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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Moving Him Out

24, April 2011 at 5:09 PM (conflicted, sad or sorry for myself) (, , , )

The other day my ex wrote, not to ask if I could be available for him on short notice to get the rest of his things, but to tell me to be available for him on short notice to get the rest of his things. As if it weren’t enough that he feels so entitled to my time, he included a paragraph of things I shouldn’t forget to pack up for him:

“There are some things of mine I was thinking you might not know to pack. I have notecards and notebooks in the desk drawer. My baby book is mixed in with your books. I have my lightbox in the hallway bookcase, and somewhere around there is a sheet of dirty plexiglass and a T-square. Then there’s the Raccoon plate in the kitchen. I could use that gray drawer unit as well. There’s some stuff of mine in the linen closet, but all I can remember besides a bunch of random pills, is the jug of Greased Lightning. There’s probably more I can’t think of now.” (emphasis mine)

The plate was a gift from me (he likes raccoons; it’s a decorative plate, not one for eating off of, though he was unappreciative enough to do that too). While packing his things, I have been truly surprised by how many things there are that I have given him as gifts. As I said in my earlier post Helpful and Unhelpful Reminders about the sad process of packing his belongings, the only gifts I ever got from him were a t-shirt for my birthday just two months after we started dating, and a couple of refrigerator magnets from his favourite coffee shop. Even besides all the other neglects and mistreatments, no wonder I never felt appreciated.

But what bothers me here is in this list of random and generally petty things, he inserts a gift I gave him like it’s just another thing of his he wants to make sure I don’t overlook. It seems so rude. See, if it were me, well for one thing I wouldn’t feel entitled to get back things that were given in a loving spirit, but if I really felt strongly for some reason that I wanted to have it, I might say something like, “And if you don’t mind, could you remember to pack such and such? I’d like to have it to remember you by”. But he does not express any such sentiment. No, it’s just another thing amongst the many, many things I’ve given him over the years for him to use and display in his new bachelor pad.

It kinda makes me sick. People will come in and look around, one of whom someday will be some girl he brings home for the night, and their glances will fall over all these things I picked out or found and gave to him because I wanted to make him happy, feel cared about, thought of, loved. They will learn things about him: a band he likes from a rare poster I acquired for him, how much he likes raccoons and other animals from many assortments of things I gave him, what subjects he’s interested in and what his ideal life is from the many books I’ve found and bought for him, etc. They may even ask or think, “Oh, do you like/are you interested in such-and-such? Me too!” And thus my caring and giving spirit is used to facilitate others getting to know him without me, including the aforementioned future new love-interest. That’s awesome. I never gave him a single thing expecting that it would someday function as decoration in a bachelor’s apartment, or as something for him to do or share with a new girlfriend. The plate was supposed to someday be displayed in our new place, not his new place (maybe someday even their new place). Again, it just seems so rude to remind me to make sure I don’t forget to give him the gifts I gave him!

A friend said expecting me to give him these gifts is “really pushing it”, and that it sounds like he doesn’t really care about the gifts, he just wants to put me through the discomfort of finding all of them and giving them to him (again). They’re probably right. I consider not giving these things to him, but it’s not my style. I guess my ex knows that about me, and is counting on it. What an incredibly insensitive person he was (and still is). How unappreciative he always was (and still is), what an incredible degree of entitlement to my generosity he (still) displays. I should be jumping for joy that I am no longer attached to someone who showed me only violence, neglect, meanness, rudeness, insensitivity, selfishness, who lacked compassion and kindness, who didn’t appreciate but rather felt entitled to my skills, talents and better qualities. But right now I can’t shake feeling disappointed and heartbroken.

Meanwhile he’s irritated (expressed being really put out) that he had to cancel the truck reservation he made without discussing anything with me, because I wasn’t available for him on short notice to get his things. This is a man who is very far away from being a loving, or even semi-functioning, partner. I need to always be reminding myself of that, but it’s so disappointing. I really liked him (when he was in the “nice” phase of his abuse-cycle), and wanted to live with him the rest of my days. He will take away many but mere symbols of my feelings for him and hopes for us; I, not being left even with that, I guess I am left only the many wounds his mistreatment inflicted on me. Thanks, sweetie, but those are gifts I could have lived without.

