This guy has cost me more Askme questions than he deserves.
October 14, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

How do I get over him (and his family)? They live next door, I see him most days, and I just can't seem to let it go.

His second marriage broke up 4 years ago. He moved in with his parents to get over it. I live next door to his parents. We got together on New Years Eve 2008, not long after he finally got a job (after more than 2 years of drinking beer and watching DVD's all day, all night). He swept me off my feet.

I was besotted and so were my kids. He seemed perfect. Got diamonds on the third finger of the left hand for Christmas last year (commitment ring - he was still married to his suddenly-lesbian wife). Talked about eventual marriage. I said that he couldn't move in with me until he'd lived by himself, I didn't need another child to look after. He assured me that he needed to live by himself too, he wasn't going to rush into another live-in relationship (he married his first wife when she was 16 after knowing her for 5 months, he moved in with the second wife after knowing her for a fortnight.)

When we realised we were getting serious, he was going to find somewhere else to live, buy his own car instead of using his parents car, divorce his second wife, stop spending $200 a week on takeaway food in lieu of cooking, aka get his shit together. He wasn't going to make the same mistake for a third time. I believed him.

Once I got the ring on my finger, he stopped making any effort to pretend to want to move out, buy a car, support himself, etc. His alcoholism became much more apparent (passing out when he sat on my lounge, dropping full cans of beer and lit cigarettes on the floor).

After 18 months he got violent when I pointed out that it was apparent that he wasn't going to do anything he had assured me he would do. His good Catholic father stood at our shared fence and heard his son scream that I'm a lying whore, heard me being thrown into walls and furniture, probably heard my 12 year old daughter sobbing in distress... and did nothing.

I see the ex-boyfriend most days, driving past in his parents car, dressed in the clothes I bought him, wearing the sunglasses I bought him. My kids play in our backyard - he and his parents turn their backs on them (and he'd told me that he'd grown to love them). I can't go into the backyard unless I'm absolutely sure that none of his extended (warped, drug/gambling/alcohol addicted) family are there because I feel so damned uncomfortable.

I can't move. I don't want to move. I have beautiful spring flowers blooming in the gardens that I built myself, even though I rent. We love this house, our landlady is awesome, we're happy here. Except for the neighbours.

I keep trying to ignore them. I do ignore them. But then I get all stewed up inside, I obsess about it.

Please give me a mantra, a technique, something I can do that will finally convince me that these people aren't worth stressing over. I just want to be carefree and happy again, and be able to walk out out back door without checking through the kitchen window first (and then waiting until the coast is clear).
posted by malibustacey9999 to Human Relations (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Why can't you move? Obviously living near these people is causing a lot of stress. If it's doing that to you, imagine what it's doing to your children.

You can build another garden in another house. You can find another wonderful landlord. But it doesn't seem like you'll be able to find peace of mind in the house you're living in now.

Whenever I had a romantic relationship fail, the best thing to get over it was to distance myself from that person. That's a hard thing to do when you live next door.
posted by theichibun at 6:30 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your children saw this bit of trash beat you, and yet. "I don't want to move." Are you sure?
posted by kmennie at 6:32 AM on October 14, 2010 [25 favorites]

If at all possible, get a restraining order against this guy.*

That'll force him to move alright.

*I do not know if this is possible. You will need to check the laws in your state/province/country.
posted by zizzle at 6:36 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

A mantra? How about "I am worth saving. My children are worth saving. We deserve respect and love."

I'm being deadly serious here. You have shared stories here about other abusive partners you've had (unless it's all the same guy, and I've misunderstood). You've got to break this cycle, and I think moving might be the first step in doing so. It's hard to break our habits, and having physical distance between your family and his is probably the best thing for all of you.

As others have said, you can plant another garden and find another awesome landlady. You moving your family isn't about him "running you off" or him winning somehow -- it's about you doing what's necessary for you and your family to be happy and healthy.
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:38 AM on October 14, 2010 [14 favorites]

It might be useful for you to attend Al-Anon meetings, even though you aren't with him anymore. At its heart, Al-Anon is about helping people detach emotionally from destructive relationships. It has helped me distance myself from an alcoholic in my life I wasn't in communication with anymore but who still affected my emotional well being, and has also helped me learn to manage my own mental health in a more effective way.

