Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Scrooge Was a Narcissist

Tis the season of lights, mugs of hot chocolate, and giving gifts to the ones you love...unless you are a narcissist.

Here's the thing: Narcissists hate the holidays. Anything that takes attention away from them is enemy number one, so that goes for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, and any other gift-giving occasion. It took me about a year and a half to realize that my ex-husband had never given me a gift for any occasion, despite the fact that I was giving him things for special occasions. I'm not even a "gift person"...if we're talking in terms of "love languages," mine are words of affirmation and quality time. I never thought I cared about gifts at all, until I realized that I didn't get anything from him, ever.

I was giftless in our marriage from 2012 until 2014 when I was doing his greencard application for him. I gave him handmade cufflinks for our wedding. He hadn't even gotten me an engagement ring until the day before our wedding, and only then, because he had to. It was nothing I'd asked for and nothing like the pictures of things I liked that I sent him. I told him I didn't even need a diamond...just something unique and affordable. He came back the day before our wedding with a band half-lined with tiny diamonds, and complained how much he had to spend on it. I apologized, and told him that he didn't need to have done that. Our wedding was three days after Christmas. I gave him a small gift of a tshirt he liked and a full-series set of dvds of his favorite show. He gave me nothing, but I understood, because he had just spent "so much" on my ring. Since we were long distance, I'd find little things here and there that reminded me of him or of us and send them to him...he never did that. Valentine's day came and went. I sent him a card filled with sentiments about how much I loved and missed him. Nothing from him. Then came my birthday. Nothing. Not even a card in our first year together. For his birthday a month later, I bought him concert tickets to one of his favorite bands who was playing in town. Then came Christmas again. We got into a huge fight on Christmas eve, and he still hadn't bought me anything. He stormed out saying "Now I have to go buy you a f&#*ing gift! This should be great!" He came back with eyeshadow that my mom had already bought me for Christmas, and he knew it, forcing my mom to return hers.

I never brought it up until March 2014 when we were preparing for our greencard interview. I said "They want to see receipts from gifts we've exchanged and cards we've given each other...I have copies of all of the cards and receipts from gifts I've given you, but you've never given me anything..." He panicked. "We have to get our story straight!" he exclaimed. "
"Story? What story? I love you. There's no story here on my part."
"Oh, you're going to be like this again? If you doubt me I'LL LEAVE RIGHT NOW!" he screamed.
I apologized for "doubting him."

He once told me that the only gifts he gave anyone were things that he liked and could use himself. I thought he was kidding...up until he bought me a smart watch for my birthday that year. I never wore watches...he loved watches and had a watch collection. Of course, we were long distance at the time, and the "gift" arrived two weeks after my birthday. And when he came home months later, he took it with him back to his country. I never saw that watch again.

"You didn't like it anyway," was his justification for taking the "gift" he bought me.

From that point until we broke up the final time the following year, I got a few gifts from him, but all things he liked that weren't my style at all--two pairs of Swarovski crystal earrings. They looked like diamonds, but weren't REAL diamonds. I didn't like diamonds at all, and he was very into fake things that looked expensive. A glass rose for Valentine's Day with a cheesy, pre-written poem about love...he sent that while he was cheating on me with the other woman. Same with the fake diamonds, actually. And that year for my birthday, I got a pink (I hate pink) purse that he'd gotten for free from one of his celebrity appearances. He made sure to let me know that he'd spent MORE THAN HALF of his free gift certificate on me.

It wasn't until I ended my marriage and started researching narcissism that I realized this was a common theme amongst narcissists...they don't give gifts, and if they do, it's only things that they'll use/take themselves. Overarchingly, it's also NOT NORMAL in a relationship to NEVER get any gifts. I made every excuse for him, but when it came down to it, it was very hurtful and very much not ok with me to always be giving and never receiving...again, a very common theme with narcs.

So this holiday season, take note...if you give an never receive, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship...and your partner may be a narc if he's consistently a Scrooge or makes a big deal about how much he "hates Christmas" or makes you feel guilty about spending any amount of money on a gift for you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To the judge who dismissed my divorce over a typo...

Dear New York State Supreme Court Judge [name rescinded],

I recognize that this letter is likely against protocol, and I mean no disrespect. My voice was silenced during the 3 years I spent with Mr. [name rescinded], and throughout my divorce proceedings, I've felt that my voice has been silenced again. My request now is simply to be heard.

On July 28, 2015 I filed for divorce. My lawyer advised me to file "no fault" despite the fact that I learned first via pictures and later via phonecall from the other woman that my husband had been cheating on me for over a year and had also fathered a child outside of our marriage, because proving it would be long and too costly, and I couldn't afford that. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, he is an abusive individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Personality disorder. I married a narcissist and sociopath which only became apparent many months into our marriage.

It has now become clear that my husband married me for a greencard. He is a con man who committed fraud against me and against the United States. Immediately upon receiving his greencard, he abandoned me and returned to his home country "to work." While he was there, and while I was here patiently waiting for him to come back and while I remained committed to the marriage and completely faithful, he betrayed me over the span of 11 months. He impregnated another woman, and had intimate relationships with at least three other individuals that I know of. 

I paid for our entire relationship, including his greencard and legal fees. In the entirety of our time together, he never paid a bill, never contributed to rent, and never shared in household expenses in any way. He took all of my money (I willingly gave it because I loved him), exhausted my life savings, and left me with nothing. When I'd finally had enough of waiting for him and being verbally and emotionally abused, I told him I wanted a divorce. Because I couldn't afford proper legal representation for a full court battle, I filed "no fault." I asked for nothing. I just wanted out. I wanted my life back.

Coming to terms with the fact that I was an abused wife was incredibly difficult. I'm smart. I do the right things. This wasn't supposed to happen! But I was smart enough to kick him out and file for divorce once I realized what was going on. I tried to do the right thing. I spent $3,000 on a lawyer and on international service to end the marriage. I was told that once I served him, it should be straight-forward, and because he didn't contest and didn't respond, it would be a default judgement in my favor. But over the course of the past year and a few months, I've been met with obstacle after obstacle that has prevented the divorce from actually becoming final. 

I'm still legally married to my abuser because I couldn't financially afford to file on grounds, and because of two clerical errors--the process server in his country failed to provide a physical description of him (which is understandable, since my husband is famous in his country--it's likely that the server didn't think it was necessary given that fact). You dismissed my papers then, and said that I could resubmit if I got my husband to sign an affidavit stating that he was, indeed served. So after many months, and much effort on my part and on the part of my lawyer, my ex finally signed the affidavit and got it notarized at the consulate. He had been holding on to control, and he finally relented. I was thrilled and thought that it was finally going to be over. However, when you got the affidavit, you dismissed it AGAIN, saying that the notary failed to date page three. Despite the fact that his signature was consistent. Despite the fact that his signature was notarized and dated on other pages. You dismissed it. And my case is now essentially dead in the water as my ex refuses to appear for an inquest, and I can't afford trial fees, anyway. So that's it. 

