My ex partner and I worked together for several years. When I say worked together, I mean that in the kindest sense I can muster — I did the overwhelming majority of the work, and he took all the credit. And then lied repeatedly to our mutual colleagues — many of whom reported back to me — claiming he had actually done all the work himself and I had done no work/poor work. We work in a fairly small creative industry. Should I expose him? Should I sue? I have a very good reputation in my industry, and a long career ahead of me. He, on the other hand, is an older gentleman, and probably doesn’t have much time left before retirement. Should I defend myself and take him down, or let him self-destruct on his own?
Let him self-destruct on his own. There are few things sadder or more pitiful than a man who is creatively impotent. He’s long past his prime, and has realized that not only is his best work behind him, but that his best wasn’t really that good in the first place. So he’s clawing and scratching and lying and manipulating and trying to claim your work as his own, but all the while he has to live with the heartbreaking knowledge that he’s just not good enough to be great — and he never will be.
He’s a hack. He’s over.
It’s always interesting to see what people do under duress — some rise to the occasion (what you’re going to do) and some devolve to the worst traits of humanity — stealing, lying, evil. Who knows why? Perhaps he is mentally ill. Maybe he’s desperately insecure. Maybe he had an unstable home life with a mother who didn’t love him, or grew up in a prison or a mental institution. Maybe he’s finally realized that women are only sleeping with him for his money, that he has nothing else to offer. Maybe he’s humiliated that he can’t manage to get it up anymore. Maybe he’s just old and untalented and he has a deep hole in his soul — a pathological need for adulation or praise and he’s willing to do anything (including lying or manipulating) to get it. Like a meth addict who steals from his relatives to feed his habit.
Feel sorry for him. He’s terrified of being irrelevant. And he should be. This does not excuse or condone his behavior at all. But someone who is as desperate and empty and insecure as this man seems to be will self-destruct in vivid misery — and it will be sooner, rather than later.
When I worked in advertising, there was a saying that great advertising couldn’t save a bad product, it would only expose it as crap a whole lot faster. Your letter says you work in a small industry, you have a good reputation, and you have many productive years ahead of you. Your professional reputation will be just fine, for those very reasons. He, on the other hand, will not fare as well. There’s no need for you to shine a spotlight on his inadequacies and gaping deficits — he’ll do that all by himself, quickly exposing himself to the people in your industry as the talentless fraud that he is.
Insecure men, and men with erection issues (seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true), are also much more likely to cheat. More here: Is He Cheating?
Ask Lisa! My Ex is a Lying Hack by Lisa Daily. (c) Copyright 2001-2013 *Some letters have been edited for clarity.