Kathy Haggis Blog

The Starter Wife

I have never met a woman with more sheer guts and determination than Paul’s first wife, Diane.

She bore four children, lost a son, and raised three girls with extraordinary patience and love. Her unfaithful husband put her through a grueling seven-year divorce, followed by a two-year custody battle, all the while beating his chest and claiming to be the victim. But it was Diane who walked away after fifteen years of marriage with a minor financial settlement and without her children, despite having fought with the courage of a lioness to keep them in a happier, saner environment. She was “The Starter Wife” and, just as in that all-too-similar tale, the ruthless tactics of a more powerful husband prevailed.

Over the years, to his shame and mine, I watched Paul drive wedges between Diane and every one of her relatives on both sides of the family. He has made it his mission in life to strip her of all credibility in the eyes of everyone who will listen, regardless of whether they know her or not. Although they have been divorced for many years now, he continues that crusade of black propaganda to this day, unaware that each time he attempts to harm Diane he damages himself far more.

I wrote the other day in my post “In Search of Rosebud” about the way in which a clever con will trick himself into believing his own lies, to the point where he becomes the victim of his delusions. One small but tellingexample of this in Paul concerns the mystery of the whereabouts of the wealth of family photos that he brought back to L.A. after our mother died. My sister asked me about these precious old albums a few weeks ago and I told her where they were the last time I saw them: in the dining room of Paul’s house, circa 1999. On the day we gathered as a family to celebrate my mother’s life, he specifically promised to keep them safe in his home so we could all come to see them when we liked. But when I met with my niece for coffee the other day she told me a strange story. She said the photos have disappeared and, when asked, Paul repeatedly insisted that they could only have been taken by Diane (thereby crediting her with yet another dastardly act). I stared at my niece in amazement at this tale. Even she was aware of the gaping flaw in his logic and could only shake her head. Diane and Paul hadn’t lived together for over ten years when Paul came into possession of those photos; he had remarried and she was living in another country when they disappeared.

Like anyone who threatens to reveal the truth about Paul, Diane has become a specter he must continue to defeat, time and again, long after she left the arena. He can’t allow it to be known that she was the good and loyal wife who changed her citizenship so that he could come to Hollywood and follow his dream, and used her grandmother’s engagement ring as collateral against loans to help pay the bills. He can’t acknowledge that she created a beautiful home, catered to his family day and night whenever they visited, hosted all the holidays meals, helped his mother when she was ill, devoted herself to charitable causes for which her husband took all credit, all the while raising their children virtually alone. I wish I could credit Paul for contributing significantly to those efforts too, but it would not be true; the heavy lifting always fell to Diane because, as one daughter revealed in the New Yorker article, he was simply never there.

I was, however. Diane and I raised our children together. They were best friends until Paul’s treatment of Diane drove a wedge between his family and mine. Paul cannot credit Diane for her many attributes simply because he worked too hard for too many years fashioning her into his imaginary nemesis. But then how else does one justify destroying the best friend he ever had?

I love my nieces. All have grown up to be strong, talented women and a credit to the woman who raised them. Yet I came away from my recent visit with my youngest niece with the sad premonition that those three girls will never know how courageous a mother they were blessed with. I just keep praying and remembering the phrase my Yorkshire lass of a grandmother was so fond of repeating: “The truth will out.”

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