Why can I not get over my abusive boyfriend?
January 17, 2015 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I broke up with my off/on boyfriend and am having a terrible time not approaching him to take me back, even though he is, um, nuts. Many words within.

I met a guy online in mid September. He came on incredibly strong, and I found that a little alarming, but was also flattered by the attention. I'm used to fairly avoidant men that make you their fifth priority so this guy who made me his only priority (seemingly) was intoxicating. Anyway, we met after a couple of weeks of daily talking and it was on immediately. He told me he loved me about 1 week after that, but then the manipulation started as well as the pretty intense jealousy. He accused me of being in love with one of my ex-boyfriends (we broke up 10 years ago but are still close) even though I continued telling him I wasn't. He told me I shouldn't see my ex for a while if I cared at all about him and our relationship.

He was fixated with my Facebook, going through all of my photos again and again (I have about 1000). He also read through every single Facebook status I had back to 2007. I took recreational drugs from time to time, but heavily in my late teens/early 20's. I told him about this when he asked but then he became obsessed with my drug use, even though I haven't had any drugs since 2013. Any status on fb where even a joking drug reference was made, he would 'like' in order to notify me that I had to delete it (or else I didn't respect him). He did the same with photos. And he was relentless about this. I broke up with him a couple of times at this stage but he would plead with me that he was sorry and that he loved me more than anything or anyone ever and blah blah blah and I'd take him back. Things started getting worse though when he spent an entire night going through my phone while I slept, reading through every single Facebook private message I've had for the last 5 or so years. There was some pretty embarrassing shit in there, as well as stuff about ex boyfriends. He would drop this stuff casually in arguments in the days following and then I realised he'd gone through my phone. When I told him that was fucked up, he BROKE UP WITH ME.

I didn't cry about it.

But I did leave my city to visit my mum. He then kind of cyberstalked me for about 24 hours, finding my eBay account and messaging me constantly on there, then contacted my mum who he'd never met on fb saying he loved me was sorry etc etc etc. Of course I fell for it again, took him back.

I had a huge canvas print of a Banksy artwork with a police officer snorting a line. After one night where I didn't feel like sleeping with him, he woke up in a bad mood (he always sulked if I didn't feel like having sex, which he felt like doing every second of every day) and suddenly started on me having this print demanding I tell him why I like it and that I had to admit that it was due to the drugs. I kept trying to reason with him, saying I wouldn't discuss it with him then and there because he seemed too angry to listen to my reasons for liking it but we could discuss it later. He got more and more angry, and finally ripped my huge canvas print off the wall and disappeared outside. When he came in I demanded to know what he'd done with it but he was just yelling at me that it was gone and demanded I tell him why I liked it. I went outside and found that he had screwed it up and thrown it in the bin. I went inside and kicked him out but he refused to leave. I live alone and don't have any close friends or any family where I live (I moved there from a bigger city an hour away only a year back) so when I tell him to leave, short of calling the cops, he isn't going anywhere. And he didn't. Instead he fell apart. Started shaking and crying and telling me how sorry he was. For like two fucking hours. I had a university exam this same day and I continued telling him he had to leave. I was calm about it but I was persistent. He continued refusing and continued crying and sobbing and shaking telling me how bad he felt. Again, I forgave him. The interrogating me about drug stuff didn't stop though. It was like he'd lay awake all night thinking about it then when Id wake up he would've sent me 4 or 5 texts just questioning me about shit that happened 10 years ago. It was insane and I told him it was.

