How do you find the strength to walk away?
October 22, 2014 12:00 PM   Subscribe

How do yo determine if the problem is you, or the other person, and if it is time to just give up and surrender? I am here to seek help in a relationship I feel may be emotionally abusive, but am questioning my sanity and if it was really me- how do you tell? It's easy to point the finger at someone else and push off blame, but I'm starting to blame myself.

I was in a relationship with someone for two years that tested my strength, patience and love every couple of months. He has admitted throughout this time that he doesn't know how I did it, how I forgave or got past certain things, and doesn't know how I had the patience for him. I did somehow, and put up with a lot I normally wouldn't have because this man brought so much strength and growth to my life, and helped really encourage me to grow as a woman. I have never met anyone that has had such a wonderful impact on my life, but has also brought me to my knees and caused so much damage emotionally. He had everything together when I met him, he seemed positve and uplifting, encouraging and had all the traits I sought out in a partner. On the surface, he was it. Everyone loved him that met him and he had a charisma that lit up a room. Then I started seeing this side that I wasn't sure how to react to. I am a bit clumsy, things literally have the tendency to fly out of my hands, and I drop everything, I mean no harm by it but it started when I dropped an egg and he sort of "lost it" said he needed a woman who could pay attention more, or was two steps ahead of him. Every few months something would happen where he would tell a lie about something that woulnd't have been a big deal had he told me. Then he would run at any sign of trouble or an argument. I found out he had been flirting/exploring/talking to exes or other women while we were committed to one another. He judge and questions past decisions or mistakes I had made, said my friends weren't that great and told me I lacked substance; I asked him to leave and unfortunatly he would come back professing his love and apologizing saying I was everything he needed and wanted in a woman, and that he deosn't know why he has to "sabaotge everything good that was in his life."

I know with all of the things I accepted or worked to forgive, he lost respect for me, and I didn't stand up for what I deserved. I know I should have walked away sooner. But, I didn't and that is why I am here. He has somehow turned this on to me now saying that he changed me for the better and that I am not the same woman I was two years ago, that I needed someone like him in my life, that I will never find anyone who will care about me and do some of the things he did for me that he did. He also went on to say that since meeting me he feels he has neglected his life, done nothing for himself, and that he has never been in such a "volitle" relationship, that I brought out sides of him that he never knew existed, and that hes not sure what I have brought to him or us. Mind you, this was after he was actively trying to "get me back" and I refused to engage. He showed up on my door stop with a diamond band promise ring telling me that he promises to be the man I deserve, he sent an e-mail to my parents without my knowledge appologizing for treating me poorly and any less than I deserve and that he wants to be the man to put two feet in and be there for me and requested their time and forgiveness. It is so hard to be in a situation where the man you were with is all of a sudden saying and doing the "right" things, but I feel it is too little too late, and that makes me feel terrible, I almost feel he was trying to buy me off or manipulate me into staying with an expensive ring. His explanation is that he wasn't as committed as he claimed to be with me the past 2 years because he wasn't sure what he wanted, or that he wanted to be with me (he never expressed this, he always wanted mutual 100% committment from me and for us, at least I thought), he said anytime he flirted or was involved with someone else was because he just wasn't sure we would make it or I was the one because there were certain things about me he didnt like. He has once said I wasn't the woman worth putting two feet in. It's hard for me to shoulder respsonsibility of him changing careers, or negelecting aspects of his life, when I feel my life the past two years even through the bad has been full of growth and great experiences. It's hard to hear someone tell you you did nothing for them, so I don't understand if he feels that way why he is trying to hard to get me back? I start to question, maybe it was me, maybe I am not worthy of him putting two feet in, and I can't take that feeling of guilt. He is not understanding that I was so damaged and my trust gone from the past that I hold on to so much resentment and hurt that I don't think I can get back. He has a way of conning me back into a relationship and I want to stay strong and away, but how do I know this isn't the time he really sees the light. I am 31, he is 36- I have a great education and career, my own home and wonderful family/friends, I think I am a pretty good person with great values and ambition, I am not perfect and do have my problems (mainly maybe 4-5 times in 2 years I drank a little too much and either tripped or was too loud for his liking, or "sloppy" in his eyes). He thinks my life was too easy and that I didn't have struggles, or even know who I am or what my "purpose" in life is.

I am afraid he has maniuplated me or cut me down so much that I am starting to question myself and believe what he says or questions me on: maybe I am just this lost woman with no direction or purpose/meaning, maybe I am too clumsy or have one too many glasses of wine, maybe my life was too easy and I don't have enough substance for a quality man, maybe I am such a bad person that I brought him to dark horrible places that nobody else has- it has to be me.