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Helpful and Unhelpful Reminders

13, April 2011 at 9:34 PM (conflicted, sad or sorry for myself) (, , , , )

The last time I heard from my ex, he sent one of the longest emails I have ever received from him, 556 words outlining his plans for his new life. At the end he offers two brief (totaling a whopping 38 words)– what should we call them, sentiments? condolences?— , the first of which is this: “I love you and part of me just hates this.” I wonder what the other part of him is doing: loving it? feeling neutral about it? thinking about bottlecaps? Part of me… only part of me hates this. I cannot stop re-running this statement over and over in my head. I understand it is best not to have someone like this in my life; before I met him, I wanted someone whose love for me would cause all of him to hate it if he never saw me again. I still do want that.

Expecting him to stop by tomorrow to pick up some more of his things, I busied myself throughout the day gathering up what he brought to my life. Clothes, two toolboxes, a lamp. I resent that he does not have to go through anything like this. He doesn’t have to fold my underwear. He doesn’t have to put presents he gave me in a box for some future boyfriend to look at or play with. There are no presents from him except for a t-shirt he made me for the only birthday he (barely) acknowledged (likely because it was only two months after we started seeing each other). I found lots of shirts in his drawers I never saw him wear, all dress shirts. Well, I never saw him in them because he never took me out on a date. There are small objects all around, things that make a person’s life seem so petty. Guitar picks, pens, receipts. Is this all one’s life amounts to? I found reminders of so many things he always said he was going to do for me or to improve things around the house, but never bothered with: the dresser drawer was never fixed, now it never will be; the coffee pot handle, still broken; stuff from old, half-functional computers never got consolidated, now it never will be. No, he never had the time. All his precious time for straightening out the computers was spent instead complaining about me and all my damn computers, long-distance to a childhood friend of mine. I wondered if I should give him half of the new dishes, there are now way too many for just my son and me and the cupboards are unnecessarily crowded. But then I imagined him doing all the things he learned in this relationship that he should do to make a girl feel special or appreciated, things he never did for me; so for his future girlfriend, a romantic dinner, perhaps, because she is worth it. And as they cuddle in bed the next morning (after wonderful, perfect, comfortable, easy sex like it never was with me, of course), she will sip her coffee out of a cup that had before been next to my bed. Hell no. It is bad enough that when he brings her home next winter, he will pull off one of the mittens I knitted him so he can stroke her cheek while gazing happily into her (much younger, of course, and more) beautiful eyes. She will playfully tug on the ends of his scarf, which also was knitted by me. She might even say, “This is a really nice scarf, where did you get it?” And at this rare demand on his memory which might bring him to a vague association with me, what else can he say but those three little words he said to me more than any others: “I can’t remember.” Oh, and “our cat” for the past sixteen months is now “my cat” for the next sixteen years. Even she had anxiety and developed separation issues in response to his sudden disappearance, and she has a brain the size of a walnut.

THIS SUCKS.

He isn’t having to think about or make decisions about any such things, and I hate him for it– for being able to skate away from it all completely protected from anything which could threaten to tug at any heartstring he may have. Just a few clicks on the internet, and I and our life together essentially vaporises. He will never find a stray hair of mine on a pillow at his parents’ house. He will never find a lost earring of mine under the nighttable at his new bachelor pad. His experience is sterilised, completely scrubbed free of any unexpected and poignant reminder of my existence, cleansed of the toxicity of me, a disease which apparently attacked his brain and paralysed him for just exactly the same amount of time he spent in my life (at least that’s what he tells other people: he is not responsible for anything, “things” just “happened”). While I’ll be nothing but a few amongst the hundreds of photos on his computer of all his other ex-girlfriends, crushes, their cats, and other projects he involved himself with, I will never have the luxury of pretending he didn’t exist. I’ll probably never stop finding scraps of paper everywhere, little notes he hid all over the house (he wouldn’t give them to me directly, I just always had to go on a sort of Easter-egg hunt) about how sorry he is about such-and-such, about how he didn’t mean to do some other thing, about how he “probably” (probably??) should have told me what he liked about me before it was too late. There are so many of these notes. Passive, half-hearted apologies, continuations of arguments, compliments or romantic expressions which came only AFTER I was crying for hours the night before about why he won’t just tell me the truth: he doesn’t love me, he doesn’t seem to even like me.

