I wish I had found this website a year ago. I would’ve of saved myself a lot of heartache. Reading the stories is so comforting. It’s nice to know I am not actually crazy! I do wish no one had to deal with this shit. After 11 years I was cheated on. I was publicly humiliated and felt great shame. However, I am now trying to move forward.
This is made difficult by my ex’s need to be friends. He will find out I have done something or gone on a date (through friends I suppose) and want to chat to me about it like an old friend. He fails to realize that the way he treated me is not the way you treat your friends or even someone you hate! We share a 5-year-old daughter, which makes contact impossible to avoid.
If I don’t act all buddy-buddy with him, he then switches to pushing my buttons. I believe he pushes my buttons in an attempt to make me lose my shit so he can say “See? You are a mega bitch!” to justify his shitty behavior. I feel so manipulated by his behavior still. I do not want to be his friend. I do not want to swap dating stories with him or have a drink and a laugh. But if I don’t, then it’s being manipulated by his need to make me crazy.
We share our daughter. In Australia the custody laws are such where you have to share care of the children. So they live with both parents equal time. I am so resentful of this. I am so pissed he gets to stick his dick in anything that walks and also get to take my daughter away half the time. It’s so not fair! I want to scream when I think about the injustice of it all. But for my child’s sake I need to be able to let it go and focus my energy on providing her with the best life I know how with the circumstances we have.
I really want to leave a cheater and gain a life. I am so ready, but I still feel so trapped by him.
Thank you so much for your wonderful website.
Friends don’t push your buttons and try to make you lose your shit. Assholes do that. Friends are people who genuinely like you and care about your well-being. Friends demonstrate their friendship by doing nice things for you, like say, moving your futon, or remembering you like coconut cream pie on your birthday, or bolstering you when life kicks you in the teeth. Friends tell you the truth, if you ask. And are discrete when you don’t ask. Friends respect you. They like and admire the parts of yourself that you like, those parts that are your best self. Friends bring out that best self. You feel loved and accepted with friends.
Assholes are fair weather “friends.” You’re only in their life because you are of use to them. Assholes have hidden agendas. Assholes don’t respect you. Asshole back bite and gossip. Assholes never want to put their butt on the line and they feign “neutrality” at the first sign of conflict. Assholes have short memories — concerning their offenses (but they hold a grudge over any perceived slights from you). To an asshole, you are an extension of them — and if you shine, they feel entitled to your sparkles. Conversely, if you don’t shine, you aren’t very interesting. You’re B list. Sorry, they’re very busy next Wednesday being fabulous with someone more shiny, but check back, okay? Assholes enjoy being chased. Assholes are controlling and jealous, but will put that back on you — “I don’t understand your hostility!” Assholes keep you off balance, constantly wondering, is this person my friend?
I think you’re pretty clear on the concept that your ex-husband is an asshole and not your friend. But like most chumps, you falter when confronted with “friendly” behavior from a non-friend. You don’t want to come across as churlish or worse, bitter. You’re a suck-up-and-deal kind of person, so what’s a little idle chit-chat? All that shared history, you can’t discuss what you did last weekend? Really?
Hey Mack, if I got mugged last month, I wouldn’t want to discuss the weather with my mugger this week. Or ever. Dude mugged me. Endangered my life, stole from me, frightened me, left me with trust issues. That’s just over a WALLET — this was your MARRIAGE. Your ex-husband betrayed you — he stole your time, wasted your resources, humiliated you publicly — you don’t owe him anything other than what you are court-ordered to give him, namely, time with his daughter. Anything beyond those logistics is completely and utterly UNNECESSARY.
As I’ve said here before, talk to your ex with all the emotion you reserve for your local county tax assessor. Do you discuss your dating life with your tax assessor? No. You do not.
Being all business with your ex does NOT make you a bad person. It makes you a person with boundaries. He used to be inside your circle and now he is not. He fired you from the job of giving a shit when he cheated on you. To not want to play nice doesn’t make you a mean, begrudging soul — it makes you a wiser soul. Your time and attention are valuable. They’re gifts. You give those gifts to people who are worthy of them — friends and family. He is not a friend and he’s no longer part of your family, even if you respect the fact that he’s part of your daughter’s family. Your only job is to ensure that he sees his daughter, that is it. You don’t have to control or mediate that relationship — your daughter will figure out her dad in her own way, in her own time. It will probably end up sad, but once she’s a bit older, don’t be surprised if she chooses not to spend much time with him. All the mindfuckery he uses on you, he’ll probably use it on her too, because that is who he is. But she’s 5 now, and you’re going to have to ride this out a bit longer.
The reason he’s interested in your love life is about control. It’s not a “friendly” line of inquiry. You were kibbles to him, and now you’re not. He’s a kibble vampire, and he will hate to see other men get the kibbles he still considers his (I know this is delusional, but narcissists are like this). He’d much prefer his place of centrality in your life. If you can’t have him, best you be pining about, sobbing over TV dramas alone on the weekend, collecting cats. You have a life? You’re dating? Fuck. That’s the end of cake — and like most cheaters, even if he no longer enjoys cake with you, he’d like to keep that option open. A boyfriend would really complicate things.
He’s watching you — for kibbles. To see if you’re still hung up on him. And when you don’t play? Guess what — he pushes those buttons. He acts out. He punishes you. If he can’t get positive kibbles, he’ll get negative ones. Your reactions make him feel powerful.
Mack, you don’t need this shit. It takes two to psychodrama — step away from the crazy tango. Don’t talk with him. Shut. Him. Down. People cannot manipulate you if you don’t give them a look inside your head — so don’t.
He’s asks you about your weekend? Divert. “Let me get Sally’s lunchbox. I think I left it inside!”
He wants to make small talk? Tell him you’re busy now, gotta go. You can be polite about it, but be firm. This isn’t a good time to talk. It’s NEVER going to be a good time to talk. Hopefully he’s not too dim, he can connect the dots.
Keep the lines of communication open via email and text about your daughter (only your daughter). In fact, I’d suggest you only communicate in ways that can be documented. It’s also much easier to parse manipulation when it’s sent as an email. He’s used to snowing you in person. He gets an immediate payoff doing that — so time to change the terms of engagement. Don’t be available.
You’ve got 13 years to master this — and I promise you it gets easier. He’ll keep trying those buttons from time to time — but it will increasingly strike you as pathetic. As your new life crowds out your old life, he will be more and more of a peripheral figure. An annoying buzz. His next bozo move will probably be to triangulate with your daughter, but you’ll need to shut that down too (divert, don’t answer, smooth over, etc.) Perhaps get your daughter some therapy as she gets older. She’ll need to learn boundaries with him too. But meanwhile, you can model them to her.
And Mack, modeling self respect is a huge reward, that will influence your daughter. Don’t raise a chump. Your cheating ex-husband is not your friend and it would be confusing to your daughter, and to you, if you treat him like he is. He’s a person you have to share your daughter with, unfortunately. That’s all he is. A logistical puzzle. A person to coordinate schedules with. Don’t give him any more of your soul than that.