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

Advice Vixens

Hi E.Jean Advice Vixens,

First time poster here. I am looking for advice, compassion, perspective or whatever youíd like to bring to the table after reading my question. I am 29/ almost 30F, and during my late teens to mid 20ís I was in a 6 year abusive relationship. I donít use the term abusive lightly, but miraculously I have been out of that relationship for 1.5 years now. Relatively early on in the healing process. I guess.

I am in consistent therapy, a domestic violence support group, and al-anon too. My ex was an alcoholic, so I had codepency stuff come out trying to help and fix him if you will. We met during art school in California at an exhibit. You really couldnít get anymore cliche and annoying. Anyways point being about all the therapy groups is, I spend a lot of time self reflecting now. Idk if my question is clear enough but itís been really troubling me so I was searching online to see if there were support or advice forums to post.

While Iím in a better place now and working towards my new future, I have this horrendous dreadful feeling all of the time like I have WASTED wasted my life. Even though I logically know this is not true. It actually upsets me that I cannot go back in time and re-do my 20ís. I will lay awake at night super upset that I had 6 years of my life wasted with this guy.

This is a frequent feeling I have (and common actually in my support groups, since we grieve the time we spent with our abusers) but it has exemplified times a million trillion as Iíve recently reconnected with my college best friend.

My best friend in college was a guy... and for our entire friendship (5 years or so) he had serious feelings for me (I know this because he told me later on in college). For years he offered to let me live in his apartment rent free if I ever needed a place to go and escape the living situation with my ex. I couldn't go home, and he always told me he can be plan B. I never took him up on that. He was a wonderful man and human being. Probably the only male I have met so far in my entire life that truly understands me. We have always gotten along so well, and Iíve yet to meet any other male that feels as harmonious as he does. You may be able to see where this is going.

6 years of being in that relationship were so dark and I lost a lot more than time, good grades, job opportunities, my mental health. Currently have a full time job as an assistant curator, doesnt pay a lot but i love it. I also lost this man that was my best friend. He eventually ended our friendship because I was in such a bad place, it was too much for him to continue a friendship with me because of how much I was struggling he said, and he had feelings for me that he said he realized would never be reciprocated.

So, I guess I cannot blame him for ending our friendship. I know I wasnít fun to be around. He knew about my relationship and how bad it was and would get very angry that I wasnít leaving. I get it. However, he hasnít been in an abusive relationship before so I just would tell him itís really not easy.

We parted ways for awhile, over 2.5 years, and I decided to try to reach out to him to message him on facebook. He responded right away saying heís going to bed but got my message, he would love to meet up with me for dinner to catch up, and he will write to me more the next day.

Today he wrote me a longer email saying heís doing well, moved to Southern California (not too far from me), and that heís currently living with his girlfriend of the past 2 years. Heíd like to meet up soon for dinner, hopes Iím doing well, thrilled that I am finally out of that relationship.

So, I know it is so wrong to be feeling this but I was absolutely crushed that he had a girlfriend... It even made me cry which I was a bit surprised atÖ.. Because logically itís been several years and of course heís moved on with his life! So I donít know if this is just more of an emotional reaction because he is so symbolic of that dark phase in my life? And since he was my biggest supporter during that time, it almost feels like coming full circle in a way, or trying to heal a part of me from the past??

A big part of me during college had very strong feelings for him as well... But, I couldnít act on them because of my situation. I had no space or mental capacity to also acknowledge that I loved him, because of my abusive boyfriend. And now that feeling of regret and remorse is painfully strong. Iím feeling like i BLEW my chance with the only guy who's ever really treated me well and cared about me.

So, weíre set to have dinner two weeks from now. Part of me wants to tell him I always had feelings for him too, but because of my situation I was in no place to act on them. I would like to ask him if it could ever be a possibility that we could date. I don't believe in trying to bust up someone's relationship, but I know we had feeling for each other and it was bad timing. an understatement.

Then again, reality, he has a girlfriend of 2 yearsÖ. they live together......stalked facebook and they seem happy... I donít think it would be appropriate to bring this up, and I donít want to disrespect him or his relationshipÖ..

I know the right thing to do is not bring it up (...........or should I?).