My lawyer explained that your ruling was "for my protection" because my ex could claim down the line that he "didn't know" I wanted a divorce. He's given numerous interviews to the press about how "he filed" for divorce (he didn't). About how it was a "mutual decision" (it wasn't). We have discussed it over email and in text messages. He has a new girlfriend who he is parading around on red carpets and posting plentiful pictures of on social media. There is more than enough proof to show that he, indeed, knows very well, that I want a divorce. You, for whatever reason, will not allow it.  

I'll likely never know your reasoning for dismissing my case. Maybe you were having a bad day. Maybe it's just a number to you, and you've lost sight of the fact that there are real people with real lives behind the case filings. Maybe you hate immigrants or women, and this is your way of sticking it to them passively. But let me remind you what your dismissal of my case has done, in real life:

I am still tied to my abuser, legally. Mentally and emotionally, it feels like a dark cloud that I can't get rid of. I have no closure on the relationship whatsoever, as he abruptly blocked me and stopped talking to me when I caught him in his affair. I never got an apology or acknowledgement from him of what he did, and now I can't get a legal end to the marriage. The process has brought back PTSD nightmares, as I've had to text him and communicate with him. My therapist advised me to stop communicating with him immediately, for my own mental health, yet my lawyer's retainer has been exhausted, so understandably, any more work she does on my behalf is essentially pro-bono. If I am to proceed in any way, it will be on my own, and I will have to be in contact with him and his lawyer. I am still financially responsible for him, should he choose to come back to the United States. 

I knew that marriage is a big deal, and it was one I was fully ready for at the time when I married him. But I was conned. He was a fraud, and not who he presented himself to be. I knew that a divorce wouldn't be easy, emotionally, but I didn't think it would be virtually impossible logistically. I had no idea that there would be no lenience on typos and innocent omissions, especially given the language barrier and the fact that the case crosses international lines. I had no idea that I would spend thousands more (in addition to the tens of thousands I spent throughout my marriage) trying to get rid of my abuser while getting nothing back and asking for nothing. I had no idea it would be this difficult, and I don't understand why it is. 

So here I am, over a year later, thousands of dollars poorer, and with absolutely nothing to show for it. I'm back at square one. I now either have to refile here and start a new case (and thus, spend more money do that) or allow him to file in his country, on his terms, in a language I do not speak. If I do the latter, I have to sign my power of attorney over to his lawyer, who will "represent us both." I lose all of my rights, and lose my voice. Allowing him to have that power is exactly what he wanted, and he thrives on that. It re-victimizes me, and continues the exact patterns I was trying to get out of in filing for divorce in the first place.

While this may have been just another case number to you, this is my life. I feel unable to move on. It feels like the biggest mistake of my life that I just cannot erase, no matter how hard I try. It's exhausting, mentally, emotionally, and financially. And all over a notary at a consulate in a foreign country who forgot to date one page of a document. 

Judge, I know you will not read this, and I know that this letter changes nothing. If you had wanted to grant me a divorce, you would have. But, for whatever reason, you didn't. I just hope that you understand the life behind the case number, and understand that your dismissal is allowing spousal abuse, even from afar, to continue. 


The Plaintiff 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Invisible Red Flags

I've been thinking a lot lately about all of the red flags I missed (or worse, chose to ignore). They were there from the very beginning. Looking back, it's very clear that he was only ever using me to help his career. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps sharing these subtle (and glaringly obvious) things I overlooked will help someone else to see clearly.

The Business Meeting 
When I was introduced to my now soon-to-be-ex-husband, the VERY first thing he said to me was "Oh, you're American? I love Americans!" I was on vacation in Europe, and used to being the strange American who spoke only English, so to hear someone say that, in English, was refreshing and immediately intriguing. But what I now realize is that the reason he "loved Americans" was because he wanted to be one (I realize how American-centric and patriotic this sounds, but I assure you, I'm one of the least patriotic Americans out there. I don't think we are the center of the world, and I don't think that everyone wants to come here to take our jobs...but in this case, he had made it his plan to come to America YEARS before I met him, unbeknownst to me, and I was a shining opportunity for this to happen for him). When I was doing his greencard application for him (naturally--he wouldn't do it himself, after all!), I kept coming across interviews he'd given to magazines talking about how much he wanted a career in America, how his dream to was to work in Hollywood, and how his dream vacation would be a roadtrip across America. As our marriage was crumbling, one of his acquaintances from acting school confided in me that when he was studying in London, he was unconcerned with mastering the British accent and solely focused on learning the American accent, because he was determined to work in America.

What's more, our very first conversation established that I was in a position to be able to help him. I introduced myself as a writer, director and producer and that I worked in entertainment business management (all of which was true). He was an actor. It was like I was handing him a golden ticket to what he wanted for his career, and since all narcopaths are completely self-serving, that alone was enough to make him pursue me with vigor. In hindsight, it's no coincidence that his discarding of me began at exactly the same time I began interviewing for jobs outside of the entertainment industry. If I no longer had my professional contacts, I was of little use to him. And it was one month from the time I started my new job (in the tech industry) to when he left me, saying we had "nothing in common, and no future together." Curious timing, isn't it?

As we got to know each other more in the days and weeks that followed, his conversation was focused on how much he wanted to live in America, and how he'd been thinking of moving there. Of course, I was smitten, so I was thrilled by the prospect of him moving to my country! He asked me if I needed a roommate. I said we could figure something out. He was outright telling me that he was looking at Masters degrees in America because he wanted to be here so much, but I thought that maybe I had been the catalyst to make him want to be here because he wanted to be with me.  It's sickening now to realize that THE ONLY REASON HE WAS WITH ME WAS TO HAVE A CHANCE AT ACTING IN AMERICA.

Three months into our relationship, we were already discussing marriage, and he came to visit me. On day three of that visit, we got into an argument. I don't even remember what it was about, but I remember saying something to the effect of "I don't feel good about this." There were warning signs going off in my body. I felt uncomfortable somehow, but couldn't pinpoint it. I just remember feeling off. This set him off (it was the first time I'd ever seen him get angry). He said he would just leave. I didn't want him to leave--I wanted to talk about whatever it was that was upsetting me. Naturally, that didn't happen, and I thought I should just let it go and it would blow over. The next day, he told me that the night before had "set us back" and that "all future bets were off." This was his way of keeping me hooked. I begged for us to go back to the way we were, sure that we could get past whatever it was. Once I did that, things were fine. His plan was back in motion.

His final words to me when we were at the airport for him to go back to his country were "I came here to see if I should take this to the next level, and I think I should." Very businesslike for someone supposedly madly in love with me. It struck me as odd, and as if he'd been planning, but again, I was madly in love, and just excited that he wanted to take it to the next level with me! And after he DID move here, and had a number of unsuccessful auditions and wasn't making any money as an actor (and was unemployed totally), I think he realized that working as an actor here was going to be harder than he'd realized, and he immediately accepted a job on a soap back home in his country. That was when our marriage really fell apart, because now he had his fame ego boost back, he was working in his career--I and our marriage were completely superfluous.