Oh yeah, his second sentiment? condolence? from his last message: “I was thinking about being with you in the car the other day, and I think what I was feeling was what you once described as ‘coming home.'” (referring to the feeling a person has upon returning from a long trip or from far away, the sort of exhaustion turned to relief, renewed energy and comfort when you are re-immersed in familiarity. I once said I was having a feeling similar to that in his arms– after another of his returns, after another of his moving-aways…) I must infer, after reading 556:38 words outlining his plans for his new life which only part of him hates to get on with, that this sensation moves him very little to not at all. I wish I could be touched, I wish I could be moved. But concessions don’t inspire me, the paucity of emotion expressed does not infect me with similar feelings. I just look at it and feel… disconnected. After all, he can only feel like he was “coming home” because he chose to go significantly away. No one need tell me he just wasn’t into me. I read that book the very next day:

“A man who wants to make a relationship work will move mountains to keep the woman he loves. If he’s not calling you to tell you he loves you and wants you back, it should only be because he’s showing up at your door to do it in person. If he’s not trying to romance your socks off with dates, flowers, and poetry, it should only be because he’s too engrossed with his couples counseling workbooks and is prioritising getting back on the right track. If he’s not doing any of that, he may love you, he may miss you, but ultimately he’s just not that into you.”

“Remember, the only reason he can miss you is because he’s choosing, every day, not to be with you.”

“Just remember [this] is the same person who, not long before, looked you in your beautiful face, took full stock of you and all your qualities, and told you that he was no longer in need of your company.”

Ouch.

But it helped me keep packing. Afterwards I watched the last movie I checked out from the library that I got for us to watch together. It’s due tomorrow, which means he has been gone a month. Having now uneasy associations with originally imagining we’d have watched it together, I waited until the last day to watch it alone. (Turned out to be about loss and coping and monsters inside us, but then at the end it seemed to forget what it was about and just got weird and stupid. Exactly?) Tomorrow the last movie he asked me to get for us from the library will get placed on the hold shelf, I couldn’t stop it while it was in-transit. I guess I’ll just let it sit there until it expires. A book he had a few months ago sits on my account marked “returned” but inexplicably not disappearing off the list. All these things keep popping up, reminding, “Here he was, this guy who didn’t give a damn about you.” And he still doesn’t have to give a damn. He never has to think about me if he doesn’t want to. He never even has to come near this neighbourhood. I have to live in it every day. His disinterest in me, his indifference toward me, his neglect, and the pain it caused every day; his constant goingawayness, his absenteeism. He’ll never see the nightgown he never saw me in. No, only I get to be reminded of that, only I get to be reminded how if he had cared at all about me, it wouldn’t be the nightgown he never saw me in in the first place. Unlike he was in mine, I was never woven into the fabric of his life.

Sometimes I think I hate being me, because it sucks to invite others in and to care about things as much as I do, to be always living in truth. But then I think, it must suck to be so dull and closed inside, to live in such a way that denies, that leaves people so easy to avoid or forget about, and eventually easy to replace. When it seemed he was wholly unfamiliar with a significant part of the letter I sent to finally end things with him, and I asked if he even read it at all, he told me he only just “glanced through it quickly.” He wouldn’t give up his time– his precious, precious time– to give proper attention to even that. What a disrespect to the time I spent writing it. What a dishonour to the last two years of both of our lives.

I remember before I met him, I dreamed of being with someone who cared, who would be kind and compassionate, who would be loving and have appreciation and enthusiasm for the little things in life. I exchanged that dream for someone who was never so much as even curious toward me and could never be bothered for anything more than the use of his drivers license; who chose, every day, even every day he was here, not to be with me; who looked me in my beautiful face, took full stock of me and all my qualities, and told me with his actions every day that he was never in need of my company. I mean, that’s the bottom line, isn’t it. It was wrong for me to give up on myself.

Correction: I found a second present my ex gave me, two refrigerator magnets from his favourite coffee shop; however, another fun thing I came across which I resent having to deal with as part of the breakup while he just gets to go have a squeaky-clean, brand new life: dried urine under the toilet seat, I mean…? Geez, totally not worth it.

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Signs He Isn’t Changing

10, April 2011 at 12:30 AM (defeated, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , , )

If you would like to print out a version without my comments, please see the page Signs Your Abuser Isn’t Changing.