I have never experienced a "healthy" realtionship with a man, which is sad, and I am in therapy now to figure it out, so I'm not even sure what is healthy or normal, and how a person should be treated. My parents had a very healthy marriage and are still married after 36 years, I have friends and other family that are in wonderful realtionships, and I have no real "damage" that occured while I was younger, but I almost seek these men that are just a little unattainable, or treat me less than what I deserve. I am proud of my accomplishments and where I am, I know it wasn't easy, but I do find that I don't give myself enough credit and he has had the ability to kind of hone into those insecurities I hold onto myself. How do I get myself out of this self sabatoge where I am believing all the negative someone else is questioning me on regarding my life and who I am?
posted by DMVgirl to Human Relations (48 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This post is absolutely littered with red flags. He has very very effectively manipulated you into doubting yourself. From an outside perspective the nastiness of this situation is very clear.

Delete him from your life and keep working with your therapist. Best wishes to you.
posted by mymbleth at 12:07 PM on October 22, 2014 [34 favorites]

Oh my god this sounds exactly like my ex/kids' dad, from the flirting to the random apology email to my parents to the diamond ring! While in retrospect I do believe I made a lot of mistakes in the relationship, that it brought out the worst in me and I am not proud of the way I acted, in the end I do believe he was not such a great person and that I did not deserve to be treated like crap the way he treated me like crap. I'm still not 100% sure how a healthy relationship feels or looks, but this is absolutely not it.

He has once said I wasn't the woman worth putting two feet in.

Oh bull shit. Then he can take both his feet and march them elsewhere, you utterly don't need that kind of manipulation and put-down in your life. Even if you WERE a person with flaws who wasn't ready for a solid relationship (which there is nothing here to say that you are), he either commits to working with you as you are or he doesn't. Period. This stringing-along is completely fucked.
posted by celtalitha at 12:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Stop agonizing over what you should or shouldn't have done differently, this guy is a manipulative motherfucker and you're better off cutting him completely out of your life. Block him on your phone, email, social media. Your last message to him should be that if he shows up on your doorstep uninvited again you will call the police and get a restraining order.

Continue with the therapy and do all the things that make you feel good about yourself.
posted by mareli at 12:13 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

This guy is using every line in the abuser's playbook. Please get a copy of Gavin de Becker's gif of Fear and read it. Your boyfriend seems to be showing all of the signs.
posted by SillyShepherd at 12:17 PM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

If he is so improved now and has seen the error of his ways, he will be a wonderful partner for someone new, someone he has not hurt and worn down. Even if you improve and change, you aren't entitled to start anew with people you hurt.

Frankly, he sounds creepy as hell. He sounds like - even if he believes what he's saying - he's mostly motivated by the desire to get you back under his thumb.

Also, none of this is how healthy grown adults have relationships. Getting mad at someone because they get tipsy a couple of times a year? Calling them "sloppy"? Telling them they haven't struggled enough? That all would be just barely excusable in a teenager because he might be a nice person who was still in a kind of simple-moralistic-thinking stage. In a grown man, it's a huge red flag.

maybe I am just this lost woman with no direction or purpose/meaning, maybe I am too clumsy or have one too many glasses of wine, maybe my life was too easy and I don't have enough substance for a quality man, maybe I am such a bad person that I brought him to dark horrible places that nobody else has- it has to be me.

No, you are not a lost woman with no direction, bringer of dark places, etc etc. What nonsense is this? What soap opera does he think he's living in? I bet the "direction" he means is "the direction of doing exactly what makes him feel happiest in the moment".

Also, if you are living a stable, decent life (and aren't, like, a spoiled start-up millionaire abusing your staff or something) then your life has not been "too easy". Fortunate, maybe - if you've had a stable upbringing and no major sources of unhappiness, that's great. Everyone should have your luck! Saying that your life has been "too easy" is just like all those people who talk about how union employees make "too much" money and have "too good" benefits....where they're trying to redefine "what is normal and acceptable" downward so that shitty treatment comes to seem normal.

If you're away from this dude, stay away.
posted by Frowner at 12:20 PM on October 22, 2014 [23 favorites]

To elaborate on something... tons of people will come in and say you don't deserve this and he's treating you like shit. This is true. But from the inside, I will say this: what nasty people (or partially nasty people, you don't even have to demonize him to know his behavior is nasty) do is they take small flaws, tiny foibles, preexisting points of insecurity, and they pry open those cracks and exacerbate them to monstrous proportions until they make you believe that having normal human quirks or imperfections actually makes you unworthy of love or commitment. And then, ironically, instead of walking away from you at once (because you're so unworthy!) they continue to offer their love and commitment on a stick for when you become perfect (whatever their definition of that is). It's a sick game.

