Putting It All Together

16, May 2011 at 4:09 AM (sad or sorry for myself) (, , , , , , , , )

[21. May update: I have been thinking about this post, and I feel stupid for it. I won’t remove it, however, because I think it serves to represent just how confused, insecure and unable to know what reality even is anymore when someone exercises gaslighting, withholding and underloading on their partner– and how much I had to rely on deduction, inference, or “filling in the blanks” to try to figure out what was ever going on. I could never know what was true and what wasn’t, I still can’t. I am back to thinking that probably nothing happened between him and his high-school friend, and that I’m just being ridiculous for thinking maybe something did. But that’s just it: this is how things were every day, me going back and forth never being able to know anything, and feeling guilty, stupid or ridiculous whenever I had doubts. What certainly was going on throughout our relationship is that by lying, withholding, manipulating what I could and couldn’t know about him, my partner took control of whether or not there could be any trust or stability in the relationship. He didn’t have to actually cheat on me to make me feel insecure or jealous or even distrustful of my own instincts; by choosing to be always evasive and secretive, he only had to leave open and let me wrestle with the possibility of whether or not he did, would have, or wanted to. Obviously trust and intimacy cannot be created in such a relationship; anyone who, like my ex, would choose to cultivate insecurities, jealousies, distrust and self-doubt in their partner instead of trust, confidence, and stability, is taking abusive control of his partner’s feelings, emotions and ability to make decisions that are right for them.]

From what I have been learning, abusers seem to respond to the final break-up in one of two ways. Some are deeply outraged at their loss of control over their partner and intensify the abuse in an effort to maintain control or get it back. The other type leaves almost in relief: it was getting to be too much work and hassle to control their partner, manipulate their allies, and keep their guilt from overtaking their conscience. Neither outrage nor relief would be the reaction of someone who genuinely loves their partner. Except for one breathless and panicky voice mail message in which he insists I let him come over to talk to me left shortly after he read my break-up letter (he claims there was no connection, that he was just beside himself in a state of incoherence for no reason at all), my former partner falls and remains squarely in the latter category.

One of the things he did from the very beginning and throughout our relationship was lie to me about just about everything. Yet he would argue for hours whenever I confronted him that he was being completely honest even though he understood at the time I asked him something that he was strategically misleading me (“protecting” me from the truth so I “wouldn’t feel bad”, he said).  He can make the claim that he was honest due to extremely very careful and idiosyncratic interpretation known only to him of questions that I asked. Instead of answering the spirit of a question, he would pick out a single word, interpret it in his own private way, and answer accordingly. I could, of course, never know what, exactly, he was answering, and it took a very, very long time to figure out this is what was going on (this is called “Gaslighting”; see also: What is Withholding?).

[Note: the text below has been revised since this was originally posted; I discovered by review of our emails that I did not in fact question my partner on if he was sleeping with someone else, but rather I wondered if he was sleeping somewhere else– a significant difference, which does not make any assumption about whether he was staying with someone male or female, friends, other family or a new partner.  My inquiry only questions his location and not his activities. As shall be seen below, he responded aggressively about where he was staying by introducing himself the possibility he was sleeping with someone. Though he denies it, he does so in the same breath as he suggests it. Not only is this an example of gaslighting, especially because even I myself was led by his response to believe or feel as though I asked something I didn’t, but it looks very much like “confessing by denying”– like the classic “stupid criminals” story of the guy who was standing by a trash can when police officers walked by: when asked what he was doing there, the guy said, “I didn’t throw any drugs in the trash, if that’s what you were thinking!” This unsolicited denial aroused the officers’ suspicions; they then looked in the trash and sure enough, there were drugs and the guy was arrested. Having noticed this oddity today, I take back that it seems far-fetched that he was sleeping with someone within a week of seeing me for the last time, and now feel it appears likely he was– and what this would mean to me is that not only might he have lied to me about the incident itself, but also he lied the last time I saw him about how long he intends to wait (“at least a year”) before considering himself recovered enough from the pain of our relationship not working out before he “could even think about being intimate with another woman.” The bottom line, if it is the case that he lied about these things, for me is this: he suffers absolutely no heartbreak about never being with me again; further, I was not the “love of his life”, but rather an easily replaceable object. 😥 All that said, let us proceed with the story:]

