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I've thought about this unpleasant man daily for 20 years

(23 Posts)
peppamorpurgo Sat 02-May-20 19:31:13

Name changed because this whole set of circumstances makes me cringe, and I don't want anyone I know to recognise me.

When I was 15, I got together with a 22 year old man. Usual story - he made me feel special, told me I was the best thing ever, gave me things (including a secret phone to call him etc.) We started sleeping together very quickly, and we were together for over six years.

It was a very intense relationship. I was at school and he was unemployed. He introduced me to recreational drugs and he often broke up with me for a while, for example while I was doing my A-Levels and my university finals. He didn't want me to do well - it annoyed him. If anyone else showed an interest in me when I was single (dumped) he told me I was a slag, if I stayed single, he said it was proof nobody else would want me. It sounds terrible written down, but I loved him and couldn't see through it. Sometimes I still can't.

Anyway, we broke up after I finished uni. Fast forward twenty years - I have a good career, a DH and three DC. I hardly ever see him, and when I do it's just a quick wave from the car etc.

BUT it occurred to me today that there's not a single day that I don't think about him. Not in a wanting him sort of way, just that he seems to be almost a voice in my head , or a gauge to measure everything against. I don't really have a question, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

Thank you if you've read this long, meandering post!

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Craftycorvid Sat 02-May-20 19:53:48

Your first serious relationship was, sadly, with an abusive man. It would be surprising if there weren’t things that are still ‘with’ you now. Or that he’s a sort of ‘measure’ of other relationships. What would you want to say to him, OP? How about writing some of it down with no intention of sending it to him - you can then do what you want with it: burn it, share with a trusted person/therapist. Times like this really underline the past and what’s happened in our lives, so it seems natural for you to be questioning now.

peppamorpurgo Sat 02-May-20 22:24:53

Thank you for reading and replying.

Yes, I think you're right - everything has slowed down these last few weeks and things seem to come into sharp focus. I am going to write down what I would say to him - I think that would be cathartic. Thank you again for your advice.

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rvby Sat 02-May-20 22:40:49

This rings bells OP. I was like this with the man who groomed and abused me starting age 11. I then switched him out for my exdh, who looked like my abuser and operated in very similar ways.

I'm now 5 years out of the marriage but still think way too much of my exdh in the way you describe - as if I'm still trying to please him, still trying to get him to see me as a person and not be so cruel. It's a very sad thing and I think one of the common manifestations of how incredibly unjust it is to survive abuse... we survive but have to live with it all... the abusers just keep on.

I dont have an answer for you - possibly CBT or trauma counseling would help you manage this mans intrusion into your psyche. It may be as "simple" (not really) of training yourself to think of something else whenever he pops into your head x

LadyInParis Sat 02-May-20 22:40:58

I do kind of the same. From abuse from all corners so to speak. For example toxic family, or abusive exes. I still have my grandads voice in my head telling me what a fat lazy bastard I am (iv always hovered around size 10 or 12). I also measure my amazing relationship against my toxic family and my very abusive exes. I wait for my fiance to hit me. In fact shamefully, I have become at times what would be classed as abusive myself, in attempts to "make" him hit me. Just so I would finally know. If that makes any sense hmm

I don't know what to advise but you're not alone. Counselling and communicating how you feel would help massively I think. Could you do that?

Krazynights34 Sat 02-May-20 22:46:19

Write it down and keep writing!
Abuse stays with you and rocks you from the bottom up.
I had a nasty experience last year with someone I trusted and it’s been on my mind every day, first thing and last thing.
I have a DH and young DD who has a lot of disabilities but I sometimes cannot concentrate at all (probably not helping that I’m still fighting official lines).
I absolutely feel for you but you can put it to rest (temporarily ) by writing letters to them (and definitely not posting them!)

Aquamarine1029 Sat 02-May-20 22:51:05

You were groomed, abused, and now you are letting this arsehole live rent free in your head. I strongly suggest therapy to help you move past this terrible time in your life. If not therapy, do you think you could speak about how you feel to your husband or a trusted friend? You need to evict this bastard from your thoughts.

SusieOwl4 Sat 02-May-20 23:05:29

I was in a similar situation .15 he was 21 . Had a relationship for three years . Very intense . Very controlling. Ended badly . Luckily I don’t hardly ever think of him . I don’t even feel abused actually. I thought I knew what I was doing . I suppose I regret he was my first boyfriend l but that’s about all .

Eachpeachpearbum Sat 02-May-20 23:09:08

Look into this book before choosing to go ahead as it may be a very difficult read for you - My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel. Its a story about a 15 year old and her experience with an older man in a position of power, but it's one of the best depictions of how these kind of experiences continue to affect you as an adult that I've come across.

Concentrate on all the wonderful things you have in the present, the world you chose to create for yourself and get professional help if you feel your past experiences are taking up too much space. You are so much more than him.

SliAnCroix Sat 02-May-20 23:12:12

That's awful. No wonder you think about it every day. I was with an abusive man for 7 years from 29 to 36 so, very different as I was an adult, but I think of it almost every day too. Not always in a a way that drags me down! But there is always some comparison or reminder or catalyst or outcome or something. No other standard issue bad relationship or bad breakup stays with you in the same way.

Gemma2019 Sat 02-May-20 23:19:51

I wonder if there is some sort of aversion therapy available to stop you thinking of him.

To be honest the fact that you managed to get A levels and a degree and make a success of your life, despite being with an abuser from a really young age, is astonishing and a huge testament to your strength and character.

peppamorpurgo Sat 02-May-20 23:20:27

Thank you all for your advice.