General Disrespect For My Time, Needs and Desires
This was always present, in forms ranging from subtle to blatant. It started, subtly, with what I call "The Patience Test" (something I only realized was a thing after briefly dating another narcissist last year who did the same time). He would keep me on Skype for HOURS while he did whatever he pleased, yet I just had to sit there at the computer and wait for him. He would play videogames, cook dinner, spend hours laughing to himself at YouTube videos he was watching, all while he was on Skype with me. I now realize that it was to see if I would sit there and wait for him. And I always did. I played into the game. If I said something like "Why don't you call me back when you're free?" or "Let me just go do this thing while you're doing that," his answer was always "No no no! I'll be done in just a second. I'm sorry! Thank you for waiting!" and then he'd continue doing what he was doing.

Another great example was our wedding. We got married in a civil ceremony at the courthouse in his city in his country. I needed a translator, since the ceremony was in his language. I asked my friend Mary* to translate for me, since she was literally the only person I knew in the country aside from him, and she and I had been friends for 9 years. I trusted her. The morning of the ceremony, he called his friend Sophie and said "How's your English?" I asked what he was doing and he said she was going to translate. I said that no, I would rather have Mary translate because I knew her and trusted her and he got angry and said "Ok, fine!" Then, when we got to the courthouse, he listed Sophie as the translator. Sophie, a woman I didn't know, and who, unbeknownst to me at the time, turned out to be HIS EX-GIRLFRIEND, translated my wedding ceremony. Mary sat in the audience as my "witness." (As an aside, his other witness, Susan, also turned out to be ANOTHER EX-GIRLFRIEND. Fun fact, he had no friends aside from ex-girlfriends. Of course, I didn't know any of this when he first introduced them to me. He called them his "sisters.")

Probably the biggest example of this was when he accepted a job in his home country, a week after getting his greencard here in the US, without asking me how I felt about it. Naturally, I was devastated. He had JUST moved here to be with me, FINALLY, after a year and a half of us being long distance, he had JUST gotten his greencard, we were FINALLY going to be able to start our life together as husband and work, with him being eligible to work...and he was leaving. He pretended to ask my opinion about it, but when I said "Well, this is not ideal..." he made it clear that if I said no or protested in any way, I would be "blocking his career" and he would "resent me forever." So I really had no say, and he'd already told his agent he'd take it before he talked to me, anyway.

Overarchingly, I had no say in anything. It was what he wanted, when he wanted it. Whatever worked for him was expected to work for me, and when it didn't, I was "dramatic" or "needy" or "unsupportive."

Really Obvious Stuff 
These ones don't even really need explainations. They were obvious signs of abuse and signs that he didn't care about my feelings even a little bit:

  • He was consistently rough with me, even in intimate moments. Beyond that, he was downright violent at times. Though he never technically hit me, he would grab me and leave bruises, throw things (including a full suitcase, once) at me, slap my butt HARD out of nowhere, make sounds so loud into my ear that it popped my eardrum (even after I told him it was too loud...and then once my eardrum did pop, he got upset at me for crying because my eardrum popped and I literally couldn't hear and was in pain), which leads me to...
  • Sex was consistently terrible. Terrible. It was all about him and what he wanted, when he wanted it, at all times. This probably deserves its own post, actually. He was rough, and even our very first time, he said "Wow, I'm actually making love! I can't believe it! I'm MAKING LOVE TO YOU! I never make love. I prefer to fuck." His idea of "making love" had no love or tenderness in it whatsoever. I remember thinking "Seriously? This is making love to you?!" but didn't say it. 
  • He constantly criticized my weight/breast size/any other imperfection he could find. But then when I would get upset about his words, he would say "Well if you're so self-conscious about it, why don't you change it?!" Just go on a diet/get a boob job/whatever else he wanted me to do to 'fix' myself. He never understood that it wasn't that I was unhappy with myself--I was unhappy with his criticism of me. Unfortunately, it did take a toll on my self-esteem after awhile, but thank goodness, I always retained enough inner strength to recognize, deep down, that it was him who had the issues and not me. 

There's much more, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot, but this is a start. If you recognize any of these things happening in your relationship, take note. These are not things that healthy people do to people they love. These are things that users and abusers do.

PS - If you haven't already seen this video about emotional abuse in relationships, it's required watching.

*names changed to protect privacy

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I Am Free release and other news

I am honored to have three stories published in this book by Bree Bonchay, LCSW, now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. It's full of true stories from real survivors of narcissistic and sociopathic abuse.

I also now have a facebook page. You can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/lesson.learned.311

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fool's Day

Three years ago today, my ex called me first thing in the morning (I'd just woken up).

"I have something to tell you," he said.
"I'm cheating on you."
I started tearing up immediately. "Are you serious?"
"Yes. I'm cheating on you. I'm sorry."
I began to cry. My heart sunk down into my stomach. He began to laugh hysterically.
"HAHAHA! I got you! Oh my God, you actually think I'm cheating on you! HA!"
"That's not funny. You just gave me a panic attack. My heart was in my intestines!"

Except, now I know that he wasn't actually joking. He even laughed about it on facebook:

He actually did things like that a few times. Looking back, he was testing me to see if I'd believe him, and to see how much he could get away with. When he came back last summer, we went to a restaurant. They had a taxidermied moose head in the restaurant. He asked me to take his picture in front of the head, so that the horns were sticking out of his head (he ALWAYS wanted his picture to be taken, so he could post it on his facebook fan page). I did. When he posted it, he laughed, and said "This should get an interesting reaction..." I asked why, and he said "Because in my country, this means that a person cheated."

He also went on a talk show in his country where they asked him all kinds of super personal questions about his sex life. He admitted that he'd cheated and been cheated on ("in the past") and that he'd once had four relationships going at once. All of this was last year. He was talking about his life with me (though I never cheated on him...probably no one ever did, actually). And he was just talking about it in plain sight, on a "jokey" talk show, laughing about it. When I confronted him about it, he told me that "they were joking and I fell for the joke!" Lies. More lies.

As soon as the news of our divorce broke in the press, he removed those videos and pictures of him with horns from his page. I guess suddenly they weren't so funny when people might actually think they were true.

I hate April Fool's Day. I hate anything that celebrates taking advantage of people's trust. I hate lies and liars.

Monday, March 21, 2016

On the fear of losing happiness

I've noticed a disturbing trend in my life lately...things as they exist in real life are calm and peaceful for the most part. Life is good. I really have very little to complain about these days. Despite that, my head is still sometimes a warzone. It's like I'm afraid to allow myself to feel the happiness and peace that is actually in my life now, and that I've worked so hard for.

Here's an example of where my brain goes, in any given moment that is calm or happy:

I'm laying on the couch with my boyfriend, cuddling, watching tv. I begin to feel happy and grateful for the moment, because it feels so nice, and I feel so safe and loved. Then I have a flashback to me doing the same thing with my ex-husband, and feeling the same way in that moment. "Oh wait, I used to do this with my ex-husband too...I felt safe and loved then too...but he didn't love me...he never loved me...none of that was ever real...it was real to me, but it wasn't real to him...how do I know that this is real? What if he doesn't love me, either? What if I'm the only one in love? This might not be real...he might not love me...Oh God, what if he doesn't love me back? What if he loves someone else instead? I'm going to get hurt again. I can't get hurt again. I can't go through that again. I should just end it...I shouldn't be with anyone..."

