In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:
Almost immediately after we were married he did a complete 180 and went from Jekyll to Hyde in no time flat. While we were dating (and because we were long distance) he was able to hide his mental and emotional instabilities from me extremely well, but it seemed to all come boiling over the edge once he had me “locked-in” so to speak. He had failed to mention to me before we were married that he has severe post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury from his previous deployments. He became extremely possessive and co-dependent, as well as having crazy rants, temper tantrums, and panic attacks for hours on the phone, all while I’m trying to calm him down and beg him to seek professional help. This went on for three months and he refused to seek help, constantly claiming he didn’t need it or saying things like, “I’ll set something up this week” and then never following through. This took a huge emotional and mental toll on me as well, and when I finally reached my breaking point I decided to fly out to see him August of last year and end it face-to-face.
Flash-forward to today and I have been considerably happier and was previously seeing a therapist to help me work through the issues of this relationship. It ended as amicably as it could, seeing as we had no assets together and both just wanted the divorce over as quickly and painlessly as possible. However, there is still a part of me that can’t help dwelling on my past relationship; I feel like I still have all this pent-up animosity towards him because I never really got to confront him on everything he put me through. He deployed about a month after we separated, and we had limited communication up until he came back in May and we were able to finish all the paperwork for our divorce. The few times we did communicate between the separation and finalization, he acted like everything was peachy keen and that he was never in the wrong throughout our marriage. Of course, this irritated me and I wanted to blow up at him several times, but I decided to be the bigger person and act civil so he wouldn’t give me any trouble before things were officially over.
Now that the divorce is final, I don’t know how I can move past these angry feelings and finally feel a full sense of closure so I can move on completely and give new relationships a chance. I have ZERO interest in contacting him and trying to have an adult conversation about it seeing as he obviously does not think he was in the wrong. I feel like I can’t trust my judgment on men anymore seeing as I was completely blindsided in my last relationship. So what would be the best way to approach dating as well as moving on from all the baggage of my marriage? — Baggage Claim
LSS86 June 29, 2011, 3:21 pm
I don’t know that I have any solid advice, but I can say this: you’re very young. Most of us have had relationships early on, that in retrospect were a terrible idea. The difference is that you decided to marry this guy, while most of us just dated some douchebag in college for a few months before realizing he didn’t treat us right.
So how to deal with the anger you feel toward your ex? I don’t know. But I do know that you should focus on taking things slowly in your future relationships. Learn from this experience that you may be the type of person who invests too much in a relationship too quickly. It’ll be extra important for you to slow yourself down when you meet someone new because you know you’re in danger of getting in too deep before you really know the person.
Shell June 29, 2011, 3:23 pm
Give yourself time to keep working through this, and be generous with that amount of time. Remember you are in the process of improving yourself and dealing with the aftermath of something that hurt you deeply. Outside of therapy, get involved with other positive activities. As you feel better about yourself, that trust in your judgment will slowly but surely come back to you.
lk June 29, 2011, 3:24 pm
You put your faith in love, which is admirable! You sort of had to in your situation – marriage was a huge step to take so quickly & so young, but you believed it was your chance to be near to each other. The intensity of the commitment also allowed you to see that the person you had fallen for wasn’t mentally or emotionally stable.
Forgive yourself, first, both for loving him & for not being able to continue in your relationship with him. Also forgive him, since he is not capable of understanding his feelings or yours.
Going forward, take things very slowly. Make sure that you really know the person before you make commitments. When you are considering being serious with someone, try to talk to them about difficult experiences they’ve had to get a sense of how they handle stress. It can be done conversationally & can help you both to bond & to understand the other person.
AKchic June 29, 2011, 3:25 pm
Ah, the joys of a disasterous first marriage.
Honey, what you want is to be able to have that one blow-out fight that you never got. You want to be able to put him through one small, itty-bitty bit of verbal/emotional hell that he put you through during your marriage. Just to say “fair’s fair” kind of. He mentally, emotionally and verbally put you through a wringer and then acted like nothing happened and that YOU are the one that wanted to end it for inexplicable reasons and that he’s the good guy and just giving you what you want, and you want to just make him see a little bit of the emotional rollercoaster hell you went through.
Don’t. He has PTSD, a brain injury and is probably a mental case even before those issues. Be lucky that you two didn’t live together. Had you, you probably would have been able to add physical abuse to the list. If you want to rant, get a livejournal account and blog about it in private and rant to your heart’s content, but don’t take it out on new guys. In fact, don’t date anyone at all until you can think back on the last relationship without grinding your teeth and muttering under your breath with thoughts of yelling at him. The only thoughts you should be thinking are “I’m glad it’s done and now I can move on”.
It could take years. And you may slip up once in a while. There will be times that you will be reminded of certain incidents that are more sore than others and it will send you back to raw feelings. Just write them down and be done with it. Don’t dwell, don’t linger, but don’t bury them either.
You have every right to be angry, but keep it in perspective at who you are mad at and who you should be mad at. You should be mad at him for what he put you through, but you are also probably a little mad at yourself for not contacting his CO and alerting him to the issues you were having (and who could have ordered him to a psych eval, and you know it). I’m not blaming you though, he was your husband and you trusted him to do the right thing, whether he did so or not.
