Recently, I watched a psychological thriller series on Netflix, Doctor Foster. If you’re not familiar, the basic plot goes something like this: Husband cheats on wife. Wife finds out. Husband continues to lie. Wife loses her shit and becomes paranoid and slightly psychotic. Husband and wife have it out to the point that he smashes her face into the glass door. Police come, husband leaves town with girlfriend, and Doctor Foster, the title character, moves on with her life.
Then, husband returns to town. Not only is he remarried with a kid, he has one goal: to destroy his ex-wife. Doctor Foster, of course, doesn’t take well to this and immediately becomes a bit nutso again. There is a slight twist in the end, and the point of the whole story becomes achingly obvious. In their quest to destroy each other, neither husband nor wife realize the biggest casualty of their hatred is their son.
If you like psychological thrillers, especially one with British characters, then binge this. If you had a husband who cheated on you who also happens to be a psychopath/narcissist +/- an alcoholic, proceed with caution.
I won’t say that PC and I are Gemma and Simon Foster. Gemma is way more unhinged than I was or will be. For example, she pretends she murdered their son in a fit of madness and presents this to Simon for the sole purpose of getting him to feel it, i.e. feel how badly it hurts when your entire life is destroyed and ruined by someone who is supposed to love you.
Gemma sneaks into his new wife’s house. She proceeds to seduce Simon for the intent of recording it and showing it to the new wife. She exploits the new wife’s father for money. She nearly runs Simon over with her car, only swerving at the last minute. She’s savage and unhinged and also calculating.
And Simon is not exactly PC, but close. Risky, shady business investments. Lies about everything. Infidelity. Gaslights Gemma. Uses his children. Takes pleasure in torturing Gemma. It was uncomfortable watching the scenes in which he accused her of being crazy (yes, she was a bit, but he made her that way) and watching the cocky, arrogant smirk on his face. PC did this to me both before and after our marriage: he would fight with me in maddening ways to the point that I would lose my temper, and then he would laugh at me and comment on how “crazy” I was and “who would want to be with someone like you?”
Simon drinks less than PC but that’s definitely a contributing factor. I’m not sure he’s as intelligent as PC, but the one advantage the character has over PC is that he’s charming and charismatic.
And, he’s handsome. (That fact is irrelevant, but needed to be mentioned.)
But the points that hit home are this. I may not have snuck into Trollup’s house to see what their lives were like, I may not have tried to run PC down, and I may not have gone completely psycho. But I certainly imagined all those things. I get the emotions that drove Gemma Foster to do those things. I know how it feels when someone is psychologically abusing and manipulating you and there’s nothing you can do about it. I understand the fear when this person knows exactly how to hurt you. For both Simon and PC this is through the children.
Simon manages to take their son from Gemma, and this is–potentially–my biggest fear: that I will lose my kids to this monster just because he is their dad, and he’s a liar, and he’s a good liar. And I know he can’t take them in the sense of custody…but in the case of the Fosters’ kid, he chose, as a teen, to leave his mother and live with his dad. Despite the insanity in some of the things she did, Gemma was inherently driven by the desire to protect her son and in the end he walked away from her anyhow–because he believed the lies his father told.
And Simon; one of the creepiest and most unsettling things about him was his obsession with Gemma. Despite hating her (and he adamantly admitted again and again that he did) he also basically groomed his new wife to be like Gemma. No one realized this except for Gemma herself…not even Simon. But when Gemma points it all out…its glaringly obvious.
Just like its obvious that PC is basically creating the same life with Trollup that he had with me. He has her worn down and under his control. He has her considering quitting her job to be a stay-at-home-mom, despite the fact that she has stable, lucrative employment. He leaves her home alone while he sits at bars, knowing she is waiting for him. He still drinks, causes fights and disasters, and puts all of the childcare on her–even for two children who are not hers. I hear she defers to him pretty easily, that she used to be all about her child and now she’s all about PC. Their buying a new, huge home, not unlike PC and I did many years ago, and I’m willing to bet she wasn’t an equal decision maker in this process.
They recently got engaged, and he announced it on Facebook, and I’m fairly certain its killing PC that I have not commented to him, brought it up, or asked the kids. I hear through the rumor mill that she has no ring and that pretty much sounds to me like PC…and, since he’s been so fond of telling me she is his fiancé for the past year or so…makes me wonder if the whole “Facebook Official” is for my benefit. Even if PC tells himself and Trollup that it’s not.
I think back to the summer when I was blissfully involved with The Plumber and PC found out. He harassed me about it. He tried to get out of paying me alimony by claiming we were “cohabitating”. He chose to tell our children that I was dating The Plumber. He chose to suddenly befriend The Plumber’s ex-wife. He repeatedly inserted snide comments into otherwise normal texts, such as asking me what time he should pick up the kids and “should I get them at your house or The Plumber’s?”
He convinced The Plumber’s ex-wife to switch custody weekends as well as her weekly schedule to ensure that The Plumber and I had zero time alone. This is the same man who insisted our custody schedule match Trollup’s.