I found this on youarenotcrazy.com, a good site I discovered this week. Unfortunately, the site design is such that I cannot link to the section I want to talk about, so I have to manually re-type the relevant parts here. My ex did every single one of these things.

List of clear signs he isn’t changing:

He says something to the effect of: “I’ll change, but only if you change, too.”
Or, he uses the same argument to defend past behaviour: “With my ex, I would have treated her a lot better if she would’ve just grown up (done what I wanted her to).” This shows he still believes that men are not responsible for their abusive behaviour if provoked. He still believes he is entitled to being abusive– he can give himself permission if she “steps out of bounds.”

— In my case, this was said often as a blame-shifting tactic: he will only acknowledge his abusiveness if I admit I was abusive to him (this is manipulative and coercive). He also said this to excuse physical aggression: though he would admit he has no right to become physically aggressive, still he claimed he wouldn’t have become aggressive if I wouldn’t have said something, or if I would have said something in a different way. This makes me “responsible” for his aggression and the fear I had of being hit. I was also told I should just “know” he won’t hit me, and “knowing” he won’t hit me I would not be afraid; my fear of him was posited as irrational and the result not of his aggression but a character flaw in me: I was being “too sensitive” because people have hit me in the past. In other words, I should recognise it is not he who is making me afraid, but my experiences with others in the past; change my sensitivity and his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Or: change my attitude or knowledge and recognise though he lunges at me he will stop and hit himself or something nearby instead, and again, his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Though he never stopped being physically aggressive, and it became more frequent and unpredictable in where it would be released, I think he did get to the point where he admitted it is never justified under any circumstances, and that my fear was real, valid, and in response to his actions and not others’.

He claims he needs your help to change, he can’t do it alone.
This tactic is controlling and manipulative- it’s generally a way of tricking you into “working on the relationship” when you really just want out. This attitude is prevalent in men who refuse to accept responsibility. In his perspective, his abusive explosions are a result of you having the nerve to stand up to him, your refusal to be bullied, or you insisting on your own identity, including a life that doesn’t revolve entirely around (or interfere with) his desires.

— He always, always “had a different perspective”, and mine was always, always wrong. He would avoid taking responsibility by giving me endless reasons and explanations why he did what he did– this diverted the focus away from what he did and how it made me feel or what effect it was having on our relationship and put the focus on my capacity to be understanding, patient, etc. (and of course, I was never understanding, patient, etc. enough for him, because I refused to make why he was hurting me or damaging our relationship my primary concern and insisted that what he was doing was more concerning to me). I felt bullied, a lot, into having to discuss what was supposedly behind his destructive behaviours; this way, I could never discuss the effect his behaviours were having on me. I was always “working on the relationship”, even after he left the last time, still coming up with ideas and proposals and solutions, still writing them down, still trying to discuss them. He always had other ideas about what was wrong, and I did my best to accommodate– if he thought the “real” problem was he didn’t have enough time alone, I left him alone more; if he thought the “real” problem was he wasn’t getting enough affection, I tried to be more affectionate; if he thought the “real” problem was I didn’t “give him a few days off to recuperate from an argument”, I layed low for a few days; if he thought the “real” problem was he was working too much, I figured out a budget so he could take days off. And of course, no matter how many times or in what ways I accommodated him or capitulated to his needs, it never satisfied him and he always had a new “real” problem whenever I tried to bring up the problems which were real to me. To him the “real” problem was never his abusive behaviour, it was always “ours”. Closest he got to that was asking me to go to couple’s counseling “with him”– as if this was something he could go to alone but he needed my help. I was too confused by this request, and suspicious of his agenda (he was telling me at the time that my character was so “deeply flawed” that I wasn’t seeing how I’m really partially to blame for his behaviour and by not taking responsibility I’m only hurting myself); not until the very end did I agree to couple’s counseling, only when I was very, very desperate that someone hear my side of things. He backed out of the relationship almost immediately.

He brings up that you haven’t recognised and appreciated how much he’s changed.
This shows he doesn’t appreciate or recognise how much pain he’s inflicted on you, or learned to empathise. Once prisoners are released, their tormentors are not deserving of thank you notes or awards banquets. If he understood the pain he put you through, really faced it, he would comprehend how indebted he is to you for putting up with him. If he learned to empathise in this way, and took responsibility for his actions, his guilt would motivate him to reward you, not ask for reward. He clearly doesn’t understand the pain he has caused.

