I’m not angry at him. I don’t hate him, but he is still camping in my head, rent-free – because I’m letting him.

I tell myself that nearly 20 years with someone takes time to get over. It takes time to undo the memories and experiences which now I know to have been constructed. They weren’t real. It takes time to cut the emotional ties you have after sharing a life with someone for that length of time.

I’ve had time to move forward as he’s not contacted me for nearly 2 weeks, which is the longest time he’s left me alone to get back on my feel emotionally. Without some kind of message or email to make me  feel guilty about something. Thanks to my solicitor telling him in her last letter to stop harassing me.

The effect of some peace has been incredible. It magnifies the impact he was still having on my life, his constant need to have a hook into me to keep the veins of manipulation open. I can see it more clearly now. I’ve had time to catch my breath and consider the web of deception he was weaving. I’ve also received an article emailed to me by his ex (the one he was aborting his child with rather than being home for his sons 6th birthday), which has helped me, I hope, to move further forward.

We had come into contact when she warned me of his imminent plan to divorce me, just after he’d dumped her for the second time. We had talked, on the phone, for nearly 2 hours, comparing experiences, commiserating with each other on our bad judgement, on how crap he was in bed. Funnily enough I wasn’t angry at her – she’d experienced the same deceit as I had, as he’d told her we had already split when they got together. I could be totally paranoid here and assume she is lying too, but I don’t feel any negative emotion to her all the same.

The article had been published in a national newspaper, written by a women who had also been deceived by her husband and who had also moved with him to France. She had concluded that her husband was a sociopath. At first I thought this was the ex being a bit over -dramatic, but I read on, there was a list of signs of a sociopath that sent shivers down my spine:

1. SUPERFICIAL charm. Smooth, engaging and charming, a sociopath will never become tongue-tied or embarrassed.

2. OVER-INFLATED sense of self-worth. Sociopaths believe they are superior human beings.

3. PRONE to boredom. They feel the need to be stimulated constantly.

4. PATHOLOGICAL liars. Sociopaths will be deceptive and dishonest.

5. MANIPULATIVE. They will say and do anything to deceive and cheat others.

6. LACK of remorse. No sense of the suffering of their victims.

7. LIMITED range of feelings. Don’t expect them to express anything other than happiness or sadness.

8. CALLOUS. Cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate and tactless are apt words to describe them.

9. THEY live a parasitic lifestyle. Sociopaths are often financially dependent on others.

10. THEY can’t control their behaviour. When challenged, sociopaths will appear irritable, annoyed and impatient.

 

I had experienced examples of every one.

I know reading this kind of stuff perpetuates feeling sorry for myself. I indulge myself that I am healing, still trying to understand what the hell went wrong with my apparently close-to-perfect life. I might be wallowing a bit in regrets – but even nearly three years on I still have trouble believing it’s real and that it happened to me. I just can’t understand how someone is capable of doing such things.

What makes it harder to move on is we still have to have contact for the children. His roster means each month he lets me know what dates he wants is able to see them. For the next few years I am going to be stuck with regular contact, having to stop myself from arranging everything I would normally have done because he is incapable of planning ahead, or is only thinking of himself. Even just now he has emailed with dates for the holidays; he wants to return the kids late on sunday night – in fact they would get home at 1am, getting up at 7am the next morning for school. Why do I feel like the bad person telling him its not acceptable and he’ll have to un-book the flights I’ve just learned of for earlier ones?

I don’t know about camping. It’s some form of squatting and I need to get my head around moving him out.

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My head felt like it was going to explode today.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of things I have to deal with. My son’s problems at school and sorting out options for him next year. My current exercuse classes, and pressure from others to start new classes I’m not convinced by. I like being able to slowly add classes where there is demand and wait for them to establish before thinking about the next idea. Expanding at my own pace. I like the classes I do, I don’t want to change them and mess my clients around.

I’ve got a job interview day after tomorrow, which is great. But now I’m worrying how I’m going to work around the kids and their activities. And I’d love to keep my classes going – will I have to give up what I’ve worked hard at establishing over the last year? The investment in my training, the relationships I’ve built, and the friendships I don’t want to let down. The flexibility around the children’s needs. I’m torn between this and needing to earn more. How am I going to juggle a job and being a single mum? But thousands of women do.

Since my depression I find sometimes my head feels full. So full that I simply cannot deal with another thought. I can’t make decisions. It’s like when your laptop freezes because you’ve asked it to do too many things at once. I shut down.

I’m still learning that when this happens I have to put some things aside. Just deal with a few things at once, the rest can wait. Sometimes things resolve themselves. Wait until my head clears, feels a bit emptier. Nobody can do everything at once.

This morning I woke up with that sinking feeling in my stomach. I had to crawl out from the protection of my duvet and face the day. It helped having children to get up and off to school, but I still had surges of wondering “what’s the point of it all?”