And this happens usually multiple times per day, because things are actually pretty good, until my brain convinces me that they might not be what they seem. Pretty fucked up, eh?

The worst part is that I KNOW this is no way to live. I know I'm literally denying myself the happiness I should be feeling right now. I think that happiness can only ever exist in the present moment, and the second I start to feel it, I push it away, because I'm too afraid of losing it again. It's basically the definition of self-sabotage. I feel like everything I think I know is going to come crashing down around me again, and I want to be somehow prepared for it this time, as if knowing in advance what will happen will make it hurt less. I've convinced myself that if only I can predict it, I'll be protected.

The truth is, even if I can predict it, it will still hurt. I predicted it with my ex-husband. It still devastated me when I got confirmation that my gut was right. No amount of protection could have helped, and I guess when it's all said and done, I can look back and know that at least for a bit, in the moments, I was truly happy with him, even if it wasn't "real" and wasn't what I thought it was. It's true that ignorance is bliss.

The only solution I can think of is to try and stay in the moment and appreciate the little moments of happiness, exactly as-is. In fact, I think that being "happy" is just having enough of a collection built up of the small, quiet, calm, content moments. Maybe that's the best any of us can ever get, and the truly lucky among us are just able to be in them and appreciate them while they happen instead of living in the past by looking back on them or chasing happiness by hoping they'll happen again in the future.

I'm not used to having these walls up. And what I'm realizing is that to live in fear of losing happiness is probably actually worse than being depressed or sad. At least with those emotions, I was IN them. I felt them. I knew exactly what they were and could draw you a map around them. But this constantly changing my happiness into anxiety thing is exhausting. It's a rollercoaster. It's crazymaking.

Sometimes the stress of everything twisting around my brain makes me want to cry, because it feels like I can't trust my own feelings anymore. I know that's not true, though. I know I can trust my feelings and my intuition. My feelings have always been right. It was just one monster who deceived me and betrayed me. And most of all, I don't want to give him the power to control my current and future happiness because of what he did to me.

A friend of mine said recently "Loving someone is always a risk." She is right. There are never any guarantees, and despite how much you think you know the person, no one ever really knows what's in another's heart, even when the person you love is a good person and not a sociopathic con man. So I continue to be terrified, but I'm trying to be brave.

Friday, March 18, 2016

More from my journal - The Discard, Part II

I've already written about the day almost exactly a year ago that my (ex)husband left me out of the blue. Here it was, as I wrote about it to my therapist (written exactly a year ago tomorrow).

The thing to keep is mind is that I now know the real reason he did this--because he had a girlfriend back in his home country who he'd gotten pregnant, who was having an abortion that week and was suicidal. So, literally every word he said was a lie meant to manipulate me. Of course, I didn't realize the full extent of it until August 2015, when the other woman called me and told me everything.

Anyway, I present this here to encourage all of you to trust your gut. I knew something was off and didn't make sense, but I wanted to trust him and believe him. I shouldn't have.

March 19, 2015, 4:44 pm
There have been some big developments with my husband this week, and I'm reeling a bit, again. 
 He came back home to me "for good" on Saturday, March 7th. It was bad from the moment he stepped off the plane. I went to the airport, greeted him with coffee, we hugged, he gave me a little peck on the lips, and then we walked to the escalator to get to the train platform. As we were on the escalator, he grabbed my belly, jiggled it, and said "Well, somebody's put on a belly!" This was literally the FIRST thing he said to me after being gone for 10 months, and not seeing me for two months. I teared up almost immediately, and then he got angry at me for being upset, because he was "just joking," and then he began to say that he would just go back to his country, I "obviously didn't want him here," and he threatened divorce. I said that none of that was true, but that I was really hurt by what he said, and he wouldn't let it go how I needed to just get over it, and "Do something about myself if I'm so unhappy with my weight." I told him I wasn't unhappy with my weight, I was unhappy with his comment. It was a long, silent, awful ride home. (PS - I haven't really gained any weight...HE on the other hand, has been very self-conscious about putting on 30 lbs while he was there, and keeps commenting on his own weight and how much he has to work out. Projection?). 
 By Friday, I could tell he was not happy. I said that he seemed sad, and asked him why. He said that he had left his career at it's peak, he realized how much his mom and dad aged in the 5 months he was away from them (while living with me) last year, and how angry his agent was at him for leaving, and how his mom cried when she took him to the airport, and he was homesick. I didn't say much, but I said "Ok, well that's all understandable." Then I said "Do you want to be here?" He said "I don't know." And I said "Well that's honest." But it hurt me, since I've waited so long for him to come back and us to have a chance at having a life together, and now he wasn't sure if he wanted it. 
 The next day was Saturday of last week. We sat down and talked about it, and it got ugly. I told him that I felt really scared that he could leave at any moment, and that it's really vulnerable for me to know how much I wanted him here, and that I'm not sure he wants to be here with me. And I also said that the 10 months he was gone were the hardest of my life, and that I cried every day, and I never really felt like he understood that. He got really angry, really quickly, and took all of my feelings as an attack on him. He said that I was calling him "a piece of shit" and "the worst person ever" and he yelled "I'm going for a walk!" 
 Two hours later, he came back. He didn't talk to me the rest of the night, and I went to bed. He slept on the couch until 6am, and then finally came to bed with me. Sunday morning I thought we'd get up and talk. I made him coffee, and when he came into the kitchen, he already had his coat and shoes on. He said that he decided to leave, and he would leave today. I started sobbing. He went on to say that we just weren't right for each other, and we have nothing in common, and I was forcing him to live my life. He then packed up his bags and I was still sobbing. He asked me to call him a cab, and I refused. So then he left for a hotel (and called me cold-hearted for not letting him stay with me until his flight Tuesday).

The first time we broke up

I recently came across my old journal I kept with my therapist. I would write her an entry, and she would respond, in-depth and amazingly, to each one. Here was something I wrote in September 2014, when I first realized that I actually didn't deserve to be treated the way he was treating me. I share in hopes that it will help to spark that recognition in one of you who may be experiencing something similar. Let me tell you bluntly what it took me two years to realize--being verbally abused is NOT OK, NOT SUSTAINABLE, and it's NOT YOUR FAULT.

