Playing Stupid to Obtain Advantage: a Story of Financial Abuse
When I was working at a local hospital I was often given additional duties outside of my job description and frequently felt overwhelmed. A co-worker watched me running from station to station and said, “You need to learn to play stupid. It gets you out of a lot.”
On Heaven Connect, writer SJ Heald addresses overstepping authority in spiritual warfare. One of her points is that we should never think we are smarter than a demon. She notes that Law 21 in The 48 Laws Of Power, a book by Robert Greene, states, “Play a sucker to catch a sucker, seem dumber than your mark.” She assesses, “Con artists take people in by pretending to be less intelligent than the person they are conning…….Demons will act like imbeciles if it causes us to get puffed up in the head thinking we’re intelligent and powerful.”
While I certainly didn’t feel powerful AT ALL in my marriage, at first I did feel intelligent and needed.
My ex husband does have a poor vocabulary, misuses grammar, and possesses about a third grade reading level. But, I was mistaken to think he is a dummy.
I was a devout church-goer when I met R, and he knew that. He claimed to be a new believer, unable to read well and without a solid Christian within his circle of association. He needed me to help him understand these scriptures that were so foreign to him. He claimed his desire was great; he wanted to know Jesus, but his lack of education felt like an insurmountable barrier. (He didn’t use that word.)
I’m not sure if I was so desperate for love or if he was feeding my pride, but I disregarded evident facts and ran, just as I did at work, to be the one who would stand in the declared gap. I noticed the Bible on his end table but ignored the paintings of demons on his walls. I brushed off the fact that one of his co-workers was a youth pastor and more qualified than I to expound scripture and teach the mysteries of the gospels. I reasoned that he simply didn’t realize yet those paintings were offensive to God. It was all new to him. Perhaps he was too embarrassed by his poor language skills to ask another man, someone working under him, to explain things he thought should be obvious.
After we married he asked me to take care of the bills and balancing the checkbook. It was a struggle for him. It was confusing and stressful. However, the situation that created was one of complete irresponsibility on his part. He would play the ATM like a slot machine. Eyes glazed, he would return to pull the lever, waiting for the money to drop out. All the while I couldn’t keep the bills paid. He routinely took out large sums and would feign ignorance. He had called the 1-800 number first or had checked the balance at the ATM before withdrawing, and he pretended to not comprehend those balances didn’t reflect pending actions or checks that had not yet cleared. The fact that he kept cutting his hours back, thereby cutting his paychecks, and he was horribly in debt, the amount of which he had lied about during our short engagement, did not deter his visits to the money machine. I increased my workload. I cut back on everything, including groceries. Nothing helped. When I finally tried to seriously talk to him about his spending, he blew up, screaming in my face, “I was making it before you came along! If we’re not making it, it’s your fault! You’re the one handling the money!”
Since marrying me, he’d cut back to working part-time; he’d bought a new truck; he was wearing new clothes; and I was paying down the debt he and his last wife had incurred. Since marrying him, I was working so many hours my performance decreased and my professional reputation suffered; my car was falling apart (I eventually lost it); my children and I were dressing poorly and lacked adequate clothes for winter; I was deeply in debt though I’d been debt free when I met him; and I was borrowing against my life insurance policy.
He knew exactly what he was doing. He was no dummy! I’d been conned by the 21st law of power!
He didn’t perform household or vehicular maintenance. He didn’t know how, and he didn’t read well enough to figure out a manual. All burdens of all responsibility were placed on me because, in his words, he, “just isn’t a very smart man.” That also meant I was to blame for everything that went wrong because he thought I was taking care of it and he depended on me.
Interestingly, when he abruptly left our home in a rage, abandoning me sick and now a stay at home mom with four minor children, he took all of the account numbers and passwords, our social security numbers, and a nice little private bank account I didn’t know about until after he left. Suddenly this “stupid man” who couldn’t even use a phone book was hacking into my accounts! He filed taxes on his own, claiming head of household with the children as his dependents for the final year we were married. He stole mail, including a check, depositing it via the ATM without signing it, which created a legal loophole and made it difficult to retrieve the stolen funds. He was always one step ahead of me. He, the man with a third grade reading level, walked out of our marriage with nearly every tangible item we owned and zero debt. I’d lost everything except the debt.
I’d been conned.
During the divorce proceeding, I testified dates, times, and places of abuse. My children testified separately, corroborating my story of patriarchal terrorism. But, R played stupid. He stuttered. He didn’t know what we were talking about. He was confused by all of it. No one could have believed that this stunned, ignorant man could be so willfully vindictive and violent. And, the judge didn’t. The poor dumb man received compassion and mercy from the bench, and his victims received demands to negotiate and “get over it.”
My co-worker’s words haunt me, “You need to learn to play stupid. It gets you out of a lot.” My ex had played stupid; he played me; and it got him out of everything.