I know 12 step programs get a lot of flack for the spiritual aspect, but I am an affirmed atheist and it still works for me.
posted by something something at 6:48 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "He swept me off my feet.

I was besotted and so were my kids. He seemed perfect."

It might help to rewrite this part. You were duped. Be angry, upset, irritated, disappointed - whatever - with yourself for not seeing it then. And for letting it go on longer than you (now, wiser) wished it would - holding onto that hope, that promise - with consequences you can't undo. Feel it fully and intensely. Then forgive yourself. Fully and intensely. Once you see the whole arc of this relationship in terms of who you were then, who you are now, and how you can learn from this whole mess, you will have little need to be reminded of the hurt and unresolvedness of it all by his mere visible presence.

This doesn't have to be about anybody but you. Know that you don't need to "do" anything outwardly. You just need to not look away from yourself. When you see those things that remind you of what you gave of yourself (the clothes, sunglasses - these are symbols of style/identity, that he still chooses to carry with him...leaving the rest that you imparted behind), don't attempt to run or quell that feeling. Chase it down, understand what it means to you, for you, why it's happening. Ask yourself the questions and don't shy away from the answers. Soon you will have them, and the whole exercise will be old, tired, boring - whatever - you will be on to new things. But hit this head on. There's some personal growth that needs to happen, some inner strength that you will need to cultivate if you are to feasibly live next door to this trainwreck of a man and hold onto those invisible boundaries guarding against him entering your happy head and home.

Good luck. I know you can do this.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:52 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing that even though you believe you can't move, you should really do whatever you can to make that happen.

All the other choices I can imagine for you to take (off the dome, anyway) are felonies.
posted by Citrus at 6:52 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing that might help you is changing how you're thinking about this.

That man and his family were awful to you and yours, it's true. You were kind to him, and he took advantage, and I understand how infuriating and upsetting that must me.

But you have your health. You have a loving family of your own, a home you take care of and take pride in, a sustainable lifestyle that doesn't involve drunken stupors or physical abuse or living with your parents. You had to buy him clothes and sunglasses because he's incapable of taking care of himself. He's still living next door because he can't get his life together, not even enough to find a shitty apartment. He's no longer in a relationship with a kind, caring woman because he couldn't find it in himself to act like a decent human being or follow through on his commitments and intentions.

He's not really deserving of your sympathy or your pity, but he's absolutely pitiful. And there you are, with your wonderful family and your beautiful home right next door, a constant reminder of all the things he could have had if he'd been a stronger, healthier, more decent person, instead of a self-destructive, addicted, dependent one. When you see him driving by, think about the fact that he's an idiot who threw away a good thing, who can't sustain anything resembling a happy, adult life.

All of that said, I agree that you should move as soon as you can and get a fresh start. I agree that you should use that transition as a chance to reevaluate your own desires, standards and priorities for relationships, so that you can better avoid getting into a situation like this one again. But until then, don't let him intimidate you out of living your life. At least you have one, which is more than he can say at this point.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:58 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Consider what you're modeling to your 12-year-old daughter by living in a place where you're so uncomfortable that you won't go out into the garden you love so much, that you built for yourself, because you're worried about running into your (horrible) neighbors and ex. Consider what your kids must be feeling, living next door to a man who abused and betrayed them and you. Even if you find a mantra for yourself, I doubt your kids can will themselves into being comfortable next door to that family.

There's no shame in moving away from this toxic person. It doesn't mean he "wins" or that you're weak. Moving away means showing your kids that sometimes, the best and healthiest thing to do is hard and requires some amount of sacrifice--but that making such an effort is so incredibly worth it in the end. Give up this house and its garden. Thank your lucky stars that this is a rental and you can just leave it without too much hassle. Find a new house, build a new garden that you can be in, joyfully, whenever you want, without fear or discomfort.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:59 AM on October 14, 2010 [21 favorites]

I can't move. I don't want to move. I have beautiful spring flowers blooming in the gardens that I built myself, even though I rent. We love this house, our landlady is awesome, we're happy here. Except for the neighbours.

