I’m a professionally successful gay man in his mid-thirties. I live and work in the U.K. as a doctor and am on the cusp of my board level examinations. I should be the equivalent of an attending within a year.
With me, for the last five-and-a-bit years, until the end of February 2021, I had who I thought was my forever guy. He’s a doctor too. We met on holiday in 2016. Within a year we lived together and were taking regular holidays. We’d both met each other’s families.
After 18 months he got a job in Germany. We had declared our love for one another at that point and I’d already decided (in my head at least) that I would propose at some point in the future. I said I would go with him to Germany and that’s what I did. I felt brave. I would never have done this alone. Look how good he is for me!
Immediately prior, I was feeling pretty nervous, understandably. He then proposed to me before we left! We got a great rented apartment. I worked from home in a remote role until I could get properly on top of the language and get on my feet. He worked in one of the major hospitals. His job didn’t work out and it turns out it was a pretty toxic workplace (more on that later) so after six months he was locuming. We decided to return to the U.K. after a year. We stayed with his mother until we could buy a house, which we did in January 2019. We also got a dog. The house needed more work than we anticipated so in January 2020 it was still half done. Then COVID hit and work slowed.
It was a tough time. Our sex had suffered for a while. I was dealing with what turned out to be quite bad anxiety and depression. The tablets knocked off my performance too. I was also coming up for my board exams in April.
Then all of a sudden, in January of this year, he starts getting really, really grumpy. Tiny things annoy him. He’s giving me the silent treatment. He dropped a pizza and stormed off upstairs saying he didn’t have the emotional reserve for this (I was telling him it was fine and we could just get takeout). He says we’re having problems. He tells me he is unhappy with our relationship. I tell him that yes, it’s been a stressful time for us all, but I love him and I will do whatever I can do to make things work for us. He had various complaints which I will list here. Maybe you can help me by feeding them through the universal bullshit translator:
1. You don’t look after yourself and your mental health. I feel like I’ve been your carer for years.
2. You take no care of your appearance. I don’t find you sexually attractive anymore. I told you this directly six months ago and you did nothing. Your muscles have all gone.
3. We never do anything anymore. We just sit and watch TV. (This was in the middle of lockdown, we could literally do nothing else).
4. I want children and you don’t. (It’s true that I don’t want kids but he always winces when he sees them in the market and never expressed and interest in them before).
5. This house is a dump and I hate it here. I hate my life. The only redeeming factor is the dog.
Then he comes home one day. He says that an open relationship is the only way to save us. He says he has never believed in monogamy and that he has needs that have to be satisfied. (We’d had sex like a week before he said this). It’s really important to him and if I say no he will not know if we can continue. He tells me he doesn’t know how many men he had sex with before me and that he cancelled plans with other men after he met me so that we could date.
I get upset and even more anxious, which he hates. I see him sending topless pictures to people. He buys new fancy underwear. Eventually I calm down and agree that OK if he wants to have sex with other men then he has permission. Just not in our house and I don’t want to know a single thing about it. (What a chump I was!) He comes home again a week later, after being in a complete sulk the entire time and says he was engaging in wishful thinking and that we’re over. He doesn’t want us anymore. He’s been unhappy for years and brings up minor events from sometimes four years ago. He’s been a depressed soul, all for my sake, and now he has snapped.
I am distraught. I decamp to my parents. We still talk every day. He says how much he misses me and that he regrets what he did. We talk on the phone and cry. I go back to the house to see him at the weekend. We share a bed for the last time on the Friday night. The next morning he is completely cold and says we’re over. But he’s not going to leave!! He’s ordered another bed so I can sleep in the other bedroom. We’re going to be living separate lives in the same house. I say no to this because i couldn’t tolerate seeing the man I love move on in front of my eyes. I go upstairs and see the bedsheets are being changed. I ask him if he’s had someone round our house already. He says yes. So I run off with the dog to my parents and I’ve been there since March.
I went minimal contact (email only) which he absolutely hated. In my grief, I remember something he said when he started his new job a few months prior. “There’s this guy, Norbert, one of my ward juniors, he looks a bit like you, actually.” So i check social media and there he is. They’re all over each other’s posts. Looking like me but slightly taller, younger and more muscular. I decide that I think I know what has happened here. Norbert is the man who came to our house. The open relationship BS was just permission to sleep with him. They are now together. I have been discarded and replaced, even before I knew the discard was going to happen.
