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Getting over weird relationship - sorry, very long(63 Posts)
I need to get over a recent relationship and would be really grateful for any advice. It's really knocked my self-confidence. I was only with this man for five months, and the first couple of months were amazing. He was kind, loving, considerate and attentive, and we were in constant contact, on the phone for hours almost every day and spent every weekend together. I had a really rough time in an abusive relationship 15 years ago and I opened up to him and trusted him with stuff that I hadn't told anyone before. He was amazing and made me feel accepted and safe.
He'd also had a difficult time in his marriage, that had recently ended, due to his wife's affairs, deceit and emotional abuse. He opened up to me a lot about how he had been treated as well, and we talked a lot about our experiences and what we believed good relationships should be like, agreeing to treat each other with respect, kindness, honesty and consideration. It wasn't all heavy emotional stuff though, we had a great deal of fun and laughter too and interesting days and nights out.
There was one thing that came up early on – something that he was interested in pursuing in a relationship. I said I really wasn't sure about that and would need to work out how I felt about it. He didn't express any doubts about being with me at this point and carried on as enthusiastically as before, and so I assumed it couldn't be a deal-breaker and that he wanted to be with me either way.
After about two and a half months I became uneasy about the thing he'd expressed an interest in, and asked him outright whether he'd still want to be with me if I decided I couldn't do it. I was hoping for reassurance. He wouldn't give me a straight answer and talked me round in circles, using all kinds of evasion/diversion tactics, trying to persuade me that I didn't understand what I was asking, trying to change the subject, misunderstanding the question and giving me an answer relating to something completely different, stepping back from what I was asking and insisting that we talk about how we were communicating instead, and denying throughout that he was being evasive, telling me he couldn't give me any answer because I was hoping for a particular answer and that was wrong of me. The more upset I got (and I wasn't shouting and ranting, just crying and pleading with him to answer the question) the more he withdrew, until he 'couldn't' speak. Then he imposed a break from the subject and refused to discuss it again until we'd had endless discussions on how to communicate. He never did give me a straight answer and this left me feeling very insecure and stressed.
This set the tone for the rest of our relationship. Apparently I was not allowed to show too much emotion as this put pressure on him. I should only ask questions 'without expectation' ie. I was not allowed to show while asking a question what my preferred answer would be (as this would be emotional blackmail), but at the same time had to be completely open and honest about my feelings at all times. If I showed affection or did something nice for him, he had to be convinced (and I'm not sure how) that I didn't have 'ulterior motives' about wanting him to say or do something nice back, because that would be dishonest. But I had to be nice to him regardless of how he was treating me, otherwise that would be manipulative. And if he wasn't nice to me, it was my own fault for wanting him to be and therefore putting him under 'duress'. There was a whole load of sometimes complicated stuff along those lines. He didn't criticise me in an angry way, more with the implication that I was making him suffer and that he was helping me work on myself.
All this was in the name of 'how to treat each other well'. And shamefully, I took it on board, believing that I was at fault, and spent the next few months trying harder and harder to please him. When I told him he was making me feel upset and insecure, he told me that he wasn't making me feel anything, that my feelings were my own and my insecurity was all down to the abuse I'd suffered in the past, and encouraged me to get counselling, which I did. He actually made me feel that the legacy of the abuse was far deeper than I'd ever realised; whereas before I felt proud to have survived and made my life better, now I felt scared that I was so damaged that I couldn't even see it. When he said all these things to me, he never sounded at all spiteful or uncaring. He sounded as though he was genuinely trying to help me and doing it all for my own good. And there were wonderful times too in the middle of all this. I was on a rollercoaster of elation and despair.
I should have walked away when all that began. I don't understand why I didn't, why I believed him, made excuses for him, doubted myself, and got drawn deeper and deeper into this weird dynamic. I eventually realised things were seriously wrong when he accused me of 'inconsistency' and refused to speak to me for hours because I had changed my mind about wanting to go and have a cigarette, and then criticised me for appearing to be walking on eggshells. He behaved as though my actions had hurt him terribly.
I confronted him with it all, and he admitted to it all, but said that he had done nothing wrong and that it was because he was afraid of losing me. We split up.
I know it was only a short relationship but it's seriously rattled me – I find it hard not to keep second-guessing myself and examining myself for ulterior motives when I'm nice to people, and I find it hard to talk about this because I feel it makes me sound as though I must have been demanding, high-maintenance, manipulative and dishonest for my ex to have been like that, and I'm none of those things. I worry that people I talk to are thinking badly of me and that I'm in the wrong without even realising. I'm feeling like my emotions about the abuse in the past have resurfaced. My relationship with the counsellor also broke down, because I tried to explain to her that I'd started counselling on entirely the wrong basis, at the instigation of my ex, and that I felt I needed the counselling to help me with getting over the relationship now instead, but it all seemed so complicated to explain and she said things like 'But you seemed so happy'. I asked her for validation that this relationship had been emotionally abusive, and she said she could not pass judgement on that. Can anyone here confirm that this was emotional abuse? (I'm waiting to see a different counsellor now, possibly for CBT.)