Of course the point is my kids. But I used to have a husband, and a family life. That life made sense, it felt right. We had a future together. I had an idea of my future, with someone I had shared my life with for a long time. It wasn’t a perfect marriage, but I think those are very rare.

I had recently stopped work due to depression, we had moved to France and I was getting used to being a stay at home mum. I had significantly slowed down my life and was starting to enjoy it again, after years of chasing my tail trying to be the perfect working wife and mother. I couldn’t do it anymore. I could no longer be the women who had it all and it was my doctor who put on the brakes when she signed me off work. It made me stop and look at my life and I realised I no longer knew who I was. I’d covered up the cracks and voids with activity.

So, new beginning where I could start to find myself again, at a pace that suited my health.

For the next 2 years I began to come out of my protective cocoon of depression. Then my husband told me he needed to have some time alone to think about what he wanted. He wasn’t happy in his life, but he didn’t want to talk to me about it. I couldn’t understand, as now that I was no longer at work I was there for him and the children. 6 weeks later he emailed me to say our marriage was over.

Back into the cocoon again. Gradually I climbed back out. He continued to contact me and to come & see me, which was confusing. Despite me asking, he wouldn’t leave me in peace (like I had him) to get over him.

10 months later I got an email I will never forget. From his girlfriend telling me she thought I deserved to know who I was married to. The ex-girlfriend he had apparently aborted a child with a year earlier. We eventually met up for him to confess what he had been up to for 10 years of our marriage. He’d had 3 affairs before her. She said he’d told her 8. But I still loved him, and for 3 months we got back together. I hoped now we could be honest with each other and reconstruct the relationship we had started with. At first it was good, but then I started to see a person who I didn’t recognise. It was early days, I was still working out who I was; but one day he was angry – I could just feel it – and I tried to slow things down. We were in the middle of selling our French home, and I was going to move into a rented cottage with the kids whilst we started over.

I had started to realised no longer knew him, and I wasn’t sure if I liked this new person. I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted anymore. So I thought if we could slow things down we could work out whether there really was anything worth saving.

He had decided otherwise, and just as I moved in he sent me an email saying it was over. I later found out he got back with the ex pretty much after he dumped me, and she had left her husband for the second time to be with him. And 9 months later, after she refused to put him on the mortgage of her house, he dumped her and got together with his current girlfriend. Who he’d met 1 month after our youngest son was born, 9 years earlier.

Suddenly life really had no point. Apart from the children who were my lifeline. But the future I’d thought I had was no longer there. My life had been turned on its head, I had no idea what my future was and it scared me. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.

That was 2 years ago, and as much as I know I’ve moved forward, I still get moments when I wonder what the point of it all is. For so many years I’d worked at creating and supporting our family, our future together. It’s not there any more. Sometimes I get excited that I am free to be me. It feels like a chink of light at the end of this tunnel. Sometimes I’m scared by the uncertainly of it all. Mostly I try to live in the present, to stop reliving the past, but there’s clearly still a lot to get out of my system.

I never trusted easily – I always kept boyfriends at arms length emotionally. He was the only one I let my guard down with, the only one I let into my heart. The fact that he so completely abused that trust makes it hard for me to believe I can ever trust again. I hope I can, but the end of the tunnel still feels quite a long way away.

Over the years I have become more spiritual. I always believed in something, or someone, and respected different cultures views on whoever their God or Gods were. We all believe in something, or nothing, and they’re all valid choices which are personal to us.

I believe that if we have an intention of where we’d like to be in the future, that we really believe in and aspire to, things get arranged in order for that to happen. You might think I am barking, but this is my belief, and I believe it has proved itself to be true on several occasions. The trick is not to interfere in the how. Let the universe sort that out, otherwise you’re just getting in the way. Step back and trust that things will work out. Right now I’m working on an intention to be happy and secure.

A year ago, we were in a freezing house that I had rented following the sale of our family home. Of course I didn’t know it was going to be freezing. The owner, my friend/neighbours’ sister told me it was insulated and had heating. But when you wake up to 12 degrees C in the kitchen, it feels a bit chilly! I had asked X if we could put in a log-burner (as there were only electric radiators); he told me to buy it on my credit card which he would pay off. So I went off round the DIY shops and got the cheapest one I could, with the biggest heat output, the various parts of the flue and some very kind, and strong, male friends installed it. Then X decided as I’d paid for it on my credit card, it was now my debt and he had nothing to do with it. I had no means to pay off the credit card on my own. I couldn’t believe he was doing this! I had come to accept for some reason he was angry with me, perhaps he blamed me for our marriage failing. But to do this to his children as well I couldn’t understand. Eventually, after I wrote him a pleading email, he relented and paid off the card. Did he change his mind just so he could feel in control of me again? I’ll never know, as even if I could ask him the question, I wouldn’t believe the answer.