Realistically though: in a very utilitarian sense - think of it this way: even if you think you can or should become a better person, do you believe that this sort of put-down and discouragement is ever going to get you there? Do you really think that this is providing a loving and nurturing environment for you to grow and improve? Yeah, I don't think so. Good relationships do tend to bring out our best, but not by threats and put-downs. So if nothing else than that - even if you find it difficult to see yourself positively right now - think about protecting your core self. Allowing it to grow in a healthy way. Because you can't grow in a healthy way in this environment, period.
posted by celtalitha at 12:21 PM on October 22, 2014 [66 favorites]

He doesn't have to be a bad person to be bad for you.
posted by amtho at 12:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

We all have flaws- it's what makes us human. In a loving relationship, these things should not be thrown in your face. A healthy, loving relationship is a place where those things are explored as a couple so that you grow together. Clearly, that is not what is happening here.

He's using every manipulative trick in the book. Is that how a loving partner treats the love of his life?

Please know that his faults are just that: HIS. Telling you that he's "neglected his life" is a nasty thing to say. He's the one who's responsible for what he does- or doesn't do- with his life, not you. Please do not let him to creep into your own confidence and sense of self-awareness.

Only you can decide if this is a place where you want to be, but deep down in your heart, you probably already know.

I recommend the book (NOT the movie) "He's Just Not that Into You" by Greg Behrendt & Liz Tucillo. It's a good wakeup call for smart women everywhere to know what a healthy relationship- and what it isn't. Best of luck to you- I'll be sending you lots of good thoughts your way in this difficult time.

Also, what celtalitha said!
posted by chatelaine at 12:27 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't even tell you how much of your story matches exactly with my experience in my own abusive relationship. You can read through my history here if you'd like.

One of the most common experiences of abusive relationships is that the abuser manipulates the victim into thinking that they are the abusive one. My ex used this tactic with me over and over and over and had me convinced that I was unethical (he made me buy ethics textbooks and gave me quizzes), stupid (he got his hands into my career in a significant way because I was "too dumb" to make decisions about it on my own), ugly (he made me lose a significant amount of weight, so much that I was diagnosed with anorexia), helpless (I had no friends and no support system when I finally left), etc. etc. etc.

God I am so glad I dumped that - sorry for my French - asshole.

I don't understand if he feels that way why he is trying to hard to get me back?
Because abusers want only one thing: control. They use fear to control you, and when fear doesn't work, they use honey and sugar and diamond rings. The Gift of Fear is a great book; it in, the author describes why red roses as an apology are actually just a bouquet of red flags. My abuser got me red roses after he hit me the first time, because he was so sorry. He couldn't believe that roses weren't enough of an apology. A diamond ring doesn't say "sorry" either. NOT BEING ABUSIVE EVER AGAIN and doing the WORK to get to a place where you don't have to abuse to get what you want is the only thing that says "sorry." Both your man and mine seem incapable of that type of true apology.

There is a model called The Cycle of Violence that is so accurate it scares me. The Wheel of Violence is a good one to look at as well. Uncanny how exactly those wheels match up with my experience. Check them out.

When I gave my abuser the wheel of power with all of the things he had done to me highlighted, do you want to know what he did?

He went through the diagram and highlighted all of the things I had done to him to prove that I was really the abusive one. Some of the things I did, I did in self defense - like hitting him, once (which I profoundly regret) when he was restraining me in order to get out of his grip. He convinced me that I was abusive because I had "used physical violence against him," when really - truly - I used it to get out of the physical violence he was bestowing on me at that moment. He had tons of examples and they were all, frankly, total bull. He was the abuser, not me.

I suggest that you also get your hands on a few books. These books REALLY helped me when I was in a similar position:
Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft
The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans

What you are going through is extreme cognitive dissonance. It is incredibly difficult and painful to come to terms with the fact that you love or did love an abusive person. I know, because I came to terms with it myself, and it is the hardest thing I have ever grappled with in my entire life. Asking questions like the ones you are asking here is the best thing you can do for yourself. Stay away from him as much as you can, and keep asking questions. Also: my personal therapist was integral in my leaving process. Do you have a therapist? If not, I suggest you try to find one. If you can't - or even if you can - also consider contacting your local women's shelter to see if they have any support groups. My group was another huge piece of the puzzle for me - they taught me how to leave and how to stay away.

Take care. Oh, and MeMail me if you'd like. I have been in your shoes and I always say that the only valuable thing that came out of my experience is helping other women and men in the same boat. I am glad to talk or just listen to you vent. So is the Domestic Violence Support Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. I called them a TON when I was leaving and they are staffed with incredible, kind, lovely people. Consider giving them a call to chat whenever you need. They can help.

Best of luck to you on this journey. It is difficult but incredibly rewarding. You are worth it. You are worth it. I promise.
posted by sockermom at 12:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [31 favorites]

Like sockermom just wrote above, the one thing that I wish someone told me when I have been in crappy relationships with unhealthy dynamics is that love is not enough of a reason to continue an unhealthy relationship.