I'd thought that I was stronger than this and that I had better self-esteem than to allow myself to be treated that way. I'm 38, hold down a demanding and worthwhile job, have some good friends and family. I don't know how I allowed this to happen. It's over two months now since we split up. Someone I really liked asked me out the other week and I accepted but then got too frightened to go and had to cancel. I didn't drink for a long time after overdoing it in the past, but have got drunk several times in the last two months, and then I get even more anxious the next day. I know I didn't deserve to be treated like that, but then part of me keeps thinking 'What if I'm wrong? What if I am the problem?' I know I need to get out and do things and see people to take my mind off all this, but I feel too anxious a lot of the time. I don't feel depressed, but feel scared and slightly out of touch with reality.
It's shaken my whole sense of self, and all this over a five month relationship with someone I don't even miss any more. I feel pathetic. Please, can someone help? I know some people have far worse problems, plus I'm not even a mum, but I've seen some brilliant advice here. Thank you to anyone who's taken the time to read all this.
Wow, he really did a number on you. Terribly cruel and manipulative, psychopathic behaviour on his part. No wonder you don't know which way is up. I actually shuddered when I read some of your post.
He was abusive. It would have got worse. It isn't you. It really isn't.
Actually I'll say this for the first time on this forum. I think therapy would help you to process what has happened and regain your sense of self. Not CBT, but psychotherapy if you can access it.
And you don't need to be a mum to ask for help here .
Me too. It was like reading about a complete madman.
Was this an online relationship? Did you live near him? Is there any chance you'll bump into him?
Please tell us what he wanted to do? Did it involve another person? When I read that there was something he wanted, I thought it would be something that involved your humiliation. Am I right?
And AWF is right - therapy would really help. Think of yourself as someone who's survived a cult.
You mention that he brought up something he wished to pursue early on but you don't say what, I appreciate you don't want to elaborate but it seems relevant to the situation.
Otherwise without a doubt he sounds very manipulative and EA. Therapy would definitely be beneficial to get you to stop doubting yourself, but don't hide yourself away in the meantime.
AWF, thank you so much for reading all that and your kind words. It's good to hear confirmation that he was abusive. I thought I was good at spotting abuse after my previous experience, but this was so confusing and sort of subtle at the time, although it doesn't seem like it after writing it down. Thanks.
"....recently ended, due to his wife's affairs, deceit and emotional abuse..."
I would be willing to bet that it was the other way around. Sounds like a very extreme and almost coldly calculated form of emotional abuse to me. This man sonds like he has mercilessly probed you for private information (extracted under false pretences) which he has then exploited as a way of controlling your behaviour. He has played on your fears and insecurities in a very deliberate and cruel manner. Please don't blame yourself for having had the bad luck to run into this man. That's all it was, bad luck. And I'm so pleased you got out of it.
Would also suggest resuming counselling. This represents a set-back but not a defeat. Good luck
I also wondered what this thing was he wanted you to engage in. Sheer nosiness on my part, of course. Based on the rest of his behaviour, I'm imagining something particularly demeaning.
lets see: you were confident and now have been been left without a shred of confidence, doubting everything about yourself, afraid to even try and go on a date, drinking to get drunk after years of handling alcohol well, wondering if you were "demanding, high-maintenance, manipulative and dishonest "
Whatever else he was or wasn't he was absolutely bad for you.
He sounds extremely clever and clued up in how to manipulate himself. Very very clever. Thank god you weren't 19 or 25 or your basic self belief probably wouldn't have been strong enough to let you keep intellectual track of the intense inequality and massive emotional control over you he developed, even while emotionally he was getting you to dance to his every tune.
this is serious, to have had your self-belief eroded so systematically. You may feel pathetic, but you are not being pathetic.
do you have any friends who have emerged from emotionally abusive relationships irl? I think they might help if you can talk to them. People who havent been through it probably won't be able to begin to understand. Or like AnyWiser said, get well trained medical help for a time. Find it through a professional organisation or actually, ring women's Aid to ask if they know of any experienced good counsellors who they recommend. I think you do need someone with experience, this is one of the subtlest forms of abuse I've heard of.
strength to you, strength and self-belief. And be gentle on yourself, take care of yourself. Do the things you like.
X-posted with a few, thanks everyone. ImperialFucker, fortunately he lives a 3 hour train journey away. We spent weekends together and were constantly online or on the phone the rest of the time.
Ok, the thing he wanted to do was polyamory. Not in the sense that he wanted us to carry on dating other people. More in the sense that he wanted us to build a strong primary relationship for a year or two, including moving in together, and then start additional relationships and be happy for each other. And then presumably if I couldn't handle him seeing other people I'd be kicked out (he wanted me to move in to his place - lucky escape). Oh, and he wanted me to start additional relationships too and be 'free' to pursue my desires. Except that I don't want more than one relationship. Oh, and I had to conduct these other relationships on his terms, to prove that I was nothing like his cheating ex.
I do feel that I was brainwashed a bit like a cult recruit. He started off with love-bombing and then with making me feel like a shit person. I actually went through a stage of thinking the above was a good idea (although I wasn't framing it in exactly those terms at the time!), which really isn't like me. It scares me that I was so easily led.