Anyway, I wanted to be somewhere where the kids had their own bedrooms (proper ones, with walls, doors and windows of their own), and the heating worked! Did I mention it was 12 degrees with the log-burner? In the UK we had a house with central heating, but since we moved to France we had had only log-burners. The rented house had a mezzanine over the lounge and downstairs bedroom. One end for 1 child, the other end for the other. But it was open, and often the kids would argue at each other across the lounge. The wind whistled between the stones in the walls – I spent ages going round trying to find where the draughts were coming from. One day, coming down the stairs I saw daylight between the stones! Even blocking up as many of these gaps as I could there were draughts. The 12kw log-burner had no chance in the “exceptionally” cold winter we spent there. At that point I wasn’t strong enough in myself to complain to my landlady. I was more scared that she would kick us out, as she had only rented the house to us as a favour, and there were no other properties available in our area.

One evening I went out to a zumba class – I think it was my birthday, and my friend insisted I go to get me out of the house and that I would enjoy myself. I did, I had a great time, and ended up meeting my (now) best french friend. I now rent a centrally heated house from her mother. The boys have proper bedrooms, with doors, windows and everything. And this came to me. I believe I was meant to meet my friend, and it was the means by which my intention to live in a centrally heated house with proper bedrooms was realised. You ‘just’ have to trust it will all be ok.

Do you ever wake up and think “how on earth did I end up here?”

That was yesterday morning for me, and what sparked me to set up a blog. But the question doesn’t ever really go away, it fades for a bit and then bam! Its back in your head again.

I only recently realised that I had been manipulated for years by my ex (I shall refer to him as X from now on). He actually told me! His words were “it’s fair to say I’ve been manipulating and lying to you for years to get what I want”. You must be pretty sure of yourself to admit that to someone who’s divorcing you. What I find constantly amazing is there is no guilt. He has no guilt for what he’s done, it’s as if it was a reasonable thing to do. Over the years somehow he’s managed to put all the guilt on me, or I’ve taken it off him. I’m now having to learn not to feel guilty all the time. That’s not easy!

When we met, I was a very independent person. Quite “hard” I would say, not very flexible, very clear what my opinion was and determined not to follow in my mothers footsteps. Today I am nothing like that person – in fact I am still trying to work out who I am. What do I like? What  do I want to do? To eat? What  is my opinion? Do I have one?? I have no idea when this all started, but its been done in a very subtle manner over many years. We were together for 19 years, that’s a long time for the effects of being manipulated to take root. Somehow I increasingly felt that I was being unreasonable most, if not all, of the time. I was the one who always said “no”, the negative one. Somehow I took on cleaning the house, when we both worked full time. I justified this to myself that he washed and looked after the cars. I planted and weeding in the garden, he mowed. Then when our oldest child was born, and he (X) was often away for work, I became the main carer too. Which was fine, I wanted to be a mother, although at that time I was still very into my career and terrified if I didn’t go back to work as soon as possible I would be replaced. But when I did go back to work (full-time), somehow I kept all the other roles as well. At the time I didn’t mind, I’ve always been a “get on and do it” kind of person. But a year or so later I sensed that something had changed between us, and I remember saying to him, in a row, that I didn’t want to be in a loveless marriage. I was ready to walk out then, with our son, but I didn’t. Somehow he persuaded me to stay and for a while things got better.

You see, it’s all so subtle that it’s hard to remember specific examples of how he managed to manipulate me. I didn’t realise it was happening at the time. Even after we started divorce proceedings, he was contacting me and varying from being nice, or helpful, to threatening me that if we didn’t sort out the financials between us we would lose everything as we’d have to go to court. It was more obvious what he was doing, but it still took me time to see it. When you are in a situation of manipulation, and have been for so long, you can so easily be manipulated again. They know your buttons, how to switch on the feelings of guilt or make you question whether you are being reasonable. It was, until recently, an emotional rollercoaster. Until my solicitor asked him to stop harassing me – since then it has calmed down and I can begin to think straight, to start rebuilding myself and our (mine and the childrens) lives.

So I guess the answer will still elude me. I have no idea how I ended up here. I only recently realised what had been going on. Various friends made comments on how often he was contacting me, considering he was already going out with someone else. I found the WomensAid site, and their checklist of signs of psychological marital abuse which rang so many bells. And I went to see a psychologist recently because I was scared I was sinking back into a depression, who, I think, pulled it all together when she said “this is what they do – they can’t let go of you completely because they need to control. They let you go, then they reel you back in”. Like a cat playing with a mouse.

Ironic really; he never liked cats.

WomensAid.org.uk

This is the article I read which made me realise it had happened to me.

Light-bulb moment.

I never thought I would be a blogger. Let’s see if I can keep it up!

I’m kind of starting part-way through, so there will have to be some dipping into the past for everything to make sense. For starters, until I flesh it out, I am a single mother of 2 boys living in France, currently going through a divorce in the UK. We are at decree nisi stage (Feb 2013) and my ex lives in the UK. It’s a very long story…..