Take time for you and please, if you are still in the military – thank you for your continued service and be careful. We still need you fighting for us, even if you’re doing it behind a desk 🙂
moonflowers June 29, 2011, 4:13 pm
Totally agree. While you would love to just have it out with him, he’s unfortunately not capable of being totally rational or even being sympathetic right now. “Hurt people hurt people” – and he is quite hurt. If he were able to listen to reason or to empathize with you, he wouldn’t have done what he did in the first place.
The best revenge is living well. Take time to heal yourself and especially to work through the pain (especially since it is sporadic and will pop up when you least expect it). Write out all the anger and frustration, or tell the story to so many sympathetic listeners that you get tired of telling it. Just don’t waste another breath on this guy.
Princess Bananahammock June 29, 2011, 5:07 pm
Agreed. You will not be able to get the closure that you want if you seek it from him. Sometimes, when a relationship ends (through a break up or even a death) there are many unresolved issues that leave us feeling stuck in the angry phase. Often times, the other person is simply incapable of the type of introspection required to apologize for their actions. Your ex is sick. When you feel overwhelmed with anger, just remind yourself – he is sick, and what he did does not in any way reflect upon your worth as a person or as a romantic partner. Hopefully, in time, that will help you forgive him so that you can let go and move on.
TheOtherMe June 29, 2011, 3:28 pm
I agree with continuing to see the therapist because there seems to be a lot of leftover & unresolved resentment.
I think it might be a good idea to put all those thoughts down on paper and just keep it or share it with your therapist. You’re right that trying to communicate all this to your Ex. will simply make you even more resentful if he keeps acting like nothing happened.
Lastly, just take your time in any new relationship, my most solid relationships were always the ones where I got to know the person well before starting to date them.
SpyGlassez June 29, 2011, 3:31 pm
My grandmother was in a very similar situation to yours with her first marriage. That was during WWII, and once they were married he was no longer able to hide that he had been horribly affected by the war. She too divorced him and moved to Alaska to start afresh. I’m not saying to move to Alaska, but you do in a sense need a fresh start. I agree that you should continue seeing your therapist because they will be able to help you sort out your feelings. Also, I would agree on not contacting him – it will not help. He’s already shown that he will not address this. My advice as you move on is to make sure you slow way down. Be certain you know someone in person before you make any commitments to them. For me, that would include sleeping with them or agreeing to be in a serious, exclusive relationship, but that may not be where you are. In any case, you need to rebuild your judgment and trust yourself again.
It isn’t exactly the same situation, but I would recommend Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” because it will talk about developing intuition. Best wishes for your future!
AKchic June 29, 2011, 4:51 pm
You have family in Alaska? Maybe I know the family! We’ve been up here since 1950 on my maternal grandpa’s side and since the goldrush era on my maternal grandma’s side 🙂
plasticepoxy June 30, 2011, 10:43 am
Carolyn Hax always recommends that book to people who have been in or are in abusive or potentially abusive relationships (not just romantic relationships either). Maybe even for people who haven’t been part of a negative relationship; seems like it would be beneficial for anyone. I haven’t read more than excerpts, but I keep meaning to! I’m glad you brought it up.
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 3:33 pm
How about writing him an email? I know it’s a bit cliche (and some will say childish), but I think you need to vent this anger to him. If you talk to him, he won’t listen and will probably either just yell back at you or hang up. A letter is melodramatic. You could send him an email (not an accusatory, blame-y type of email, just one outlining how you feel), and if he responds angrily you can just delete it.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, I would try writing a journal. You need to get all the angry emotions OUT of your head. Keep a journal and write in it every day, about whatever’s on your mind. In time, this will help you process your emotions and calm you down somewhat. It worked wonders for me 🙂
Kate June 29, 2011, 3:36 pm
How is a letter melodramatic?
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 3:38 pm
Eh, it seems melodramatic to me because nobody sends letters anymore.
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 3:37 pm
To add to this: I have found it helpful to write letters and keep them in journal form. Then after a few weeks or months you can read back over them and you will realize how far you’ve come 🙂
MJ June 29, 2011, 3:52 pm
I do it with emails. Write them, but don’t put his name in the “TO” field. Tell yourself you have permission to send it, but that you won’t send it that minute. Save to your drafts folder. Add more, subtract, rewrite whenever the moment strikes…but never send it, just save it.
Eventually when you read over what you wrote, you will be surprised that you ever felt that way. You will write in the draft less and less. And then, one day, you will discard it with very little emotion at all. But you will thank God you never sent it.
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 4:01 pm
Yeah…I advised her to send an email and the more I think about it, the more I think just writing emails or letters and NOT sending them is the way to go. The sad truth is that nothing she can say is going to make an impact on this guy, and if he responds it could just drag things out further.
So, LW, EDITED advice: Just write. Keep a journal, keep a private blog, write letters, write emails, whatever…but keep them to yourself for a while. If you want to send them down the line, fine, but give it a few days to percolate first. 🙂
kali June 29, 2011, 4:29 pm
I like the idea of writing a letter or email and NOT sending it. I had a few of those to my ex back in the day. There was no point in sending them as his reality and mine never meshed very well in the first place and, even if he did acknowledge things had gone terribly wrong, he’d only have blamed me anyway.
