I need your take on what is still happening to me nearly eight years after D-day.
I went no contact almost immediately. My cheater had asked for a sort of break (we called it a vacation, I think– she said out of the blue ‘I just want to see what my life is like without you in it’), and D-day came right before the break. I thought the break was to be a break from daily stress because I had had seizures and had failed the bar exam and was studying around the clock while working and adjusting to seizure meds…it was tough.
We had been together for over seven years. I had no idea of an affair or that it was a planned fuckfest with cheater’s best friend’s girlfriend. I started the break on D-day and temporarily moved out. She asked me not to tell my family. A few weeks later I served cheater with dissolution papers and made her sign my dissolution contract, which included ‘do not ever ever ever EVER contact me in ANY way that is not business related.’ I told her she killed it, and I am burying it, and it is DONE. I don’t think we ever spoke again apart from sanitized business communications and the occasional blowup from her about money, which I smoothed out with an icy detachedness that I am still proud of. She did send me a letter four months after D-day, after she had moved in with Schmoopie and Schmoopie’s child. I opened it, read the first line of ‘I have tried to write to you so many times,’ closed it, resealed the letter, and sent it back, with: ‘I read the first line only. Actions say it all. Keep your words,’ scrawled on the envelope. I had a nearly fatal seizure the next morning. She still doesn’t know.
She and Schmoops did join a softball team apparently for the purpose of playing against me for the next two years. I never spoke to or looked at them, just right through them. They also started a wedding photography business together and worked all of our mutual friends’ weddings. I never spoke to or looked at them. I also terminated the friendships with the friends after the wedding days. I got one drunken text from Schmoops about three years after D-day (‘I’m sorry and I respect you…it was hard seeing you tonight…if you don’t want to speak to me please pretend this number doesn’t exist’), after they were already married (on the two year anniversary of D-day, incidentally). I never responded.
Until I found CN a few months ago, all of this activity seemed to me to be sheer cruelty, not permutations of Impression Management and temptations to Dance. I deleted all social media around D-day when I realized they were going be prolifically posting their love alongside former friends of mine, and I still have no social media except Pinterest. I have had a militant policy with my friends who see them at social gatherings to never divulge anything about me or my life. Though sometimes friends have told me negative things about Them, and I am still friends with the other Chump involved here, who tried unsuccessfully to get visitation with Schmoops’ child. My ex made damn sure that didn’t happen.
So it sounds like I was and am no contact. But is that really correct? D-day was almost eight years ago, and I am married and just had a baby with my wife, who is the most magical and wonderful partner I could have conjured for myself. And yet. I still feel this CONSTANT awareness of Them.
I was unable financially or medically to move away after D-Day. I also wanted to make this new town my own, my territory (we had JUST moved across the country to be near her family in California, and I am from the East Coast, meaning the law license that I finally earned exactly one month prior to D-day was only valid here).
I have a terrible fear of running into Them, though I never have. Part of me wants to run into them, especially when I was pregnant or when I am in trial kicking ass. I feel this awareness daily that I might see them, that they might see what I am wearing, what classes I am taking at the gym. Will they see my Pinterest? Can they, even though I blocked them?
I still have friends who are former friends of theirs, who I now recognize as Switzerland Friends, but I feel like it is far too late to dump them almost a decade later when their friendships with ex and Schmoops are already over. When I have contact with these people I gloss my life over to make it perfect and awesome, anxious that details could filter back to Them. I make sure no pictures of me and my family are posted on social media.
My best friend is still friends with ex on facebook, for ‘purposes of watching the trainwreck.’ She is under strict instructions not to tell me ANYTHING, even if they get divorced or die. But I hate that she can see them. I still see ex-grandma once every few months (she loves my wife and baby and truly loves me and supported me during my worst times…I can’t cut her off, though I do not think ex knows the extent of our contact or whether we are still in contact), and we do not discuss Them (though Grandma has given some details over the years when I have probed — about their jobs etc). An acquaintance who I have now cut off let me know that ex was expecting twins about three months after I gave birth. This led me into post partum crazy, to do something I had NEVER done before… Google them. BAD IDEA. That was a year ago.
Anyway…I did get into therapy about this and found CN (I love you people), and I am working on redirecting my thoughts. I even sometimes have dreams about Them. Every time I drive by certain restaurants, I feel anxious and upset, remembering association with ex. I google myself to see what she/they would see (she was QUITE the internet stalker when trying to woo me back in the day). My job puts me in the newspaper sometimes, and when grandma calls to tell me that she and ex’s brothers read about me and how Big Time I am, I almost always have a full-body sweat and anxiety reactions.
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?! More importantly, how can I fix it? It’s a low grade panopticon. I give them too much power. Why do they have so much real estate in my head? How can that be possible? I KNOW they suck. As you say, who cares what they think? Yet I want them to see me in my perfect job with my amazing life. They could move away, die, or get divorced, and I don’t think I would ever find out, because after the whole post-partum Google fest I gave everyone in my life strict instructions to never mention them to me ever again under any circumstances. I can’t just cut off ex’s relatives because of my paralyzing fear that it will get back to ex and she will crow in jubilation that she still has an impact on me. Same with former Switzerland friends. I also can’t hurt Grandma like that.
I’d love to be free of this and wonder what decisions I would make/would have made had I not been in the imaginary panopticon all these years. Maybe I still don’t trust that they suck and fear their judgment of me? I really need my friend CL and my family CN to help me. It has been way too long for me to be dealing with this daily.
