I finally realized I was being trained; I told him it was dysfunctional and if he ever broke up with me again, he better be sure because I wouldn’t take him back.
I was stronger then, but I didn’t honor my own word. The first affair happened…and the lies…and the attempts to blame me when I found out. He was insanely jealous, but I excused it because of the purported infidelity of an ex-wife (there were three of them, but he hid the first one until we’d been together over 5 years).
Are you counting up the warning signs yet?
He was uncomfortable with me being happy. If I expressed that, or if anything good happened to me, I would be figuratively ‘kicked in the gut’ with sarcasm or criticism, so I learned not to express those positive feelings…and of course that tends to make them go away.
Once when he was talking about how miserable he was, I asked when was the last time he felt happy. He said, “In my 20s,” which was 30 years before that. My reaction at the time was to feel sad for him and want to help make his life better. Now I know that this was not my responsibility, nor within my power.
As I know is true for each of you, there are so many illustrative little stories, but in the end, it’s all about gaining control and feeling superior. It seemed he could only show affection after he had hurt me. The result for me was a gradual descent into a loss of self--what I now refer to as ‘the decade from hell.”
Why Did I Keep Going Back?
We all get asked, but I’m not sure any of us ever understand this really well. I certainly went through the “How could this have happened to me?" questions. But here are a few of my realizations about myself:
1. I knew I was inexperienced - I gave his opinions more credibility than my own.
2. I never fully committed - I was wary about many things. But I strung together a whole bunch of short-term reasons to stay...until I was deeply trauma bonded.
3. Suicide threats - “I can’t leave him now.” “She is too negative to help him through this.”
4. One more chance – When I refused to go back after a breakup…he "held the gun in his mouth, decided he wanted to live and decided he wanted to be with me.” Isn’t looking death in the face what it sometimes takes for a person to change?