Someone here said living well is the best revenge and they are right. I am so much better now but I took a long time to work through everything. I have a lovely new house, a terrific job, great friends, fun hobbies, and a loving boyfriend. He really hasn’t progressed too far from where I left him. LW, I think you may find in a few years, you can look back and say the same. Best of luck and hang in there. Time really does help.
plasticepoxy June 30, 2011, 10:47 am
I do this a lot. If I’m frustrated with my boss, I write her an email but don’t send it. I write email letters to my boyfriend, friends, ex boyfriends, the phone company, anyone! It really helps me sort out my feelings and identify where I’m out of line (or affirms I’m not out of line). Most of the time I don’t send the letters, I just keep them and use them to remind me of where I’ve been. I actually do this in an online diary rather than my email (although sometimes I use my email too), because this is a pretty common coping mechanism for me and I would have thousands, if not millions of drafts by now otherwise. 🙂
Christy June 30, 2011, 3:31 pm
I wish someone had given me this advice years ago! I was in a relationship where I would get upset about something and send an angry email–and they never helped! I wanted to get my feelings out but I was so emotional that the email would never start a helpful exchange, it would just make us more angry at each other. If I had just saved the drafts and waited until I was more calm to talk about it (or just let it go), I probably would have saved us some grief.
Foots June 29, 2011, 3:49 pm
Find another guy & u’ll forget him.
Elle June 29, 2011, 3:55 pm
Oh, honey, there’s nothing wrong with your judgment. He duped you into marrying him. I have a feeling that even if you guys got married after 5 years, not 9 months, the outcome would have been the same. You shouldn’t blame yourself for not seeing it, because it wasn’t there for.you to see – he hid it from you, because he knew you’d run. Another reason that your judgment is fine – you divorced him quickly, and you were the bigger person during the divorce proceedings. You should be proud of yourself. Other women stay in their marriages for years trying to fix their SOs. I was one of them.
With regards to future relationships – it’s very important not to make your future partners pay for your ex’s behavior. It will be hard, but you have to realize, eventually, that there are normal men out there. And I know that all the time you’ll be dating, in the back of.your mind you’ll think – what skeletons are in his closet? Give yourself time, and the voice will become quiet after a while. It took me about a year and a half after my divorce to start dating. Initially, every single guy had something that reminded me of my ex. Retrospectively, I think I wasn’t entirely ready to date, but it did help a lot with my confidence level. Tip your toe back in the dating world. And when you date, it shouldn’t be ‘is this the guy I’m going to marry?’, but more like ‘what it unique and interesting about this person?’. Try to approach them with zero expectations, not from a preconceived idea that they may turn out to be just like your ex. It helps me relax during dates. Good luck!
El June 29, 2011, 5:30 pm
“I have a feeling that even if you guys got married after 5 years, not 9 months, the outcome would have been the same.”
I don’t agree. I have experience with anxiety disorders, and PTSD isn’t exactly something someone can hide from an SO for 5 years. LW said that they had spent their entire courtship long-distance, so she probably just never had the opportunity to witness his symptoms for herself.
I don’t think LW’s ex is a bad guy. I think he’s very ill, and in major need of an intervention to treat his PTSD. That said, I don’t blame LW for wanting out. That’s a lot for a 21-year-old to have to deal with.
bittergaymark June 29, 2011, 8:10 pm
Yeah, I think the notion that she is a victim here is laughable at best. Maybe people should actually try KNOWING a person before they get married. I dunno. It seems so simple, but apparently few out there believe that…
Britannia June 30, 2011, 6:03 am
Many people do not understand that everyone presents their “best” side for several months until they have accrued some serious Life Experience. It’s a little dramatic to call her a victim, but she should be given a bit of compassion for simply not being “jaded” enough.
Hopefully now she will take away some priceless lessons of life from this horrible situation – especially the one about time revealing all truths.
ForeverYoung June 30, 2011, 10:16 am
I kind of agree. I don’t know what is it about the military but they seem to have the highest divorce rate. I had a friend that married a guy in the military she had known for 4 months, only having lived in the same city as him for 1 month. Is it a coincidence that the military also pays people more when their married??
In my experience the military practically encourages shot gun weddings. Not saying it’s not her fault for rushing it or anything, just an observation.
beans629 June 30, 2011, 5:18 pm
I think being in the military just encourages an artificial closeness that you wouldn’t normally get in civilian relationships. It’s hard to explain but it’s like you ‘know’ that person because you assume that he/she has the same values and morals that you do because you’re both in the military uniform and you know what it means to you. So you don’t necessarily go through that initial stage of getting to know if they share your values/morals.
And there’s NOTHING like being away from home and maybe in a life/death situation to connect with people on a different level.
TheGirl June 29, 2011, 4:08 pm
Have you tried some sort of self defense class? I don’t know what your situation is in the military, but a little bit more aggressive exercise might help. I’m thinking krav maga or kickboxing… something to really help you let your anger out and add some endorphins to your life. I don’t think you are ever going to get any closure from someone who is that mentally ill, so I’m not sure anything good would come out of confronting him with it.
Oh, and give it a little more time. Don’t date until you can let the anger go, if you don’t, it could sabotage any relationships you try to start.
heidikins June 29, 2011, 3:17 pm
I think your best bet is to continue to see your therapist, he/she will help you work through some of the remaining baggage and help you figure out the best way and timing for your next relationship.
Alletron June 29, 2011, 4:20 pm
Oooh girl. Let me tell you what, I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from. I know all too well.
My situation wasn’t exactly like yours, but I was engaged to an incredibly possessive, co-dependent, and emotionally abusive man (more like boy) up until about 2 years ago. Seriously, I’ve celebrated “breakup day” the past 2 years.