One afternoon after we'd broken up (we mustve broken up 15 times over the 3 months, always me initiating it (except for that one time), always me taking him back) he texted me telling me he had gambled all of his pay (he is a fireman). He had told me he used to have a problem with gambling but had it under control. Anyway, feeling bad for the guy, I offered to take him out for some dinner. This hurt me about him, he always made me feel like total shit for ever having taken drugs, yet when he faltered I was compassionate. Anyway, I went to his house where he lived with his folks on his 4 days off (his brother on the 4 days on) but they weren't home. I have never met them. As soon as I got there he started on me. His face was dark. Cold. He was arguing with me about our recent argument that had caused a breakup (he was relentlessly questioning me about drugs and I was refusing to answer him, so he refused to talk to me at all so I told him to fuck off until he could get over it) and I took my phone out from where I sat so I could show him how he was questioning me and how rude it was, and he threw my phone across the room and it landed on the floor. I sat there thinking "fuck, I'm in trouble." I slowly got up to get my phone, but he moved his foot from where he stood so that he was standing on my phone, preventing me from grabbing it. Then he grabbed my arm and led me back to the chair saying "cmon, you're not going anywhere." Fuck, even writing this now I can't believe there is even more to say because I stuck around for more bullshit. Anyway. When he relaxed enough to move his foot from my phone I stood up, grabbed it, grabbed my keys and went for the front door. He stormed out after me, saying "where you going tough guy?" grabbing my keys out of my hand, grabbing the back of my shirt and leading me back inside. I was pretty concerned by this point, but fucking hell, I heard him out over the next couple of hours and we somehow made up and I for some fucking reason I stuck around. Anyway, nothing got better.

He started mocking me when Id get upset with him. He threw me down twice, once onto my bed, once onto the couch, both times when I was trying to leave the room we were in when he was yelling at me. Whenever Id break up with him, he turn up at my door and refuse to leave for hours and hours, sometimes even breaking in. One time he broke in, turned on my comp, logged into my fb and sent himself a friend request from my acct and accepted it from his. When I found out he did this, I demanded he leave my house (I was at work but got a notification on my phone that he had accepted my friend request) but he told me he couldn't because he was crying too hard, and he was telling me how sorry he was and that he just loved me so much and it was making him crazy. When I got home from work he was sitting in his car outside my house in a total state and I told him to come in. Why God why? Anyway, we ended up making up and getting back together but I told him I was pretty down and out, my trust in him was fractured and he would have to work hard to earn it back. He told me very eagerly that he was up for the challenge.

I mean, this all sounds so crazy, but when things were good, they were amazing. He would tell me constantly how much he loved me, how perfect I was, how beautiful I was, he wouldnt even look at other women, he seemed completely devoted to me, and I guess thats why I kept overlooking all the bad parts... my ex boyfriends were all kind of cunty, and would just be disinterested and aloof most of the time so this felt good.

Anyhow. It continues.

When we got together, he had only been broken up with his ex girlfriend of 5 years for a couple of weeks. Usually I run for the hills when this happens but he swore he was over her and that he hadn't loved her for the last couple of years of their union. I knew he had contacted her when we were together, on two occasions. I was uncomfortable with it because of the nature of the contact. It felt like even though they weren't together, he still felt like he had a right to know what what she was doing, had she moved on etc etc. This meant another dumping. Anyway, crazy thing is this, when she broke up with him, it was a blind side. She had arranged, behind his back, a new job in a tiny town 4.5 hours away and advised him she was moving out that day to take this job etc etc. My parents got a job in the same town about 2 months ago.
People talk.
What I learned yesterday, was that at a new years eve party, his ex gf was there as well as my mother's colleague. My mother's colleague (MC) mentioned to the ex that she knew her ex-boyfriend and he was dating her colleagues daughter (me). Basically she fell apart at the mention of his name apparently. said he has been stalking her for the last 3 months, harassing her, was trying to get her back for ages, and to tell me that I should run for the hills as he is a "nut job" and that he is the reason she had to move so far away. When I found this out, I tried calling him, he didn't answer so I sent him a text telling him we needed to discuss what Id heard. He texted me back saying "uuuuh, I dont think so". So I shamefully lost my shit at him in text, calling him a mongrel and then promptly changed my number, deciding enough was enough. But IM FUCKING HEARTBROKEN. I am sad and ashamed that I'm sad. I feel stupid and weak that if he were to try contacting me through my emails or something I would probably hear him out. I used to be so strong and now I feel like a battered wife. Why am I sad? Reading what I've just wrote makes me just go "Um, deadflag, you're dodging a bullet, lady" yet I continue checking my emails and wondering why he hasn't contacted me a thousand times by now like he usually would in the past. I hate feeling like this. I hate it.

I have a counselling appt on Thursday so I can unpack some of this shit and hopefully become someone who is strong enough to avoid this shit in future, but why am I so sad? So I guess, for those of you that have also been through this, did you go through a grieving process like I am, or did you crack open a bottle of champas?

