GETTING BACK ON MY FEET
I struggled through my first year in Seattle, finally landing a short term job by the 6th month I was there. Once the job ended, my lease was up and I couldn't find other work fast enough to continue paying my rent. The P enjoyed exercising the position he was in to refuse me anything I asked of him. The keep away game, one of his favorites. At that point I had explained the situation and asked to move in. He laughed and told me to get my life together, I could NOT live with him, while telling me how much he loved me at other times.
Phrases like "I'm not capable of dealing with you in a relationship" and "you don't love me, you love the idea of who decided to think i am" as, though I had projected this onto him instead of the reality that he had presented me with a false image mirroring to me what he wanted me to believe and "you don't love me you NEED me" "you only want me because your life isn't working", as tho he wasn't a direct factor in causing this to be the case and "This was a lousy, miserable relationship-you are addicted to your idea of want it to be not what it is", as though he wasn't responsible for making it what it was.
Punishing me for falling prey to all of his manipulations and invalidating the validity of my feelings because he knew he had manipulated me in the first place. I was still very much under mind control.
At some point, I began to recognize how the entire situation, from the brutal discard in CA thru his "suggesting" I move up and live across town and the continuing degradation and abuse, had all been a sick twisted game of control and manipulation. His goal having been to create a mindless controllable puppet out of me. The game went something like, "If you want to be with me-that makes you stupid cause you fell for my game and you have just given me the control to manipulate you by withholding what you want, if you walk away, I will come after you because you are a challenge and I will pull out all the stops until I get you to fall for my game again so I can prove how powerful I am, how stupid you really are for wanting to come back to someone who just got away with using and abusing the hell out of you and I can destroy you for having gotten away in the first place and I will take away everything you were able to build in that time because I don't have those things and you do.". But I hadn't reached that point yet-it came in retrospect 18 years later.
I did, however, reach out to an old friend in California and relayed my plight. He owned a communal house in the mountains of santa cruz, ca and a housemate had just moved out, he said the rent was cheap-so I left Seattle and took him up on the offer. I was surrounded by people for the first time in 2 years. I was accepted for who I was and how I was (traumatized and all). Most in that house took an immediate dislike of the P and through many conversations with the friend who had invited me to stay-I was clued in to the fact I had been abused. He was the first to put the picture together for me. I believe true healing had begun for me in that house.
I was able to get work at Apple Computer by my second month there. Ironically, the P had remained in contact with me and upon learning that I had landed that job had begun stepping up his contact, even flew out to see me several times and had me fly up to Seattle. We now flew back and forth to see each other almost every weekend. For the first time since we had dated, I was seeing a different demeanor in him-he was no longer patronizing, dismissive of me or rude-he had completely morphed back into the man I had fallen in love with.
As a matter of fact, he was overly supportive in just about everything that was going on in my life-like night and day. I was constantly praised, told how much he loved me and promised how much better things were going to be. It had only been 6 months, since I had been told "You can't live with me" yet now...he was putting out the suggestion that I move into his apartment with him. Three months later, my contract at Apple had ended. The P flew down and I rented a U-Haul which he helped me pack up and drove the truck while I followed in my car. I was back in Seattle and living with the P again 1.5 years after he had walked out on me.
I failed to notice the correlation between the rise in my self-esteem and all of the P's flattery and supportiveness-I guess this is what is called the pumping up-I had no idea it was a tactic or that I had been sucked into it...but it was to establish a pattern that would persist for 16 years: seduction, trap me via my commitment, destabilize me by thru continual verbal and psychological abuse, creating chaos in my life and destroying the progress I made when not with him, slandering me all over town by making it appear that it was me who was a problem/he who was some kind of victim, execute a brutal discard once I was completely destroyed, wait until I had almost completely rebuilt and then come back in supportive, loving, concerned and helpful-to fix the remainder of the destruction he had caused in the first place.
I don't know how to clearly relate the most phenomenal aspect in that pattern was how genuinely his personality would change when he was seducing me back-in spite of what I knew he had done to me, he could make himself appear so completely different that I would find myself seriously doubting the validity of my memories of the torture-Cognitive Dissonance, I think-I could not rectify the complete and total difference in how he was and ended up discarding my own knowledge of the abuse as a misinterpretation of reality-how could someone so loving and perfect have really done to me what I "thought" I remembered.