I too had a great deal of baggage from that relationship. I still do. I see a therapist to this day to help heal the wounds that boy left me with. And of course, he blamed everything on me.
Ok, so my advice – 1) DEFINITELY see a therapist. Seriously. You will feel so much better, and learn amazing things about yourself. 2) Write a letter to him. Write a letter telling him all the things you want to scream at him. Then burn it. 3) Remove him from your social media life. FB, IM, Email, Blog – wherever you hang out on the internet, just get rid of him. 4) let yourself heal. Don’t start dating right away – just focus on yourself and what makes you happy. Don’t let the first guy who is “not him” sweep you off your feet.
I hope you find happiness in all of this. 🙂
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 3:24 pm
I think you should call him. I went through a nasty relationship (3 yrs) where I was constantly verbally abused. It’s not as severe as what you went through, but it did take a huge toll on me & my self-esteem. Two yrs after we broke up (he dumped me, figures) he contacted me & wanted to meet up with me. He apologized for everything he did & I got to let him know everything I felt. It helped A LOT, especially since for so long I didn’t have a voice in that relationship. Anything I said was taken horribly, & when I tried to have conversations ab my feelings I would get silence, then a laugh after I BEGGED for a response from him. Oh & then he’d hang up on me!
But, the best way to closure, is to close it! Talk to him! I don’t see how else you can get over it? You’re obviously in therapy, so that’s good.
The only issue with this situation is the fact that he has issues. But, you know him pretty well so I think you’d have a good idea on how you can approach him.
But I strongly strongly suggest you talk to him! Good luck to you!
MissDre June 29, 2011, 3:28 pm
Talking to him won’t do any good if he refuses to take responsibility for anything. In your case, it was great because he apologized to you and gave you the window to express your feelings. You’re really lucky in that regard.
Sounds like this guy has a lot of issues and can’t be rational. And she said does not want to speak to him. Sometimes it’s best to just cut off contact and pursue other things in life.
Perhaps down the road, there will be a time when they can have a conversation for closure.
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 3:31 pm
I was actually about to modify my repsonse. I thought about it & think maybe writing a letter would be A LOT more productive. She can write him a letter about EVERYTHING she feels & then decide if she wants to send it or not.
I’ve heard that’s very therapeutic.
MissDre June 29, 2011, 3:37 pm
That’s a good idea.
mcj2011 June 30, 2011, 9:40 am
That’s what i was going to suggest, in addition to seeing a therapist. Even if you don’t send the letter, get it all out, seal it go through all the motions. It may help!
Yammy June 30, 2011, 2:35 pm
I agree with the letter idea. You might even consider writing your letter then reading it out loud to your therapist.
justpeachy June 29, 2011, 3:30 pm
I have to disagree. If she felt that she owed him an apology, then sure, call him up and apologize. But she can’t call him up and expect him to apologize, otherwise that would have happened when she saw him last time and he pretended nothing was wrong.
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 3:32 pm
I didn’t say he was going to apologize. I meant for her to let everything out. Whether he apologizes or not, that’s not up to her. What is up to her is her feelings inside & releasing them. Like I said, I was about to modify my response.
Amber June 29, 2011, 4:14 pm
I don’t think the issue is him, at this point. It’s her. The relationship is over, they are divorced, and she is still angry. If she lashes out at him she will still be angry, especially if he continues to not take responsibility.
She needs therapy to find out why she is still holding on to this anger and resentment.
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 4:25 pm
I don’t think there’s any question of WHY she’s still angry. That’s pretty obvious. She’s angry with her ex for deceiving her and letting her down and being unable or unwilling to work on their problems, and she’s angry with herself for falling for it and wasting so much of her time on him.
What she needs to do is find healthy, constructive ways to let go of that anger so she can move on with her life. Her therapist should be able to help her with that, but there have also been a lot of great suggestions in the responses here.
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 4:37 pm
Idk, I disagree. Of course she knows why she’s angry, that’s not the question. The question is how to let go of it. I didn’t suggest her trying to work out ANYTHING with him. Just let it out. I still think writing a long, detailed, letter with everything she feels is the best way to go. She chooses if she wants to send it or save it.
silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 4:38 pm
Isn’t that what I said…?
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 4:21 pm
But she’s already been in therapy. Look, I have experience with that particular situation. **To this day** (4 yrs later) I still think about certain things my ex did & I cringe, but it’s not as bad anymore. Since talking to him helped me a lot, I offered the advice to the LW. However, when I re-read my response & thought about it, I felt that writing a letter to get all that anger & resentment out would be a hell of a lot more beneficial in her particular case.
There’s only one way to let those feelings she’s harboring inside go & that is to let them out. It’s not about the therapy, it’s about her. She can go to therapy for yrs & still have that inner resentment. It happened to me. Maybe I’m wrong, because the reality is every person is different. But, since I offer adivce from personal experiences that was my suggestion. I didn’t modify my response bc before I got the chance to, someone had already commented. So I just explained myself below her comment.
Painted_lady June 29, 2011, 4:17 pm
That sort of thing *can* backfire. I had a relationship that sounds really similar to yours my freshman year of college. I ran into him about 8 months after we broke up, and he likewise apologized for everything he had done, and we each promised to keep in touch. A couple of months after that, though, we were back in the same destructive patterns and even though we weren’t dating, my self-esteem took a hit and he was making me every bit as miserable as when we were dating. I finally cut off contact, but it was scary how easy it was to fall back into letting him make me feel like shit again.