At the time, it always seemed like the most painful and impossible paradox, "how can I love someone so much and still leave?"

Thing is, healthy relationships are built on healthy behavior, things like respect and healthy communication.

His behavior towards you hasn't been showing any of that.

You are stronger than you think you are.
posted by twill at 12:35 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

RUN. Run and NEVER look back. OP, I was committed to a man like this for 5 years. Do you want 3 more years of this? You are beautiful, smart, unique, kind, compassionate, and an amazing woman, friend, daughter. You deserve SO SO MUCH MORE than what this man has to offer you. Please, you are clearing the fog of his manipulation and are almost out of the woods of this torment. Please, OP, go no-contact and cut him out of your life like there's no tomorrow. I know he may have his good qualities, my ex did too. But what is more important? You? Or him? Men like this cannot love until they have worked out their own issues and it seems that rather than him putting the work in to truly show you he's "changed", he is manipulating you by buying jewelry. Say what? You are not a prize to be won and no one, I mean NO ONE can tell you that you're not enough. Because you ARE enough OP, and you deserve love, respect, and mutual admiration. Things this man will not offer you because you are right. He has cut you down and wormed his way into your mind and heart and he's trying to see how far he can go until you have lost your very sense of identity. Don't look back. You have so many great things going for you in life. Continue with therapy and find out why these men are drawn to you, how to recognize red flags and how to avoid getting into relationships with men that will not respect you. You don't need this man. He doesn't need you. Keep walking, nothing to see here.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:40 PM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

In case you are open to reading, these two books have helped me tremendously: The Little Black Book of Red Flags and How to Be an Adult in Relationships.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:42 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

This guy sounds horrible and abusive. Get away and stay away. You need a good long stretch (preferably one that lasts the rest of your life) during which you don't hear, read, or otherwise encounter his words (don't let friends of family recount things he said to them.) That's step one. He is actively trying to manipulate you and you need to be free of his voice so that you can get back a sense of yourself.

Once you've had some time away from him, maybe then you can figure our the answers to your questions. Or maybe trying to do so will start to seem less important. I'm sure you have some flaws, as we all do, but trying to allocate fault for problems in your relationship right now will only result in you blaming yourself (unjustly) because he has spent two years messing with your head and is still doing so. Getting free of his influence is key.

(One of his key complaints is that you are clumsy or sloppy? That's nuts. My wife is total klutz. She trips and drops things all the time. That doesn't matter one bit to me. Why would it matter so much to any reasonable person? This guy is (a) horrible and (b) really grasping at straws. His complaints about you are so lame.)
posted by Area Man at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

His explanation is that he wasn't as committed as he claimed to be with me the past 2 years because he wasn't sure what he wanted, or that he wanted to be with me (he never expressed this, he always wanted mutual 100% committment from me and for us, at least I thought), he said anytime he flirted or was involved with someone else was because he just wasn't sure we would make it or I was the one because there were certain things about me he didnt like.

Those are some awfully damning things he said about the relationship. He admitted he lied. He misled you about his commitment. He actively sought out other potential relationships as a fallback if your relationship didn't hold up. He said there were things about you he didn't like that in his mind effectively gave him a green light to approach other women. None of this is on you, by the way - he sounds unreliable, dishonest and manipulative.

Whatever growth you experienced was despite him, by the sound of it, or rather because of what you learned from handling this awful person. It would seem to this outsider that you have little to gain from resuming this relationship.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:46 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's him.

Read ALL the books recommended above to fully understand why.
posted by tel3path at 12:48 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I stopped reading and dropped down to comment when I got to the diamond band promise ring. Oh, this is so not about you. You are dealing with a classic abuser who roped you in with sweetness and has now got you suffering and at his beck and call.

He may well be broken himself but you can't fix him and you are not at fault. You need to DTMFA, though, and completely/for good. Enjoy the lack of craziness and then consider maybe talking to someone who will say just what I am saying -- this is him, not you.

Also, you deserve much, much better than this from any future relationship. As in, someone who stays warm and supportive forever.
posted by bearwife at 12:50 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

It's simple - if a relationship is as confusing as this, then you need it to end.

Believe that if you are not ready to believe what everyone in this thread is trying to tell you.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

You know what healthy relationships look like. You know you deserve good things. These are two great steps! It's going to take time and effort to stop believing some of the crap you've been told by this guy over the past couple of years.

How do you stop self-sabotaging? Continue therapy, talk with your therapist about that being a goal (if she or he can't help you, look into other therapy), and don't listen to him any more - blocking is good.

One of the things I've learned from metafilter and a healthy relationship is that a good relationship is Easy. You still work at the relationship, but it makes you feel better Every Day. You deserve a strong and supportive relationship - now work on truly believing that in therapy.
posted by ldthomps at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's easy to point the finger at someone else and push off blame, but I'm starting to blame myself.