It's all fucking with my head.
posted by DeadFlagBlues to Human Relations (46 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Its way too complex to effectively unpack here. In short it likely hurts so much because he has amplified your own early attachment wound/core wound/s from early in life (these are often unconscious but track back to unmet early needs)- abusive relationships rip the scabs off. Intermittent reinforcers of good/charming behaviour are very powerful tools in abusive relationships.

Try looking up some of the following - cluster b personality disorder and/or psychopathy (lot of the behaviour at first glance fits with borderline personality disorder - the push/pull/rages etc)... also trauma bonding, stockholm syndrome and ptsd. No not at all unusual to feel mindfucked and reeling - time for lots and lots and lots of self tlc and reading. (Hugs)
posted by tanktop at 2:23 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds very exciting. I can see how being the focus for all that obsession would be hard to put away.

I mean you have to, obviously, because to have this dude in your life is very bad news. But I think the part of you that wants to have him in your life is just excited by all this crazy drama.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:39 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I finally had the police come haul my abusive ex-boyfriend out of the house, I cried for days. I missed him, but was so angry at him, and, more than anything, angry at myself for letting him convince me to take him back so many times before.

A major part of your life is ending. Even though it was a painful and unhealthy part, it's still a change. You feel sad because you are grieving.

What you are feeling is normal, but you've absolutely done the right thing. I'm so, so, sorry that you are going through this. But also happy that you are getting this guy out of your life.

He doesn't deserve you.
posted by toe-up, afterthought heel at 2:44 PM on January 17, 2015 [21 favorites]

This doesn't answer your question at all, but please start documenting any contact he attempts with you, as there is a good chance he will and that it will be problematic. Be prepared to talk to the police about a restraining order.
posted by Specklet at 2:45 PM on January 17, 2015 [21 favorites]

Wow. I am really worried for you. I imagine this guy will become increasingly verbally abusive and then physically abusive. I seriously think it will continue downhill. No contact of any kind!!!! No good will ever come from talking to him...only serious harm. Talk to your friends and family a lot to feel less mind fucked. You will be horrified you put up with him soon. He slowly acclimated you to his way of thinking and it just messes with....everything. I am sure he had many good parts and it's normal to be sad. No one is all good or all bad. It gets better!
posted by Kalmya at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

I strongly suggest you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and talk to someone at 800-799-7233 . You're describing the awful web of being caught in an abusive relationship. Please get help.

Granted, I am an internet stranger, but going by what you've written about this person, I think you can assume he's not done with you yet. You have described an irrational person who has already held you against your will, broken into your house and threatened you. His ex had to escape from him and he was stalking her the same time he was with you.

Please, take steps to get help and protect yourself. This guy is dangerous.
posted by kinetic at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2015 [44 favorites]

I started reading the drama, then scrolled down and looked at how long it was. Good God.

I don't have time for all that. Neither should you!

This guy is a super manipulator. Pat yourself on the back that you were able to get away from him. It's hard, yes, but right now he's got your head twisted and you're addicted to drama.

You're on the right track with therapy. Don't go back. Find someone who can love you. You deserve it.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:27 PM on January 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

It's normal to grieve the end of a relationship even when the relationship is objectively a disaster. He made you feel good and I expect was the main focus of your life and thus your days were structured around seeing him, hearing from him, etc. That's going to make you miss him no matter how messed up things were.

You're allowed to treat this like any other breakup. Cry to your friends, eat ice cream, whatever it is you usually do; knowing you (hopefully) dodged a bullet doesn't change your need for those kinds of comfort.
posted by metasarah at 3:28 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. Please don't be cruel to yourself over the fact that you still feel attachment to this guy. I think many people who have been through what you're going through will have gone through a grieving process and few of them will have opened the bottle of champagne.

Please take this with the caveat that this is very much me mapping my own experiences onto what you've described, but here goes.

There's a certain kind of rationalizing that you can do if you're abused as a child, or if you've got mental illness or drug addiction in your family, where you learn how to make the bad stuff that happens to you "disappear." I mean, you learn to suppress and discount the shitty things that are done to you, because you have no way of leaving those situations when you're little, and facing the fact that the people who you're depending on are horrible to you is absolutely terrifying. So I think you can start to look at that disappearing process as though that's the thing you do to show your love for the people who are hurting you, and you start to look at yourself as someone who's good at tolerating outbursts like that and then moving on, someone who doesn't need the people around them to be stable. There's a logic to that.

