Yep, Abuse Is Depressing!

21, May 2011 at 4:09 PM (this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , )

This is not the most focused thing I could have written on the subject. I still find it difficult to describe or impress upon people what a horror show so much of this was, and to some degree I am still experiencing cognitive disassociation, which I was deeply in the habit of exercising during my relationship in an effort to survive it day-to-day. The really important thing I’m trying to get at is that chronic abuse results inevitably in anxiety, depression and stress disorders, and that an abuser only heaps abuse upon abuse when they fault their victim for responding like any person would under such pressure and duress, and worse still justify it by claiming to be the victim of the abused partner’s reactions to being abused. It’s so sick, it’s so frustrating, I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people can believe their behaviour is acceptable, within the realm of normal treatment of another. I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people live with themselves. My conscience compels me to act, change, fix if I’ve done something wrong. If an abuser has a conscience, it seems the only thing it does is cause them to do everything in their power to ignore, deceive, and deny– to themselves and everyone around them, including the victim– so they will never have to face their guilt or shame at what they have done.

From Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, “Is the Way He’s Treating Me Abuse?” (italics in the original, I have bolded and underlined the parts which speak to me especially):

“An abuse counselor says of an abusive client: ‘When he looks at himself in the morning and sees a dirty face, he sets about washing the mirror.’ In other words, he becomes upset and accusatory when his partner exhibits the predictable effects of chronic mistreatment, and then he adds insult to injury by ridiculing her for feeling hurt by him. He even uses her emotional injuries as excuses to mistreat her further. […] If she is increasingly mistrustful of him because of his mistreatment of her, he says that her lack of trust is causing her to perceive him as abusive, reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way. If she is depressed or weepy one morning because he tore her apart the night before, he says, ‘If you’re going to be such a drag today, why don’t you just go back to bed so I won’t have to look at you?’

If your partner criticises or puts you down for being badly affected by his mistreatment, that’s abuse. Similarly, it’s abuse when he uses the effects of his cruelty as an excuse, like a client I had who drove his partner away with verbal assaults and then told her that her emotional distancing was causing his abuse, thus reversing cause and effect. He is kicking you when you’re already down, and he knows it. Seek help for yourself quickly, as this kind of psychological assault can cause your emotional state to rapidly decline.”

I remember one morning shortly after waking up, my partner asked me what I was thinking about. Well, I made the mistake of telling him (please note in a relationship with a normal person who is kind and loving, this would never be a mistake). Because of the hours- and hours-long argument the night before about his expressed lack of desire and attraction for me, during which he described parts of my body as “flawed”, “strange”, “weird”, “not like anyone he’s ever seen before” (and he has seen an excessive lot!) and as “having an unattractive quality”, I said, simply, “I’m thinking of how unattractive I am.” I said nothing more, and nothing less.

Instantly, he sat up and he was MAD. And this set off eight hours of non-stop arguing, me trying to defend myself the entire time for simply answering his question, and for why I was thinking about that because of what he said the night before (and for what he showed me our whole relationship, really). For eight hours he sat on or stood next to the bed verbally berating me without pause and punching the bed, himself, and the wall. It was horrifying. By 5.30pm I was curled in a ball on the bed, bawling my eyes out and begging desperately, “Please stop, please! You win, ok? Please stop now!” and still he would not. I couldn’t take it anymore. In addition to feeling indescribably confused, constantly scared and frequently depressed by this relationship, I was mourning from the recent deaths of two feline family members I’d had for almost twenty years since birth, neither of whom I was allowed to grieve because my attention had to be always and only on my partner; the loss of a friendship I had since childhood and other isolations (all due to my partner’s direct interference and manipulation of these relationships); and his non-stop assaults on my ego and personhood. I suggested out loud maybe I should just die. I did not say I wanted to kill myself, I did not say I was going to kill myself, I said, “Well I guess I just have to die.” I guess those were the magic words to make him stop, for instantly he ran from the room, made a phone call, and disappeared out of the house. I later found out he went to a walk-in counseling center, as well as called my childhood friend and another mutual friend of ours. To all of these people he pretended to be concerned about my well-being, and claimed to be the victim of my suicidal threats. He left out the parts about him treating me our entire first year together with neglect, disgust and disdain. He left out the part about how he lied to me and my friends and our mutual friends about how I was supposedly treating him, and what we all “really” think of each other, so that I would have no one to turn to for help or support and was thus left totally isolated and dependent on him and our relationship. And he left out the parts about tearing me apart until 4am all the night before and for eight hours that day literally trapping me in bed with non-stop verbal and physical threats and assaults.