September 4, 2014, 11:50 am
A lot has changed in the last week. There is an aspect to my husband that I've always realized but only recently really admitted to myself - he is verbally and emotionally abusive. I constantly feel like I'm walking on eggshells around him, trying not to upset him, yet many days, any little word I say (or don't say) or thing I do (or don't do) sets him off, and he begins screaming at me. When he explodes, he's generally over it five minutes later, but I'm not. It devastates me, and sometimes takes me days to get over. I've been reading a lot about verbal and emotional abuse, and he really displays almost all of the signs, especially the more subtle ones. I mention this because everything came to a head over the weekend. I was at my parents house (honestly,because I didn't want to be alone for another holiday weekend, because I knew I would get sad). Saturday he asked if he could skype with my sister and brother in law to say hi, but we were out at dinner and then going out for drinks after that, so I told him it wasn't a good time but we could do it tomorrow. He was angry. Sunday when I called him and said "Hey, do you want to skype now? We're all around!" 
I apparently interrupted the commentary on the soccer game he'd just watched, and he EXPLODED at me "I'm watching the commentary! YOU KNOW I LOVE THIS! DO I SERIOUSLY HAVE TO JUSTIFY WATCHING THIS TO MY WIFE?!" 
I said no, and that it was fine, we could talk later. Then he said he could turn skype on, but he wouldn't talk until the show was over in two hours, and at that point I was going to be leaving, so I said "No, it's fine, this is your priority right now, watch your show." 
So I said "Ok, you're making that clear."
We hung up, and it was all I could do not to cry. I knew I didn't deserve to be treated that way. Since I was at my parents house, I did my best to hold it in and not talk about it (they already hate him, for a lot of reasons--I didn't want to give them one more). Then my dog threw up, and I started uncontrollably sobbing. My mom said "You seem really stressed..." and I told her everything I'd been holding back. I sat on the floor--literally, on the kitchen floor--crying for 3 hours, and my parents said if I hadn't mentioned it, they were going to talk to me. They saw that he's verbally abusive and controlling and on top of that, seems to never consider my feelings in his decisions, and they urged me that it won't get better, and they fear for my safety. I didn't sleep at all that night. Monday morning he texted to say "Hate to argue, but i'm sorry if I made you sad last night." I asked when a good time to talk would be, because I didn't want to interrupt again, and he called me immediately. I said "I'm really hurt and confused...last night I had a breakdown, and I don't deserve to be treated like that." and he immediately jumped to "So, what, do you want a divorce? Are we separated? HERE, I'LL TAKE MY WEDDING RING OFF RIGHT NOW!" and I said "I don't know, I just need some time to think," and he said "No, things are either working or not, I don't give anyone time...I'll just take my ring off and put it here, and you let me know what you decide." I was devastated. I never intended or imagined things would go downhill so quickly, or over the phone. It seems like he just wanted an out. 

September 8, 2014, 2:18 pm
So, I talked to him last night (I know, I know.) It was his "deadline" he so generously gave me as to decide if I wanted a divorce or not, and I wanted to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that I wanted a divorce. It didn't go well. He said he can't believe that I don't have the "respect" for him to just wait until he comes back. I told him my plan all along was to wait for him to come back, but then he put in question if he was even coming back, and then when I told him that I wanted to wait and see how things went prior to this current conversation his response was "So what, you'll make me spend $600 on a flight and then just dump me?" Everything gets turned around. The truth is, I'm having such a hard time because I DON'T want a divorce--it's the last thing I ever wanted. But I don't see any other way. I know he's not going to change and magically become the sweet, caring guy he once was. I know it's not just an issue of distance anymore. And now I can't even picture myself wanting to be in the same room with him. I don't even think that therapy would help him. When I point out to him that he's verbally abusive, he laughs at me (the irony is that he's currently playing a physically and verbally abusive husband on the soap--and getting rave reviews, I might add). He says he's researched all about it, and he's not that. I said there are different degrees of it, and it doesn't just mean men who call their wives "pieces of shit" and who hit them (that's his concept of it). And when I told him that he manipulates my feelings and emotions, again, he turned it around and said "NO I DON'T!" (dismissing me right there!). I know there is no hope for him and no hope for us. I know I will never be happy with him. I know I won't ever get past the hurt that I already feel, and I wouldn't be able to be in a relationship with him and trust him ever again. Plus, now that I've realized that what he has been doing is actually abuse, I'm afraid of what it could turn into. I know he's beaten our dog--the poor puppy used to pee in fear when he'd see him, and I watched him hit him (and then yelled at him and told him it was the most disgusting and unattractive thing I've ever seen--he stopped, as far as I know). I know he's hit ex-girlfriends, and I know that his dad told me that one ex had a restraining order. I just don't know what he's capable of, and i know I'm not special. I know if he felt justified, he'd hit me, too. I don't know why I would even think about letting him come back. I know nothing will change. But there is a big part of me that DOES feel awful about doing it over skype/the phone. Plus I know it gives him more fodder to tell people what a horrible wife I am for dumping him from abroad "while he was just trying to work for money for us." I told him I needed more time and that I would let him know when I've come to a decision, and I said it might be weeks or months. I know what I need to do, but when I talk to him, I just lose my resolve, because I remember how much I love(d) him and how he can be reasonable from time to time, and then I feel like the jerk. In the meantime, I've cancelled the wedding we were going to have here (lost my $2000 deposit). I took him off my insurances today, so that will be another $300 in my check every month. I'm doing everything to protect myself. I just need to strengthen my resolve to not let him come back, even though prior to this past week it's all I ever wanted.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Another anniversary

Exactly a year ago today, my (now almost ex-)husband told me he wasn't sure if he wanted to be here in America with me anymore, out of nowhere, after being back with me for exactly 6 days having been gone for the 11 months prior.

Exactly a year ago tomorrow, he discarded me first thing in the morning, telling me that we had no future and nothing in common, and informed me that he was leaving me and would be getting on a flight later that day to return to his country.

Exactly a year ago on Wednesday, I walked into my brand-new job, because I didn't know what else do to with myself.  My life had been shattered the day before, and I'd only had this job for 3 weeks and didn't want to skip out before my first month was up. My boss casually asked me how my weekend was, and I started to uncontrollably sob.

"I guess maybe I shouldn't have asked that?" he said.
"I've had better weekends," I replied, not sure how much I should tell my brand new manager, but also not wanting to come off as if he'd hired an utter crazy person. "I'm sorry, it's just that my husband left me yesterday."
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine. If you need to not be here, or take off early, or come in late, just let me know."
"Thank you."

It's kind of remarkable how much has changed in a year.

I'm in a great, healthy relationship now with a truly kind, empathetic, caring, remarkable man. I no longer cry daily, sometimes I go many weeks at a time without crying. The weight I lost because I was physically unable to eat for the better part of 2015 has begun to come back, and my appetite is fully back. The unmanageable cystic acne that exploded all over my face, chest and back because of the stress, beginning in late 2014, is now just scars--it's sort of symbolic how now all that remains of all of it is just scars, that only time can heal. I just got promoted at work. My boss and I have a wonderful working relationship, I think partly because I had to divulge so much about my life so early on. He asks me for regular updates on how things are going in my life, and genuinely cares that I'm healing. Everybody comments on my strength and how my entire aura has changed since my toxic husband left my life. I'm happy and calm. Life is peaceful. I laugh again. I smile. My sense of humor is back. My divorce is sitting with the courts--after months of worrying about the fact that he wasn't signing the papers and was threatening to sue me for "psychological damages" and demanding that I not speak to friends, family, or the press in his country. His time to contest ran out, he didn't do anything, and now it defaults in my favor. The best part is, his greencard I paid for and did all of the work for expires next week. I doubt that he realizes this.

