I never really wrote about my relationship with my ex-husband much in this blog. I was trying to look towards the future and forget the past. However, after seeing a lot of posts about divorce, gaslighting, and depression on Facebook recently, I thought I’d delve into the topic. I initially left him because “he made me miserable and I was better off without him.” After 3 years and a lot of contemplation, I realized I left because I needed his attention and affection and he withheld it for far too long. I wondered how an independent woman like me had become this miserable person who cried herself to sleep because he would rather play computer games than lie in bed with me.
It had all started because we moved too fast in our relationship. Within a month of dating, he had moved in with me. On various outings, he criticized my driving, my table manners, and the things I chose to say. He, on the other hand, talked about all of the things he did well. He told me what a good friend he was. How smart he was. How various friends of his should have listened to his advice. I was depressed, was humble, and constantly sought self-improvement, so I listened to him. When he told me I shouldn’t say or do something, I assumed that I needed to improve that area of my life. If it sounded unkind, he said he was, “Just being honest,” knowing that I valued honesty. The things he said were rare and subtle at first, so I didn’t catch it most of the time.
While he never said, outright, that I wasn’t good enough, it certainly was implied. I didn’t grasp that concept until years after I left. Little by little, I asked his opinion whenever I had a decision to make. He hung out with women who liked him and flirted with him at parties and claimed he didn’t realize that they were flirting. I got jealous while he claimed he never was. He lied to me, “To protect me.” Whenever he was caught in a lie, he claimed that he didn’t want me to get mad at him, saying that he didn’t want to have to deal with me when I was mad. He implied that my moods were unpredictable and difficult to live with. I did things to placate him, but he never reciprocated.
That’s not to say he was a horrible person or that our relationship was miserable. We had good times. He used to cook for me, go to the movies together and had great conversations. We had several hobbies in common. However, he never collaborated with me on anything whenever I asked. In fact, it seemed like he was always better than me at our various hobbies, but never helped me improve, even though I asked him. I don’t think he had intended to gaslight me or emotionally abuse me. I don’t think he even realized that he was doing it. In hindsight, I realized that my issues with depression had made me susceptible to it. I also have since realized that he seems drawn to women who suffer from mental illness. Again, I don’t think any of this is conscious for him.
I started to work to get better, but he always found a way to distract me from my goals, whenever I worked on them. I started spending more time with friends and family, realizing that I felt better when I was away from him. We tried counseling, but I always worked at it and he didn’t. He treated counseling like a child treats a time-out. He sat there, saying little and biding his time until it was over. He withheld affection for months at a a time. When he did relent and spend time with me, he acted like he was doing me a favor by simply cuddling with me. It was not a good relationship. Finally, one day, I couldn’t take the pain anymore and ended it. Here are the things I experienced during the aftermath of our breakup:
1. I felt like a failure because our marriage fell apart so quickly.
2. I felt like I had hurt him so I stepped back from our mutual friends and let them comfort him. As a result, I felt very alone.
3. Although all of our mutual friends said that he never uttered a bad word against me, many of them chose sides, and it wasn’t my side.
4. I couldn’t make a decision without asking for feedback or advice from others.
5. I latched onto the first guy I met who gave me attention after we split up.
6. For a long time I felt incomplete without a boyfriend.
7. I had a difficult time taking care of myself by myself.
8. I felt depressed whenever I did any of our shared hobbies, whether he was there or not.
9. I felt very inadequate in most aspects of my life.
10. I couldn’t trust a partner to love me for me, to be there for me, or to marry me without fear that history would repeat itself.
Bit by bit, I started pulling myself out of the hole I allowed him to convince me to dig for myself. I have since realized the blessings associated with each of the aforementioned problems.
1. Ending the marriage so quickly was a blessing in disguise. I could have been miserable with him for many years, but chose to end it when I realized there was no chance for it to work out.
2. I realized that I had always put his needs before my own. I learned to put my own needs first, eventually. I even went to the opposite extreme for a while and ignored my partner’s needs in favor of my own before I learned to keep a balance. I am now in charge of my own happiness and my needs, even though I am dating somebody currently.
3. I learned who my true friends really are. I am no longer deluded in several false friendships. While some of them I could not cut out altogether, I at least know who I can trust and who is only worthy of polite small-talk.
4. I have finally learned to be self-reliant in my decisions. Yes, I still make mistakes, but they are at least my own mistakes. An interesting side-effect is that my intuition seems to be improving.
5. I learned to be more discerning in my relationships. I know what values I look for in a guy and warning signs of gaslighting and emotional abuse.
6. I know now that I would rather be alone than with the wrong guy.
7. With some depression issues, there are still days where I don’t take very good care of myself. However, I’m doing better for myself than I ever have in my life, so I’m learning to be content with that.
8. I still feel depressed when doing some of the hobbies we share. I have stepped back from them for a while and am focusing on other areas of my life, like my writing. My intention is to regroup, train on my own, and return gradually to those hobbies when I am ready. I don’t know when that will be, but avoiding them seems best for the moment.
9. I no longer feel inadequate in most aspects of my life. I make a decent living, can take care of myself, and am responsible for my own happiness. I still have a few feelings of inadequacy, but even those are slowly fading.
10. I trust that Diego loves me for me. He even likes parts of me that I (and my ex-husband) considered flaws. He has been there for me in a recent death in the family. He even held me for hours, forgoing sleep, while I cried. I don’t know if I’m ready to let go of my fears of remarrying, but if things continue the way they’re going, I might consider giving it a try in the (distant) future.
I saw a quote the other day. “The biggest mistake of my life has led me to the love of my life.” I realized that I am the love of my life, not a guy. I still don’t love everything that I am, but I love enough of me to never let any of it go for a guy again!