If you are married to someone who has cheated on you, you may harbor hope deep down in your heart that your partner will change. If you are married to someone who is suffering from an addiction, you will do anything in your power to help your partner get help and recover. However, if you are married to a sociopath, there is no remedy for your partner; you either stay or go.
A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite is a deeply emotional and descriptive narrative of the author’s experience in her relationship and marriage to a sociopath. We meet Waite as she is waiting tables at a restaurant to support herself as she pursues her acting career. During training, Waite falls for the tall, dark, and handsome bar manager Marco. There is instant chemistry between the two and they quickly develop a relationship. Waite, however, learns rather quickly that Marco is not squeaky clean. He overstayed his U.S. visa and has been living in the U.S. illegally, working low-paying jobs for the past 12 years. Marco also informs Waite that he has a grade-school-aged child with a past girlfriend and was getting out of a seven-year relationship with his latest ex. Marco’s charm and attentiveness, however, outweigh her concerns and Waite falls head over heels for Marco.
It is no spoiler to say that Marco is a sociopath. As a disclaimer at the beginning of the book, Waite states that although she does not have a professional background, she hints that this label is most suited for Marco. Waite’s narrative runs across two timelines – “before” when the relationship was young and the two seemed to be doing just fine, and “after” when the man that Waite thought she knew vanished before her eyes. The realization that Marco’s kind-hearted nature was insincere is the shattering of Waite’s rose-colored glasses with regards to the relationship.
Waite’s story is like a gruesome car wreck on the side of the road. Once you see it, you can’t turn away; despite your good nature, you’re morbidly hoping to catch a glimpse of something grisly, and when the worst is behind you, your mind is replaying the scene in clear focus. That was my long-winded way of saying that this memoir is engrossing in the best-worst way possible—a literary schadenfreude.
As sad as the situation is, I quite enjoyed hearing Waite’s story. In the memoir, you will learn the details of Waite’s relationship and catch a glimpse into this particular sociopath’s playbook. Additionally, through Waite’s online research and conversations with a therapist, you will become familiar with the typical patterns, habits, and even fetishes of a sociopath. Knowing that that this sort of relationship never really has a happy ending, I would only really recommend this book to those of you who find this topic fascinating and don’t mind reading something that will weigh a little more heavily on your heart and mind. Regardless, if you are interested in psychology, relationships, or dramas, you will surely find something of intrigue in A Beautiful, Terrible Thing.