@SusieOwl4 I don't think I have considered myself to be abused before tonight and if I told people that knew me at the time they'd think I was being ridiculous, I think. And yet when I've written it down, if someone else had told me it, that's definitely what I'd think. Somehow I still feel guilty though - as if I'm being overly dramatic or something.

@SliAnCroix What you said really struck a chord with me. I don't always think of him negatively, although often I do. Then I feel guilty for thinking of him fondly too! When I see him in real life, I get the distinct impression that to him I am 'just another ex', but to me, it still feels like such a massive deal.

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peppamorpurgo Sat 02-May-20 23:21:42

@Eachpeachpearbum I'll look into the book, thank you.

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OneMomentInHistory Sat 02-May-20 23:31:23

I wonder whether you need go give yourself permission to think about him properly, work out what he did, how you felt, how it's impacted on you. Then maybe you'll be able to free yourself from those constant thoughts. Writing it down sounds like an good idea, or talking it through with a good therapist, someone who'll give you a safe space to talk and think.

SusieOwl4 Sun 03-May-20 02:32:39

When I look back , the control was always there. He told me what to wear. Not to cut my hair , saw me every single day . Even followed me on holiday so we were not apart. But I suppose I felt it was flattering . Whereas now I would tell someone where to go without hesitation. When we broke up he took back every present he ever gave me and stalked me for a while . I don’t know what I ever saw in him at all it just seems strange to me now .

Cheeseandwin5 Sun 03-May-20 04:37:24

I wont call him an abuser, although the age gap would be very worrying to me, as you knew him best and I think you would recognise him to be one if this was the case, I feel maybe other commentators may want o project their own biases and experiences to you.
I do think you may want to think why you have these thoughts about him. It could be that you had a lucky escape and are fantasying how badly things could have got if you stayed with him. Maybe you feel guilty about having good times with such a person, Maybe you are angry and ashamed for going out with such a person ( obviously its not your fault but ppl can feel guilty about things when they are completely innocent).
I suggest speaking to a Counselor if you feel it is having a negative impact on your life. They will be best to help you understand why these thoughts are coming into your head and how best to deal with them.

Justtryingtobehelpful Sun 03-May-20 05:10:59

This might help you understand how he got inside your kind

How He Gets into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1855942208/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_gxxAEbBTMRXTM?tag=mumsnetforu03-21

The author calls it being a psychipile

ittakes2 Sun 03-May-20 08:07:22

You just need closure - writing down what you want to say to him will hopefully help. Tell a friend if you need to.

peppamorpurgo Sun 03-May-20 09:52:27

I think the 'abuse' aspect is problematic to me, and while I might not have used that word before, the control and age gap aspects have often crossed my mind.

On the one hand, if one of my dcs or a young person I know got into this situation, I would be horrified. But on the other hand, over time it was very common knowledge that we were together and probably what he was like. He used to meet me from school most days to stop me walking home near other boys, that kind of thing. School knew, my parents knew (although they weren't happy, admittedly).

I don't know - sometimes I'm still feel confused over whether it was the great love affair I felt at the time, or the horror show that I think of now.

And, of course, it would be better not to think of it at all.

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Craftycorvid Sun 03-May-20 10:16:21

Other than the current and stressful situation of being in lockdown, is anything else making these thoughts especially prominent now, OP? Talking to a counsellor could be very helpful and many are offering to work remotely at present (phone or Skype). As long as you have a place to be private and talk freely, it might help. Sometimes I’d say consider whether now is the time to start exploring this, but it seems to be pressing. It’s confusing and hard to reconsider a past relationship as abusive, especially if other people at the time said nothing or accepted it. Also, we form complicated bonds with people who treat us this way. You were very young when he came into your life and he did his best to define your life from what you say. It shows strength on your part that you have moved on, got a degree, now have a family. I wondered if there was something especially troubling about the fact he still sees you as he’s driving past and waves? That detail stayed with me, certainly. It seems to evoke a sense of his being carefree whilst you are burdened with your feelings about him.

Eachpeachpearbum Sun 03-May-20 11:29:41

I think the great love affair vs horror show aspect is a really difficult thing to process as it feels like you can't put it in a box, label it and file it away as you can with other past experiences. Especially as it flips your role from willing active participant to victim depending on how you look at it. I think it's a tough road to be able to clearly see the reality as both or one or none of these things and I'm not surprised your thoughts are drawn towards this dilemma. I think a good professional could be a sort of guide while you pick through this and find a narrative that allows you a bit more peace.
I agree it's a huge testament to you that you have built so much after this relationship and it is brave to look back and reflect and ask questions. Good luck.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 03-May-20 11:44:51

Abuse is a spectrum, a huge spectrum. There's a lot of different levels and behaviours between coercive control and murder. But its the same spectrum.

For what it's worth, I think it was abuse but you obviously don't have to agree with that characterisation. But it was a relationship that did you harm, and the fact that he is still one of the main voices in your head, your main internal soundtrack, means it's still doing you harm. You were so young and this was your formative relationship, so it's no surprise that it had this kind of effect.

I think counselling would be really positive. Many are working over Skype at the moment and this down time might be exactly what you need to start working through things?

peppamorpurgo Sun 03-May-20 12:27:46

Sorry, I don't think my last post was very clear.

I do think, overall, that it was abusive. It's just thinking that makes me feel like I'm being self-pitying or overly dramatic or something. I'm quite pleased that other people think it was abusive too.

I'll look into counselling - thank you all for you kind comments.

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