Thanks to all who've suggested therapy. I think I need it. I keep doing stuff that worries me. Like drunken far-too-intimate boundary-free online chats with men I don't even know and shitting myself about what I've said the next day.
Cogito, you're right, I told him my previous abusive ex had controlled me by making me feel like I was a bad and worthless person if I didn't do what he wanted. I didn't recognise the same thing was happening, because my previous abuser was completely different (openly violent etc), but yes, I think he did take that and use it against me.
Meerka, thanks for suggesting Women's Aid recommend a counsellor. I hadn't thought of that, I probably wasn't seeing my situation as serious enough to contact Women's Aid about. Thanks to you all for helping me see that it is.
I don't think you're easily led, by the sound of it. He seems like an arch manipulator of the very worst kind. Polyamory (and someone is bound to come along in a minute and say what a wonderful lifestyle it is ) in this context was simply setting things up for more abuse & smashing your self-esteem even lower. Thank god you said no!
Is the real problem here that you're lonely? The online chats to me sound like a desperate attempt for missing intimacy and maybe fear of loneliness was a factor in why you didn't ditch the abusive ex earlier. Feel free to say 'Cog you're talking crap' at any stage... just guessing.
how can they be so vile?
don´t doubt yourself please.
maybe counselling etc. will make you remember more and upset you, can´t you just put them behind and don´t waste your time and energy for them any more? think of them as past bad experiences.
The polyamory comes as no surprise to be honest, very much in keeping with his intense manipulative behaviour.
Cogito, I am lonely I think. I had to break off a close friendship earlier this year, because she'd treated me really badly, maliciously, on several occasions and I couldn't keep putting up with it. A month later I got together with ex-twat, and was with him either in person or in contact practically all the time unless I'd got something else planned. There's a gap in my life now. I do have some friends and a wonderful sister, but I'm the only one out of all of us who hasn't got a partner and/or kids, so I'm on my own a lot.
Wow, yoh had a lucky escape OP. What a complete and utter twat. Maybe therapy will he but I think you've learnt a lot about red fl a gs from that relationship and you won't be going there agsin. You know you deserve better. I feel sorry for the next woman this controlling weirdo bastard gets his hands on.
Another one saying psychotherapy here.
I'm sorry you've had to go through this misty.
Yes cogito - he's telling you what he did to his wife and not the other way round OP. You dodged a bullet there! It's the charm that you must look out for. It's so much more exciting than nice and kind, but he charmed you and I'd say he even charmed the counsellor, though he wasn't in the room. Better 5 months than 5 years OP, and there's nothing unusual about leaving one twat and finding another. Please find a decent therapist you feel safe with. x
You don't sound at all pathetic. You sound like a strong, intelligent, analytical woman who has just had the misfortune to meet up with a very controlling and manipulative man.
I hope that with time you can come to trust your judgement again, because it isn't your judgement that is off kilter. It is this man's willingness to chip away at you that is off kilter.
tallwivglasses unfortunately he does appear to have got his hands on some other poor woman. I'd left a few things at his, and he said he would post them back to me when we split up. I emailed him several times to remind him to send them. The only reply I've had is 'are you sure you want the sex toys? It's just that they've been used now on a number of occasions.' They were mine, not that I'm bothered about having them back, especially now. Scummy bastard!
Listen, he's either stuck them up his own arse or he's found a woman who is so far without discrimination that she's happy to use an ex girlfriend's sex toys.
Either way, you have nothing to worry about.
Besides, what did you THINK he was going to say? Of course he lashed out, to hurt you. That's all he's been doing for the past several months.
I would write anything off, tbh, no matter what it is, if you can afford to.
afkb, I know, I've never heard of solo counselling being used as abuse before! But it really was like that. afkb and cogito, it was definitely his wife who had the affairs, but I'm pretty sure now that he was the emotionally abusive one, in that he neither dumped nor forgave her and instead 'offered her an open relationship as that was what she needed' (painting himself as kind and generous and long-suffering), and subjected her to three years of couples-counselling to 'try and make it work'. Oh, and I suspect, insisted she continue to have other relationships in a way that he could control and kept refusing to forgive her until she 'got it right'. Yes, it's very very weird.
OP I went cold when I read this. I was only with my ex a while longer than that and I could never remember the beginning and what that first pull in emotionally was - you have reminded me.
Cognito is bang on with everything said as are many other posters.
Yes describing his ex wife was describing himself.
You have had a lucky escsape and are very understandably confused.
This hit me between the eyes and you have put it very well as I have found it hard to describe Apparently I was not allowed to show too much emotion as this put pressure on him. I should only ask questions 'without expectation' I ended up pg and luckily he disappeared but is back and how the hell do I describe that to a judge and how much do I worry how he would look after a DC and thier questions
Sorry.. OP, I think talking to someone would be very helpful to you and you need to be very kind to yourself and proud of yourself for recognising this and getting yourself out of there. Breathe a big sign of relief as much and often as you can.
I would honestly have thought you had been with my ex if I didn't know he was still with his GF.
let us know how you get on - you have really stopped this well. My friends have never understood how frightened I was by it.
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