But it also makes you feel comfortable in dramatic situations as an adult, and you don't really develop the skills to recognize red flags and stand up for yourself, because all along you've had to ignore red flags to maintain a semblance of comfort, and you've looked at "finding a way to deal with it" as the good thing, and standing up for yourself as the bad thing. You've learned that defining your own desires is dangerous and therefore the prospect of having to work out what you want and learn to set boundaries with people is terrifying.

And once those people start throwing affection your way, you're completely thrown, because you've always wanted it but never been comfortable accepting it. Maybe you're aware of this on some level and avoid relationships because of how scared you are of getting close to someone and then having to set a boundary.

And healthy people have a way of sensing this about you and stay away from having relationships with you. Or maybe they don't sense this about you, but they don't get the sense that you're a safe intimate partner. So you don't get a whole lot of attention from healthy people, but you wind up looking good to cunty guys because they can get away with being cunty guys to you, and downright manipulative , dangerous, abusive assholes like the guy you're describing have learned exactly what to do to draw you in.

They can see you coming before you see them, and they test you and break you down in subtle ways, and by the time you realize what's happened, you're hooked.

I hope you avail yourself of whatever domestic violence protection options are available to you, and stick with your appointment. You might also consider reading Baggage Reclaim, which is a very awesome blog.

For what it's worth, you will hopefully get to a point where you are looking forward, optimistically at opportunities to connect with people instead of back at this situation. I was in a relationship a little over ten years ago where the woman I was with would have outbursts of anger, violence, accusations, and so on, and I got out. And it sucked. And if there is one thing I could have told myself back then to make it easier, it would be, "Dude, eventually this will not be a big deal anymore. You'll meet people, they'll throw up red flags, and you'll recognize them and step away from those situations without a second thought, and go out and find someone who will give you a good relationship instead, and all of this will be a distant memory."
posted by alphanerd at 3:38 PM on January 17, 2015 [40 favorites]

It's simple: Whatever he did wrong, he is the only man who actually gave you the attention you wanted and needed. It's like finally feeding someone who is starving, but lacing it with poison that makes them ill but doesn't kill too quickly. It's time for you to learn what a healthy emotional diet looks like and that it's okay to get fed adequately, and without the craziness.

If you have never had the attention you need, it can be hard to tell the difference between positive attention and negative attention. Now you have had a taste of getting the attention you need and how sublime that is. What you need to learn next is how to do that in a healthy way. At the moment, you have two mental models: Men who won't pay attention to you and men who will but are stalkers and nuts. It's time to figure out a third model, one where it is possible to get the attention you need, minus the crazy drama.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2015 [24 favorites]

independent of how to get over this... the guy broke in to your house while you were actively still having a relationship.

i would honestly go to the police now and see if you can get a protection/restraining order. i can't escape the feeling that the radio silence now is just the calm before the storm, and that this is not the end. especially with his other ex saying she had been stalked for month.

you need to be proactive in protecting yourself here. as much as it sucks, this shitmess is likely in no way over.
posted by emptythought at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2015 [18 favorites]

I am also worried for your physical safety and I would strongly urge you to call a domestic violence hotline in your area (if the location in your profile is still accurate, this would be a good start). They can help you talk through options.

As for the relationship, I found it helpful to think of it as overcoming an addiction. My brain had gotten used to the neurotransmitter hits of fear and over-the-top love declarations and all the other roller-coaster emotions, and it kept looking for another hit for a while. It will get easier with time.
posted by jaguar at 4:03 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I went through something similar and did the same dance for a year. You are not stupid nor are you crazy. Actually you were most likely sourced for your kindness and sensitivity, or your ability to put up with the self doubt this kind of crazy shit produces. Maybe it's childhood damage from a parent like this, maybe it is just that you are a highly sensitive person.

A classic M.O. of these kinda guys is to find a flaw he can beat you with. Mine was infidelity, also past drug use. Your dude searched and searched for evidence of a flaw in you that he could exploit when he couldn't figure out how else to control you. A ha! Drug use. Big deal.