It doesn't matter whether it's you or it's him. It's not healthy for you. That's reason enough.
posted by headnsouth at 1:19 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think people have been pretty clear about what you need to do, but if you need an additional perspective, try this one: this relationship is too much of a mess to save. There doesn't need to be a fault if that's hanging you up.

This is like a bad job or a school that isn't providing the training you need. Pick something else.

Go be alone for a while, get to know yourself, and learn to care about yourself so much that you won't let people mess around with you anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

One more thing: suppose it is you. That's awful and horrifying to contemplate but just suppose it.

The only way to change it is to do what you're doing: get help. Take care of yourself. The advice remains the same whether or not it's you causing this (but trust me, it's not). The only way abusive people can change is with help.

Going to a therapist is wise. I'm proud of you for taking that step (sorry I missed it in my last comment). That's great. Whether it's you or him, going to a therapist on your own will help you get through whatever this is.

Good on you. Keep doing what you're doing. It is working and will continue to work.
posted by sockermom at 1:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

He has somehow turned this on to me now saying ..... that I needed someone like him in my life, that I will never find anyone who will care about me and do some of the things he did for me that he did

Rubbish! Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish! oh that makes me SOO mad!

He's an abusive ars*hole. YOU could do much, much better. He wants someone he can control, break down, abuse, stamp on, sh*t on and use as a doormat.

I can see that you're a new user to Ask Mefi and I see that this is the first question you've ever asked here on the green. Good - it was the RIGHT question to ask, and I'm truly hoping you can see from the answers so far that he is as bad as it gets.

Good luck, stay strong, trust your gut
posted by JenThePro at 1:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Read your question back to yourself and imagine it's your best friend. Hear her say these words out loud to you. What are you feeling for her? What would your gut tell you to say to her? Take yourself out of the picture and consider what your advice would be if someone you loved described this relationship. Then be your own best friend. Leave.

Find out what makes you happy in yourself, not a relationship. Then find someone who thinks all your opinions and your quirks and your needs are valuable and loveable and deserving of respect, because they are. And so are you. Look after yourself.
posted by billiebee at 1:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

This was me, but it was 15 years before I walked away. I even have the "promise" ring to show for it.

My only advice is, don't let any more time go by without thinking seriously about what you want for yourself.

It might be hard to believe but in the blink of an eye it will be 10 years from now and you will wonder where your life went. It's so easy to just go along and think that someone being willing to put up with you is the same thing as being loved. It's not.
posted by cabingirl at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

A partner in a healthy relationship should not make you feel like a horrible person for having normal human foibles. If you feel you have to be on "perfect" behavior all the time in order to deserve love or respect, it's time to leave the relationship.
posted by jaguar at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Like so many of the women who have commented above, I wish I could fast forward through the next few years of your life and show you the other side of this, crystal ball-style. In lieu of that, all I can do is tell you that breaking up with someone who goes out of their way to undermine your self-worth, someone who lies to and misleads you until you're given to questioning your own sanity? It's the best decision you'll ever make.

Dudes like this will do everything in their power to destabilize and uproot your most foundational feelings and beliefs because it keeps you weak and foundering, and you're absolutely right to recognize this as unvarnished manipulation. He's 36, an age at which a 180-degree personality change is generally understood as unlikely to be in the cards, and life is far too short to keep casting pearls after swine.

Not spending another solitary second of your life doubting your own mind because some garbage-y dude has taken it upon himself to gaslight you is a beautiful, almost otherworldly experience. Eventually you'll start wondering how you ever dealt with a single molecule of his nonsense, but let me tell you, the sudden post-breakup absence of his relentless second-guessing, judgment, and inexplicable consternation over your perfectly human traits is liable to make you feel like a brand new woman within days, if not hours. It feels like freedom. It IS freedom.

So call your wonderful family and friends, tell them about how you're feeling, wait for them to tell you what you secretly already know, and then go out for daiquiris to steel your nerves before you pull the proverbial trigger and DTMFA.

Good luck, we're rooting for you!
posted by divined by radio at 1:51 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just thank your lucky stars you are not married to or have kids with this monster. You have dodged a bullet. Keep running.
posted by misseva at 1:53 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

He has somehow turned this on to me now saying that he changed me for the better and that I am not the same woman I was two years ago, that I needed someone like him in my life, that I will never find anyone who will care about me and do some of the things he did for me that he did

I quit reading at this sentence and came down here to say this: GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM THIS GUY FOREVER. He is gaslighting the shit out of you.
posted by palomar at 1:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, and to answer the question of how you get yourself out of this self-sabotage: you cut this guy out of your life, because he is a toxic waste dump of a person. I don't care if he has some good qualities, most people have at least one good thing about them, but for the purposes of this discussion this guy has no good qualities. Someone who is good for you does not say the things he has said to you. Someone who says and does those things? That's an abuser.