I haven't spoken to him since August 2014, though his friends and the other woman have reached out to me to tell me "how much he loves me" and how he "deserves a second chance." I told them that I gave him NUMEROUS chances, and he blew them all by lying and gaslighting me. The other woman tried calling me 13 times in a row about a month ago, across 4 different mediums. I'm finally at a point where I really, genuinely don't care what she had to say or why she was calling. My boyfriend picked up the phone, told her he'd just gotten this number, and he had no idea who the woman was that she was asking for. She hasn't called since.

He texted me in December to say he wanted to talk, but he wanted it to be on his terms. I delayed in responding, and said I had nothing to say but I would listen to whatever he wanted to say. Finally weeks later, I said I would talk. He never responded. I've made peace with the fact that I will never get an apology or even an acknowledgement of what he did, from him, and even if I did, he wouldn't mean what he said anyway. He only wanted "to talk" to get a response out of me. Once he did, his need to control me was fulfilled, and he didn't respond. Just one more game. But I'm done with the games, and fully done with ever trying to speak to him. There is just no point.

It's been a stressful, emotional year, but I could have never imagined that I would be in the place I am now a year ago. Life seemed like it was over. I could barely get out of bed, and often cried as soon as the alarm went off in the morning. I thought I had lost my chance at love and at ever having a relationship or a family. I thought I was too old to start over and didn't want to. Now the future seems brighter than ever, and my outlook on life is hopeful again.

It gets better, and in a way, I think I had to be totally knocked down to rebuild and figure out what I needed and focus on myself, because I'd spent so much time and money and energy focused on him.

There is love and life after a sociopath destroys your life, friends.

Friday, March 4, 2016

That time I apologized for having a migraine

Today I was looking for something in my email, and I fell into a rabbit hole of reading old emails I sent to my (almost ex)husband. It made me think "When did I first notice that something was off?" And the answer to that was 3 months in.

We met while I was on vacation, and were long distance for the first year and a half we were together. The first time he visited me was three months after we met. I was already in love with him (thanks Skype), and in his third week of visiting me, we took a road trip so I could introduce him to my family. His first impression on my sister and her husband were basically worst-case scenario. He and my brother in law got into a drinking competition, and he ended up throwing up ALL OVER my sister's house, repeatedly. I had never seen so much vomit in my life. While my sister and I were cleaning it up, he literally came out of the bathroom, looked at my sister, laughed, and said "Clean it, bitch!" and then went back to bed. I quickly apologized to her on his behalf (a theme that would only continue) saying "I'm so sorry...I think he's still drunk. He's not like this!" Except, as it turned out, he WAS like this. That was just the first glimpse of the real him.

Since I didn't sleep at all that night because I was up all night cleaning up his repetitive vomit, I got a pretty terrible migraine. I let him know, repeatedly, that I had a migraine and just wasn't feeling well. We headed back to my apartment, and he was blaring his heavy metal music the entire time we were in the car. Every time I would ask him to turn it down, he would say I was boring and no fun, and would gradually turn it back up.

When we got back into the city, we were on the escalator near my apartment. I still had a raging migraine, and he proceeded to slap me, hard, on the butt (playfully in his mind, painfully in mine--also the first time he touched me a little too hard and then got angry at me for reacting to that). I turned to him to give him a look to say "Not now," because I was hurting, and when I have a migraine everything hurts more. When he saw the look, he FLIPPED HIS SHIT, right there in public, threw my suitcase at me, and yelled "FUCK YOU! CARRY YOUR OWN SUITCASE THEN!" and stormed off in front of me. I began to cry, and I was "being a baby."

Here was my first ever email to him (the first of many) in which I tried SO HARD to explain how I was feeling, and how I never meant to upset him, and ended up apologizing for my own suffering. It was a pattern that got so much worse, until I realized what was going on and stopped apologizing (which is when shit REALLY hit the fan).

"I want to talk about this tonight, but I want to get out what I was thinking this morning, both because I need to get it out of my head and I also don't want to make you wait all day and for you to wonder what I'm thinking/think it's worse than it is.

Last night scared me. You apologized, and I accept it, but it scares me. I get migraines a lot. Less frequently than I used to, but still, more than I would like. I hate how they make me feel and how they interrupt my life, but if I don't catch it with drugs fast enough (as I didn't this weekend--it actually started on Sunday but I let it go because I thought I was just tired/hungover) they can really ruin my day and, at worst, a few days thereafter. When I have one, I try my best to function normally, but I can't always do that 100%. Everything becomes more sensitive--everything is too bright, too loud, and overall overwhelming. All I want to do when I have one is close my eyes and withdraw for a bit until it goes away. Yesterday that wasn't possible. I was trying my best to be normal, but I guess I wasn't doing as well as I thought because you said I was being bitchy and treating you badly all day. I didn't know I was doing that and I'm sorry if I did. 

I honestly got emotional on the train because I was thinking how much I loved you and how nice it was to have you with me and taking such good care of me and how I just didn't want that to end. I am so appreciative everything you were doing for me, both yesterday and always. I loved that you were there for me to lean on, and that you were massaging my head and holding me, and when it started to really hit me that you're leaving on Friday, and I got really sad and teared up. A couple of tears came out when I had my head on your shoulder. I was trying not to cry as we got off the train and went up the stairs to the escalator because of that, and then when you smacked my butt, I wasn't angry--I really wasn't. In my mind, I just shook my head to say "not now" because I was holding back tears as it was, and then I was completely blindsided with the escalator stuff because I legitimately didn't know what had happened and what was in my head was not at all what you thought it was.

Point is, my not feeling well is not and will not be an isolated event. If you didn't like me yesterday, and if what you thought was a look I gave you out of disgust? whatever it was that you thought I was thinking? caused you to get angry enough to go up another escalator and stop taking care of me in the way that I was so appreciative of, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to constantly walk on eggshells, which is really hard for me to do when I have a migraine.

I just don't want what happened last night to happen again, and the fact that I do get migraines at least once every month or two scares me. Like I said, I try to go on as normally as I can when I have them, but I don't always succeed, and if you don't like me when I have one, then I'm afraid you're not going to like me. And if you react the way you did last night when I'm feeling that way, I know for a fact that I can't deal with that. So it scares me. 

I love you. I love having you with me. I love the way you take care of me. I don't want you to leave, period. But when you offer to sleep on the couch/get a hotel/leave, which is the LAST thing I want, and it hurts me when you do that, too, because I think that means that you just don't want to be around me. I'm guessing that it's your defense from what happened in the past, but it hurts me a lot when you offer to leave because it makes me think that it's what you want. It's not what I want. Please get that into your head. It. is. not. what. I. want. I want you with me. 

And yes, a phonecall would be better, but I don't want to get emotional on the phone at work and have everyone nearby hear me and wonder what's happening. And I want to talk about it in person, but I also want to be completely clear so you can see it and not read into/guess about how I'm feeling. 
I love you."

When we talked about it, he said that it made him want to take three steps back and cancel all plans of our future. He threatened to leave. I now know that he did this to control me--any time I would stand up for myself, he would threaten to leave me. And that worked on me for awhile.

