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 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."

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