I’ve spoken about the gaslighting that I experienced when I was married. But I haven’t really discussed the other issues that are very difficult to overcome.
And it took me a while to realize that I am not alone in my experiences. When I posted this article to Facebook, my ex’s oldest friend responded with: “Christ! It’s like she knows him!”
There’s also “The Idealization-Devaluation-Discard Cycle”, “Smear Campaigns”, pulling in the “Well Meaning Witness” and the “Unlimited Masks.”. (I reworded/paraphrased the writer’s items)
The cycle is why I thought I was alone, that no one else experienced it. The fact that we went from him not being able to get enough of me, to absolute chastity. It was during the devaluation phase that he triggered all of my self-esteem issues, fitting it into his gaslighting so that I spent 14 years blaming myself for HIS sexual dysfunction. It wasn’t until I started to see him do it to another wife that I even had an inkling that there might be a bigger problem. And even with that, I had blinders on for most of the decade she was with us – refusing to see what he was doing to both of us.
Sadly, when I left him in 2014, those same activities were starting to happen with the last woman we brought into the relationship. This is the one he plans to marry again, making the relationship legal. I can hope she doesn’t take as long as I did to realize who he really is, but either way – it is no longer my responsibility.
The smear campaigns didn’t start until after I left him, and after I told him I would no longer be abused – at least the smears aimed at me. The smear about the other wife that left him, 6 months before I did, exploded all over the 2013 holiday season. Well, no, that’s not completely true. Every time someone left his life because they wouldn’t put up with his shit, he would fling as much mud as possible over the other person.
Which segues into the next issue – the “Well Meaning Witness.” This is what the writer in the article above refers to as “Triangulation.” It was RARELY only a single person. It would be any of a number of his friends, usually brought into it to “act as a referee” so that there was an “objective view of the situation.” (Yes, sadly, I taught him that. He learned very quickly to only ask people he knew he had wrapped around his little finger as the supposed objective judge).
Thing is, he would manipulate the truth – never really completely lying, but massaging it and exaggerating the other person’s responsibility and minimizing his own. In many ways, I was the perfect innocent witness because until I began to see how toxic he really was – I was convinced that no one was understanding or giving him a break because of his illness.
The last one – “Unlimited Masks”.- is another part I am only seeing now in hindsight. I’m sadly aware that I never actually got to see the real person inside him. He’d peel off a mask and tell me that it was real, until it no longer worked. Then the next one would get pulled off.
And I am realizing that I can only prepare so much to not allow myself to become sucked into another relationship like that. I can’t handle another one. I’m fairly convinced that if I hadn’t left him, I would probably be dead of a heart attack by now – I was that exhausted and drained.
I know – and my doctor confirms – that I have had a reduction in my chronic pain since leaving him. It’s not going to go away, but a lessening of the pain is absolutely wonderful. It was getting to a point where I was not able to move without massive pain – even though I continued the water therapy and everything else I could do.