You rent? Then there's nothing preventing you from moving somewhere else. Find someone to rent your place so you can leave before the lease is up if you have to. If neighbors are making you miserable where you live, then you should live somewhere else, even if the drama with your neighbor being your ex wasn't a factor. My mom's ex was (and is) a real piece of work, and I know I'm glad she cut him completely out of her life and moved us as far away from him and his drama as possible. I'm sure your kids would appreciate it if you did the same.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:59 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: He's an abusive, alcoholic, married 45 year old man that lives with his parents, drives his parents car, and wears the clothes you bought him. Frankly, he sounds like a major loser. Try to keep in mind that you were fooled into falling for him, but now you see him for what he really is.
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:00 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mantra: "I love myself. I love my kids. We deserve to be loved."

And sadly yes, you may need to move if that's what it takes to protect those that you love (you and your kids!).
posted by motsque at 7:03 AM on October 14, 2010

Not only do you need to move, but moving, as hard as it will be, will feel good in the end. You don't need to do it tomorrow, but you need a fresh start. Symbols help, gestures that really will signify this new beginning for you. Planting a new garden is about as symbolic as you can get, there. Finding a new place to live. Packing up your things and moving on. Going through the heartbreak of leaving things behind that you loved... and the joy of finding new things that make you happy.

Having them next door--not just him, but his family--providing that example in the long term will not be good for your kids. His proximity and your associated discomfort and fear are not good for you or your kids.

It will be hard. Like running uphill. But when you're done with it all, and you feel safe and secure, you will be able to look forward to the rest of your life and start to actually let go of everything that happened. Seeing him all the time... no, I don't think there's a mantra that can deal with it. I could not start coming through the more awful bits of my own life until I was out and elsewhere, because constantly having contact with them, even fleeting contact, kept dragging it all back up again. It was like picking at a wound. As hard as it might be, don't let yourself stay here.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:31 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

If moving seems overwhelming, can you get away for a bit, even to like a relative's house, just for some breathing room? Spend the weekend on the other side of town or something and then regroup.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:03 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, you have a nice garden. On the other hand, you and your children live next to an abusive alcoholic who called you a "lying whore" in front of your fully-cognizant daughter and nearly burned all of you to death. And his "warped, drug/gambling/alcohol addicted" family who, it seems like, wouldn't keep your daughter from running into traffic were it to come down to that.

You know where they have nice houses to rent and a garden you can take care of? Other places. You know where there aren't toxic people that you have to watch out for before letting your kids play outside? Other places.

Don't think your obsessing is just you. This is pretty much textbook giving-your-kids-neuroses. Move for her sake if not yours.
posted by griphus at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I rent.

posted by WeekendJen at 8:14 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why do you subject your kids to these people who have treated their mother and them like crap? That's something you have control over, and they don't. You need to move. Take your time and find an awesome place.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:26 AM on October 14, 2010

I have beautiful spring flowers blooming in the gardens that I built myself, even though I rent. We love this house, our landlady is awesome, we're happy here.

Flowers can be replaced, hell mine die half the time from chipmunks anyway. What can't be replaced is your daughter's image of a healthy relationship, and your children watching you live with fear and anger.

If your landlady is awesome, talk to her, see if she has other properties. If not, explain the situation and see if she knows anyone else who might.

I know that isn't the answer you came here for, but a mantra of "I am an example to my children" is a good one all around.
posted by librarianamy at 8:27 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may not want to move, but you need to move. This man is violent. You have children. This man beat you in front of your children and now they have to see him everyday. Not ok. I don't care about your flowers and I can't believe you do either. If your landlady is so awesome she'll let you break your lease after you explain the situation. You are further traumatizing your children by staying. How can they possibly feel safe in their home? You have to move. This is really non negotiable.
posted by whoaali at 8:32 AM on October 14, 2010 [11 favorites]

My mantra is 'leyland cyprus trees grow really fast'. They make a great, natural privacy fence.
posted by matty at 8:40 AM on October 14, 2010

If you can't even go out in the yard most of the time, what's teh point of your wonderful garden that keeps you from moving?

Shit. Plant a new garden. At a new place. Consider the old garden paying it forward to your awesome landlord's new tenant, maybe a consolation prize to them for having to live next door to awful wretches.
posted by notsnot at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't want to move, don't move. Unless your neighbors (ex and his family) are actively doing something to you or your family when you see them (throwing things or screaming at you, or something else bad).

You didn't lose something that was good for you - you shed the weight of kind of an awful situation. And every single time you see one of them you can think about how lucky you are not to still be involved with them. Really, really lucky.

Do you really want a guy like that? You can be sad that he wasn't the guy you thought he was in the beginning - but he wasn't that guy.