LTC039 June 29, 2011, 4:27 pm
I totally understand your point & it could very well happen here too, even though they’re long distance so it might not be as easy.
Painted_lady June 29, 2011, 7:16 pm
Yeah. Not to split hairs, but we actually were as well. All his bullshit was totally still conducted over IM and phone. I kept thinking I could explain it in a way that made sense. He had apologized, right? So he knew he had this tendency to control and to disregard my feelings, but he just got worse.
MiMi June 29, 2011, 4:34 pm
You might try the “empty chair” type of exercise used in Gestalt therapy: imagine him sitting in an empty chair you place in the middle of the room and storm around, scream your head off, throw stuff, etc., whatever will help you relieve your feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal, etc. by expressing them and getting them out of your body. Repeat as needed, because something like this may be your only way to “talk” to your highly-damaged ex and achieve a sense of closure.
Until you feel cleansed and whole-hearted again, it would be best to refrain from getting involved with someone new. You’ve just had a whirlwind dance with “Crazy” and it just takes time to get your balance and confidence back.
Best of luck, and thank you for your service.
Nadine June 30, 2011, 6:44 am
I really like the sound of this idea. I love to write out my emotions, but saying them out loud, even to no one, makes them seem tangible and real, not a possible fiction. You are also less likely to edit, or spell-check or anything annoying that us english rads like to do to any piece of writing! Just find an empty room, with no one to hear you, or even go for a walk in a secluded park and tell him exactly how he made you feel and how he has hurt you and how you want him to know. Yell and scream at him and picture his face.
I am so going to remember this advice!
Nadine June 30, 2011, 6:45 am
Sorry, I’m not that arrogant, I’m an English Grad, though also pretty rad…….
kdog June 29, 2011, 4:37 pm
I think the most important things are allowing yourself to be angry and learning to trust yourself again. If you can do that then you will be able to look at each guy you date and see them for what they are, including your ex. (I think) The hardest part is facing the fact that you are angry with yourself and learning to be honest with yourself about why you are attracted to certain people and types of relationships (even if only once). That is definitely something that a therapist should be able to help you with. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a fault or a weakness or a shortcoming. Chances are you were trying to meet certain needs–and everyone needs love. Next time around you will be much more aware of whether or not the guy you’re looking at will actually fulfill that need.
DebMoore June 29, 2011, 4:41 pm
Give it time. I went through a relationship like that too and for years afterwards I would scream at him in my head, and then as time went on I screamed at him in my head less and less till I stopped thinking about him and all the things I wanted to say to him. So give it time! Eventually I think it helped me as a person and in relationships. I learned to let go of the little things. (because nothing was as bad as what I went through with him!) So go ahead be angry at him, go to therapist, scream in your head at him. Just know that it too will pass and next time around you will be a wiser person.
ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 5:01 pm
I don’t have a lot of advice for you, but I do want you to know what it will get better. I think when any relationship ends it is really hard to let go. I always used to think that if I hated the guy that meant I was over him. I think if you’re still bitter it just means YOU have unresolved feelings about the situation. I think you just need to work on forgiving yourself. This situation was not your fault. I know you’ve probably told yourself that a 100 times, but say it another 100 times until you start REALLY believing it.
Therapy could do wonders for you. Remember you are young, and if any lesson should be learned from your divorce it is don’t rush anything. If you are not ready to date, don’t feel like you have to just to prove you’re over him.
oldie June 29, 2011, 5:07 pm
Contacting him would be a very bad idea. He seems to have happily left her life and that is the best possible resolution. There is nothing to be gained by stirring the pot with a mentally unstable ex who is subject to temper tantrums. Violence or at least internet harrassment is a possibility if she reopens this particular box. He may need to believe his version of events in order to keep getting by. It doesn’t sound like he deliberately did anything overtly bad. LW says he has both PTSD and traumatic brain damage. He needs professional help, but seems afraid to seek it, possibly because he will be removed from active duty. He may well have been trying his best in the relationship, but his war-related physical and psychological injuries got the better of him. She says he suffered panic attacks while on the phone with her. This is not suggestive of bad behavior on his part, but rather severe mental issues. He is due at least a little empathy and consideration, rather than hatred or anger. He willingly served his country, as did LW, only he came back less whole than he left.
I think LW beats herself up too much. Her judgement may not be as poor as she fears. Her ex may have had a breakdown since their marriage. If she had met him while he was having the panic attacks and tantrums, she wouldn’t have married him. I really don’t think he reeled her in with good behavior and then decided he could act badly once he had her. He just collapsed. A LDR is not easy for newlyweds.
RLSing23 June 29, 2011, 5:47 pm
While I understand your anger and resentment, and agree that you have every right to be angry after what he did to you, what caught my attention from your letter and confused me most was that you decided to “be the bigger person”.
If you want to continue to be the bigger person, lashing out at him will counteract this–doing so will make you seem like the crazy one, who couldn’t let anything go. He clearly has issues, and, keep in mind, men usually respond to tone before words, so if he hears you yell all he will be able to think is “crazy!”, instead of listening to the actual words that you are saying. If he hasn’t apologized before and didn’t believe he did anything wrong, you giving him a piece of your mind isn’t likely to change his.
