Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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I left an abusive relationship about a year and a half ago. I had a great therapist, did a lot of 'work' around why it was so important for me to leave. Every person close to me and of value in my life thought it was without a doubt the right thing to do. We were together for 5 years. I hate using the term abusive but indeed it was. Those 5 years were an extreme roller coaster, I lost the positive joyful part of myself. But the entire time no matter how much he upset me (which was often), I still held on to the deep down hope that He May Change.

Fast forward to yesterday. Since the breakup I have been extremely disciplined and diligent about no phone calls, social media, Instagram, texts, Facebook. Until last night... I don't know what possessed me but I did looked on his Facebook. We are not 'friends' on FB but his profile isn't private, so it was easy to see.

I saw a several pictures of him and his new girlfriend, looking great and happy, and he's started his own business, and gotten a masters in the time we've been apart. Now he does blog posts about helping kids who are disabled and recently did a video about eating disorders. (He's always been into sports/ training/ sports physiology). The eating disorder video was upsetting because he used to tell me I had let myself go, and used to push salad in front of me at dinner (in front of his family) 'as a joke'.

Bottom line is today I'm feeling extremely sad and depressed. Last night I was crying pretty hard. It was a total trigger, just when I thought I had made all this progress and was at peace.

I feel that I've spent the past year or two suffering, putting the pieces back together. I lost my job towards the end of our relationship because I was emotionally incapable of having the energy/ mental stamina to work, because of the turmoil in our relationship. I still have not regained a full time position (I work part time) because of residual PTSD. I feel like a total loser.

And call me nuts but I still miss him sometimes. I still feel like I shouldn't have given up on him. Today is one of the days and I'm feeling that very strongly.

A HUGE part of me wants to reach out to him. For closure, or maybe to get back together one day. It's a bad thought, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking it.

Much much thanks to any advice.

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    First of all, congratulations for recognizing you were in an abusive relationship, and having the courage to get out! By the very nature of the relationship, that isn't good for you for having the strength to follow through.

    As for this specific situation? Well, you *know* he consistently lied in the past. I mean, abusers *always* lie: they'll lie about their accomplishments, they'll lie about how you should interpret things, they'll lie about what they said ... in fact, they'll lie about almost anything if it suits their purpose of maintaining control.

    So why on earth would you believe he's telling the truth now?

    He wants the world to think all is happy in his little bubble -- but *you* know under that surface sheen, all is not well.

    There's no question you know this. After all, you've *lived* this.

    You want closure? Closure -- or at least closure provided for you by other people -- is a myth. It makes for satisfying movie scenes, but it never happens that way in real life.

    But that doesn't mean you can't *have* closure. Because closure comes from within you, and from nowhere else.

    Part of the closure process is now, having looked at his Facebook postings, to realize HE IS UP TO HIS OLD TRICKS AGAIN. He is putting up a front so that everyone will see how "respectable" and "wonderful" he is.

    This is his pattern. This is what abusers do. No one would have anything to do with him if he showed his real self to the world -- so he doesn't show it, and works hard to present an idealized version of himself to outsiders.

    But, of course, it isn't real. You know it's not real. The best response here is to look at the pile of phony crap he's posted and think "Whew, dodged a bullet there. He's STILL pulling that crap."

    Really, honestly, Anon -- he hasn't changed. But you have! Celebrate that, and the fact that you've moved on.

    And there's your closure.

    reply to Kal
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    Hey first thing i am really proud of you for being able to get out that toxic relationship! It is very very difficult to do that but you showed the strength to do it. I understand there will be slip ups sometime and its a part of the healing process. I ended a toxic marriage too and went to a therapist. The no contact thing really helps... He cheated on me left me for another girl. I was the wife but he treated me like trash telling how good the other girl was in comparison with me. He is married to her now.
    But really living well is the best revenge. I registered on a dating website joined zumba kick boxing. I decided i will be the best version of myself.
    Its really hard seeing friends with husbands and families when i am single. But finally after an year and half of fruitless dating meeting complete jack asses i found someone who is a wonderful guy. He wants to marry me :)
    I never believed it during that dark period but hang in there! It gets better i promise :)
    You are much much better off without someone like him. And you absolutely did the right thing in walking away!
    I met this guy at a time i had completely lost faith in people. So it takes a minute to change your life and its always right around the corner. just never ever lose hope!

    reply to Shalini
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    I'd like to add something to the already excellent advice from Kal and Mira.