Those sunglasses and crap you bought him? Semi-expensive lessons.

You don't have to be ashamed that it's over. You don't have to hang your head. You hold your head up and be proud of who *you* are. They can only make you uncomfortable if you let them - it sounds trite but it's true.

You sit down and talk to your daughter and say look, I know that you saw some terrible things, and I don't want you to think that's how relationships should be, and I know it's weird that they still live next door, are you okay with this? If she's not, then sorry, you have to find a way to move, and you have to determine that not just on what she says but how she says it and how she acts. If it's damaging to your kids, you move.

And I think the best model for your daughter is showing her a model of bouncing back and not getting back into a bad situation. If you can't do that, then you need to move.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:24 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: from this question:
Maybe I should explain that he hit me. It will be a cold day in hell before I share the same space as that man again. He repeatedly declined to accept the ring back. And if all goes well, I'll never lay eyes on the bastard again anyway.

that was written in july of this year. it would probably serve you well to remember that.
posted by msconduct at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm going to join the chorus of folks here and say that you should move. Get the hell away from this guy and stop letting him influence your life.
posted by brand-gnu at 9:57 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Move. Please move.
posted by seventyfour at 10:44 AM on October 14, 2010

Handy though, having y'all so close, the night he needs someone to blame for how shit his life is.
posted by Iteki at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all responses. Since I was already overstepping the tl;dr boundaries with the question, I left a few points out. So, some tl;dr clarification:

My kids don't want to move. I've asked them multiple times since that night if they feel safe, did they want to move because we'd go in a heartbeat if that's what they wanted. They insist they feel very safe in our (fully-fenced, very secure) house, and that they're happy here (very close to their school, their friends, their grandparents). My daughter had a few nights of restless sleep immediately after that night, but settled back into her normal routine within a week. A couple of times I've been 'down' and said "I think we might have to move" and they've been horrified at the thought. They have no qualms whatsoever about going into our backyard, because the ex and his family act like we're all invisible. The neighbours don't speak to us, they don't look at us, they don't acknowledge us in any way.

In fact the kids spend more time in the backyard now than they have over the last few years we've been here. They are completely unfazed by the presence of the neighbours. (Sometimes I wonder if my daughter jumps on the squeaky trampoline just to make a point to them.) Honestly, believe me - they learned a valuable lesson about domestic violence but they are not as risk of mental or physical damage. If they were, I wouldn't be writing this question, I'd be packing.

He and his family have gotten over us completely. I think that's part of the reason why I'm still obsessing, still fuming, still firing up with anger at the sight of the ex driving past. My kids became very close to his family, and the fact that they can just be cut off like that... I find that cruel. Obviously none of them have a guilty conscience.

The backyard consists of a lawn, a trampoline, and sports/play equipment. My beloved garden is at the front of the house. We live on a corner, the neighbours front door is around the corner from our front door (and garden). The back fence of our place is the side fence of their place.

I feel utterly safe in the house. Hell, I feel utterly safe in our fenced backyard. This is all in my head, seriously.

I know from his past history (told to me both by him and others) that when he goes through a breakup, he just moves hundreds of kilometres away and starts again. I think I was subconsciously waiting for him to disappear so I could then just ignore the rest of them and get on with life. Now I can see that was ridiculous: he's living with his PARENTS, ffs, he's an alcoholic who has burned his bridges with friends and other family, where is he going to go?

A friend said to me this morning, "oh, he'll go eventually. In a hearse." (He liked to boast about his horrific liver test results to anyone who'd listen.)

Maybe I should just focus on how good I'll feel the day that happens.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:27 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and he has a new girlfriend, so that reinforces my feelings that he's moved on. I don't matter enough for him to come over and break in and start on me again. I honestly believe that.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:28 PM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: That last post you put up reminded me of how I felt when my fiance vanished in the night. I seriously considered killing myself and what saved me was actually that he didn't care. Since my death wouldn't have bothered him in the least, well, I figured I might as well live and enjoy my life. Seems like an odd pathway to finding my life again, but you know it worked.

Strangely one of his ex-girlfriends DID contact me and told me how self-centered he is. The reason she called? To apologize for "stealing" him from me. He had just dumped her for some other woman and I guess she wanted to bond or something. I had to say "Thanks" because honestly with him I would never made it to Paris or a thousand other places, met fabulous people, and had great adventures.

