Sometimes life has you re-visit the worst experiences of your existence. Maybe there’s something in them that needs refining or a new understanding. A friend’s post about a near-miss with a likely abuser found me in commiseration of that place, a truly surreal, soul-sucking misery.
I’ve been aware of all forms of abuse since growing up in a home built on them. Unfortunately, as an adult, I re-lived them in a couple of relationships. Even if you’re lucky enough to apply what you learned from those experiences, you can never really be certain that you won’t meet up with an even greater insidious player at any time in your life.
My last encounter came up against a well-practised talent for speaking to the heart of one’s fears, desires, and beliefs – a red-hot champion of all those things. In hindsight, despite his delight and proficiency in the game, I do believe he truly wanted to be those things for me then. I think he truly wanted an ‘honest us’, at least for a little while.
I think he wanted that not only because I came to him unexpectedly and from out of left field, but because I came from a place of the real deal, a genuinely open heart. I’d not shared in any of the usual repartee he indulged in where he normally scouted.
The world he had built for himself before meeting me was a cadre of women who were at various levels of need and were also quite willing to rationalize betrayals or were so lonely that any word of kindness was seized with the same frantic grasp for water in a parched desert.
However, by his standards they weren’t ‘true heart material’. One of the kinder things he said about them and given the history he detailed, I agreed readily and then some. It’s a numbers game for him, more than quality.
Still, regardless of how much he may have wanted it, it’s hard to maintain a wishful façade for any length of time and his began to crack within months. An ingrained habit of lying is impossible to hide from someone close over time. His resentment at being found out was too difficult to check indefinitely and so when it surfaced, it was cruel and of course, my fault. Our last month together was a stunning whirlwind of shock – from exceedingly gentle charm to baffling nightmare.
He wasn’t physically violent, but he became utterly ruthless in emotional and mental turmoil that included brutal name calling, ridiculing those same fears, desires and beliefs that he’d originally treasured, and complete dismissal of my every thought.
Because there wasn’t anything physical, it permitted him to wallow in complete denial of abuses. He said his lies, broken promises & lurid pursuits were cause for merely, “some hurt feelings”. To his mind, my angry responses were the real crime. He was the one really suffering in this and I was just so “wrong” about him, except for the fact every wrong was in plain and copyable typeset. He was thorough with his online chronicles.
I know this is about an ugly sickness as is, but there was more to come. Even as I strove to get away, concerned friends asked me to try to persuade him to seek help. I did try, because even when you should run like hell, when someone says help, most of us will try, especially for someone you’ve loved.
He only responded with more derision, blaming me for other distresses in his life that I had no part in: his financial situation, an illness, an apparent lack of concern for threats to his life. He continued by furiously and jealously insisting every man I had contact with only wanted to sleep with me, including professional counselors. Nearly every talk ended with him calling me vile names.
More vengeance included OK-ing one of his deceptive divas to taunt me, then he descended further, claiming my dead father was responsible for trying to kill him.
By this point, I knew I should’ve stayed gone the first time. On the other hand, I did act when I began to see the truth. I did pull away and stood up for myself without the self-doubt & castigation I would have once indulged to justify attempts to ‘save him’. This time I put me first.
Sometimes, the only way you can save yourself is to expose the rot and that was his only true Achilles heel. I swallowed my humiliation & spoke out – including to his cadre, and that was the one legitimate & unforgivable sin in his mind. That was when he declared himself, brokenhearted. “Strange kind of love you’ve got”, he said.
Cowardice hides its image in the dark; it needs to ooze its poison undercover. When this insanity was revealed, it opened the door to light, back to sane. I was freed, and he took nothing from me that I can’t get back.
He gutted me and broke my heart, but he didn’t close it. He may have discarded any value for me, but that love was real to me and it didn’t die the minute our life went off the rails. I will always hope that someday he’ll be helped toward the man I believed I was with. Maybe someday, all the stories he tells about himself will actually be true.
Mostly I wonder, if it will ever occur to him or them, that the only way to really protect your image is simply by living the way you want to be seen.
If you need a place to read or talk about these issues in warm environments, try these lovely spaces: Deliberate Donkey or Better Not Broken