When our daughter had lice, he chose to inform The Plumber’s wife about it even though (a) it had nothing to do with her and (b) our kids had not even spent any time together. It was solely intended to cause drama, and it certainly did.
And when he finally got word that The Plumber and I were no longer together? He mentioned it to me right away, in true PC fashion, in a nasty text message. Inserted between his words threatening to ruin my vacation and threatening to take me to court, he laced a sorry to hear about you and The Plumber. Too bad you can’t make a relationship work.
A few weeks ago The Plumber was at my house, signing work papers that I had brought home with me. As we have somehow managed to remain friends, we chatted in my living room and his car was parked in front of my house for about thirty minutes. Within twenty-four hours, PC was questioning my kids about “I thought you said Mom wasn’t with The Plumber anymore? Well why was his car at your house?”
When I relayed this craziness to The Plumber, he just shook his head in disbelief and told me he had heard similar. So not only did PC question my children, he likely called The Plumber’s ex-wife.
And the final kicker, he apparently caught sight of a big ring on my finger. To clarify: this is a $10 Old Navy ring. It does reside on my left ring finger when I wear it, not for any reason other than that’s where it fits. Apparently, PC saw this ring, thought it was an engagement ring, and questioned my kids. Both came home and suspiciously investigated the ring, to the point that I questioned why they were both so interested in my jewelry all of the sudden.
“I’m not,” my son said. “Dad‘s the one who brought it up. He wanted to know who gave it to you.”
I didn’t answer him, but later that night my son suddenly had all sorts of questions about The Plumber. Was he still my boyfriend? If not, why was his car at our house (how would my kid, who was in school that day, even know? And why, oh why, does it matter?) I explained to my son that The Plumber and I are still close, we don’t hang out as often as we did in the summer for multiple reasons, and I reminded him that The Plumber is still our friend. I didn’t lie to him, but I also didn’t clarify that we are just friends. That’s the extent of my Gemma Foster brand of crazy…wanting PC to wonder.
But if you take stock and you really read back what I just listed: PC’s interest and involvement and commentary of the short but sweet love story of The Plumber and I, its really quite disturbing. Baffling. Reminder, PC: you left me. You wanted a divorce. You said you weren’t in love with me. You told me again and again, you hoped I would find someone to be happy with, go find a boyfriend and stop obsessing, you’re just jealous of Trollup, blah blah, blah.
Last night, I went out and ran into a friend. The first thing she did was take my hand and look at my ring. I was like “What? Why are you looking at that?” And she proceeded to tell me how, several weeks ago, she ran into PC. Apparently, he said to her “so, Charlotte’s engaged?” Curious, and also baffled, she responded by asking why he thought so and WTF?
“She has a big rock on her finger,” he apparently said.
After investigating my circular, ornate, silver-color-rubbing-off-because-its-cheap ring, we had a good laugh about my “rock” but this friend also reminded me that when The Plumber and I were first dating, PC had accosted her in public asking if she had “heard the news” about my love affair.
Ladies and gentlemen, all of this–everything I’ve just written–comes from a man who cheated on me, left me, immediately moved in with his mistress, forced her on my children, bought a house with her, and is presumably engaged to her. His obsession with this is not normal. Especially the fact that he’s going on assumptions and narratives of children.
But just like Gemma saw the ways that Simon was making his new wife into his old wife, I’ve always seen these subtlties. How PC at first took Trollup to all of the same restaurants and bars that were “ours”. How he unabashedly brought her into the country club that was our family place. How the vacations he takes her on were not unlike “ours”: trips to the same cabin, all he did was switch women. Trips that involved chartered fishing trips in the ocean. Trips that involved gambling and casinos.
How he doesn’t go on her vacations with her family. How they constantly go to the casino. How she’s considering staying at home and letting him make the money because that’s exactly where he wants her. I think in some ways, he doesn’t have the control over her that he had over me (yet) because she isn’t financially reliant on him (yet).
There is really no beginning/middle/end to this post…it’s merely observational. In the same psychopathic way of Simon Foster, PC likely is completely unaware of this obsession with me, the past, and the fact that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. He adamantly insists he hates me, and I believe him, one hundred percent. No normal, happy, content person would cheat and leave, and then spend two years harassing, verbally abusing, psychologically torturing, late-night texting, stalking, and generally, well, obsessing, over the person they supposedly hate.
Underneath all of it lies yet another victim in the train wreck that is PC’s life: Trollup. Yeah, yeah. Karma. She got what she deserved. She’s about to marry a man who is more obsessed with punishing the mother of his children then moving on and building a solid life with her. A man who values their union so little that he cared more about announcing it on Facebook than buying and giving her a representation of their union: a ring. Did PC ever stop to think how that might make Trollup feel? Its the first question people ask: to see the ring. But nope…he was more concerned with making sure the world knew he was engaged…less than ten days after the divorce was final. In my eyes…it was more about his way of announcing he was finally divorced from me, the object of his hatred.
Unlike Trollup, at least I have a “rock” on my hand. Ten dollar Old Navy ring…money well spent.