Since our breakup, my partner and I have remained distantly in contact over email, mostly him dumping his endless problems with his car and his job on me, and arguing about financial matters. One day he seemed to me to suggest that he wasn’t staying where he said he was staying, and I wondered if he was hinting that he was already sleeping with someone else or at someone else’s house. I wrote him back and told him I really did not need to hear about such things, and stated I felt it was insensitive to imply to me that he had so soon moved on. He replied to everything else in my message except this issue. In fact, he seemed to make it a point to highlight his evasion by beginning his message with, “I guess I’d better clear some things up”– addressing every single thing in my previous message except whether or not I had any cause to be concerned that he was implying he had already moved on only a week after we shared our last kiss. What one doesn’t say is sometimes more revealing than what one does say, so I pointed out that I noticed his omission. He wrote back another ambiguous note that still did not address my concern. Finally, after many messages between us, in a note which makes several totally unfounded accusations distorting my original concern, he said, “If you like just assuming I’m sleeping with someone, go ahead. But I’m not.” Pretty insensitive, isn’t it, to assert I like to think of him sleeping with someone else, or that I would like to believe he had so little feeling for me that he’d have moved on within just a couple weeks.

Tonight I was thinking about just that: how quickly and totally he appeared to be over everything. At no time since we broke up has he ever expressed being sorry, or that he misses me, or that this is hard or in any way an emotional time. He has sent me a list of dumb things to make sure I remember to give back to him and includes a gift I gave him as if it were no more sentimental than anything else on the list, like bottles of vitamins, or unused notebooks. To everything I have said– angry, sad, sentimental, in need of closure, or even just asking him to read a book which might help him understand what went wrong– he has responded with THE WALL OF SILENCE, as if all he saw in those parts of my messages was blank space. I hear from a trusted friend that on facebook he is just exactly the same as he was two years ago, as if he never knew me, and our relationship never happened: his mood is neither up nor down, he’s just the same ol’ guy he always was. Sure, people don’t have to “advertise” their bad relationships online, but I guess what I think I’m seeing here is a guy who hasn’t had a single regret or thought in his head wishing we weren’t broken up or that there was anything he should have done differently to prevent that. I think what I’m seeing here is a guy whose last-relationship demons are already exorcised, who is already over it, and for whom there is no looking back. You know what that usually means: he slept with someone.

But when I wondered if he was sleeping somewhere other than at his parents’ or a friend he intended to move in with, after a great deal of dodging he finally said, “If you like just assuming I’m sleeping with someone, go ahead. But I’m not.” At the time I thought, silly me, yeah, it would seem pretty far-fetched that he found someone to hook up with that fast, but tonight it hit me: the -ING! SleepING with someone. Ah, I get it. In order to understand his answer, passive-aggressively worded no less, I have to interpret the question in the way that he would: sleepING with someone suggests something currently happening and/or ongoing (in fact, this verb tense is called “present continuous”). If he had already slept with someone once or twice and he does not expect it to happen again– he would say, no, I am not sleepING with someone. This is very different than what would be said by a compassionate partner who didn’t sleep with someone; a compassionate partner would not want someone he cares about to worry or feel bad, especially about something that didn’t happen. A person who loves you and cares about being honest with you would answer the spirit of the question directly: “I haven’t slept with anyone.” A person who cared about you might even expand on that to comfort you with something to the effect of, “I am not interested in getting involved with anyone so soon, I have a lot to deal with, etc” or “I told you I loved you and never wanted to be with anyone else, that doesn’t change in a matter of weeks.” But I know the guy I was with, and I know his particular method of lying to me in such a way as to be able to later claim and feel like he’s technically telling the truth: by picking out a single word, interpreting it in his own private way, and answering only that. So it could very well be possible that he had sex with someone else anywhere between the day he left and the day before I wondered if he was sleeping at someone else’s; it could also be possible that he got a blow-job a few times but didn’t have intercourse; it could even be possible that he had sex a few times, got a blow-job a few times, did it upside down standing on his head in the middle of Main Street with five different women in broad daylight, but as long as he didn’t SLEEP with someone (as in catch a few z’s), this guy would say, “If you like just assuming I’m sleeping with someone, go ahead. But I’m not”, and feel 100% confident that he was answering what I wanted to know with the absolute, God’s Honest Truth.

