about to at least reflect on what kind of moral high ground they stake claim to.
Haters. Doubters. Shit throwers. If they think they have dissuaded me, they have not. In fact, they’ve emboldened me and bolstered my resolve to make my message louder and more clear.
I had been controlled and put down for years. When I ultimately told my spouse I wanted a divorce, she followed me, recorded me, hacked into my computers, put a GPS tracker on my car and monitored my every movement. But because she was a woman, it never once entered my mind—or the minds of her psychiatrist, our divorce coach, our marriage counselor or anyone else—that she was potentially violent.
On the flip side to the ugly responses I’ve received, the outpouring of support and kindness I have received has been a welcome surprise. The words of encouragement and understanding for what I am trying to accomplish are inspirational. I’m not asking for a pass for my transgressions from anyone, just open ears and hearts for what I am sharing and for trying to do something positive to help others, so that I can use this tragedy to raise awareness about mental illness, suicide, and the warning signs of violence. And if doing that means I have to withstand the shitstorm of haters who know nothing of me, then bring on the storm.
In an upcoming blog post, I’ll discuss the dangers of internet hate speech and mobbing and the damage such behaviors can lead to.