Three months go by and I’ve made some progress. After he ended it I got pretty sick and was full of self blame, shame and anxiety. I thought I’d ruined everything by neglecting him and his needs. I lost weight. I got so dehydrated my kidney function dropped off. I withdrew from my board exam because I was unwell and nearly lost my job. I drove to a cliff edge and nearly jumped off. These were the most painful weeks of my life so far (and I hope ever). All the while he keeps asking me how I am. He says “I’m sorry for the way things happened” and “I feel guilty about how you handled our breakup”. I go round there, reluctantly, to discuss financial matters. What a mistake! Against my better judgement it descends into a post mortem of the break up. I pretend I know (but I only suspect) it was all at least a workplace emotional affair until he split with me, which he stupidly confirms (‘How did you know it was Norbert?’). Then I accuse him of cheating and having an affair (‘No. No. Absolutely not.’).
Then he says “I got feelings for a man who showed an interest in me. You showed me fuck all affection for years. When I came home all you did was present me with negative emotions”. I find out now that he’s changed the locks and wont give me a key. I’m still paying the mortgage and he has Norbert round our house and fucks him in our bed on a regular basis. I challenge him on these things. I ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing. I ask what else he has lied to me about. I accuse Norbert of being a home wrecker and a piece of shit for just insinuating his way into my life, like a cuckoo laying his eggs in my nest. I accuse him of deceiving me and being a liar.
He says “I was always totally honest with you, I just didn’t reveal certain things, which is very different.” WTF is that!? Who is this man that has replaced my level headed, loving fiancé? He then even says “I feel and felt guilty about how you handled our break up. Your snide and bitter comments are making me revisit that.” So any guilt he feels is contingent on me not holding him accountable for his actions.
I think this was when I knew that I had fallen victim to a narcissist. He idealised me at the start during the golden period, now he’s discarding me. But what about the devaluation? Looking back, all the signs were there. There was gaslighting, blameshifitng, no empathy and lots of control. He would do things like supervise me loading the washing machine with a half smirk on his face in case I put it on the “wrong” setting (it’s all water and detergent in a drum, like who cares…). He was so uncomfortable and naggy when I was driving that I stopped doing it. He would only eat vegetarian food so I did too. He would only eat eggs for breakfast. He took the office for his own and didn’t allow me space in there. He would call me “too sensitive” if I challenged the callous things he said in the name of honesty. He would often say I was “useless” while laughing. This was in stark contrast to my feedback from supervisors at work. That I am “meticulous, honest and hard working.”
This has all completely changed my outlook on relationships and people. I never in a million years thought he would do this to me. How wrong I was. Boy did he do it!!
My question though is, how could I not see it? How can I ever recover from being treated like such a piece of shit by a man I showed all of myself to? Was he always this way? Has he turned into a special brand of arsehole? How can I ever trust anyone again?
Dear Dr. Chumphead,
I have so many questions. Like, was an open marriage supposed to clean your house?
Doc, this guy is a total mindfuck. Reading and rereading this letter, it just seems like he lives to destabilize you. (It’s nothing personal, it’s just what disordered people do.) Starting with moving to Germany and then “losing” his job. If it were one chaotic instance, okay, life happens. But then you bravely regroup and move back to the UK, and live with his mum, and buy a fixer-upper while you’re studying for your boards! That’s a LOT to take on.
You did all this pivoting for him at a time when you really needed security. No wonder you were depressed. Every time you seem to regain your footing, he’s there flinging chaos at you.
You must stop being depressed, so — new demand, let’s open up the relationship. (Pro tip, based on a gazillion people’s experience here — when this “offer” is made, you’re already in an open relationship. You were just the last to know.)
You open up the relationship — with ground rules. He immediately violates them.
He discards you — but then he circles back for more mindfuckery.
I go back to the house to see him at the weekend. We share a bed for the last time on the Friday night. The next morning he is completely cold and says we’re over. But he’s not going to leave!!
No, he hasn’t depleted kibble supply yet. Pick me dance prettier, Doc, for the wonderfulness of him.