You need to leave him alone and let him deal with his issues and let him focus on living a life without you in it, just like you need to focus on living your life without him in it. The more you dwell on what he did to you, the further you get from truly moving on from this relationship and from proving that you are the bigger person, by not letting him control your life. Even though you are not seeing him every day, thoughts of him are still plagueing you.
I agree with many of the other commenters–write a letter expressing all your angry feelings, and then rip it up, or imagine him sitting in front of you and then scream out everything you have been dying to say to him. But once you have done that, move on–and this is how you do it: You say you want to be the bigger person. So, you need to make this your mantra–and stick to it! If you find yourself yearning to contact him, think, “Will this make me continue to be the bigger person?” I’m not saying it will be easy–moving on from a relationship is extremely difficult. But I have faith that you will get through it.
Just remember: He has many demons in his life that he needs to get rid of. Don’t let him become yours!
Katie June 29, 2011, 6:36 pm
“He has many demons in his life that he needs to get rid of. Don’t let him become yours!”
I think this is the most important thing that has been said. LW, please please read this and take it to heart.
YouGoGirl June 29, 2011, 5:52 pm
The signs of an emotional abuser are subtle and easy to miss while you are dating or engaged. I was married to an emotionally abusive man for 20 years until he died. Before our marriage, I tried very hard to be discerning so I could chose my husband wisely. But he put on a facade of being kind, friendly and outgoing. After we were married, I realized he was racist, unsocial and liked to harrange me a lot. Once we were married, I considered myself stuck and thought it was too late to change my situation.
The LW is to be congratulated for having the courage to end her marriage before she had children. I wish I had that courage 30 years ago. Like her, I also felt very foolish for being decieved. I want to tell the LW to hang in there and be patient because she will eventually feel better. She is grieving over the loss of all her hopes and dreams for a happy marriage, a home and children which is probably just as difficult as actually losing a spouse to death. I know how hard it is to be patient because the grieving process is simply awful. Like me, she probably thinks her life is over and that she is “damaged goods”. But I can tell her from personal experience that her life is not over. I am now enrolled in a PhD program in the physical sciences and set to graduate in about a year. I also enjoy the companionship of a wonderful sweetheart. Like me, the LW has a very bright future in front of her. Her dreams are still attainable. So please hang in there LW.
Princess Bananahammock June 29, 2011, 6:09 pm
Good for you! Seriously, up until the part about a PhD program, I was wondering “is this my mom????” Good luck with your PhD program and your sweetheart!
YouGoGirl June 29, 2011, 6:43 pm
Not many people over 50 pursue a PhD in the sciences, perhaps because it is very difficult. I am 53, which makes me about 30 years older than my classmates. I am very fortunate to have the full support of my advisors, who have always been very aware of my age. Maybe I could be your mother. I am certainly old enough to be the mother of most of my classmates.
AKchic June 29, 2011, 8:01 pm
*hugs* We live and learn. Then, we teach!
Foots June 29, 2011, 6:01 pm
Gee, thanks for all the downturned thumbs. That was just my advice. Anytime I broke up with my boyfriends, I’d find another guy & that would cause me to see what I was missing all along. No more wasted time alone or tears.
Sure, talk to him if you want…after some time has passed & ur both calm.
kf June 29, 2011, 7:24 pm
It’s really sad that you think any time on your own would be “wasted”.
Fairhaired Child June 30, 2011, 4:37 am
I also think that it could be because it seems like you are saying that she can’t be happy on her own at all. IMO I would never want to be known as someone only because of the relationship I’m in. I don’t need someone to validate my exisitance. I think its actually sad when someone HAS to have a SO to feel special. I know I’m special and amazing, and that I can make a difference in others lives. In fact I’ve been told that its my confidence in the fact that I’m my own person that makes me more attractive to other people (and its easier to get dates!). But I understand that being with someone that says that “you look amazing” and drops tons of compliments on you always does feel better than still trying to rid your mind of the previous relationship.
Also just moving to another guy quickly doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a better guy. I only wish it were that easy that every relationship is better than the one previous. Sadly that’s not always the case. You could be missing something, something like physical abuse or worse – doesn’t mean you want to experience it because you’re missing it from the previous relationship.
Katie June 29, 2011, 6:34 pm
i think you need to find something to channel the anger you have out of you. you cant hang on to it forever, that will kill you. i dont know what will work for you, but there were a bunch of suggestions above.. in addition, i would suggest dancing, just because thats my way of getting anger out. i mean imagine creating a dance that could express all the anger and hurt that you have in your heart now. no one would ever even need to see it, it would just be a story for you to remind yourself where you were and how far you had come, once you were in a better place. also, if you did that, the music that you choose would mean so much to you- everytime you hear it you would remember how strong you are and how far you have come. just find something that can take away those feelings, even if its just for a little bit, and slowly they will stop coming back. i personally liked the writing the email and editing it until there is no more anger. i think that would be a great tool for you.
it will get better. it will be hard, but it will get better
bittergaymark June 29, 2011, 8:01 pm
She seems to be placing ALL the blame on him. Newsflash don’t marry somebody you barely know in some whirlwind romance and expect everything to be just peachy keen. Seriously, it astounds me the endless ways LWs around here employ to hopelessly mess up their lives… I swear, at times, it seems very deliberate. Rushing in and marrying somebody so quickly strikes me as very…well, foolish at best. Your ex husband was MENTALLY ILL. And that sucks, but I’m sorry, take some responsibility for your own actions. I very much doubt that he was this master of deception, but rather that you were too swept up in the fantasy of it all to see things clearly. I’d be very curious to hear what family and friends thought of him. I bet almost anything, one or two people tried to warn you, but their advice was ignored.