Thatís the hardest, just dealing with a lot of things I lost along the way during those years, including him. Finally being in the clear, and realizing everyone has moved on (rightfully so). Coming to terms with all of that time Ďlostí has just been very hard. Iíve been upset since messaging him realizing I missed that chance completely, and it was my fault.

Not negating my feelings, but I also wonder Ďhow in tune my pickerí is as my group leader says to us a lot. Iím still in a pretty vulnerable place and itís a lot to make peace with and accept what I went through still. Could I be over romanticizing this whole thing with my college friend?? Since Iím still so raw from everything sometimes I donít think I can trust myself, but wow do I miss having him in my life.

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    I'm very glad to read that you were able to break free of an abusive relationship and are getting the help you need! With regard to your questions:

    1. I can see why you'd think you wasted those years. There is absolutely no doubt that you could definitely have spent them in a better way. However, you also got a valuable education. I'll bet your BS detector is way better than the average person's. And you learned some coping mechanisms that most folks don't have. So it wasn't a complete waste. If your mind keeps going back to the wasted years, try re-framing them as an education. The aphorism "what does not kill us makes us stronger" is apropos. You've just got to learn how to apply the lessons, with help from your therapist and support groups.

    2. As I'm sure you are aware, one of the issues with getting over years of abuse is repairing the changes it made to your subconscious: namely how that abuse and the attendant drama and chaos became your familiar baseline. I'm bringing it up because of your desire to tell your friend how you feel, which would bring unnecessary drama into his life, which he does not deserve. If I were you, I'd go into this meeting with no expectations other than to tell him that his friendship meant a lot to you and that you are sorry that this relationship had changed you so much. Right now, you've got to be extremely vigilant, because your subconscious will still attempt to create the chaos and drama that feels so familiar. Eventually, you'll re-calibrate your subconscious and get past that. But for now, you will need to examine your motivations under a microscope. So let him go and get on with your own journey forward.

    Good luck and let us know how you're doing!

    reply to Jill
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    "I would like to ask him if it could ever be a possibility that we could date."

    No, no, no, no, no -- there is absolutely no good outcome that could result from this.

    As Jill rightly points out, there is a part of you that seeks out drama and chaos because you subconsciously associate it with a romantic relationship (which, incidentally, is really common with people who were recently in abusive relationships, and is nothing to be embarrassed by). But believe me, trying to go in this direction with this guy is a surefire, guaranteed path to further misery for all concerned.

    Look, he's got a girlfriend, and he told you that right up front. This is a 1000% clear, unambiguous signal that he is not agreeing to reconnect with you in hopes of starting up a romantic relationship. He has already pre-emptively answered the question about you two dating.. And the answer is "not interested".

    I understand that it's a bit of a bitter pill. And I'm sorry. But no means no, right? This is something you need to accept, and work with.

    Besides, this guy already abandoned the friendship once because he couldn't handle your situation. Far from being your staunch supporter, he left you in your time of greatest need. This does not make for promising relationship material.....

    So. Get together for the dinner, chat and catch up, and maybe agree to meet again IF there's a friendship still there to be salvaged (and no romantic expectations at all.). But if you do that, be prepared at future get-togethers, that the girlfriend could and probably should be part of them.

    And don't despair! I promise you there is not only one guy in the world who will connect with you and understand you. As you work your way through this with the help of your therapist and support groups, you will come to realize this. Hey, we ALL sometimes pin our hopes on a close-at-hand, seemingly easy solution ("maybe one dinner with this guy will CHANGE EVERYTHING") ... but the reality is that the more we do the sometimes hard work of becoming our best selves, the more paths and opportunities (and possibly potential romantic partners) there are that start to present themselves to us.