What he left out was that my desperate emotional state was the direct and predictable result his chronic mistreatment. I’ve tried to see this with his eyes, and I just can’t comprehend the cruelty one must have in their heart to look at someone they claim to love, curled up in a fetal position and crying for hours because of the things he was saying to me non-stop all morning, afternoon and into the evening, and keep going, keep ranting, keep blaming, keep yelling, keep leaping up aggressively and punching things, keep digging and digging into her, on, and on, and on, and when she naturally supposes there is no way out except to die, instantly run away from her, lie to others about the whole thing and blame her for all of it in order to solicit sympathy for himself. I can’t see it with his eyes, because I could never that severely lack compassion that I would emotionally and physically torture someone until they were so beaten down and desperate that they didn’t know what else to say except that if they couldn’t get out of the relationship, they feel they have to get out of life. I just can’t fathom the inhumanity, and frankly, I don’t want to.

He rang up a $500 phone bill that month talking to everyone who would listen to him and give him sympathy and advice on how to “deal with me”. To my knowledge– which shocks and disappoints me, actually– not a single person asked, “What’s going on, what is making her feel so upset?” Certainly after talking to him, no one thought perhaps they should call me and ask me directly what was going on with me. Everyone relied entirely on his word, and so no one heard about his abuse. Because no one knew about it, no one told him that he must deal with and change his abusive behaviour, because, as abusive partners typically do, he portrayed himself as the victim of me and “our unhealthy dynamic”. In this way, he ruined friendships I had with people (though my partner insists he portrayed the situation to others accurately, one person was yet influenced to say about me– the one curled up and crying as a result of my partner’s constant barrage of verbal and physical violence– “what a bitch!”), he further isolated me, strained our financial situation, and gained support for his damaging behaviour which, as a result, continually increased in severity and frequency after every contact with his “support” network (see: Abusive Men and Their Allies)– little do they know what they were really supporting. To this day, he claims that he would not have “had to” do those things if I wouldn’t have been depressed and argumentative (abusive partners always say their mistreatment was justified, that if the victim had not done XYZ, he would not have “had to” behave abusively: if I was not depressed, he would not have “had to” ruin my friendships, isolate me, strain our finances, and seek support for his behaviour; notice that what caused me to become depressed– chronic mistreatment and abuse– is totally erased, “reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way”). To this day he claims he had no other choice in his course of action. I maintain he had a choice: he could have chosen not to abuse me.

For eight months I continued to make payments on this bill. Every month I still felt angry, frustrated and resentful about it because the issues that led up to and surrounded it never got resolved (and in fact only got worse the more enabled, entitled, and justified he felt he was). He never acknowledged he was treating me in any way abusively, or even poorly; he wouldn’t even acknowledge that I felt mistreated. He continues to the present day to use my normal responses to being treated abusively as leverage in turning or keeping people away from me and focused on his experience and needs. To show just how incapable he is of having even the slightest understanding of how traumatised I was/am by his behaviour and actions throughout our relationship, to this day he claims he is damaged by the phrase, “You spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”–  this was my phrase (and it’s plenty of other people’s too) for someone who calls other people and misrepresents, lies about or discredits someone else, in order to seek attention and sympathy from others while turning them against the person they’re badmouthing. He complains and provides as evidence of my “damaging mistreatment” of him that this phrase about a phone bill will be “forever burned into his brain” (one should note that he does not accuse T-Mobile of damaging him for saying he made these calls, nor does he accuse T-Mobile of abusing him by expecting him to pay for it)– I envy his complaint. What is forever burned into my brain is his abuse and emotional cruelty, being kicked while I was already down, being blamed for his behaviour and choices, the reality-twisting (he did ring up a $500 phone bill, there is no way of denying that!), the neglect, the violence, the untold hours spent defending myself, sticking up for myself, and trying and failing to get him to see me as a human being who does not deserve to be treated with abuse. I would like it very much if all that was burned into my brain was a factual statement about something I did indeed do.