I also could not handle the knowledge of how sadistic and cruel and truly evil he had been (why would anyone do those kinds bizarre and sadistic things?) -my mind did not want to acknowledge that kind of evil existed, it was easier to deny my perceptions than to admit to the existence of that kind of insane cruelty and the fact that he had indeed perpetrated it against me. His mother had convinced me that I perceived the abuse incorrectly anyway-that it was really me who was unstable and not able to handle the normal ups and downs of life, "my boundaries were too weak in relationships" and that I was projecting "my own failings/inadequacies" onto my abuser, I was really the sicko or I was driven to seek out victimization due to some mental defect. And all outside parties around us served to back this up-thanks to the web of deceit he had created to keep the abuse secret. It was me. me. me. They saw my life falling apart, me unable to succeed at the simplest of things at the time but they did not see the angel-faced P wreaking the havoc that was creating that effect. Throughout the entire experience with the P, his mother played a major role in manipulating my perceptions in tandem with the P. Until I spoke with my friend in CA I had no other perspective.
I know now, that abusers do this-it's how they mask what they are really doing behind the scenes, allowing them to get away with the abuse by discrediting in advance "via appearances" anything their victims might say in protest or do in seeking help from the outside-the impenetrable wall of enforced secrecy, Ps are complete pros at it. But the experience of having lived through it was so completely horrific-I was compelled into a self-protective denial to "safe guard" my sanity. He came back before I had ever fully mentally or emotionally healed, while my sense of self and my self-esteem were still battered. My longing for the pain of the loss of myself and outright rejection of my humanity to be alleviated made what he was offering a relief.
My perspective would suddenly change entirely. Looking back, I can say that resuming the relationship always felt like a major accomplishment-like my love and efforts had not been in vain, that we had made it through the rough part and the future was ahead-he would keep his promises and we would grow stronger from having been through so much, we would build that life together and have that happy ending and I could enforce my own denial of the experience of his abuse, shed the shame of having been the cause of that torture through my own defectiveness and the humiliation of my own helpless reactions to the torture through his acceptance of me. I believed in him-AGAIN and whole-heartedly.
I moved in, unpacked, started my job search and within 2 weeks had landed a job with Microsoft. The environment was empowering. The more my independence, contentment and success began to show, the more insecure the P got. The undermining started to happen again-although I didn't recognize it for what it was at the time. The game playing kicked in.
The P started flirting with women, staying out later at night, spending more time with his own friends instead of on mutual activities and because I was now able to do the same, he began to escalate his behavior, I guess in an attempt to control what he perceived to be his dwindling control over me. He hooked up with some really seedy people to hang around, in particular, a women who was a book keeper for his boss (she was embezzling funds) and he would talk about her to me endlessly (he later said he was trying to make me jealous).
He pushed it all too far one night, after weeks and weeks of ambient abuse-let me know he was spending the evening with her and some other sorts of inferences. He had ignored my repeated requests that he discontinue talking about her all the time and spending most of his time with her and I guess my anger had been building up. I had been trying to be adult about that childishness, without realizing the effect that disrespect was having on my well-being. I was considering that it was time to put an end to the relationship and unfortunately before I could do that, I just lost it finally and reacted...the night he spent with her alone,
I went out with a male friend from work and I did not return home until the next morning. I am not proud of my reaction-it was not characteristic of me at all but I understand how it happened.
He was still asleep when I came in, I woke him up and I told him where I had been. He was enraged, livid, scary. I asked if there were any hope of us going to counseling in order to work through this. He screamed at me, went downstairs and grabbed a knife, pulled one of my paintings off the wall (I am a painter) and he slashed the painting into ribbons, then turned to me and told me to GET OUT. I moved out. I attempted for several weeks to see if he was willing to work through things. I felt extremely guilty and ashamed of my behavior -it was perfect-I was the bad guy so his emotional manipulations and game playing leading up to the incident never had to come into question. He refused to speak to me for over a month and I finally gave up-I started to date.
I got a massive promotion at work and was catapulted into high profile, highly paid and very prestigious position...all of a sudden I found myself on a fast track up and it only kept getting better and better I had begun building the life that I wanted for myself-no longer considering the P in any of my choices. He started to call. He'd seen me around town, he knew what was going on in my career, he also knew I had been dating.