These slideshares helped me enormously when I was right where you are now, as in knowing absolutely that I could not ever be in relationship with him, but desperately wanting him to contact me. At first when you watch the slides, you think 'oh, this is sooo basic' but watch them every time you feel like he has some redeeming features, or that you might be in the wrong. Seriously. I used them daily to remind me of the reality of the psychological gamut I was running. I was aching all over, feeling abandoned, berating myself etc - BUT it got better.

I tried writing reasonable emails when I was frazzled. Don't do it! They go nowhere. I tried being acquaintances on Facebook but he just played games so I blocked him completely. You have to do that - block him completely. The ex-girlfriend scenario you describe is one I know to a T. No one is allowed their life with him, or after him. Everything is scrutinised and evaluated against this rage machine. Abandonment by his prey is what he fears and hates the most. It will get violent inevitably with these guys. I had the same thing happen to me.

Tell your friends what has happened. Corral support from them. My closest girlfriends contacted me every day to tell me I was worthy, strong and resilient, that I could break the addiction.

You can do it, you can do it, you can do it. You can get this piece of shit out of your life.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:05 PM on January 17, 2015 [16 favorites]

If I'm reading your post correctly, all of this just happened yesterday, correct? Of course you're not over him yet! Give it weeks or months before expecting yourself to feel balanced again after a trauma like this.
posted by jaguar at 4:07 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, I can't favourite Alphanerd's comment enough -

But it also makes you feel comfortable in dramatic situations as an adult, and you don't really develop the skills to recognize red flags and stand up for yourself, because all along you've had to ignore red flags to maintain a semblance of comfort, and you've looked at "finding a way to deal with it" as the good thing, and standing up for yourself as the bad thing. You've learned that defining your own desires is dangerous and therefore the prospect of having to work out what you want and learn to set boundaries with people is terrifying.

Get to the meat of this with your therapist when you see her. Don't itemise the hurts and suck up all the time in therapy describing his behaviours. Get straight to this - how YOU are feeling inside right now. It will make therapy much more worthwhile if you can focus on YOU.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:09 PM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Wow. It's OK to feel sad about the end of a relationship - that feeling usually comes from missing those parts that were good and our stupid brains choosing to ignore the parts that were bad. The drama that you have gone through in only four months is very excessive and you need to take whatever action you can to protect yourself from becoming just another statistic. You deserve far more than this and, no matter how much we crave attention when we're lonely, you are paying a price that no amount of positive attention is worth.

Call your local domestic violence hotline, block him on Facebook and (if you can) e-mail, change your phone # if you have given him the new one. Tell your friends what is going on in case he starts contacting them. The lack of contact is more worrying than reassuring, n my view. Take action now to protect yourself before it's too late.

Most importantly, be good to yourself in whatever way works for you. You deserve much, much better than this.
posted by dg at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

And if he does show up again, calling the police is an absolutely reasonable response. Please don't think that's overkill.
posted by jaguar at 4:16 PM on January 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

You ex is mentally ill and has the potential to stalk you and commit physical violence against you.

Your ex has already been very emotionally violent with you.

This person is mentally ill and absolutely 100% can NOT be fixed by you.

This person does not love you, see: committing violence, abusing boundaries, stalking.

Now. How do you want to proceed in light of all this?

(Hint: therapy, moving apartments, going no contact, and a restraining order from the police are appropriate. stay safe. stay safe.)
posted by jbenben at 4:41 PM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

The first time my abusive ex broke up with me, I was miserable. I missed her so much, I had made such a huge mistake, I still loved her... blah blah. At the same time, I wanted nothing to do with her. It will come as no surprise that we got back together. We did this a couple of times until finally I wanted to break up. Even then I nearly got sucked back in.

So yes, it is normal to have conflicted feelings after you end a relationship like this. Love doesn't go away just because you decide a relationship is unsustainable; love isn't quite that sensible or on-demand. And of course, someone treating you very very badly doesn't mean you can't love them.

But - and you know this - this guy is bad news. Seriously bad news. Definitely call the domestic violence hotline that jaguar linked to; they'll be able to give you advice about taking out a restraining order, etc. You need to do this no matter what you feel for him because he is dangerous. He has proven over and over again that he ignores boundaries of what is appropriate and even legal. You need to consider him a threat to your safety. Please do not make excuses for this.