This leads to wondering if it would even be possible for him to find a new partner so fast. But then I remembered when he left another time last year, he told me he had gotten together socially with his high-school friend Becky, a girl he reported having a crush on and wanting to sleep with for years. She was going through some difficulties with her boyfriend at the time, and was considering an estrangement or break-up also. After their meeting, I saw a message she wrote him about “renewing vows” with him. I asked him what that meant, he said he had no idea. That to me sounds pretty hard to believe, such a strong sentiment from one of his oldest friends, someone he had long and lingering feelings for, something that references some kind of special or meaningful pact or agreement he made with her at some time in their past. But, he claimed, he had no idea what she was talking about. She also invited him on a road trip somewhere, somewhere which would involve staying overnight together. I asked him why she would think it’s appropriate to invite him to stay with her somewhere overnight when he supposedly has a girlfriend (whom she never met, besides). Again, he said he had no idea what her intentions may have been or why she would invite him to go somewhere and stay overnight with her. He said because he hasn’t a clue what any of it was about, he was just going to ignore her messages, so I shouldn’t be worried. Though I found it kind of odd that he would just ignore his oldest friend like that rather than give her an answer to her invitation or try to find out what she meant by “renewing their vows” (if he really didn’t know what this meant, which I seriously doubt), I had so many other things to worry about with him I took his advice and forgot about it.

Well now, I must admit, this stuff worries me. Was he leaving me and going to her and talking to her about things and in some certain way that gave her the impression that he was available? Perhaps this shouldn’t matter now, but when I look at how fast this guy (who always and even at the end claimed he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me) seems to be without a regret or care in the world that he shall never lay eyes on me or hear my voice again, I wish, I really, really wish, I knew what was really going on then. I just want to understand what was happening in my relationship. And if he was mincing words when he answered my supposition that he was sleeping somewhere other than where he said he was at the time, I wish, I really, really wish I knew that too. Not because I have any “claim” to him anymore, and not so I can torture myself about it, but so I can finally put to rest the question of whether this guy, who never showed love for me a day in his life but could (and often did!) argue to the contrary for 6, 8, 10 uninterrupted hours if I said I didn’t feel cared about, could this guy have possibly loved me, did he ever even like me, or was everything a lie? Because I’d have to say, if he was flirting with his friend while we were together, if he slept (in any of that word’s connotations) with her or someone else since we broke up, that would explain a great deal: about the speed and ease with which he appears to have gotten over me, about why he will never acknowledge or deal with what he did, about why he isn’t sorry, about why isn’t sad, about why he isn’t even fucking curious about how I’m doing personally (what kind of guy wants to spend the rest of his life with a girl he doesn’t even care to ask, “How have you been?” when he writes her two months after not seeing her anymore?), about why he can go around smiling and joking with people, same ol’ guy he always was, while two months after he moved out I’m still wrecked with grief, loss, and the physical and emotional effects of his abuse on me and my son.

Maybe it is is a far-fetched explanation to suppose the reason he’s over everything as quickly and completely as he appears is because he has already consummated a long-developing affair with his high-school crush with whom he had taken some kind of secret personal vows. The simpler explanation is: he is an abuser, and abusers don’t give a goddamn about anything that isn’t providing direct benefit to themselves. Most especially do they not give a damn about their partners’ need and right to hear the truth about what he did, why he did it, and what, if anything, he is willing to do about it to help her recover from the damage he caused.

