When someone you love changes into someone you don’t know anymore it is the most terrifying experience in the entire world. When someone you loved, and who you believe loved you, turns into a complete stranger who is capable of hurting you seemingly beyond repair, it leaves you broken and questioning your own sanity. The man I was with for 16 years, married to for 11, had 2 beautiful children with, 3 dogs, multiple cats, 2 homes, a lifetime of adventures, a shared language of silly words just for us….That man is gone. I will struggle with the hurt and utter confusion around this for years.
People have thrown out the phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ and ‘nervous breakdown’. They tell me that he will come to his senses eventually but I know he won’t. And to be honest, I don’t want him back anymore. He is happy now with his new life. He is seriously dating the girlfriend and identifies as polyamorous. He is a part-time dad and has a very full social life. He is now a vegetarian who wears earrings and a gold necklace. He has changed from someone who was loving and caring and supportive into someone who is combative, capable of gaslighting me at every turn and generally emotionally toxic.
The reason for my post this morning is that I wanted to share with you a conversation my ex and I had just yesterday via text. I want to share it and analyze it with you so that I can process it more deeply and hopefully help other people out there see through someone else’s bullshit. Being able to separate oneself from, and identify gaslighting, emotional abuse, and shaming can be extremely difficult. If it is happening to you, the first step is recognizing the behavior. The second step is knowing that it IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Your feelings and emotions are valid. You are worth it. Absolutely.
Here is the conversation; he had asked me if I could watch the kids so he and his girlfriend could go away this May – I have obviously changed people’s names for the sake of anonymity.
Me: “My decision is this; If your need is for me to babysit while you are going away with (Julie) then I don’t feel comfortable doing that. So, in the future, do not ask me to do things like that.”
Him: “This requires me to explicitly tell you when I’m doing something without (Julie), which is none of your business. I therefore won’t ask you to watch the kids, period. I will reciprocate that. Don’t ask me to “babysit” the kids either. You are making things unnecessarily difficult, so I don’t feel obliged to make them any easier for you.”
Me: “I am not, (Mike). And I am sorry that you feel that way. You are being combative and immature. I can’t support your relationship all of a sudden. I haven’t been okay with it since June. I don’t need to know what you do with her or anyone. Just leave me out of your planning if it is with her. I am happy to do it for other things. Put yourself in my shoes, one time. It doesn’t feel good. And that has to be okay. I need to do this for me. I can’t please you, or anyone else, all the time anymore. And you need to see that you’re essentially shaming me for stating my needs because you are judging them as not valid. I am not letting you do that to me anymore.”
Him: “You are missing the point. If I ask you to watch them, I will have to explicitly tell you that my plans do not involve her, which is none of your business. Call me all the names you want. I am just reciprocating, that’s it. It’s no longer any of your business who I spend time with. If your support of me is conditional, then I don’t want it at all. I’m not shaming you. I’m giving you my response to your “boundary”. Are you shaming me for wanting to spend time with (Julie)? What you are doing looks a lot more like shaming than my response to it, but it isn’t shaming. But if I’m shaming you, you are certainly shaming me.”
Me: “I’m not shaming your relationship with (Julie). I don’t want any part of it. I’m really sad you don’t see that. I’m done here.”
Sigh. Big huge sigh. My initial reaction to even being asked to watch the kids on what is typically his night was one of very mixed emotions. I was torn between wanting to be with them, wanting to preserve my space and my night alone, always wanting to help out, and of course, not wanting any part of being his babysitter for a getaway with the girlfriend. I started to fall down into that hole in the sidewalk that has swallowed me time and again these past three months. Until I saw his texts for what they really were. Emotionally unhealthy and abusive. Threatening and angry. Once I was able to separate myself from that utter ridiculousness, I felt empowered and in control. I saw the entire conversation from a place of calm clarity. I jumped right out of that hole. And damn, that made me feel happy.
I set a boundary. I was calm, clear, confident, and non-combative. I realized that I needed to do this for ME. His reaction was caustic, shaming, and argumentative. And I’m sorry, but it was very immature to threaten me with withholding help with our children should I need it. He further attacked me with denial of my need, deflection of my feelings, and then accusations around what he interpreted as me shaming his relationship with the girlfriend. There was no validation. No understanding. No compassion. No empathy.
BLAME. SHAME. DEFLECT. RESENT.
He can have all the relationships he wants. He can find childcare when he needs it. I have every right to set my own boundaries just as he does. What I will not tolerate is his continued denial of my boundaries when he perceives them as ridiculous or shaming. They are not for him to judge. I am worth it. I am worth it. I AM WORTH IT.
I think about the girl who wanted so much to please him, support him, and try to be someone she was not. I think about all of the abuse she suffered as the man she loved turned into someone selfish, caustic, and narcissistic. A man who continually put his needs before hers. The mere fact that I spent much of 2016 questioning my own sanity breaks my heart.
It’s a new year; a new me. This is a new beginning.
I will not fall prey to his bullshit anymore.