He told me he wanted to work things out and I think I agreed to meet with him to talk at some point. Before that could even happen, he let himself into my apartment with his key (I had forgotten he even had a key to my apartment) early on a Saturday morning when my then boyfriend of 4 months had spent the night with me-the P raged at me making a big scene, scaring the heck out of me. I got my key back and got him to leave and I realized that I no longer wanted to ever work things out with the P anymore. That was also the end of my relationship with my current boyfriend. Within this several months away from the P, I had begun to reframe my entire experience with him up to that point-including the abuse of the first year together and I had acknowledged that the abuse had been very real and the extent of it had been severe I was horrified that I had been treated that way by him and I had accepted that it had not been my fault, I had not caused my abuse at his hands-he was to blame for that- I wanted to put it and him behind me. I remember at a point of clarity, telling him that had realized when he was actively abusing me that all of the projections-everything he had been accusing me of HE had been doing to me and that I could not ever go through that kind of horror again. I don't remember how he explained that one.
I agreed to remain friends with him, although most of my focus was completely on my career now. I would see him from time to time but declined most invitations. Within that year and a half apart, he had begun to lose weight, he grew very depressed-even shaved his head, he begged me to give our relationship another chance, he loved me and missed me. He started to pursue me relentlessly, attempting to get me to agree to things like staying monogamous to him and re-committing, I had thought I had made it clear I didn't want to be with him-the more I said NO, the more relentless he became. I felt guilty and unable to handle the situation. Cutting back on contact resulted in his kicking up the effort. He continued attempting to wear down my resolve as I continued to handle it all very poorly-it did not occur to me that I could completely cut him off-go NC and we still bumped into each other around town or sometimes at events because of mutual friends. I started dating again and he would call and check up on me often and would get angry if he "caught me" with a date...this should have been a red flag because it indicated he was not viewing me as a separate person with the rights to live my life as I chose but rather as his object -i was still HIS until he decided to discard me like useless trash. He seemed to believe he had the right to expect monogamy and commitment from me even though I was no longer with him simply because he wanted me back-he viewed the dating I did at this time as my having cheated on him, I was to discover years later.
But he was so persistent that my resolve broke down-I started to think, wow-he really must have loved me all along to go thru all of this and maybe I did make a mistake and I am not being fair. I started to believe people really COULD change. So by the 6th month of being out-I agreed to consider taking him back and working things out if he would agree to a year of therapy and to cut down on his drinking. He did both things. He also became very charming and supportive once again...this time, because he had been on good behavior for such a long period of time, 1.5 years, and I was now truly enjoying his company and we'd had a lot of good times together (on my dime), I believed him when he said his behavior in the past had just been immaturity and that he loved me and would never treat me that way ever again, that he had grown up and he knew he wanted a future with me.
I believed I was "strong enough to never accept abuse again", a damaging concept that had been fed to me by his mother and which I adopted-damaging because it promoted the belief still that I was somehow responsible for his manipulative and abuse of me because I was defective (not strong enough to prevent it) and even more dangerous because it provided a false sense of the ability to retain control my life around a man who could never be trusted not to manipulate me to meet his own ends or destroy me on a whim. The more access he/his mother (who played a major role in shaping my perceptions also) had to my mind, the more my own perceptions changed...when I read this as I type, I can clearly see how I went from KNOWING without doubt that the abuse had not been my fault, was nothing I caused and was nothing I could have prevented, to going to the opposite extreme in thinking again, that somehow, something inside me was to blame.
Sure enough, the nicer he got, the more I minimize the experience of the prior abuse in my mind...eventually getting to the point where I wondered how I could have ever though he was capable of such wretched things and I must just not have been very strong when it was happening so I must have over-emphasized the severity of it in my mind. He-shape shifted his personality until it was like night and day-he WAS the perfect man for me-this man, who I could never depend on, who had consistently tricked me into trusting him only to pull the rug out from under me, who had not only destroyed me through abuse but in reality barely got by living paycheck to paycheck due to all sorts of addictions and irresponsibility, self-centeredness, was the perfect man. The Cognitive Dissonance, like that of the first time I took him back, had set in and I did not recognize the pattern yet.
14 yrs later, he would tell me that he spent the whole time in counseling talking with the therapist about what a self-centered, narcissist I was and how he had been advised to go find someone who would love him for who he was, that I was abusive and could not love. OMG that was a real eye-opener. Therapy for him, was nothing but a means to get me back, manipulate the therapist into stroking his ego and a means to learn a few more manipulative tactics to use on me. But I had not realized it at that time. He also knew my financial status-which was very, very good, as I had been paying for most of our times together, as he was always broke due to his irresponsibility, drunkenness and compulsive spending. Unfortunately for me, it was my money NOT me, he was after.
I quit my job at the end of that 1.5 years out of the relationship, as it had become to demanding and I needed to slow down. The P had completed his year of therapy and I agreed to resume the relationship.
I'll pick this up in Part 4