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“That’s none of your business.”

9, April 2011 at 2:59 PM (angry or frustrated, defeated, this is madness) (, , , , , , , , )

Blocking and diverting: Blocking and diverting specifically controls interpersonal communication. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed, and withholds information, thereby preventing all possibility of resolving conflicts. Blocking may be accusatory; however, its primary purpose is to prevent discussion, end communication, withhold information, or “win” an argument. Through diversion the topic is changed, often turning the tables on the partner so she must defend herself on an unrelated topic. None of the abuser’s diversions answer the partner’s question or concern in a thoughtful and considerate way. The abuser blocks her attempts to gain information or open communications by diverting her from the issue with accusations and irrelevant comments. Often the partner does not notice that the original topic is no longer the topic. She has been diverted.

Underloading: The ways that RIGHT TO KNOW are violated are when we are not given clear information, as in underloading[.] In underloading, the abusive partner gives us too little information so we are off-balance and have shaky confidence about what we are learning; or the person has left and it is only after they’re gone that we realize we don’t know any more than before we asked them a question. At these times it requires the receiver of the information to assume or draw conclusions about the meaning of the incomplete information. This is also a time when mind-reading comes into play. In order to survive this walking on eggshells, the receiver of the incomplete message or silent treatment must use past references to know what the sender of the message might intend.

Withholding: When a man refuses to empathetically listen, validate, or share information and emotions, he’s destroying the core of what sustains an intimate relationship. He’s withholding. For a relationship to be truly intimate, it requires mutual and empathetic listening, validation, and sharing.


In the 6-page letter my former partner gave me after I terminated our relationship, in which he provides a summary of our relationship and his experiences in it, he has this epiphany: at the times he didn’t want to talk to me or share information about something, he could have-should have exercised his right to say, “That’s none of your business.”

I don’t know if this is yet another bit of bad advice from his mom or his seemingly inept therapist, or if this is a discovery he came up with on his own; either way, asserting it as a “solution” to his discomfort with talking about certain things, sharing, or otherwise revealing more about himself than he is used to shows me not only how far away he really is from acknowledging how his choices and behaviours destroyed this relationship, but also how much more abusive he could have become had I not ended things when I did.

Now, he’s not wrong: he does indeed have the right to say, “That’s none of your business.” Sounds good in theory, but there are a number of things here he is failing to follow up on regarding how that would play out in practice:

1. “That’s none of your business” is a statement people use to quickly shut someone else out;
2. It violates my right to know;
3. It denies and rejects my interests or concerns;
4. It lacks empathy;
5. It steals power: he takes authority over me to decide for me what is or is not my business;
6. It is a conversational shut-down technique, which thwarts communication;
7. It functions not as an emotional boundary, but a wall;
8. It expresses hostility: the other is an enemy or threat;
9 a. It is underloading, which is abusive: I do not learn anything and have to operate on assumptions;
9 b. This immediately turns into attacking me for “jumping to conclusions”, “filling in the blanks”, “making assumptions”, “being judgmental”, “putting words in his mouth”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting);
10 a. It is blocking, which is abusive: he controls communication, and therefore prevents conflict resolution;
10 b. Continuing to make attempts to resolve the conflict immediately turns into attacking me for “not letting things go”, “dragging things on forever”, “never giving him a break”, “wearing him out”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting);
11 a. It is diverting, which is abusive: what and why I wanted to know something becomes the controversy and puts me on the defense;
11 b. This immediately turns into attacking me for “being so defensive”, “not letting things go”, “asking too many questions”, “having irrelevant interests/concerns”, “changing the subject”, “failing to make him comfortable opening up”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting heaped on blame-shifting and diverting)
12 a. It is withholding, which is abusive: it destroys trust and prevents intimacy, the relationship cannot survive;
12 b. This immediately turns into attacking the relationship itself for “being unhealthy”, “being toxic”, “being bad”, “it should have ended earlier”, “he wants to leave”, “he can’t handle this”, “there are too many problems”, etc (which is diverting and coercive);
13. It arouses greater suspicion: what is he trying to hide?
14. It prevents me from being able to make informed decisions for myself;
15. It manipulates to what I can or cannot give informed consent;
16. It prevents me from getting to know him (a ha, we may be onto something….);
17. It forgets that I can say, fine, I think it is my business, so if you don’t like that you’re better off with someone who doesn’t care about this as much as I do.