    You were with that guy for five years. That's long enough for the dysfunction that was your relationship to become your baseline. So even though it was painful, it was also familiar. And humans are wired to resist change. So you look back on this guy and even though mentally you know he's bad for you, one part of you sees him and thinks "home". So your best bet is to avoid this guy completely - including peeks at his Facebook page - until your brain gets re-calibrated back to its pre-abusive relationship state.

    And the fact that he's painting such a rosy picture is no doubt confusing things even further: you see a seemingly reformed guy and your subconscious responds, "I could get the familiar but in this new, improved form!" But, as Kal says, he's still the same guy. And his posts about helping disabled kids with eating disorders and such are only his way of deceiving himself that he's an okay guy. Or deceiving other people about his true nature. It's just shiny wrapping around a turd.

    So continue your journey away from him and onto your life. It is going to take awhile but eventually you'll be able to see him without any emotional triggers. Your life is already immeasurably better since you are no longer with him.

    reply to Jill
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    All, Kal, Mira, Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to write the responses that I so needed to hear, and know somewhere in a logical state of mind.

    I am pretty disappointed in myself for feeling those urges to 'reconnect' with him and get back together so strongly, because I KNOW that's not the right thing to do.

    Or maybe I don't. Sometimes I wonder (if I really let myself get trapped in those dark cyclical thought patterns) that maybe I was too hard on him.. When at the time of our break up the running consensus among my friends and family that I was most Definitely Indisputably a doormat!

    I'm doing a bit better today. I went on a run today and yesterday in the nice heat & sun and it took a ~tad~ of the anxiety/ sadness edge off, but not totally.

    Jill I can see how it makes total sense that I am so used to him being familiar and home, you are right, and we are hardwired to resist change. Boy that is true. And Mira you have motivated me to take a fitness class and maybe try get back out there.

    And Kal I need to beat that into my head, he has not changed, he's up to his old tricks. Ugh I want to believe that so badly, part of me KNOWS that.

    I guess a big irrational fear I have is that he is indeed a better awesome person...that I let go too soon. Again, I know this is irrational. Years of believing his words and false promises and this is the thought pattern of mine that is dying the hardest.

    reply to anonymous
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    Anon, I also used to get "weak" and even talked to the guy again, wanting to go back. A lot of times. Enough to scare me good.

    I had decided to leave, he seemed to be doing great! He had even found a new girl, towards the end of our relationship, and was flaunting his newly found girlfriend in broad daylight (we used to work together, can you imagine each day?). All was working out for him. Meanwhile, I was miserable, dealing with all the residual feelings of such a relationship.

    But there was something inside me...something that made me leave and this small, really small but strong something . Every day was a struggle. A fight with my demons and with him, as he was punishing me for leaving.

    Every day was anger, confusion, pain, resentment, a roller coaster of emotions, highs and lows.
    That small something inside of me kept on growing, bit by bit. I thought it was small but it was actually strong enough to keep me away from him and see him for who he was.

    Anon, you know the truth about him. That is a privilege other people do not have. It may make you think you are alone, you are imagining it. You are not. You know him. And he will not change. You have seen beneath the surface of the shiny polished image he is presenting to the world. You are incredibly lucky.

    I know that you feel weak and that you have failed yourself after that moment yesterday. Those feelings are normal. Yes, they really are. You will have them again. And guess what? You did not gave in to them as painful as they were.

    And see this event as a test: you have passed. You feeling horrible is not failure. You have not contacted him. You passed!
    So yes, continue your road to recovery. You are doing great!

    reply to Gerbera
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    And Kal I need to beat that into my head, he has not changed, he's up to his old tricks. Ugh I want to believe that so badly, part of me KNOWS that.