The emotions you have been experiencing are addictive in their own way. The intensity of so much feeling - from him and you - can be a high, and normal life can seem empty and miserable without that adrenaline rush and its intoxicating combination with reconciliation and all the efforts to please you again. But it is dangerous; he is dangerous.

Alternatively, you could seek him out, take him back. Don't be surprised when he starts throwing you across the room, punching you, kicking you. He's shown a consistent pattern of escalation in a mere four months. Pretty soon not only will he have you as his sex slave and punching bag, he will also have convinced you that if you ever try to leave him, he will track you down and find you and all your relatives and that you will never be safe from him. Don't let this happen.

Feel free to memail me if you want; I'm in Melbourne too.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:43 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Thank you all so much! Such great advice and insight.

I know I must sound naive and foolish but I don't think I'll hear from him again. I can't help but keep comparing my relationship to his last one - they were together 5 years, us only 3 months, and I fought him almost every second day for my right to be...well, me. So I see myself as a headache for him and consider that he has already moved on whereas they were together for a lot longer so maybe that's why he continued to harass her, or is a time not a factor in matters like these?

We had a middle month of CRAZY CRAZY (the second month) where he threatened to kill himself twice because he felt I was being mean to him (told me he was going to drive under a truck - I told him I would call his friend immediately - he yelled at me and told me to mind my fucking business (my ex I mean, and hasnt threatened suicide since)). Anyway, things kinda calmed down a little bit after that, so even though people keep telling me to get a restraining order (friends etc) it seems like overkill, even though I guess it was only New Years that he broke into my house doing the Facebook friend request stuff. I dunno. Maybe me denying the largeness of the drama is the most dramatic thing of all. Last week he went a whole 4 days not talking to me. That said, its because the week before that I said I needed space. On Friday we caught up and I fell apart, telling him how much I missed him and how sad I was, and of course he was lovely about it and said "i told you so, i told you youd miss me" blah blah, so essentially he was sitting in a pretty powerful position - knowing I missed him. Maybe thats whats happening now. I just cant help but wonder, if I went to the cops, theyd just be like "um, yeah, look, you have been a participant in this relationship. He is obsessive, yeah, but not violent. Go away."
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2015

*Not violent enough*.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 5:04 PM on January 17, 2015

That's why you need to talk to the people at the domestic violence hotline. They'd have experience in knowing how the police react to stuff. (My ex was emotionally rather than physically abusive so it took me longer to realise what was going on and didn't leave me feeling physically unsafe, so I never took out a restraining order.) But I know what you mean about feeling complicit in the crap that's been going on: that is part of how abusers work and how they keep you in their control. It's your fault too, you didn't do enough, blah blah - too bad. You can do something now. And he is dangerous. You're too close to what's happened to see, your perspective isn't good right now. Please please please at least ring the hotline.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:10 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Did you out his ex to him? Don't connect the dots on how you found her to him. He has access to your Facebook and emails. Try to warn her if you led him to her location.

He's coming for one or both of you. I think you know this.
posted by charlielxxv at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

He already knew where she was. In fact, she has only recently stopped communicating with him and taking his calls. But he has been to her town before, because this is where her father lives. Of course, I have no real idea of the depth of contact between them in the last 3 months but he has showed me correspondance that she has instigated, though her story is that he has been relentless. I believe them both.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2015

I'm really sorry you're going through this. I know you want to figure out why it's been difficult for you to get over him, but I think your safety is way more important right now. A person who manipulates others on this level and is as emotionally abusive as you've described (to the point of making threats about suicide) is potentially very dangerous. The best thing you can do, as others above have already mentioned, is call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233. The reason is that things tend to escalate when a person leaves or breaks up with an abusive person. Good luck and please call that number and tell them everything you've told us.
posted by marimeko at 5:20 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't know if I think you are having trouble letting go of this guy because the emotional turmoil is kind of addicting; or because you've become so used to the drama, that you can't see how terrible it is. I wish I could remember where the document linked in a previous askme about domestic violence, because it can be really easy to justify and normalise behaviour that is actually extremely dangerous. I think this guy sounds absolutely, completely dangerous and I think if you believed it, you maybe wouldn't feel so conflicted.