So, step one: cut this guy out. Block his number, send his emails to the trash, tell your parents to do the same. Mutual friends? Let them know, if he comes up in conversation, that you don't want to talk about him.

Step two: keep going to therapy. That's a great thing that you're doing for yourself, and I'm proud of you for doing it. Talk about this guy in therapy. Hold nothing back. Definitely tell your therapist that one of your goals is to learn how to recognize when a relationship is not healthy for you. It's okay that you don't already know that... it's not a skill we're born with, it's one we develop, and lots of people struggle in this area. I know I do. Don't beat yourself up about it, but do pay attention to your feelings and learn how to listen to your gut when someone gives you bad vibes.

Step three: hey, cut yourself some slack. Please be kind to yourself. You really need it right now.
posted by palomar at 2:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

DMVgirl: "I am afraid he has maniuplated me or cut me down so much that I am starting to question myself and believe what he says"

Yuuuuuuuuup. You are super lucky and smart to be getting out now. Good job, you! Never be in any kind of contact with this guy again. I promise you, he will try and try to get back in touch, but I know you can be strong.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:17 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Re: palomar's otherwise excellent advice... Do not send his emails to trash. Set up your filters to automatically store copies somewhere you won't see them easily and forward his emails to a trusted friend to read. That way your friend can alert you to take action if he makes threatening noises, but you don't have to endure regular exposure to his poison pen.
posted by carmicha at 2:20 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Run and never look back. He's testing you to see what you will put up with. If you go back it will quickly escalate to a point it will make what he has put you through so far look like a picnic. I know this through bitter experience.

Every minute you waste on this arsehole is preventing you from finding a relationship with someone worth it.
posted by arha at 2:22 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

> I have a great education and career, my own home and wonderful family/friends, I think I am a pretty good person with great values and ambition

Focus on THIS. You are a smart and accomplished woman! And you know what? It's OK also be clumsy or sometimes have a few too many glasses of wine! There are great things about us and there are also imperfect things about us. It's not a contradiction, it's what makes us human.

The friends and family that truly love us accept this. They embrace all the things that make up who we are, and never shame us for those parts of us that aren't perfect. I have a full time job I enjoy and great friends and family, yet I also have a tendency to drop clothes on the floor round the house. The floor is my closet. But you know what? My boyfriend never shames me about this or makes me feel like I shouldn't be a part of acceptable human society because I'm messy. Or when I get over anxious about something, he calms me down and talks me through it instead of shoving my anxiety into my face as if it would fix the problem. People who love us, love me, love you, they roll with everything we are made of.

It's great that you acknowledge the problems in this relationship and that you're getting therapy. It's awesome that you have a network of family and friends and a life outside of this relationship. Lean on your friends, family, and therapist as you navigate your way OUT of this relationship. It might feel like you're imposing on them, but trust me, they want to help! It sounds like you've grown and learned a lot, but it's not because he was a great teacher or anything. It's because you were able to recognize that he was mistreating you and that you deserve more than the scraps he was tossing out.

You recognize that he is good at luring you back into a relationship, which is great. It also means you need to cut off contact with this person completely. Again, lean on friends and family and your therapist during this time. You sound like you have a great head on your shoulders.
posted by mlo at 2:31 PM on October 22, 2014

I can't repeat here what my stalker ex told me to sabotage my happiness in my new marriage six years ago, suffice it to say it was designed to prey on my insecurities.

He kept trying to get me back for three more years, tho, until I finally had to change all of my phone numbers and completely disappeared, moved and hid my new address. I still haven't "officially" changed my last name, just to confuse identity tracking websites like Spokeo.


I'm not shouting at you. I'm telling you very clearly that you have an amazing opportunity RIGHT NOW to take control of your precious precious Life back.

Please, cut this guy off and treat him like the abuser he is. Block him, never believe anything he says ever again.

Block this guy from your life. Everything about him is a lie.

Everything about him is a lie.

Everything he is offering you is lies.

Got it?

Good. Be well.
posted by jbenben at 2:36 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh dear. I am not inclined to say DTMFA for any ol' reason (see my history if you doubt that), but please get away from this character, even though you will miss the good in him and that will hurt. Please.

I lived with someone like this for two years and finally "saw the light" and moved out only to spend another two years entangled in the bullshit (hearing him out, giving it another go when the breakup was too painful, etc.). Please don't do that; follow the advice above about blocking him in every way, and if he shows up banging on your door, tell him THROUGH the door that you're calling the police. Seriously. He might call you every name in the book--which only proves his promises were empty, or he might play victim for a while. Stick to your guns. (My ex slept in his car outside my place one night. Creepy? Yes! But also empowering when I left for work anyway and his tactics had failed.)