When I look back on the "good times," this was firmly during when I still thought things were perfect with us. But they were not. This was a huge, huge red flag, very early on, and I thought it was my fault because he just didn't understand how much pain I was in because of my migraine. What I didn't realize was that he would NEVER understand, because he's not capable of empathy. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How I knew it was time to go

There are many listicles out there giving readers "20 Signs You Are Dating a Narcissist" or "10 Ways to Know You are Being Abused." I can say with certainty that I read essentially all of them over the last three years, yet I wasn't really to fully accept them until I started to create my own list.

One night in June 2015, I stayed in a hotel after I'd discovered what I believed was my husband having an affair (which turned out to be true, even though he never admitted it). That night, I stayed up, alone, in my hotel room, writing out every reason I could think of to leave him, and every reason I could think of to stay.

I came up with 29 compelling reasons to divorce him and only one reason to stay ("1. I love him").

Here's the incomplete list of reasons I decided to leave. I urge anyone in a similar situation to come up with their own lists...and let me know in the comments if any of these hit home for you:

  1. He lied to me time and time again, while looking me in the eyes, sometimes while crying. He is an excellent liar, and does it with no remorse.
  2. He ignores me over and over again because he's out with other women
  3. He tried to gaslight me and make me feel crazy and guilty for asking questions about the other woman (which would have worked, if I hadn’t snooped.) I CAN NEVER TRUST HIM, EVER AGAIN.
  4. Things have started to get more physical. When we got into the first argument over the other woman, and I told him I didn’t want to be with him, I asked him to please pay me for his cell phone, since I had been paying for it and he had been using it to have an affair. He said he wasn’t going to pay a penny because the divorce wasn’t his idea. So I said “Ok, I’m going to turn your phone off right now then.” As I sat at the computer to do that, he threatened to throw the monitor. “It’s expensive,” he said. I told him to do it, and he’d go to jail, because I would call the police for abuse. I really thought he might do it. The following week, we weren’t fighting, and things were ok, but I was sitting on the couch. He took his lighter and flicked it three times in my crotch. I yelled and told him to stop and it wasn’t funny. He got angry at me for that, because “How did I burn you?! You can’t even feel it! You’re being a child!” A few minutes later, I was laying watching tv, and he threw his passport at me, hard, hitting me in the face on my cheekbone, just under my eye. I flipped out at him, and he swore it was an accident, and was angry that I was angry. THIS IS HOW PHYSICAL ABUSE STARTS. IT ESCALATES.
  5. The sex is not just terrible and unfulfilling, but actually physically painful. And then he tells me how many women he’s been with, and how none of them have ever cared about coming, and no one else has ever complained before, and sex should be all about the journey and I shouldn’t have to come every time (except that I come never--or when I DO take charge and come, he can’t stay hard and completely checks out).
  6. We only have sex when he declares it. He'll exclaim things like "Suck my dick," and then get angry if I say no or call him out on how ridiculous it is for him to do that. He doesn’t respond to my advances, denies me, calls me a pervert or a nymphomaniac. And when he wants it, it doesn’t matter if I’m turned on or not. He enters me without turning me on, even when I tell him not to or pull away. He refuses to do anything I like, and then turns it against me saying that I should be “all about giving” and I should just let him do what he wants because it turns HIM on even if I don’t like it or it doesn’t turn me on.
  7. I can’t talk to him. I can’t share my feelings with him. My feelings are always viewed as an attack on him, no matter how gently I word things, and how careful I am with his feelings. He then attacks me back. This is the worst when I am crying, being so vulnerable, pouring my heart out, and he calls me “immature” and a “baby.”
  8. My friends and family all hate him. Also, he says that I can hang out with my friends, but when I try to, he then can’t believe that I’m not inviting him, that I would leave him alone, that I don’t want to make him a part of my life...which brings me to:
  9. He actually uses my own direct words against me, but not well. When I complain that I feel like I’m not part of his life, he will then use those exact words later that day or the next day, but against me, and completely out of context. It’s clear he’s just making shit up to try to get to me, but it doesn’t even fit the situation.
  10. He doesn’t want to actually share his life with me. He sees his life as HIS life, and I’m not a part of that. We are only allowed to have “our” life, but that doesn’t involve him sharing any part of HIS life with me (wouldn’t take me on set, won’t introduce me to colleagues or friends, wouldn’t let me mention why he was here when I was applying to auditions for him).
  11. The entire time we were together he applied to exactly zero jobs, neither acting or otherwise. He claims he’s depressed, yet he had no sympathy for my own depression but expects me to have it for him.
  12. He wants to have free reign to hang out with and make new single, female friends. It’s a huge source of contention. I WILL NEVER BE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT, yet when I express my discomfort, he calls me a "crazy, jealous bitch" and reminds me how much he "hates jealousy."
  13. He has not contributed financially, to anything, EVER. The only thing he paid for was my gym bootcamp.
  14. He believes that if I’m strong or in control, he is “my bitch” and he gives me attitude accordingly. This is the hallmark of an abuser. HE DOES NOT SEE US AS 50/50. HE SEES THAT HE MUST BE IN CONTROL, OTHERWISE HE IS “WEAK.”
  15. He does not know how to be physically gentle or comforting. He tells me he hates holding hands. He never kisses me passionately (and never has). At most he gives a peck. When I literally ask him to hold me, he won’t. Being with him in person is physically not much different than being 3000 miles away.
  16. He continues to call me “immature” and “insecure” and says I’m just “afraid of being alone.” He continually brings up my weight and how I should be exercising and how I’m just “bitter about fit, healthy people.”
  17. He beats our dog for the tiniest of things, as "punishment," to the point that the dog pees when he sees him come near him. I could never, ever have a child with him, and I think his animal abuse is absolutely appalling and disgusting.
  18. He will always do whatever he pleases, regardless of how it affects me. He will leave and come into my life when he pleases, despite how his leaving affects me and our life "together." He would be (and is) a father who leaves his children.
  19. I feel constantly stressed, tired, drained around him. He disrupts my sleep (literally, he comes in and shakes me awake, just to wake me up, and then laughs and leaves the room).
  20. He is violent in his sleep and hurts me.
  21. He says he wants nothing to do with my friends or family, doesn’t give a “flying fuck” what they think, said he would watch my best friend die and walk away from her if she needed help.
  22. He went from never giving me gifts on occasions (birthday, Christmas, anniversary--never) to giving me gifts he got for free to giving me gifts which are just awful or ones that HE wanted and then took for himself.
  23. He’s not willing to go to therapy. He thinks it’s stupid. “We should just be adults.” And the one time I did get him to go to therapy, he used it to prove that he was right and I was wrong. Didn't view it as a team effort--still viewed it as a way for him to "win."
  24. I’m getting physical symptoms from the stress of being with him. Acne, new rosacea, loss of appetite, actually retching and vomiting from stress. I lost 30 lbs because I can't eat.
  25. He is not nice. He is hyper critical of everyone. He makes rude comments to everyone. He treats waiters terribly. I’m constantly apologizing for him and embarrassed by him.
  26. I need a “safe space to grow.” He is not safe and is not interested in becoming safe.
  27. He blames me for everything. No matter what, it’s my fault. He will not take any responsibility for anything.
  28. I get nothing out of the relationship--no physical needs being met, no emotional needs being met, no financial help, we disagree on spiritual matters...I'm not being supported in any way.
  29. I deserve to have the love I give be returned. I deserve a real partner and a real marriage.