Seconding encouraging you to call the hotline 1-800-799-7233.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 5:32 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's completely normal to be very tempted to go back to someone like this. Completely. It's not weird at all that you are thinking or feeling this way.

But don't have any contact with him. He seems like he's "not violent enough" to you now, but that's because you're in too deep.

It's plainly obvious that he might kill you. And that, even short of that, he is extremely dangerous. I am in no way saying this for effect.

You need to have no contact with him from now on, no matter what the temptation, no matter how innocuous or harmless it appears.

Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" explains the process of going no-contact and why it works. It needs explaining because it's counterintuitive; people who yank your chain like this are really hard not to respond to. But if you respond to them the 200th time, even just to tell them to go away, they learn that it takes 200 contacts to get a rise out of you, and it just prolongs the agony. If you give them nothing, they will eventually get bored and go away.

Please pay attention to ALL the other resources people are listing here.

Your life is in danger. Really, no kidding.
posted by tel3path at 5:53 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

If he hasn't contacted you for the past day, I would bet it's because he's maybe doing something horribly messed up with his previous ex, like stalking her in the remote location she tried to escape to, or whatever, and once he gets rejected again or has done whatever harm to her (or maybe when he's just done plotting his next moves), I really do agree with the others who say that he will be back to harass you further.

I bet the police will take this more seriously than you imagine. Of course you've been a participant in it! (by which I only mean you've been *present* for it - not that it was your fault in any way) That's what domestic violence/abuse is, emotional or physical violence or abuse against someone that you are in a relationship with. It happens far too frequently and it is wrong, and it is illegal. Honestly reading your story above where he dragged you around by your arm and told you you weren't going anywhere, it gave me chills. I fear you don't know what he is capable of. I am frightened on your behalf. I am in so much agreement with getting a restraining order. I hope you consider it!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:57 PM on January 17, 2015

Upon your updates, I am terrified for you. With respect, he broke into your house - you don't seem to grasp what that means.

Everything you describe is pretty text book for relationships where the woman ends up in the hospital or worse. No exaggeration, this is exactly how this happens. This is the path these tragic crimes follow.

Your first job here is to go to stay someplace safe. Then pick up the phone, and find someone who will tell you the truth about mental illness and domestic violence.

Your nonchalance in the face of so much danger is deeply concerning. You describe the actions of someone truly unhinged. That all of this drama and violations happened in 3 short months?

What is the disconnect?

From coming on fast and strong, to the jealousy, to the triangulating with his ex gf, to breaking into your house -- this person is a predator -- this is how predators act.

Get someplace safe and call a crisis hotline for clarity and advice, resources for someone professional to support you.

Stay safe.
posted by jbenben at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2015 [25 favorites]

This is the kind of guy that would kill you. Watch your back.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:07 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I did not read the entire wall of text and missed the part where he dragged you around (read: assaulted you.)

This is escalating quickly in just over 3 months. You should head straight to a police station.

Disappearing for one day isn't a reason to think he's done harassing you. I feel like you need support we internet strangers can't really give you, so I hope you reach out to domestic violence hotlines, a crisis hotline, and the police.

Also, report the break in from New Year's to the police. And the physical assault.

Turn off ALL location services on your smart phone. Right now. OK?
posted by jbenben at 6:14 PM on January 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

Here's one more place you can call that's based in Australia:

National Domestic Violence Counselling Line
24 hr phone
1 800 737 732
(1 800 RESPECT)


These hotlines will help direct you to resources you might need and can help you prepare to call the police, if that's what you decide to do. You are in no way complicit in this. If nothing else, talking to someone will help you see this.
posted by marimeko at 6:16 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

You may want to ask the mods to anonymize this post, too, and remove location info if possible.
posted by lharmon at 6:24 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you are having reactions to the severity of these comments about your safety, such as 'oh, it's not THAT bad' and 'Oh, they don't really know how much I get his pain/miss him/believe in his love of me' I know how you feel. You probably feel bad for painting him the way you have to us. Maybe you are having second thoughts about whether you exaggerated, or misframed things and now we all seem to be on a bandwagon towards criminalising him unnecessarily.