    Of course you know it. But don't worry, a little bit of wishful thinking is normal. Hey, we all see an ad for some product that claims it will instantly take off 20 pounds, or cure diabetes, or allow us to make hundreds of dollars a hour in the comfort of our own home, and think, "Wow, wouldn't it be great if that were true?"

    But only the people who actually respond to the ads get suckered.

    So. All this guy's Facebook postings are simply ads for the image he's trying to project. They are exactly as truthful as the ads for miracle diets, multi-level marketing schemes, or swampland real estate.

    As Gerbera pointed out, there's a test you've passed here. You've seen the ads, you've realized they're phony, and you're not buying what's being sold. That's actually pretty amazing! This guy is a slick, slick salesman -- he has to be, to get people to put up with him, let alone spend time with him. So of course he knows how to make his "product" (i.e. himself) look superficially appealing. But you're not falling for it now.

    Why? Because after having known him for so long, you instinctively know the actual odds of him having suddenly developed into an "amazing" person.

    And what are those odds? Why, they're exactly the same as the odds as finding out that e-mail you got this morning is from a real Nigerian prince, who'll happily give you 10% of his fortune if you'll help smuggle it in to the US, no strings attached.....

    reply to Kal
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    Hi Anon,

    Please listen to all the other very very wise vixens. I had to comment because I have been exactly where you are.

    I am about 2+ years post bad relationship and it is still difficult at times. My therapist and women's group leader talks about how deeply embedded our feelings can be for people who treated us *horribly*. As if it wasn't hard enough already to leave someone who treated you normal.

    What happens to your psyche during that type of abuse is very interesting. I came to peace with my back and forth feelings post break up by understanding 'trauma bonding'. A quick google search would tell you the basics of it, and it's exactly how it sounds!

    It doesn't mean that I still don't have feelings that I wish I didn't, but I'm able to separate from them a bit better. After understanding too how normal it is for women years after abusive relationships, I was able to cut myself a break.

    Point being, don't give those long lost nostalgic feelings so much credit that you put them into action. As the other Vixens said, you survived! You felt all the awful (normal) feelings after seeing his shiny fake Facebook page, and you didn't act on them. That's a huge accomplishment. Things will get better!

    And as everyone has said, he has. not. changed.

    Am sending a lot of support because I know how hard and extremely painful this is. You did the right thing.

    reply to Barbara
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    Anon --

    A very quick reply (please forgive me).

    Like everyone said, CONGRATULATIONS on getting out of this abusive relationship. I was in one once, too. I completely lost myself. Did lots of therapy. Now, I'm married, have a dog, my dream job... everything I ever wanted that my abusive ex told me I could never have has come true. So, first, you have a lot to look forward to now that you've left this monster!

    Second, and more importantly, though, I want to tell you a short story --

    No matter how many times my therapist promised me that my abusive ex was similarly abusive his new girlfriend (because like yours, he got into a new relationship with a beautiful woman only a few months after we broke up), I struggled to believe her. Over and over again, my therapist told me, the abuse was NOT MY FAULT and I DIDN'T CAUSE IT but because my ex was in a new relationship and it all looked perfect on fb, it was hard for me to believe.

    Fast forward a year and a half. The new girlfriend cold emailed me. Wanted to know what happened in our relationship because my ex (and her bf at the time) was threatening to kill himself and she was scared and didn't know what to do. Had I ever experienced something similar?

    The result was many long conversations with this woman, learning he abused her as well -- wouldn't let her talk to other men, told her that she would never succeed in her line of work, asked her to stop spending so much time with girlfriends and other family, yelled at her for hours if she talked to other people for too long at a party, etc. etc. And yes, even slammed a door into her head one night.

    I told the woman that all the same things happened to me. I dug up my police records. We asked friends to write affidavits who knew what had happened to us. And we pressed charges.

    Anon -- my ex (her ex now, too) was fired. He had to leave the small town we lived in. We are close friends now. She was at my wedding. We've developed a solid crew of female friends who I know will be there for me and her and each other no matter what.


    Last but not least -- change your phone number. It sucked that I had to do that but it helped me tremendously. Good job on removing him from all your social media.

    You got this!!! I'm rooting for you.

    reply to m
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