— This section really hits me hard. This was something I always felt or suspected, but never had the right words for. He did often remind me that he learned this or that from some book and I should look at how well he’s putting something into practice, and I always felt like, um? Not hurting someone is supposed to be the default, so I don’t get why I’m supposed to praise you? I could also never wrap my mind around how he could treat me so bad and neglect me so much and have so many complaints about me when really I thought if he just thought about it for a second, he would realise he’s got the love of a good woman who has stuck by him through everything, why couldn’t I get even the tiniest word of appreciation for that? (My theory: the guy hates himself, he’s hated himself since way before he ever met me [there are written records of this], so deep down maybe he can’t take seriously, and certainly he can’t respect, anyone who would love, stand by or up for him.)

He’s in a therapy program that has not contacted his abusees.
Abusive men simply can’t change unless they have accepted responsibility, and the only way to do this is by hearing her truth. Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period. It’s foundational to maintaining their abusive mindset. Only the women know the truth and live with the fallout, and unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.

— YES. For the longest time, I thought he was getting help for his issues by being in counseling. He admitted his therapist never challenged him, and that the therapist probably had such a distorted picture of our relationship from the time when my ex was using therapy to “vent” and get validation that if anything the therapist was probably enabling him. We discussed getting a new therapist, which he eventually did. I hoped he was taking a more responsible approach, I was assured he was dealing with his issues. Nothing changed. He came back every time distant, standoffish, and sometimes with new ideas about how his needs weren’t being met well enough by me and this relationship. I suspected the same dynamic had been created with his second counselor as existed with his first. I always thought, now how can she possibly know what to counsel, if she’s only getting his side (which is probably extremely biased in his favour)? I resented his therapy/therapist incredibly, because as I saw it, it was only contributing to an escalation in his abusive behaviours and actions. He faulted me an incredible lot for not supporting his “therapy”, and I felt very guilty all the time about it. I know he told others I gave him a hard time about it, and that made me feel like I was being portrayed as a monster. But what was ever happening which could be considered therapeutic? Nothing ever changed, everything just got worse. It couldn’t even start out in right direction. For instance, I was uncomfortable with his therapy because of the way things went with his first therapist. Wouldn’t a loving partner go in the first day and ask, “How can I help my partner at home feel more comfortable with the fact that I’m here?” This never happened, even though I asked him to ask her that. Since my partner has left, he has admitted his second counselor has been just like the first, and only asks him every week what he is doing to take care of himself. You see, no one asks him what he is doing to address his abusiveness and heal the damage it has caused. It’s not hard to see why the question is always, “But what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Because he goes in there and reports that he’s a victim. “Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period […] unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.” And that is why I finally agreed to go to couple’s counseling, and I told him this: I needed someone to know the truth. He spent two sessions talking about whether he wants to stay in the relationship or not (as if the counselor can help him figure that out? And then why do I need to be there?) In both sessions, but more directly in the second, he was called on his aggression. Before it was over, he decided he wanted to instead use counseling for “closure”. Clearly this guy wasn’t interested in facing what he has done and was going to bolt. I told him there was no need to come to a third. So now he will stay with his individual counselor and she’ll keep sympathising with his pain and the abuse gets swept under the rug.

He criticises you for being distrustful of his ability to stay non-abusive for good.
Again, he’s not taking responsibility for all the things he’s done to earn your distrust. If you told him a dozen times a month that you’d “never do something again” and then did it a dozen times that next month, do you think he would trust you? He believes he’s entitled to your forgiveness as a reward for going to therapy or a stretch of good days, not because he’s actually changed. This type of criticism is like asking, “When exactly can I abuse you again? I’ve earned it.”

— I got this a lot. I had to defend over and over why I asked something or said something, kept bringing something up, supposed or wondered if he was doing or was going to do something again. He would say he can’t recover or heal or change or progress if I didn’t trust him (sounds like “he needs my help to change”, above), and I’d argue that he abused my trust and it’s not something I can just “put back”– especially not without any real apology or display on his part that he’ll never do that thing again! And allow me to add here that distrust of his ability to stay non-abusive for good includes not only abuse inflicted on me, but his abuse of others too.