Betty Boop June 29, 2011, 8:22 pm
I kind of agree here that you can’t place all the blame on your partner. I made some terrible choices when I was younger that led to me being engaged to an emotionally abusive, controlling man. I was so angry for so many years and it took me acknowledging and accepting the decisions I made to get me to that place before I could start to let go of my bullshit. Yes, he was horrible and shitty and made my life hell for a while and I’m not to blame for what he did in any way, shape or form, but my choices were my fault alone. Being able to articulate my failures and accept that they DO NOT make me a bad person was what I needed. I get that this isn’t true for everybody, but I really think it should be something the LW discusses with her therapist.
kf June 30, 2011, 1:05 pm
This is very well put. OP (and you) should be commended – it takes a lot of guts to walk away from a bad relationship, and is something a lot of people are unable to do.
YouGoGirl June 29, 2011, 8:48 pm
This is the kind of harsh criticism that I dread, and anticipation of this kind of criticism still makes me very reluctant to share my story with anyone. Essentially Bittergamark’s comments are a variation of “tough luck, too bad” or “you have made your bed, now go and lie in it”.
It is difficult to spot the subtle signs that a man could be an abuser, especially if a person has grown up in an abusive home. I tried very hard to get to know my husband before marriage but obviously I did not suceed. Scolding the LW that she should have known better is not very productive. Yes she does have some responsibility, but her decision to get married quickly was not permission to be abused just like wearing a short skirt is not “permission” to get raped. With the support of friends and family and possible counseling, she can now learn to make better decisions.
kf June 29, 2011, 9:32 pm
At first I thought bittergaymark was being too hard on her, since it’s so obvious that much of her anger is at herself. But after rereading the letter, he’s right – there’s not a molecule of self-reflection or “how could I be so stupid”. Hopefully more awareness will come from therapy.
You know what makes it easier to spot the signs of a man being mentally ill? Being in his vicinity before you marry him. Making a decision to marry someone at 20 after a nine month long distance relationship is not like wearing a short skirt, and frankly it’s offensive for you to make the comparison.
And anyway, why is scolding her any less productive than scolding the guy? She’s the one that wrote in; getting her to think about her role in the situation is vastly more productive than blaming it all on the guy, who is not going to change. Are you going to tell her that the next guy she marries after a short long-distance relationship is bound to be Ward Cleaver? You think that’s the best way to help her?
YouGoGirl June 30, 2011, 2:25 am
A therapist and a pastor used a tough “cut the crap and accept responsibility” approach with me. I did not need this tough approach because I was already accepting responsibility by asking for help and working to change. After enduring many years of abuse, this approach just felt like more abuse.
The tough approach has its merits when someone does not listen to a gentler approach, but I prefer not to scold the LR because she is already suffering a great deal. After being abused, she needs to experience kindness so she can learn to trust other people and herself again.
kf June 30, 2011, 1:10 pm
The letter does not show any evidence of taking any responsibility, or awareness that long-distance relationships are very risky. I totally agree with you that people who do take responsibility don’t need to be piled on. Hopefully that’s true for OP.
David Jay June 29, 2011, 11:20 pm
That’s a tough position to take, Mark. While I agree that their engagement was WAY too short, I had to assume that she didn’t see any of the red flags, especially given their particular line of work. Yeah, jumping into wedlock too soon is her bad, but if he were genuinely a “good man”, that still would not have been an issue. I’m not saying you’re not right… just saying that I didn’t interpret her information that way. Plus, mental illness can also set in fast, so the man she married might be quite different than the man she divorced. I just feel bad for her and am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
kf June 30, 2011, 1:12 pm
“Yeah, jumping into wedlock too soon is her bad, but if he were genuinely a “good man”, that still would not have been an issue.”
Yuck. Yeah, playing Russian Roulette was her bad, but if that chamber didn’t have a bullet, it would not have been an issue.
Britannia June 30, 2011, 6:08 am
It’s unfair to say that his facade MUST have had cracks. The LW explicitly states that they were in an LDR the entire relationship. It is very easy to manage oneself and keep those cracks closed when you only have to do so for a limited amount of time. However naive it may have been for her to enter into marriage with a man she barely knew, which I do feel like was really stupid of her, saying “OMG YOU’RE SO STUPID HOW COULD YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THAT HE WAS MENTALLY ILL” reaches too far.
David Jay June 29, 2011, 11:10 pm
Time… time… time… and ONLY time will heal all wounds. Don’t be too hard on yourself… there was a lot that was intentionally kept from you, giving you legitimate victim status. In order to make sure that this never happens to you again, simply learn from it, and don’t go jumping into nuptials within a 12-month period ever again! I cannot imagine anything good coming out of contacting him, as good as it might feel to get a few screams in. You need to be the bigger (saner) person now and move on. Let the anger you feel now dissolve into forgiveness and only then will you be truly free. Unfortunately, there is nothing but time that can make that happen… but a bit of Jack Daniels can help pass the time. 🙂 I wish you all the luck in your future loves… sounds like you deserve a good one.
Jubietta June 29, 2011, 11:59 pm
Thank you for your service.