But he wants to compare his experience with mine, compete about who had it worse, whose emotions are most negatively affected by which of us said what. I admit I said “he spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”, I have never denied that. I said it in anger, I said it in frustration and resentment. The statement does not attack his character nor does it threaten his emotional or bodily safety, or even our relationship. The statement does not make him feel like he has to die to escape hearing it. He admits nothing: he does not admit he said things about how I look to him which impact my confidence and self-esteem; he does not admit physically threatening me; he does not admit trapping me, verbally berating me and wearing me down; he does not admit withholding support or comfort for the deaths of my two cats; he does not admit interfering with my relationships with friends or isolating me; he does not even admit that $500 to T-Mobile was a waste of money. He admits nothing. He looked at me begging for relief from his attacks and kept on and on with them until I felt like the only escape was to die, and sees nothing whatever wrong with having pushed me there. He firmly believes my anxiety, depression and desperation were the result of my personal flaws and weaknesses and since there was nothing in the world he did wrong, there’s nothing in the world he need have done differently (I have a letter which says so). I believe this extreme inability to empathise with or have compassion for another person is called “psychopathic”, but it is little comfort to me to understand this relationship in terms of the possibility that there might be in him a serious mental illness at play.

One of the last times we were in bed together, after yet another several weeks like the day I describe above, he asked me to put my arms around him. I hesitated. I said I wanted to, but I don’t trust him, I don’t know what he’s going to “do” with a gesture of affection from me. He said I should not think about later, I should just think about the present moment. I felt so weak, I felt so lonely and hurt, so I did as he asked. He was happy and he said, “I need this.” I asked him what “this” meant and what he needed it for. He needs my affection, he said, “in order to feel connected” to me. That scared me. I thought back to all the days like the one I described above. It sounded like he was hinting: if I don’t give him affection, he’ll disconnect– and I already know, if he disconnects, he will cease to see me or treat me like a human being with feelings; so if I don’t give him affection, he’ll abusively dehumanise me to the point where I’d rather be dead than be treated that way another minute. Perhaps when I was feeling unattractive because he told me I was, treated me like I was, perhaps the instant he got mad, I should have turned and given him my affection? So he could feel “connected to me”? Is that what it would have taken for him to see me as a real, live, and suffering human being, and not continue to abuse me? I don’t function that way, I’m not going to hug someone who spent all night telling me how unattractive and undesirable I am, and certainly I cannot hug someone who is abusing me, even if it would stop them– nor should I have to.

And all the hours and all the days and all the nights and months I saw nothing but the back of his head because without my affection he “couldn’t connect to” me… since I found it impossible to be affectionate with someone who was abusing me, he punished me with total withdrawal, always threatening our relationship (and therefore my and my son’s food and shelter since I was by that time so wrecked with anxiety and depression that I had become financially dependent on him) by living with one foot out the door, in his mind it’s all my fault because I didn’t hug him enough, really? I will never get over his sense of entitlement (cuz hey, why wouldn’t a woman shower him with affection, for no apparent reason, regardless of his treatment of her?). When he said, “I need this… in order to feel connected to you” it sounded like a threat: “Hug me or else I’ll ignore you in every conceivable way”, “Agree with me or else I’ll throw things and punch everything around you”, “Praise me or else I’ll verbally attack everything you believe in and like about yourself”, “Love me without question or hesitation or else I’ll destroy everything you have until you have nothing and no one and nowhere to go except to me.”

What a nightmare it was living with him.

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Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

16, May 2011 at 10:39 PM (sad or sorry for myself) (, , )

What have I got to do to make you love me
What have I got to do to make you care
What do I do when lightning strikes me
And I wake to find that you’re not there

What do I do to make you want me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I say when it’s all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word

It’s sad, so sad
It’s a sad, sad situation
And it’s getting more and more absurd
It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over
Always seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

What do I do to make you love me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I do when lightning strikes me
What have I got to do
What have I got to do
When sorry seems to be the hardest word?