He says something like, “You know I’d never do such a thing” when theres undisputed proof he’s done “such a thing” in the past. This is denial and crazymaking, and clearly abusive. Why exactly does he feel entitled to act “above reproach” in the face of his very own history? Well sometimes, in his mind, abuse is necessary to “getting along” . This comment shows he feels entitled to break any and all promises if he has “a good reason”.

— He always had “good reasons” for breaking promises. He was being idealistic, I was asking too much, he misunderstood, he forgot (even if it was written down, he forgot to check), etc etc. I’m not quite sure what the “getting along” part is supposed to mean, but sometimes I did wonder if he argued so much because that was the only way for him to interact with me. I have a vague recollection of him saying something in his blog or on facebook about negativity(?) being the only way he can connect(?) with people? I did not know that would someday mean the only way to feel connected to me was to argue with me for six hours at a time. 😦 He did often say “You know I’d never do such a thing” or if I suspected him of “doing such a thing” he’d get extremely very angry and blame me for “making him feel guilty”. I admit I was sometimes provoking, but I guess I needed two things: first I needed to know he was not doing that thing; and second I needed to know he did not see himself as “above reproach”, especially when the rest of the time he walked around acting like he’d never done anything wrong in his life and I needed to just get over everything. I’d always say, “But you did do this thing, and I can’t just sweep it under the rug”. I was faulted and criticised and blamed for staying on his case, or trying to hold him accountable for something he did to me, or testing the waters to see if his attitude had ever changed, as if my distrusts were the “real” problem and not any of the things which created them. I felt the crazymaking then, and could only say over and over, “But I didn’t do anything to you?” I couldn’t understand how I came to be the guilty party. I was just supposed to take him at his word– no matter how much he lied to me or how many broken promises there were– “You know I’d never do such a thing!” “Do I? No, I don’t know that, actually. Why would I know that?”

He reminds you, “You know that’s one of my triggers, but see how calm I’m acting? I’ve learned to control myself now.”
This amounts to a subtle threat. He’s reminding you that he still has the power to abuse you, but he’s lobbing softballs “cause he’s such a good guy now.” A good guy that has changed does not want you to remember the monster he was. This is why prisoners don’t get parole with this “good behaviour” argument; only accepting responsibility works. Again, you don’t get rewarded for not committing a crime; unless you feel entitled to commit crime and see yourself as nobly choosing not to. (I could have murdered her, but I chose not to. Sounds pretty foolish eh?)

— Toward the end, he did this often. I did not know what it was I felt uncomfortable with when he did this, until I read it here. I wish I had read this before, because I thought he was just being more communicative or more “mindful” of his feelings/behaviours in some way that still seemed kind of eerie to me. I blamed myself for thinking there was something wrong about it. If he pointed out how he feels like hitting but he’s not doing it, he still communicated his desire to hit. I asked him about this once, he said he was just letting me know where he’s at. That sounded… fair? People should be able to say how they feel? I wasn’t sure, but something rubbed me the wrong way, because I still felt like I was being threatened: “I want to hit something, so be very careful what you say next!” He also started doing this a lot whenever I brought something up or was trying to express how I feel. He told me how normally he’d get into a big argument with me, but this time he’s going to stay calm and just “absorb it.” I guess it did “work” because I got to say what I wanted to and get it out of my system, but certainly I never felt heard or like anything I said was taken to heart or would be addressed. He was just controlling his desire to argue with me, he wasn’t actively listening. I see now that the arguing had become so traumatic that I was just grateful to be promised a lack of argument, even if he wasn’t going to do anything more than absorb the sound of my voice. It was an exercise in meditation, not in being a compassionate person.

He says “I’m changing a lot, I swear” but he’s done any of the things above.
Run far, run fast.

— Yeah, I heard that a lot too. He has all sorts of epiphanies and ideas in his car while at work, but I never see any evidence of all his alleged change.

The majority of men do not become nonabusive men even in the highest quality abuser programs.
The guys that do change and become capable of a truly loving relationship all have the following things in common:
1. His social circle recognises he is abusive and tells him he needs to deal with it. They sympathise with the abused woman, and don’t back up his justifications for abuse or validate his overblown sense of entitlement.
2. He’s not irretrievably self-centered. He has some empathy and awareness of the pain he’s caused, regardless if he tends to run away from it.
3. He joins a high-quality abuser program and stays with it: two years is minimum.
4. His partner gets wholehearted, unrelenting support from the community. The more she gets the message that it’s not her fault, the less he can shirk responsibility.