    I hope that helps, at least a little bit, and I hope you come back and let us know how things went!

    reply to Kal
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    Jill wrote: I'm very glad to read that you were able to break free of an abusive relationship and are getting the help you need! With regard to your questions: 1. I can see why you'd think you wasted those years. There is absolutely no doubt that you could definitely have spent them in a better way. However, you also got a valuable education. I'll bet your BS detector is way better than the average person's. And you learned some coping mechanisms that most folks don't have. So it wasn't a complete waste. If your mind keeps going back to the wasted years, try re-framing them as an education. The aphorism "what does not kill us makes us stronger" is apropos. You've just got to learn how to apply the lessons, with help from your therapist and support groups. 2. As I'm sure you are aware, one of the issues with getting over years of abuse is repairing the changes it made to your subconscious: namely how that abuse and the attendant drama and chaos became your familiar baseline. I'm bringing it up because of your desire to tell your friend how you feel, which would bring unnecessary drama into his life, which he does not deserve. If I were you, I'd go into this meeting with no expectations other than to tell him that his friendship meant a lot to you and that you are sorry that this relationship had changed you so much. Right now, you've got to be extremely vigilant, because your subconscious will still attempt to create the chaos and drama that feels so familiar. Eventually, you'll re-calibrate your subconscious and get past that. But for now, you will need to examine your motivations under a microscope. So let him go and get on with your own journey forward. Good luck and let us know how you're doing!

    Hi Jill, thank you, wow, so I did not expect to get such detailed and thoughtful advice. Same to you Kal (I am at work now and will respond to your advice directly later).**** Thank you guys. ****

    Sigh. So yeah, you are hitting the nail on the head. Feeling comfortable with chaos is a frequent discussion topic in my domestic violence support group. I think that I have over romanticized reconnecting with my college friend.

    I shared this post and both of your responses to my sponsor. She agrees and also made the comment that I should really assess my underlying motivations with this guy.

    The romanticized/ warped subconcious part of me is treating this as a way to 'heal' my abusive past.

    The REALITY is that yes, he was a very close friend, *up until a point*.

    He confessed he had feelings for me all along, and I told him I cared about him too but I was too caught up in trying to deal with my relationship. He then blocked me from all contact avenues and never spoke to me again for a couple years. Until I recently reached out. So just like Kal has mentioned maybe not the most stand up dude after all. I was in a lot of pain, but I never treated my college friend poorly or badly by the way. I always was a great friend to him too.

    reply to Brooke
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    Hi Brooke...

    Really appreciate you coming back and letting us know how things are going! Sounds like you're building a strong support network to help you navigate through everything, which should be a big help.

    Coming out of an abusive relationship can have *anyone* seeing things through a distorted lens for a significant while. As you're no doubt learning, *knowing* this is half the battle -- but the other half is actually applying that knowledge.

    Fortunately, you are absolutely doing the right thing in reaching out, and asking others "Am I seeing and interpreting this correctly?" Your perceptions can be a bit off right now, and getting some objective outside perspective can be enormously helpful and reassuring, as you work on rebuilding and honing your perceptive instincts. The good news is that as long as you commit to recognizing and calling out abusive/gaslighting behaviour, those instincts will get better over time.

    Feel free to drop in anytime with updates, or just to chat. And if someone else posts a question, and you've got some insight and advice for them? Don't hesitate to jump in!


    reply to Kal
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    Hi Brooke!

    Iím glad you decided to post here and ended up finding AV. A very warm welcome. I would suggest posting again if you need it. As youíve seen above, the vixens are very wise! They have helped me immensely over the years with many relationship trials and tribulations.

    I have to agree with Jill and Kal, and *you* as well. It does seem that perhaps your gauge here with your guy friend could be a little off. I myself was in a toxic relationship like yours†for 4 years in my 20ís, then, with another guy, for another 4 years, now being 31. Itís been a learning experience to say the least.

    The second relationship on paper seemed a lot better at first, it wasnít. That relationship ended 10 months ago, and just recently has my therapist been bringing up with me that he was a textbook narcissist. She has tried discussing it with me before, and I saw signs here and there, but I quite literally could not see it while I was in the relationship, and it makes so much sense to me now.†

    My point is that right when I had gotten out of The Really Bad relationship, I jumped into a new one with some very clouded glasses. When I look back, I wish I could slap myself because there really were a lot of red flags with my most recent relationship. He was abusive also, emotionally, but much more subtle until it wasn't so subtle anymore.