Okay, you had me at panopticon. (I studied at the University of London, home of Jeremy Bentham’s skull).
To the uninitiated, Bentham was the founder of utilitarianism (“the greatest good for the greatest number”) and he designed the panopticon as a form of prison control, with one watchman at the center. The design of the prison was such that even though one guard couldn’t watch everyone, the prisoners would feel as if he might be watching, which was as good as watching.
Back to you. This is what I think’s going on — your “no contact” is one-way. You don’t want the details of what’s going on with Them (except when you sometimes do), BUT you absolutely want Them to be aware that you’re AWESOME without Them.
Sure, you shut off your social media, but you still have ex-Grandma and mutual friend broadcast networks. You won’t shut down this portal because…
I can’t just cut off ex’s relatives because of my paralyzing fear that it will get back to ex and she will crow in jubilation that she still has an impact on me. Same with former Switzerland friends. I also can’t hurt Grandma like that.
Who cares if she crows in jubilation? I think your greater fear is that she won’t. You don’t matter that much to her. Evidence of this? The way she cheated on you and cake-ishly broke up.
Either way — jubilation or whatever — WHO CARES? She is your EX. You do not control what she thinks or feels. The thoughts in her head have NO POWER over your life. They don’t touch you in ANY way. If she uncharitably thinks “Panopti-chump looks fat in those jeans” you will NEVER know. And it won’t matter. And you’ll rock those jeans anyway, with or without her thoughts.
People think (and say!) mean things about us all the time. You can’t control that. You can just control yourself. I know it stings. Even imaginary thoughts of judgment. (“I am loathsome. I should never wear those jeans. I should wear sackcloth and apologies.”) But you absolutely need to quash this stupidity inside your head.
When you care about Their approval or Their misery or Their breakfast you are giving Them WAY TOO MUCH POWER. It’s a choice you are making. To invest a couple of nobodies with the keys to your self-worth.
Now, why do you want them to think you’re Awesome? Justice. Triumphalism. But this strategy is totally backfiring on you. Nothing says I STILL CARE more than trying to convince your ex that you’re fabulous in every way. You are still locked in a pick-me dance of your own making.
I get it. To survive this shit we create a narrative (and then a reality) of triumphalism. We move on. We rebuild our lives. We succeed. And wouldn’t it be great if They knew that? And wept? And regretted? And felt small and puny like we once felt small and puny? Wouldn’t it be nice if they choked on humiliation for once, in awe of How Much Better My Life Is Now Without You In It?
So you keep those networks open. You’re not dumb. You know Grandma reports back to Them, and so do those mutual friends.
If you were truly meh, I’d say, okay, you can handle the contact. But clearly this still tortures you, so I suggest you let those relationships wither on the vine. No need to make an announcement. Just be a lot less available. You’re a mom, you’re remarried, you have a career. You’re a busy woman.
Also, it’s an honor and a privilege to be invited into your life. Start being more selective, okay?
I gave everyone in my life strict instructions to never mention them to me ever again under any circumstances.
Okay, and how is that less “paralyzing” then cutting them out getting back to them? In both cases you’re announcing YOUR CONTINUED EXISTENCE REALLY UPSETS ME.
They exist. Radically accept this. They may be happy, they may suffer. They aren’t in your life. There is no justice except the justice you create for yourself — the gain-a-life thing. Why would you want to build a whole new world and then allow some crappy old characters back in?
Here’s another thought — people who reject you feel really powerful.
You can see this dynamic EVERYWHERE. With children who dance for the attention of their shitty parent. In sycophant politicians. At the 8th grade lunch table and who sits or doesn’t not sit with the Cool Kids.
You can see it in every glossy magazine selling “exclusivity” — are you worthy enough? Here’s a fabulous thing — don’t you want it? Just the PREMISE of maybe being rejected jolts people to attention. What? I might miss out?
Anyone watch Fran Lebowitz? I think she’s very witty, but her entire schtick is complaining that the world doesn’t live up to her exacting expectations. New York isn’t in the 1970s anymore. We have computers. Tourists suck. Ad infinitum. She does it entertainingly, but it’s all narc-y “Oh, you missed a spot.” You Fail to Measure Up. Hahahahahaah.
People who reject you are JUST people who reject you. They too will be rejected by someone sometime because that’s how the world works. Just because the Rejecters rejected doesn’t mean you’re a reject. It means you’re ordinary. You got your heart stomped on. You were disappointed. You didn’t get something you deserved. Justice was denied. The jury voted and the jury are bastards.
The thing with infidelity is, the cut is so intimate, so personal, that we take this rejection very deeply. We give cheaters some kind of magic mojo they don’t deserve. Wow, they’re SO POWERFUL to hurt us this way. The dynamic is so whack.
Reframe it — you gave them a precious gift — your TRUST and your LOVE, and they shat on it. That makes them stupid and unworthy. They are not powerful, they are UNWORTHY of your further investment.
You’re going to get on with your life and succeed — because that is who YOU ARE.
Sure, it’s nice to have an arch-villain to spite and prove wrong. That’s a certain kind of fuel. But it’s limited. It won’t take you the distance. Defining yourself against Them worked, but why not let them go now? You don’t need Them to be YOU.
They don’t matter. The guard is asleep at the panopticon. Do what you want.