— My ex is a total fail on #1. I guess I would have needed to witness him admit his problem to his family and a few certain friends as described in the “Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse” in order to feel like #1 had been accomplished. #2 is tricky for me, because if I give him the benefit of the doubt here, I’m not sure if it’s because he truly is aware, or if I’m just being a typical victim and wanting to believe the best about him. I am inclined to say he is not irretrievably self-centered, but I think that hangs on a couple things: first, the word “irretrievably”– yes, he is the most self-centered individual I have ever encountered, but no I don’t think he is irretrievably so. I think he has the capacity to empathise, though it is not strong or automatic for him. Second, I have noticed a pattern: he gets most aggressive/wanting to hit something when I speak some truth about how much something hurt me; this to me hints at the possibility that he DID just hear how much something hurt, he IS aware how much something hurt (his reaction is totally wrong, but he is aware) and his guilt is so strong it comes out as violent. On the other end of the spectrum, the only times I have seen him burst out in tears, he says always, “I loved you so much” and some variation of “and I completely fucked it up” or “I never meant to hurt you.” I think he is aware of the pain he’s caused, yes. Sometimes I even think all this abusiveness and everything he describes as his torment in this relationship might just be a defence mechanism to prevent him from seeing how much he’s hurt me; swept up in his own hurt, he doesn’t have to face me, right? I think he hurts and feels chaos because he hurt me, he’s just not seeing how hurting me kept him hurting himself the same way. I don’t know if that made any sense. Not treating me well equates to treating himself badly too. Something like that. Anyways, I think he satisfies #2. #3, I guess I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I suppose we could have figured it out if he would have ever admitted to his abusiveness. #4, I also don’t know how supportive his friends and family would have been or what their attitude would have been until #1 occurred, so I guess it’s irrelevant. I agree with it though and I like the idea. All told, I guess if he had ever wanted to accept responsibility, I think things could have worked with us.

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Stray Dogs

8, April 2011 at 8:18 PM (sad or sorry for myself) (, )

I’m the kind of person who, when someone or something dies, I leave things they touched or that I associate with them exactly as they were. The blanket I wrapped my 20-yr old cat in when we brought her to the vet for cremation still sits on a shelf by the door where I put it when I came home without her almost year ago. There are little notes and drawings I put on a dresser in my room when I came in after being out with the friend who made them– and he was killed four years ago. I don’t know what I think I’m doing, I don’t look at these things or think about them. I don’t even see them at all when I look around. It’s like they’re not even there. I guess there’s just something in me that is trying to make something stay. Or maybe I think something else will happen, maybe they’ll come back, and whatever thing is marking their place in time and space won’t be just a thing marking their place in time and space anymore.

When I do the dishes, if I forgot to do it myself before I started, I sometimes poke my head out the door and ask my son to go around the house and bring me the stray cups and glasses which might be hanging around. Tonight he came in with a coffee cup I used last night, and a drinking glass with Scottie dogs on it which had been left on the coffee table. I forgot about the Scottie dog glass. I’d been wondering at what point I’d feel ready to bring it into the kitchen. It was left there two and a half weeks ago, used by my former partner when he came over for dinner, which, as things turned out, became the last time we ate together at home. Had I not forgotten about it, and asked my son to collect the strays, I wouldn’t have moved it yet. I wanted it to sit there until he came back and would be having dinner with us again, and The Thing Marking His Place in Time and Space would again be just an ordinary glass.

In contrast, yesterday– after giving me a ride home from the library, where we unexpectedly ran into each other– my ex told me that if I was getting it on (my phrase) with other guys, it would “hurt… a little bit” (his exact words, pause included), and only just his ego (he made sure to add), but ultimately he’d be happy for me because he wouldn’t like to think of me just sitting around being depressed all day.

“A little bit”— why add that?! Unless you’re trying to communicate someone didn’t matter much to you? Meanwhile, I’m trying to leave untouched on the table the last glass he’ll have ever used. Have I called myself an idiot in this blog yet? I think I’ll make that a tag so I can see in the tag-cloud how much bigger it gets than everything else.

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