(Recorded by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin)

Elton John was my older sister’s favourite singer in the 1970’s, so I grew up with him, and heard this song a lot. As a kid, I always thought he was saying in this song that it is hard for him to say he’s sorry. I have a different interpretation of the song now: I believe he is mourning his partner’s lack of care for him, and begging for an apology he knows he will never get.

This came on the radio once when we were in the car. I wish I could remember when in our relationship that was, but I can’t. When I heard “and it’s getting more and more absurd”, I burst into tears I could not control. It was that word: absurd. I remember feeling deep down in my heart while I listened to this song that we were past there being anything left to hope for. He would never want me, he would never love me. I didn’t know then why he was never sorry toward me, I don’t know now. I have to accept he perhaps never will be. That has been one of the hardest things for me to bear, and so I might never get to that acceptance. It hurts too much.

He asked me why I was crying, I said, “Just listen.” I hoped by listening, he would hear me and how much I wished he wanted and loved me. Like the person in this song, I believed– mistakenly– that if only he wanted and loved me more, that if there was something I could do to make him want and love me, he would treat me better. This is, of course, a fallacy. But still, walking down the street today as this song came to mind, I felt very sad. He told me when his last girlfriend left him (a girl he dated for only a month), he recorded her some songs of his own composition which he sent to her on cd, in hopes of winning her back. I walked along with this song in my head, like a sentimental fool I could imagine him doing the same for me. But in all the two years we were together, he never cared for me as much or in that way… and even though I know this, like a sentimental fool, I thought:

[Abuser’s name removed at his request], if you’re listening now, this is the song I wish I could hear your pretty voice sing for me.

And I sung the song to myself– very, very quietly.

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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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In the Neighbourhood of Make-Believe

8, April 2011 at 4:24 PM (conflicted, defeated, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , , )

One of the things I struggled with most during this relationship was trying to pretend various things: pretend I didn’t know what I did, pretend I don’t think the things I do, pretend I didn’t feel the way I did, pretend things weren’t happening the way they were, pretend I didn’t have things on my mind that I did, pretend he cared more than he was showing me, pretend he hadn’t told me so many lies or broken so many promises, pretend I forgot things I couldn’t, pretend he didn’t just say that, pretend I could get over something I couldn’t, pretend I didn’t have desires, pretend I could live without affection, appreciation or praise, pretend I’m someone I’m not, the list goes on and on. I value and strive for honesty, perhaps above all other things, and that includes being honest with myself. I am not very good at pretending; I cannot do it for very long, and even if I’m trying, I cannot do it completely. So here too I was no good at it, and the only thing it resulted in was tremendous and near-constant internal conflict. I knew every time I expressed how I was feeling or said what was on my mind or tried to get to the bottom of something, I’d get arguments, hours and hours of arguments; I also knew if the arguments went on too long or happened too often, his unhappiness and displeasure would trump all other subjects and all he’d want to do is leave. Another double-bind: either pretend everything inside and out is fine– and in order for me to be able to do that, I’d have to learn how to believe things which weren’t real or true– or get left. For me, that’s a lose-lose situation. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know that.

From his point of view, which was oblivious to and of me most of the time, things probably seemed like they came sometimes out of nowhere– gently-expressed suggestions, requests, reminders or concerns were never heard, things I told him about myself and my life either never took hold in his memory or were discarded from it. In an attempt to bring levity or humour to this situation, I often said it was like being in “Groundhog Day”: he was like the characters who started every day the same brand-new, having no idea anything was out of the ordinary, and I was Bill Murray not able to figure out what was going on and wanting to throw myself under a bus. I can’t function in that universe. Unlike Bill Murray, I do not nor do I desire to get to the point where, after I have learned and can anticipate everyone’s response, I can manipulate everything to my own personal advantage. This gets dull even to Bill Murray after awhile, because he can’t pretend there’s any truth in his interactions with others. In the back of his mind, he still knows it’s just pretend, and pretending isn’t stopping the maddening tape-loop. So to my former partner, I’m sure I sometimes looked just as irrational as Bill Murray did to the other characters, who couldn’t understand what he was yelling about or why.

