To this day, I have no proof that my soon-to-be-ex cheated on me physically. I do know for sure that’s he’s had many emotional affairs since before we got married. (I was so stupid at the time and pursued him during one of a few “devaluing” stages.) I think my husband is a narcissist as our relationship has followed the pattern of love bombing, devaluing and discarding. We’ve gone through that pattern at least three times in the last 20+ years, but I was never love bombed after the first time. I was always hoping we’d get back to that first stage when he adored me. To this day, I have no clue what I did wrong to be devalued. And of course I fell into the pattern of working harder on our relationship and myself in order to get back to that stage, but it never did.
I caught my husband out for a drinks date with a former co-worker who just got divorced. His reason for meeting her was he wanted to be a good friend. He told me many lies in order to go on this date until almost 1:30 in the morning. I saw his flirtatious emails to her and then I found out he was seeing her for coffee before work for the previous nine years. (They haven’t worked together for over nine years.)
We immediately went into counseling with our pastor and we were supposed to be working on our marriage. I just felt him pulling farther away from me. However, he put up a great act for a few months. Then one day in the morning, he grabbed me, kissed me passionately and told me he loved me. Seven hours later he called me at work and said he’d meet me at home because he needed to tell me something. At home he got out this long Divorce Letter that started out by saying, “I want to be with someone who trusts me 100 percent…….you’ll never be able to give me what I want……100 percent trust…”
He told me that I was the one who “made him push away from me” due to my “trust issues.” This coming from a man who needs constant female adoration, I like to call his women friends his harem. When I was pregnant with our second child he devalued me again. He was so jealous of our firstborn and then after I got pregnant again (maybe before but I didn’t see it coming?) he turned mean and cold towards me. He started going out with his co-workers for drinks, joined a bowling league with work, and started smoking (he hid this from me, but I found out.) At one point he casually said to me, “You and the kids will be fine financially without me.” I was devastated and cried every day throughout that entire pregnancy. I once again didn’t know what I did to have him treat me like that. I found out years later during his so-called “lost” time, he was going to strip clubs in Canada (at least ten times all by himself) and getting lap dances because of “peer pressure.” He went there all by himself! How can total stranger pervs give you peer pressure?!
There’s more to the story, but my questions are these: Am I the problem? Did I cause him to move away because I didn’t like him seeing his so-called “healthy female friends” behind my back? I thought when you get married you gave up seeing the opposite sex one-on-one. And I’m not talking business lunches, but getting close to the opposite sex. I honestly never said anything to him about his opposite sex relationships (he had me convinced it was normal) until after my 40th birthday. The birthday I thought maybe he’d buy me a cake for once or get me some flowers or a present (flowers twice in 20+ years!), but he didn’t.
And then Mother’s Day came and when I asked him, “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day?” and he replied back, “You are not my mother.” After that I started to wonder about his girlfriends. And I started to speak up about it maybe once a year when I’d find something damning out. The last few years it started to bug me more, because I’d walk into the room and he’d sometimes close his laptop down or turn his phone over. He said he did that to give me his “undivided attention.” There’s so much more. I felt crazy at times.
I moved out eight months ago (divorce not final yet) and I’m not getting better at all. I still have a lot of anger and I haven’t handled my anger appropriately at times (nasty emails to him and physical a few times, even though I’ve never been physical with anyone my entire life!) My life was him, our children and my part-time job. I don’t know how to move on and I feel lost.
Well of course you’re angry. You’re being gaslighted. When people fuck with your reality, you go bonkers. That’s totally natural. (Don’t hit him though. The last thing you need is an assault charge. Just stay the hell away.)
He’s gaslighting you with all the plays from the cheater handbook — he’s not a cheater, it’s your “trust issues.” He’s not checked out, you expect too much. He’s not being inappropriate, you just don’t understand “friendship.”
Oh, and this old chestnut — he’s not having sex, it’s just an “emotional” affair.
As I’ve said here before, if it walks like a fuck, and quacks like a fuck, it’s a fuck.
He got lost in Canada and wound up in a strip club? Too bad he didn’t fall into an ice-fishing hole instead of a hooker’s lap. Yeah, guys who disappear to Canada, or come home after work at 1:30 a.m. are having chaste conversations. And that nine-year thing with a former co-worker was just a coffee klatch. I’m sure they just sit around and talk about their knitting.
Martha, sweetheart, you’re being gaslighted. You want to move on? Please recognize that this is NOT about you. You didn’t cause him to cheat (or have inappropriate “friendships” or whatever). This is not about your inadequacies real or imagined — it’s about his entitlement.
What IS about you is how you’ve put up with being devalued for 20+ years. Why you accepted so little and did not enforce your boundaries of basic respect. I’m not blaming you here — I’m saying YOU MATTER. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with voicing your needs in a relationship. Like, “I need you to not spend 9 years having coffee with another woman” or “I need you to not go on dates while we’re married.” I’m sure he mindfucked you when you expressed those needs with some version of “It’s all your fault.” But the fact is, then and NOW, you have to pay attention to reality. His actions gave you the answer to the “don’t I matter here?” question. He demonstrated he didn’t give a shit.
You failed to pay attention, because it was painful to do so. Because of the intermittent rewards of his attention and “good” behavior. Because you were economically vulnerable to him. Because of your values of loyalty and family. And probably because of your own issues (check that out with a therapist, read up on codependency). It’s okay, we’re all recovering chumps here. We get it.
So how do you move forward? You deprogram yourself. Start calling bullshit on bullshit.
“I want to be with someone who trusts me 100 percent…….you’ll never be able to give me what I want……100 percent trust…”
Yeah, well, sane people don’t trust liars. You’ll never be able to give me what I want, Mr. Cheaterpants — a faithful husband. So fuck off.
What he’s saying there, Martha, is that he needs a new chump. You know too much. You’re voicing the occasional need. Getting uppity, and it’s time for greener chump pastures. Someone who doesn’t know him, someone who will blindly trust him the way you once did, someone he can sparkle for again and extract value from in return. And someone (because these freaks never change the cycle) whom he can devalue and discard.
How do you move on?
You get a pit bull lawyer. You fight hard. You make that part-time job a full-time job. You stop looking to him for answers. You build a new life. You get independent. And you trust that he sucks.
Because he does suck, epically. Hug yourself — you’re free of Suck. Suck has left the building.
Now, shut the door.