I have been thinking for a while about sending this email to you. So here goes, thank you, thank you, for your amazing and life-changing website. My D-day was many years ago now, but the shame and embarrassment still stayed with me in a quiet corner of my life. A bit like having a small room in one’s house that you know you should get around to cleaning out, but you just can’t face it. You know it’ll be dark, mouldy and full of crap, so you keep putting it off.
As I enter the last half of my life (because of course I’m going to live till 145…), I wanted to summon up the courage to confront that sad little “room” and clear it out for good. A quick Google search for “abusive cheater” brought me right into Chump Nation. I read almost every post for the last 5 years and every single comment. The commentariat here is so unbelievably rich in emotional intelligence, insight and even humour. I was blown away and everything from so long ago suddenly came into perspective.
I was born in the UK (Scotland) and met my American XFW when he was there on holiday one year. Looking back I can see he was a complete red flag franchise, but I swept all that aside and we were married in a big church wedding. Shortly afterwards we moved to the US, where I managed to get a well-paying job in my chosen speciality.
After that, everything changed and I now realise that I became the “wife appliance” (a great CL term). No need to actually work when someone else is doing all that. First signs were XFW coming in later and later, usually with The Smirk. Smelling of drink and heaven knows what. Then the declamatory statements such as “You can’t tell me what to do!” and “You aren’t the boss of me!”. I had thought over the years that somehow these were original utterances but post-CL, I realised that these were merely opening gambits in the standard cheater-script.
This was all well before the internet so there were no mobile phones or social media, so I really had no way to track what was going on. But I just knew anyway and he didn’t care that I knew. At the same time, XFW ramped up the devaluation mode. I was told I was fat (nope), ugly (nope) and that no-one would ever want me again (double nope). Emotional abuse soon escalated to physical violence and it was then I really learnt to use spackle (another great CL concept). That time he threw a full gallon paint tin at me? Well, at least he made sure the lid was hammered down first! The time he threw me out of the car on the highway? Well, at least he slowed the car down first! The time he grabbed my hair and slammed my head into the wall? Well, this was a spackle two-fer, since I used the actual spackle to repair the wall damage (and he slammed the back of my head so didn’t break my nose!).
It was after other similar incidents that I was struck with absolute blinding clarity that this was not the life I wanted or deserved. I was going to get out. It seems that somehow I short-circuited the process and arrived at the important CL question “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” A huge NO in my case. Going forward I had a tense few months where I kept my intentions hidden as I made arrangements to protect myself physically and financially and file for divorce. When XFW went to visit his parents (several 1000s miles away), I arranged to have him served with divorce papers there. I only ever had three phone calls from XFW after that, all pre-set to the MindFuck channel of Charm, Self-Pity and Rage. XFW never got a lawyer or responded at all and I got my divorce within 6 months (no property or children, so it was very straightforward).
I did all this completely on my own, I had no close friends living anywhere near (remember, no email or texts in those days), I couldn’t burden work colleagues with this, my family was thousands of miles away, his family dropped me like toxic waste and I never heard from them again. I never even thought of therapy, as I didn’t think it was for people in my situation. I sometimes feel as if I choked down a solo shit-buffet rather than just a shit-sandwich.
My life since then has been blessed. I later met and married my now-husband and we recently celebrated 35 years of genuinely happy marriage. Mother Nature was very kind and I had my first child at age 39 and my second at age 44.
My challenge question to CN would be, how did you mentally survive all this? Who did you confide in to help get you to the other side, the sunlit uplands? Did you have a close friend or friends? The support of your family? A trusted therapist? A good-quality punching bag? Pints of Haagen Daaz ice cream? I really could have used any of these at the time.
My now-husband is wonderful and understanding but I think I needed validation from others who had been through this. So, thanks to Chump Nation, when I finally looked in that sad shame-filled little “room”, I realised it was now completely empty (maybe I’ll make it into a sewing room?)
Thank you for the challenge idea. I’m so sorry you had to go through that alone. I’d be curious to learn how you answer your own challenge question.
So CN, what was your mental script that shut down the devaluing, the gaslighting, and all the other mental crapola that goes with being chumped? How did you survive the head game of infidelity?