Monday, January 11, 2016

On the fear of dirty dishes (Or My New Relationship, Or Updates: Part II)

Happy 2016!

As I mentioned in my last post last year, in September 2015 I decided to re-enter the world try out dating again, which was huge, since I'd spent the latter part of 2014 and three quarters of 2015 literally googling Buddhist monasteries and thinking that I would never again so much as kiss another human being.

As it turned out, there are still good men still in the world. There were also a couple of other monsters, but the good thing was that I spotted them within approximately 2 hours of meeting them. One was a professional basketball player who legit drove a batmobile. I knew he was bad news, but I needed the see it through to the end to make sure my gut was right. It was right, and his final text to me was a flurry of "You don't know me!" and expletives. Problem is, I *did* know him. I married someone just like him. And I knew that I didn't deserve to be blown off for weeks on end. He didn't like that I called him on it. Another one had a girlfriend, and when I let him know that facebook had suggested I become friends with his ACTUAL facebook profile (the one in which his profile picture was him and a girl, and her picture was her and him), he called me crazy and blocked me, only to unblock me the next day and pretend like nothing ever happened, and, without any apology, tell me to "just get over it and stop being mad." No. Just no.

But aside from those couple of mega-duds, I had good experiences on my dates. And in November, I met a sweet, kind, funny, smart, handsome, all-around amazing man.

And I am terrified.

I had no idea how much fear I still had in me. Though my heart and mind have moved on, I'm still so scared, and the tiniest of things trigger me now. It really is a form of PTSD. The other day, I left a dish in the sink. My new guy washed it and commented on how nice it was to have a clean sink, and I immediately began to cry and apologize for leaving a dirty dish. What he didn't know, and what I didn't realize was triggering me until a bit later, was that my ex-husband constantly "joked" about how he was my servant (or some days, my "little bitch" or "little dog") any time he would do housework of any sort, even voluntarily. For Valentine's Day, my ex bought a card that was meant to be from a wife to a husband, and gave it to me, expressing what a great "husband" I was because he felt that I was the "man" since I was the one who worked and he was the "woman" since he was the one who stayed home all day cleaning. His machismo wouldn't let him accept that our gender roles were reversed (and, fact is, he could have gotten a job at any time but chose not to) so all he could do was "joke" about what a good man I was and was a subservient little housewife he was. I felt terrible about it, and tried to reassure him that I loved him whether he was working or not and whether he did chores or not while I was at work, and I was happy to do chores once I got home. Of course, I realize now that it was all part of his manipulation and mind games, and that he felt emasculated if he wasn't "winning" and the ultimate alpha-male in every situation. Nothing I did or didn't do could have helped. It's just how his brain was wired, and he got off on the subtle put-down of it all.

Point is, I am struggling with being with a man who loves me and actually wants to spend time with me, and who doesn't put me down. For the past three years, I got used to apologizing for absolutely everything. My ex constantly reminded me of how "overly sensitive" I was, and how "clumsy" [or insert other veiled put-down here] I was. So when I accidentally poked my boyfriend as I rolled over in bed, I began to tear up and say "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I didn't mean to do that! I am so sorry!" and his response was "It's ok babe, it was an accident! I know you didn't mean to! You don't have to apologize like that." Which only made me cry harder. I am so jumpy from my last relationship, where the tiniest of accidents were ARMAGEDDON and elicited shouts of "YOU ARE SO CLUMSY! WATCH WHAT YOU ARE DOING! MY GOD, YOU COULD HAVE REALLY HURT ME!" that a simple "It's ok babe, it was an accident!" moves me immeasurably.

Accepting love is hard, as it turns out, when you're not used to being truly loved unconditionally.

I had become so accustomed to the pattern of me doing something "wrong" and then working hard to win my ex's love back that I don't how how to handle being loved and appreciated for who I am, the way I am, doing nothing to "deserve" it (even when I "mess up"). But I know now that that's actually how healthy relationships are, and though I've always given that kind of unconditional love, I've not felt it in return, and have to just allow it to be. Helping one another, without keeping score and without condition, is what healthy, normal people do when they love each other.

There's also this persistent fear that at any moment, the other shoe will drop and I'll find out that my boyfriend is not, in fact, the wonderful man that I think he is (and that my friends and family think he is), but instead, a terrible person concealing horrible secrets and living a double life. If I was so wrong about my ex-husband, and so blind to what everyone else could clearly see, how do I know that I'm not wrong again this time? I've been having recurring nightmares where my boyfriend tells me he's actually married, or that he's cheating on me. I feel sometimes that I'm just waiting for the bomb to drop and for my life to shatter again. But I really don't think it will this time. I have guards up where I never had them before, but still, I think that he is actually who he says he is, and that what I see is what I get. I know that I have learned to trust my gut, and I'm looking for EVERY possible red flag, and not finding any. I keep telling myself that I saw it in the others I dated before him, and I called them out and got rid of them, and I know that if I need to I can do that again. But I don't think I'm going to need to. I truly think that I learned my lessons and learned how to spot the badness before I commit to a life with it. I think he's genuine (and just to be safe, I've introduced him to all of my friends and family, and they have all approved whole-heartedly--which couldn't be more different from my last situation).

Undoubtedly, there will be more meltdowns, and more of me crying just because my boyfriend hugs me when I need it instead of telling me to "get over it" or "stop crying", or when he does a chore without my asking and without holding it against me. But I know that I'm healing, and I'm becoming more and more comfortable with being in a healthy relationship, and I believe I've found someone who is willing to be my soft spot for me to fall and a safe place for me to continue to heal from what came before him.

PS - You may be wondering if my ex has signed the divorce papers yet? Hahahaha, no. Why would he sign the papers in which I ask him for nothing and am legally stating, for the record that he "did nothing wrong" as I filed for no-fault divorce? Because he isn't in control of the situation. He continues to try to manipulate and in December, sent his best friend as well as the other woman to tell me how much he loves me and misses me and wants another chance, even going so far as to have his friend try to convinced me that he "never cheated" and "wouldn't do that." I let them both know that another chance was never going to happen, as I'd already given him unlimited chances in the three years we were together before I filed for divorce. I sent him a text asking him if he was ready to sign the papers my lawyer sent him, and he didn't respond. The saga continues...but I have moved on, and will continue to do so.

PPS - A huge shout-out and thanks to truelovescam.com for the repost of a couple of my blogs, and welcome to any new readers who found me through there! In TrueLoveScam's words:

"We are awesome, amazing, loyal, smart, magnanimous women – that is why the predatory sociopath selected us to cast his spell upon. He needed our power to do his bidding. Our admirable humanistic traits and deep values are what allowed us to see behind the mask. It is us ourselves who will set us free. We’re supportive and forgiving, we hold humanity in high regard – some of the best of the best are the prey of sociopaths. Celebrate how wonderful we are. There is a way out of the labyrinth of hell. It is you. It is our inner beauty, strength, kindness and compassion… shine them on ourselves. Embrace your life. You are awesome."