Can you see that this IS NOT ABOUT YOU? This is how this creep operates, with gross entitlement and condescension. He changed the lock on a house YOU OWN and PAY THE MORTGAGE ON? How was he not pushing up daisies in the garden bed after that?
Oh right, he blames you. And chump that you are, you blame and shame yourself. Because surely people only treat you like crap because you deserve it.
Doc, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t do a single thing to cause him to act this way. It’s not about meeting his needs — his need is for churning chaos and power imbalances. Trust that he sucks.
I accuse him of deceiving me and being a liar.
He says “I was always totally honest with you, I just didn’t reveal certain things, which is very different.”
I think this German shepherd speaks for all of us.
Lies of omission are lies. Of course he was being dishonest. Not to mention, he broke his promises. Let’s UBT another…
“I feel and felt guilty about how you handled our break up.”
He wouldn’t know a guilty feeling if it jumped up and bit his left nipple. He immediately puts the onus on you. The problem is how you’re handling it, NOT what a skeevy, ward-junior fucking, Doctor of Douchebaggery he is. #feelthesorry
Your snide and bitter comments are making me revisit that.
Doc, you’re so powerful, you killed his remorse. Please redirect your snideness to his dick and make it go limp. Seeing as you have superpowers.
My question though is, how could I not see it?
You hadn’t tangled with a freak before. But now you’ll have the skill set to see it much sooner. This is the whole Fix Your Picker homework. I’m not saying you did ANYTHING to invite a freak into your life, but the way forward is to know what healthy relationships look like, and what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship. We can’t stop freaks from freaking, but we can have boundaries and bail sooner. Hold out for a better class of person.
I’m sure this guy was very sparkly when you met him, and you met him on a holiday. So, double sparkles. But people who love and respect you would never harm you this way. It’s a bait and switch. They sparkle enough to get you invested, but they can’t maintain it. And you keep waiting for that Good Person to come back.
He was was a partner hologram. And the sooner you internalize that, and go utterly no contact, the sooner you heal.
How can I ever recover from being treated like such a piece of shit by a man I showed all of myself to?
Of course you can. Chumpdom is entirely curable. Millions of people experience this and recover from it, if my blog numbers are anything to go by. It’s just going to hurt like a motherfucker for awhile.
Was he always this way?
Probably. Character formation is pretty deeply wired. Go read over at Dr. George Simon’s site if you want to untangle his skein. But don’t do too much untangling. Your ex doesn’t matter. YOU matter. Rebuilding your life matters.
Has he turned into a special brand of arsehole? How can I ever trust anyone again?
Learn to trust yourself and stick up for yourself. Know that people who create chaos and batter-ram boundaries are NOT the sorts of people to build relationships with. Value people who are reciprocal.
Looking back, all the signs were there. There was gaslighting, blameshifitng, no empathy and lots of control.
Going forward, the minute you get a whiff of that shit? SPEAK UP. BAIL. NEXT. Remember your worth.
He would do things like supervise me loading the washing machine with a half smirk on his face in case I put it on the “wrong” setting (it’s all water and detergent in a drum, like who cares…). He was so uncomfortable and naggy when I was driving that I stopped doing it. He would only eat vegetarian food so I did too. He would only eat eggs for breakfast. He took the office for his own and didn’t allow me space in there.
Couples have their weird issues and every partner can be overbearing at times. A little spackle is okay (fine, whatever, drive 10 miles under the speed limit…) But if the majority of your interactions are power plays to demonstrate what a blithering moron you are? You have a problem. It’s not the laundry, it’s the superiority.
He would call me “too sensitive” if I challenged the callous things he said in the name of honesty. He would often say I was “useless” while laughing.
That’s emotional abuse. That isn’t all partners. That’s an abusive partner. Go read Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? for more skein untangling. (Or you can immediately shift your brain to Trust That He Sucks.)
Doc, remember, you’re a stock that trades highly — you’re a man who loves with his whole heart. Spend some time healing and getting out of this mess with that creep. If you haven’t already — STD test, lawyer, sell the damn house.
Somewhere, a fuckwit is standing over Norbert critiquing his laundry. An HR department wonders if a certain doctor should be fucking the staff. A cycle repeats…