Dear Chump Lady,
My husband and I have been separated for 11 months and I’m struggling to find the peace of mind I thought the separation would bring. Our marriage of 12 years came to an end after many years of suffering. In hindsight I understand what he did to me but I don’t quite know how to move on, and I often entertain the idea of reconciling. Would you offer me advice on how to move on? I am emotionally crushed and want to find a way out of this darkness.
Eric and I moved in with each other after dating for 6 months. I moved to a different state, leaving all friends and family behind. The trouble started shortly thereafter when he would go out with friends every weekend, never waiting for me to get off work. This was the beginning of his establishing an identity and existence outside of me, one from which I was completely excluded, and one that he claimed was his right.
He always said he wanted an “independence” that had nothing to do with me. Crazy in hindsight. He would often lie, telling me he was with his male friends, when, in fact, he was with them and their girlfriends. I understand now that he was trying to prevent me from becoming friends with the women in his group, telling me they were crazy, that they didn’t have interest in being friends with me, etc.
He would occasionally not come home at night and would become extremely belligerent when I confronted him, saying I was not his mother and that he could do what he wanted. I should have ended it then, but the good times were enough to make me think these kinds of behaviors were blips, anomalies.
Years passed, we got married. He started to have mystery lunches, dinners, drinks, etc. with “work friends,” often denying or twisting the truth about what he was doing and with whom. Again, he would often come home late (3am) or not come home from work until 9pm (with no phone call). Asking questions, I would be met with extreme anger or unbearable silence. I eventually learned not to confront him (however nicely or demurely I tried, it never worked) and instead starting keeping track of his behaviors. I did this for many years, through the births of our three kids, and through the “happy” times.
By keeping quite and investigating him, overtime I learned that he often had several girlfriends at one time – all were married, one was a friend of mine, one was my half-sister, the others were coworkers – that he juggled through email, texting, in-person meetings. At least two of them would come (separately) to our house when I was at work to “hang out” with him and my children. This was all incredibly devastating. My world spun off its axis several times, but I always stifled the pain and fury to keep my life together; however, I did confront him about my half-sister and my friend. In his typical rages, he denied everything, even though I had direct proof of what he was doing. He was so convincing that I began questioning my sanity. I truly thought that I had somehow concocted everything. He demanded I seek therapy for my issues or he would leave. I was a psycho bloodsucking-bitch. This was my life for 12 years.
There’s much more to tell but this is it in a very small nutshell. After years of hurtful lies, demeaning names (frequently in front of the kids), rages, silences that would last for weeks, we came to a breaking point. He left. I believe he has a girlfriend. And I am left to pick up my life. I do not trust anyone or myself, and feel constantly on guard. I’ve lost friends who no longer find me a “good fit” in the social circle. Essentially, I am alone, trying to repair the damage that we’ve done to our kids. I don’t know how to begin repairing myself. At various points I’ve felt as if I would collapse psychologically and emotionally. The future looks dismal in many regards. Do you have advice for my situation?
Yeah, Peace Seeker I have advice for you. Change your name from “Peace Seeker” to “Hell Raiser.” It’s time to get ANGRY about his abuse.
To get angry, you’ll have to do a couple things. 1) Trust your senses. Believe what happened actually HAPPENED. 2) Know your worth. What you’ve experienced isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t deserve to live like this.
There is absolutely NOTHING about him to miss. Whatever would you want to reconcile for? To return to his rages? His silences? His serial cheating? What’s left to miss? His lovely singing voice? The way he makes pancakes? What the fuck is there to pine for?
The idea of a Potemkin intact family? Do you really think you’re nothing without this piece of shit? NO, PS, you’re a whole person who is no longer associated with a piece of shit. This is GOOD NEWS.
He left! Thank GOD. That is the very best thing, PS. He’s GONE. He found a new pasture, a whole new world to destroy. It sounds like he beat you down so much that there’s no fun left in abusing you. Your pain receptors are numb. And it’s only enjoyable if you suffer, assert yourself and demand things from him, so he can let you down again. (It’s such an orgasmic power trip.) He’s trampled you. So time to focus on a shiny new victim.
PS, you’ve taken a very passive approach to his abuse. You cataloged it. You curated it. Like it was an interesting bug to pin inside a glass box, and not a visceral betrayal that was tearing your guts out. On occasion, you spoke up — but he raged at you, so you made yourself small again.
I understand why you did that. You thought you could manage him and the situation. He’s scary. You thought you could manage yourself — take on more pain, and more pain, and more pain. And shut it the fuck up.
You know what happens when you do that? You lose your senses. I mean that in the mental health way — it drives you crazy. And I mean that in the physical way — you lose your ability to FEEL. Pain is telling us something — it’s saying FIGHT or FLEE. But you ignored your pain. Worse, you took your pain to the very person who hurt you and expected HIM to manage it for you. Hey, stop fucking my sister! Big mistake, PS, he doesn’t give a shit about your pain. YOU need to manage your pain. YOU need to protect yourself.
But instead, you dulled your senses. Losing your ability to feel and sense reality, is like putting your hand on a hot stove and going “Oh, my hand is smoldering. Huh. There is a weird smell.” If you had all your faculties, you would REMOVE YOUR HAND.
So, PS — start FEELING. Stop holding everything at bay. Go get some therapy, talk to a domestic abuse hotline, a women’s resource center, start googling. Start telling people what happened and get professional help.
Next, see a lawyer. You’ve been separated for nearly a year. He needs court orders to pay temporary support and he needs to have his ass served divorce papers.
What you’ve been through is traumatic and you need professional support to pull yourself together. But PS, you have to want it. You have to WILL yourself out of the darkness. And the best way to do that is get angry at how you’ve been treated, at how you’ve let yourself be treated. (You can forgive yourself for that after awhile, but for God’s sake, examine it.) Love your children enough to not model abuse to them. You would attack anyone who hurt your child — direct some of that mama bear love to yourself. He hurt them too with his abuse of you. So now you must model strength and self respect to them. You have three kids who need you and you do not have the luxury to dissolve into a puddle, or be inert in the face of his abuse.
So FIGHT the motherfucker. Get a lawyer and FIGHT. Fight for your mental health. Fight for the woman you want to be — a kick ass survivor. Know your worth, PS. Know your worth.