    But! To first get to the time wasted feeling. I can relate to this and so can many other people who spent years with a moron. Something I have found helpful is instead of blaming yourself, yourself, yourself, place the heavy blame where it is due. On Him. Therapy, support groups (I'm jealous you've found a solid one), and al-anon are all wonderful because they will make you really examine yourself, your actions, what drew you to these abusive men. HOWEVER, per a lot of fantastic abuse recovery books I read, we put too much emphasis on how *we* again were wrong. How *we* could have fixed it. How *we* could have done something different or better to improve the relationship. We can't. As my therapist reminds me often, *nothing* I said or didn't say, do or didn't do, could have improved my relationship or it's fate with my most recent ex (or the previous one). Your ex, my 2 ex's, and every other womans abusive ex's are the ones that have really wasted, messed up, and devalued their time. They are the perpetrators. NOT you.

    What you did in those 6 years was learn a lot. It's EASY to fall in line with an abusive relationship dynamic when you are naturally trusting, loving, and want a partnership with someone, you know, like a normal person. If you continue to make an effort to use what you've learned, you can avoid this dynamic and type of person easier in the future. I know because of your therapy and support groups you do enough self evaluation and self reflection, which is a core part of this to heal and make sure it doesn't happen again, but ALSO please just remember not to beat yourself up too too badly or place all of the blame on yourself. We have carried enough heavy things because of these dudes and it's okay to just decide he's at fault. Because he is.

    Since you are *out* of that relationship, now the stuff you *can* do begins. You have autonomy and safety now and can try to make better choices for future relationships, and ways you relate to men. Calling upon this new toolbox you have, will hopefully make you pause for a second (like you are doing) and realize that it is probably NOT the best idea to try to rekindle this college friendship into a romance...

    As I mentioned above, right after my college boyfriend my radar was off. Life is a learning experience, I was 26, just got out of a wild relationship, and my ex presented SO normal and supportive at first. So I try not to beat myself up about it either, but if I was in a bit more solid place, I would have waited before acting on anything.

    I would challenge you to really pause, think, and evaluate what you might feel asking this past friend to start dating you is really serving. It sounds like you are pretty in tune with what those reasons might be aforementioned in your post already.

    I like what Kal said as well, that it's very tempting to think 'that this one dinner with him can change everything', maybe feeling for you like 'this one dinner and reconnection with this guy is a way to heal those 6 years'.

    Also, him bouncing it sounds like?? when you were in the thick of this, seems more to showcase his true intentions, like he was waiting around hoping to be with you romantically, and when he realized that might never happen or not for a long time, he bounced. Not a true supportive platonic friend.

    I would have ZERO expectations of dinner. As Jill said, I wouldn't go farther than just saying you're sorry for how the relationship turned out. Maybe he'll offer up something that might give you some perspective on things, maybe not. Maybe as time passes you can think upon how good of a friend this guy really was. When we are in such a rotten relationship, almost ANYONE seems better (when they're still not what you deserve).

    Stay strong and RESIST the urge to be romantic with this guy. Also- he's got a girlfriend, so it wouldn't be appropriate. You know this. Plain and simple.

    Please come back and let us know how this dinner went!!!!!!! Sending a lot of support <3.

    reply to Barbara
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    Hi, Brooke!

    I'm sorry that I'm coming to this so late.

    I agree with everything the Vixpeeps have said above.

    I was married to a narcissist for 18 years and I had no idea that's what he was. I understand completely the feeling that time was wasted, but here's the thing about that.

    Every day you were alive you learned something new, whether you realized it at the time or not. Whether you realize it now, or not.

    And the road not taken is not necessarily always the better road. There is absolutely no way to truly know what those six years would have been like without this guy. Maybe you would have been with someone worse. Or alone and in a different difficult situation.

    Point being, looking back isn't gonna get you where you need to be.

    My sincere advice is to cancel the dinner. There's nothing for you there. If it goes well, it will feed your romantic fantasies. If it goes badly, you will doubt yourself.

    Besides, you don't actually miss having this guy in your life, you miss the good parts you choose to remember and you miss the person you like to think you were before you faced the harsh truth that you were being victimized.

    I say that with compassion, because I have also been in that place. I have been where you are now, and it's not a fun place to be. But, you will get through it. And I promise that what is on the other side is so much better than what is behind you.

    Take some time without men. Get to know who you are on your own. Build a life that truly makes you happy.

    Once you do that, you will get way pickier about who you let into that life. And that's a good thing. <3

    reply to Robynne
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