You can do this, and no, it's not easy.

Someone above mentioned gaslighting. That's exactly what's been going on. You're wondering who's to blame; but do you think he's been contemplating his part in the breakdown of this relationship? No! He's just trying to smooth things over. That is so far from being contrite.

One other thing. I am all too familiar with being deceived and/or misled, and I promise you, this is not how you want to spend your life. I don't know if you want children, but please get away from this guy before something ties you to him for life.

You will hurt if/when you cut ties. That hurt fades... it really does.. I promise you that. What doesn't fade is a partner that controls you and makes you question your own worth. Please leave him.
posted by whoiam at 2:53 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's simple - if a relationship is as confusing as this, then you need it to end.

A good relationship only needs a sentence to describe it.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

On preview, I have to say that jbenben has it. Rock Steady said it too... and jaguar. But you need to believe it for the advice to be useful.

You're in a place of self-doubt, understandably. You may be doubting whether you portrayed his good qualities fairly. As I see it, there are two of you in this, and you are the one giving it consideration.

It doesn't matter how good he can be. But, see, he's conditioned you to look at the positives about himself (and conversely, negatives about yourself). PLEASE do not buy into this.
posted by whoiam at 3:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like there is anything wrong with you. You know what's going on. Get away from this guy. He's just messing with your head.

It seems to me that abusive, manipulative people are always trying to make it up and explain it away. And then they turn around and do something hurtful all over again... and eventually it becomes clear that they try to make it up to you because they know they're going to treat you horribly again in the future. I think after a person has done or said even a few truly hurtful things like you describe, they just don't get any more chances. You can't make up for them anymore. It's over.
posted by citron at 3:25 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You sound really cool and together. He sounds like an arse. Run away - you will look back in six months and be SO glad you aren't dating him any more.

This relationship is not healthy, and you know that (it sounds like even he admits it). It doesn't matter whose "fault" that is (though I think it's his) - him putting this all on you does not mean you should stay with him out of guilt, it means that yes you two should definitely stay broken up. He's giving you lists of ways you should change, but if it takes that much effort to keep the relationship going it truly isn't ever going to work. So what if you get drunk or drop things on occasion? I do those things too, my husband thinks it's cute. The right partner for you will think it's cute as well - you shouldn't need to change yourself to keep your partner. They will think that even your flaws are annoying in an adorable way.

since meeting me he feels he has neglected his life, done nothing for himself, and that he has never been in such a "volatile" relationship, that I brought out sides of him that he never knew existed, and that he's not sure what I have brought to him or us

So he should agree that you're better off broken up then, right? Walk away and don't look back. You will find somebody who likes you as you are, who thinks you're great and who isn't trying to change you to fit their girlfriend-shaped mould. You will be SO much happier. No relationships should be this much drama, doesn't matter who's responsible for causing it.

Oh, and the emailing your parents is totally creepy. I'd stay broken up with him for that alone - really weird overstepping thing to do, like he doesn't see you as autonomous, so if he isn't controlling you then your parents must be. And clearly has no shame or reticence about trying to manipulate them despite what your parents must think of him having watched him treat their daughter so badly - he obviously thinks he's made of bloody teflon and can manipulate anyone into doing whatever he wants. What's next, he turns up at your work and asks your boss to put a word in for him?
posted by tinkletown at 4:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

No point in repeating everything everyone else has already said, they are spot on. But just imagine, somewhere there's a man out there who not only will not judge you for having a few glasses of wine, he will have a few with you, you'll get a bit tipsy together, and have a great night to talk about the next day. And when you're clumsy and drop something, for this man, it's not a reason to break up with you, it becomes one of the sweet foibles about you that he loves, that makes you, you. Go find that man, he's waiting. I guarantee you that when you do, you'll look back and wonder how you ever spent any time at all with the jerk you're with now.
posted by Jubey at 4:36 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I am so thankful for everyone and their responses, it is really amazing that so many people take the time to give input and guidance- this is exactly why I came here and exactly the strength and support I need right now. Bear with me because, I am sure there is more to come from me on here... and I hope that I will be able to provide the help support and guidance to others as weave my way through this difficult chapter of my life.

I wish I could thank everyone individually for their advice, but hopefully you will all be back to read this. It is inspiring to see how many people out there care and have been in this situation to offer their guidance. Everyone is spot on and I have heard these same exact things from family and close friends who know me personally. Sometimes it is easier and more effective to hear input from strangers who don't have a tie to you personally but can look at things from the outside. It Also helps to have those that have been in a relationship like this because I have heard many times people saying what is the big deal, he is an asshole- just leave. I'm not sure anyone understands what it feels like to be inside of something like this and how hard it is to regain the strength and power to get yourself up and out. I am thankful too that I have nothing tying me to this man.