Being injured by a person with mental health issues sucks because they often do what they do without the intent of harm and are not capable of being accountable for the results of their actions. It’s much like being hurt by a child.
What helped me in a similar situation was realizing that my anger was absolutely NOT hurting the person I was angry at, it only hurt me.
Once I had that reality check, it took me a while to accept that I was ready to give my anger away…and that is not the same thing as forgiveness. The anger came away a layer at a time, like an onion, until I could get through most days without bumping into it. In my case, my anger was with my Mom, so I trip over the core of my anger on that certain Sunday in May, and on my birthday, and on the anniversary of the last day I lived with her, and whenever a woman of my mom’s generation does something hurtful or stupid. The best I can do, and what I hope for you, is that you can stay in the present when you find yourself dealing with the core of that anger, and try not to deal with the past at the same time.
SGMcG June 30, 2011, 1:16 am
I don’t think there is an ideal or best way on how to approach dating with the concurrent goal of moving on from your broken marriage and the baggage it comes with. The anger you’re feeling is perfectly understandable and a defense mechanism from all the drama you experienced surrounding your divorce. You can use the defense mechanism as a tool to learn more about yourself, like channeling the rage through that letter writing method to help discover what you ultimately want in a partner. The defense mechanism can also be a wall to help guard you from whirlwind romances becoming those maelstroms of messy relationships.
You’ve already obtained the divorce, so I think you need to first reward yourself for doing the hardest step of finding and doing that definitive act that is the point of no return in MOAing. I think you need to take some time now to identify some goals you want to accomplish now that the divorce is obtained and create plans of actions so that they can be done. Whether dating should be one of those goals now, or sometime in the future is only a decision you can make.
You can go back in the saddle again, just make sure that you have the right horse before you do so. Best of luck LW. Thank you for your service in the military.
Fairhaired Child June 30, 2011, 4:30 am
“I think you need to first reward yourself for doing the hardest step of finding and doing that definitive act that is the point of no return in MOAing. I think you need to take some time now to identify some goals you want to accomplish now that the divorce is obtained and create plans of actions so that they can be done. ”
Very good advice. Just because she’s young and already had a divorce doesn’t mean she’s restricted from finding out things that make her happy. Try rock climbing, take up painting/photography, create a bucket list, or be like YouGoGirl and get a PhD! These goals can be things to better herself, or just things to try for the sake of trying. Explore life, and be glad you got out when you did!
Also, when you do start dating, do not feel like you have to tell them that you are already a divorcee. Until you feel comfortable telling them so, they don’t need to know. It’s not something you should be ashamed of or something you need to hide. It was an experience, and while the experience was aweful, it did and will make you stronger. This may make you more cautious towards men and dating, and maybe you should take a slower pace towards relationships, and perhaps seek ones that are not so LDR, or that have more “face time” such as weeek long vacations together etc to really test the waters with someone rather than only a 2 day trip here and there (its easier to pretend to be someone for 2 days, much harder for any time over a week).
Britannia June 30, 2011, 6:13 am
If anything positive at all can be taken away from this horrible situation of yours, please learn that time reveals all truths. You simply cannot get to know someone for who they really are in less than a year, especially if you do not have daily interaction with them. I understand that it is really tough to develop a relationship while in the military and that jumping the broom quickly seemed like the best option at the time, but I hope that you can find a military counselor, who intimately understands military life, who can help you learn how to develop a healthy, serious relationship with someone while serving your country. A civilian counselor may be able to provide great emotional therapy, but I really think that only a counselor for the private sector will be able to provide you with advice that is truly applicable… plus, they should be able to provide you with sufficient emotional therapy to deal with the havoc your ex-husband has wreaked upon your mind and heart.
I want to thank you for serving our country, and I hope that things work out for you!
Greebo June 30, 2011, 10:02 am
Write two letters: one to him, one to yourself.
In the one to him, lay it all out: the hurt, the anger, the unfairness. Tell him how he abused your trust and what it cost you. Rant and rave. Write for page after page, until you’re exhausted. Then walk away. Come back an hour later and look at what your wrote. Now here’s the kicker–burn it. Don’t send it. If he hasn’t apologized yet, he won’t. Prior writers are right that he doesn’t know he did anything wrong, he doesn’t care and/or he thinks it’s all your fault. Sending him that letter prolongs contact with him that you don’t need.
The second letter? Write a note to yourself about what you saw in him. Acknowledge why you believed you loved him, what you thought you saw. Talk about the signs you missed. Give yourself a chance to be angry with yourself. And trust me: every woman who has been through a horrible relationship (read: most of us) has been furious with ourselves after the fact. Then, at the end of the letter, imagine you listened to a friend say these things. What would you tell her? Chances are that you’d tell her to gently divert her thoughts away from this guy when she caught herself thinking about him. You’d suggest that when the hurt, anger, grief or longing came back, she should acknowledge she’s still mourning the loss of the idea of a perfect love. And then she should turn her attention to something else–baking, working out, reading, whatever. You’d hug her and tell her that this, too, will pass.
Time is a great healer, and always on your side. He has serious problems and behaved badly. You can hold your head up and act with grace and dignity. Be well.
plasticepoxy June 30, 2011, 11:22 am
I love the idea of writing a letter to yourself.
LW July 20, 2011, 5:29 pm
I know this is a little late, but I just wanted to re-iterate how much your comments touched me and positively impacted my feelings on my situation, especially YouGoGirl.