So don't focus on his death. FOCUS ON YOUR LIFE. I think you need to throw yourself into things you enjoy whole-heartedly, and eventually those feelings you have will totally fall away. It takes time and effort, but I'm guessing someday soon you'll realize that the end of that relationship was not only necessary but actually a good thing for both you and your kids.

But a side note about your kids and their response to moving. Kids like what's familiar. Of course they're gonna freak out about moving. (This is the better the devil you know than the one you don't response.) But sometimes you don't know how bad things are UNTIL you are in a different situation. If you can find another place in the area (thus keeping friends/grandparents close), I would seriously look into it.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:12 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sell the ring - it's just a piece of rock - and move. Moving can be a horrible pain in the arse but the benefits will far outweight the short-term upheaval.

When I was 17 my then-boyfriend broke up with me, got a new girlfriend two weeks later, and I kept seeing them around our small college for a year. It messed with my mind incredibly. Now, as an adult, I would not put up with or put myself through that sort of situation again.
posted by mippy at 4:21 AM on October 15, 2010

This is going to sound all kinds of awful, condescending, and pedantic. But, I really feel like I have to say this:

You're the mom. Overrule your kids. It's not a democracy, it's your family. More important than location-based conveniences and perks, your family needs for YOU to be whole. And, if that requires that you move a few blocks away, or even to another town, then you do it. Kids are adaptable. They'll grouse for a week or three, and then they'll get used to it.

Sorry, I wish that there was a better way to put it.
posted by Citrus at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

My kids don't want to move. I've asked them multiple times since that night if they feel safe, did they want to move because we'd go in a heartbeat if that's what they wanted.

And if you asked them what they wanted for dinner, they'd pick ice cream floats. You're the mom. You're the adult. You make the decision because they are children and, inherently, do not have the ability make the right decision in very complex matters, especially when forethought is involved.

This is all in my head, seriously.

Trust me, kids pick up on this stuff.
posted by griphus at 8:18 AM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

In re. the light second pile-on here -- like miss-lapin said. Your children are children. They know: home, our home!

They do not know: how much better it would be to have a home that is not right next to the dude who beat up Mom.

Focusing on how great it'll be when he dies is a dreadful idea. All that sort of nonsense does is keep you trapped, not over it in the least. Dwelling on this stuff is very useless; it tends to be rather self-defeating, constantly reminding oneself of how appalling one's taste was not so long ago. Pick up and move, literally and metaphorically, and focus on your happy future.

Bad situations happen. Following them with "Mom dwelled on it" is not a good example, but "Mom picked us up and made things even better than they were before the bad thing" will be great for your kids.

You in your previous Q, about the ring: "Rest assured that a charity which helps women escape violent and/or dangerous situations will benefit financially from this." Meh, forget the charity. Use the proceeds to buy yourself a new and nicer garden elsewhere.

It is not fair that you should move, but. There is just no way your kids forgot him beating you, no way they are looking at once-close adults who now cold-shoulder them and thinking that the world is a nice place. Even if the ex was totally out of this scenario and you simply had neighbours who did nothing to help you when you were being assaulted? It would still be bordering on a 'you should move' scenario. Who wants trash like that next door? Why send the message that those are normal humans and desirable neighbours?
posted by kmennie at 8:42 AM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: You've convinced me.

I still feel like it will be a victory for him and his pathetic family, but I can clearly understand now that we would be much better off just to move.

I'll ring the landlady today - she has a few rental properties - and explain. Hopefully she has another place we can move into soon.

Thank you.

PS: I don't let my kids make the decisions. But I didn't want to uproot them if it was just a case of 'I need to harden up and get over it'.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:07 PM on October 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Excellent! I'm glad you realized that in this case, "hardening up and getting over it" means "conceding defeat" to these people... even though it's really a huge victory for you. Not just because you're going to be away from them, but because you were strong enough to take that step.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:41 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: I still feel like it will be a victory for him and his pathetic family, but I can clearly understand now that we would be much better off just to move.

It is not a victory for them. You're the one making the decisions and having the power over your life. The decisions you try to make for yourself and your kids to have a better life are good for you. You're not battling these people- you're moving on, because they are not worth your time or energy.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:32 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wow, good for you. You have a right to reclaim your life from these utter a-holes and you're doing it! Yay!!
posted by tristeza at 9:52 PM on October 16, 2010

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