I was suffering in every sense of the word, trying to reconcile what I knew with how I felt with how he wanted things to be with how I needed things to be with how things actually were, and all the while doubting the validity of my feelings, my needs, my thoughts, my concerns and even my reality or existence. Madness. All I wanted was a little truth. But with all the lies, contradictions and broken promises, my confidence, my ego, my boundaries and my ability to trust even myself were in tatters. I didn’t want to end the relationship, I wanted it to get better. But what constituted “better” just kept getting more and more watered-down, until finally I just started looking for some way to cope.

One day I found this quote from Fred Rogers:

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

I was blown away by the insight, sympathy and wisdom of it. At the time I found it, my partner happened to be in a phase of reflecting upon his life-long inability to make substantial emotional connections with people, his difficulties with articulating his feelings, his dissatisfaction with life, his inability to open up, and his problems with how he expresses anger and frustration. So not only did I think the quote described him exactly, I thought he would be receptive to the spirit of what Mr. Rogers was getting at with it. I added the quote to goodreads.com, a social-networking site organised around reading and books that my former partner and I are on, hoping he would see it and think about it (and yay! 11 users have liked it so far and added it to their profiles too!). Maybe we could even talk about it. Maybe there’s a new way of looking at what was going on. Maybe I could cope with our relationship difficulties better if just saw him differently– not as someone who was treating me or behaving as he did out of ignorance, carelessness or meanness, but as someone who can’t help it or who doesn’t know any other way, and who can’t simply “get up out of his chair and walk” just because our relationship needs him to. I don’t mean to give the impression that this new perspective would have made me think I should just learn to live with poor treatment, but rather that maybe I/we were going at the problems from the wrong angle and with the wrong attitude. Maybe some kind of emotional therapy was needed, and with that, more time because progress would be slow, and more patience, because success would be measured in baby-steps.

Well, I probably thought that because all that was being drilled into me our whole relationship was that I wasn’t patient/understanding/tolerant/supportive/etc, enough. 🙄 So, go figure.

After reading glowing reviews about the book this quote came from, The World According to Mister Rogers, I ordered the book for my partner and gave it to him for Christmas. He was reading a lot of self-help books at the time, and this was just a tiny book of quotes about life and love and people and relationships that takes an hour or less to read. I figured he could fit an hour in somewhere, or just look at it now and then. I figured it would give us some things to think about, maybe even provide talking-points about ourselves, what we want from our lives and this relationship, or what we can and cannot do about what was going on. I also gave him a calendar with his favourite animal on it (raccoons), so he could better keep track of and communicate his schedule (which was getting busier as he was adding more days he wanted to “do things for himself alone”); a raccoon sticker to put on his new car; a raccoon pin for his new book bag (his previous one got stolen from his old car); a stainless-steel water bottle (with a raccoon on it, of course) so he didn’t have to use plastic anymore (coincidentally his other had just broken, too); and a blank journal (his old one also stolen) with an opossum on it, for his drawings, the million little notes he makes for himself, or whatever he wants to put in it. From him I got a cutting board. Which I gave him the money for that I’d saved out of my tax return so we could all buy each other Christmas presents. I’m such an idiot.

Abuse experts identify caretaking nurturers, “fixers”, givers and optimist-idealists as the most likely victims, the most obvious targets, or the longest-suffering enablers of abusive or controlling men. Hey me, way to go.

Last I asked, and even though I’ve mentioned it several times, he said he still had not seen the quote on my goodreads page. He barely used the journal (he decided to start using index cards bound by a rubber band instead), and he never used the calendar or the sticker. I half-wonder if he’d even be using the water bottle if water weren’t necessary for survival. He broke the pin in an angry fit while grabbing his bag in a hurry to leave me again. And of course he never read the book.

So at least something I did spoke to 11 strangers on a website, but no matter what I tried I could never get through to the one in my house who said he loved me. 😳

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