Again... I can't thank you enough, I will print all of these responses and read them over and over again until they have sunk in.
posted by DMVgirl at 4:51 PM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I couldn't make it through your narrative because it is so obviously an abusive relationship that I physically started aching for you.

RUN AWAY! Cut him off, read all the books recommended, call a domestic abuse hotline and see if there's a support group you can join, get a therapist and learn to love yourself.

We all have flaws, mine are pretty terrible, but you know what? It doesn't make me unlovable.

This person sound horrible, and I feel sad when you try to justify all the things he's done to you. No person deserves meanness, condescension, and upbraiding. No strong, woman will stand for it. The first time someone goes off on me for dropping an egg, is the last thing he gets to say to my ass as it sashays out the door.

You didn't know better. You were vulnerable and he took advantage. You praise him for all of your growth. Honey, people go to war and grow as people, but no one thinks of war as a positive thing. You may have learned some things about yourself, but do NOT for one moment think that this excrescence did ANY kind of favor for you.

Now you know better, and next time, when you're ready to be with someone (not vulnerable) you'll choose someone you can partner with, someone who is honest, loving and kind. Someone who will love you, not in spite of your flaws but because of them.

Now leave and never look back.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:55 PM on October 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

Two of the strongest most loving women I know were married to charming men who made them convinced they were as flawed and difficult to live with, bearing equal responsibility for the relationship problems, when from the outside it was clearly 80-90% the charming manipulative assholes. But partly because they were so loving and forgiving, they extended the benefit of the doubt and got this incredibly unbalanced view trapping them in bad relationships. About six months after the relationships ending, they got perspective and were horrified/angry/sad about the imbalance, but the perspective came back, and their lives got better. So much better. Right now you're equating clumsiness with cheating. Your partner is getting a huge benefit from this skewed perspective, and will work hard to convince you that you are a bad unlovable person which is Absolute Rubbish.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're being abused and gaslighted. It's that simple.

It's time to get out and STAY out... all his declarations are just a way to continue controlling you.

Good luck; you have my prayers.
posted by stormyteal at 7:06 PM on October 22, 2014

People go to war and grow as people, but no one thinks of war as a positive thing.

posted by celtalitha at 9:45 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Reflect on this fact: the entire rotten edifice of the advertising industry rests on a single vacuous claim, repeated over and over and over with variations - "you need me".

Doesn't matter who says that to you: it's never their call. There's a fundamental, inherent conflict of interest built in that simply can't be avoided.

Nobody who has ever said that to you in any form has done so objectively and with your best interests at heart. Nobody. Not even once.

The only person in a position to decide what you do or do not need is you.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like you have found the strength to walk away, you just need to stay the course at this point.

Everyone has already made great points, I will add that it is precisely BECAUSE OF your admirable qualities that this asshole wants to be in a relationship with you (regardless of everything he says). Because he's messed up (and no, he will not change - his behaviours and words show this clearly), he will keep trying to maintain power and control over you and keep you feeling inadequate, that's the only way he knows how to be in a relationship. It's not your fault and you can't fix him, just keep running.

You can either try to change the relationship (it won't work), try to accept it (it will further kill your joy and self esteem and he may escalate the abusive behaviours), or remove yourself from it. Even if you are partly to blame for whatever crap he's accusing you of (because uh, you're human), remember that it takes strength and courage to say "this relationship is not serving either of us" and remove yourself from it. There is no shame in that.

Google "narcissist hoovering" if it helps you to stay the course (in addition to doing tangible things like therapy, friends, family). This guy fits the narcissist descriptions to a T and you are indeed lucky to have come to your senses fairly quickly. Don't get too sucked into the online narcissism rabbit-hole though, it's ultimately not healthy imo, but it will confirm your suspicions when you're questioning yourself. You deserve better.
posted by lafemma at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

... but how do I know this isn't the time he really sees the light.

Pattern of behavior- of both individuals- over a period of time. How does anyone know this is the time you will really see the light?

I am afraid he has maniuplated me or cut me down so much that I am starting to question myself and believe what he says or questions me on: maybe I am just this lost woman with no direction or purpose/meaning, maybe I am too clumsy or have one too many glasses of wine, maybe my life was too easy and I don't have enough substance for a quality man, maybe I am such a bad person that I brought him to dark horrible places that nobody else has- it has to be me.

In previous responses you got the validation you were seeking. Did it help? What makes you make the choice to believe one person over so many others- loved ones and strangers? What makes you want the validation to begin with, given the sound and stable emotional support in your life?

Strength is not something that falls in our lap from the sky, nor something our loved ones gift wrap for us when we need it. Strength, ultimately, comes from within, after we have made a choice. Courage is acting on it not knowing the consequences of that choice.
posted by xm at 9:17 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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