Off the top of my head, these are only some of the many consequences launching a statement like “That’s none of your business” can have in the context of an intimate relationship, but let’s pause on those last few for a moment. Clearly every of these consequences relates to control; but preventing me from getting to know him prevents me from being able to decide for myself not only if he is someone I even want to be with at all, but in what ways and how much I am willing or not willing to compromise, negotiate, or make any of the other usual efforts to sustain a romantic relationship. And preventing all that is seriously manipulative, and seriously abusive of power. In some ways, I’m in awe, really, that he would make any kind of argument in favour of being more controlling, more withholding, more abusive– but of course, this is not what he thinks he is doing. My guess is he thinks he’s asserting his boundaries. Everyone is allowed to have them, fine. I don’t care about that. But something akin to “I’m just not telling you, nyah-nyah-nyah” does not contribute to growing a healthy, mature, intimate or even enjoyable relationship. He has had his girlfriends who didn’t care to know his business, and there are plenty more out there who wouldn’t just the same; there was and still is no need for him to demand of any relationship that it provide him with the sensation of being known without having to tell. And when you get into an area like sex, which I will tell my readers now is what this is all about in our case, it just plain and simple isn’t right– yes it’s capital-w Wrong– to decide for someone else what they do and do not have a right to know before becoming and while being involved with you. Remember I said I agreed he does have the right to say, “That’s none of your business”; moreover I’ll even add that he has a moral obligation to say it if that’s what he truly believes. But someone who says to me, “That’s none of your business”, especially about subjects relating to my/our sexual life, has to be willing to hear me reply, “Well then, see ya later pal, cuz I don’t do relationships like that.”

So the ironic thing is, I wish he did say, “That’s none of your business” from the very start, on every subject he truly felt he didn’t want to talk about, and I wish he would have repeated it as often as necessary until the day I would stop trying to gently explain to him why I feel something is my business (in the beginning, I used to do this), or why being in a relationship is all about sharing your business with someone else (I used to do this, too), because then I could have said not just you’d be better off with someone who doesn’t care about this as much as I do— because he’d argue and argue in disagreement whenever I said that– but I’m better off with someone who doesn’t block and withhold. I guess I always knew that deep down inside, but the crumbs I was thrown here and there made me keep trying. It looks to me now like that’s what he was going for: he wanted to be with me, he wanted us to have a relationship, he just wanted it without the costs and risks of opening up his whole self, and without me having the confidence and power to leave him if I decided he wasn’t the right person for me. Had he said, “That’s none of your business” every time he wanted to or felt like he “should”, I would have decided (and not just supposed) right-quick he is not my guy, no way, no how!

(But that’s what power and control is about, isn’t it. Getting the most of what you want for the least expense and trying to keep it as long as possible. Emotional capitalist-consumerism. Yuck.)

Really, it’s just sad. He didn’t want to lose me, so he did everything in the book to try to “keep” me, which is exactly what is written in the book on how to lose me. I’m just very, very sorry that the lesson he learned from it all was not how to build a relationship better, but how to destroy it faster; not how to become a more trusting and trustworthy person, but how to become more closed and suspicious; not how to become more transparent, but more opaque; not how to become an intimate partner, but how to remain an enigma.

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