That's okay to feel that way. But if even a fraction of the things you wrote about his behaviour are factual [and I believe that you have been ultra factual btw, and trust your perception] you have a situation that many of us have experienced, and know how it ends.

My ex I discovered had restraining orders against him from previous lovers. He also had previous lovers still locked in the dance with him - alternately throwing him away but also missing him and making contact - many years later. One of the restraining orders was for biting his ex's face. Read that again: biting his ex's face. Til she bled. This is a guy his enabling friends laud for his profound gentleness of character and good intentions in life.

Your inner kernel of belief in yourself, the kernel that says this is CRAZY, is what you need to expand into a boundary around YOU, against this enormous intrusion into your life.

I will also say that if my experience illuminates anything, a guy you met online who has behaved this way, has a whole stable of women he is in communication with sourced the same way.

There is a kind of narcissistic dance going on in your approach too. I had to examine my own stuff when this happened to me. I thought I was truly his One n Only and he'd realise it and change. Uh uh. Give up that thought. Cut off the narcissistic supply - you tell him you miss him, he gets a reward. Cut off the supply, de-oxygenate that supply by total silence. No matter what he says.

And call someone from the sites linked above. Do it and don't feel shame, don't minimise, just lay it out and let them advise you.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2015 [14 favorites]

Adding to the chorus here. This is exactly the sort of behavior that men display before they kill women. The police know this. Please do not minimize the danger you are in. It is severe, it is emergent.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 7:05 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Please change all your social media/email passwords if you've not already done so.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Chiming in to say, this is textbook escalation for an abusive relationship. You need to take care of you, you need to be safe. Sure, maybe you did some things that in retrospect, you feel dumb or silly for having done. That doesn't mean it's ok to break into your house, or your accounts, or physically pull and push you around, or throw things.

Please call the hotline. They'll know how you should work with the police. And the cops shouldn't blow you off. They know how this goes. They see it all the time. And unfortunately, they see where it often ends, too - and would surely love to do what they can to prevent it from happening.

To answer your actual question: you can read a bit about intermittent rewards - in this case, his "good behavior" is the intermittent reward. You can also think about how in Western society, romance is seen as exciting - I know in many of my past relationships, I felt like I knew we were in love because there was so much drama. Drama meant passion and passion meant love so therefore all the late night 3AM screaming matches were love, right? No. They were just horrible late night screaming matches.

Also, I've fallen for the, "I'm demonstrating through my actions how to be a loving person, why aren't you picking up my cues?" When you say you are calm and he is acting out, or you don't hold his bad behavior like gambling over his head, I can see a bit of that logic. He's mentally ill. He can't learn, at least, not from you. You can't show him how to act better, you can't tell him how to act better, you can't make or encourage or in any way get him to act better. And that's a hard thing to learn, that you can't through sheer force of will make things better. I have a hard time with it myself, even after years of therapy.

A few more things (this is getting a bit random, but hopefully all of this will help).
Here's a quick list of warning signs.
Here's a graphic of the cycle of abuse (I think someone upthread was looking for this)
And since you've favorited some items that mention childhood abuse and/or alcoholism, here's a link about the concept of Don't Talk, Don't Trust, Don't Feel. I realized that my family's issues with alcohol had a lot to do with the sort of people I liked to date, and I wasn't able to break that pattern without therapy (please keep your appointment!) When my therapist first brought up the concept, I had an OH MY GOD HOW DID YOU KNOW moment, so maybe it will be helpful for you as well.

And finally: do what you can to be safe. You aren't overreacting. Your responses aren't overreactions. You know what I saw when I read what you wrote? You seem smart and pretty well put together in how you deal with relationships (trying to stay calm, asking him to leave when he gets weird, your instincts around what's right and not right). You're just trying to apply them to someone who will not and can not play by the same rules. You've got good basics. Trust yourself. Trust your inner voice who says this dude is bad news.
posted by RogueTech at 11:10 PM on January 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

Oh, and one more thing. Just to reiterate. Everyone makes mistakes, or does stupid stuff, or gives someone too many chances. Just because you've done something you feel is dumb, or feel like you've given him too many chances - that doesn't give him the right to act this way. At all. No one, including you, deserves this sort of treatment. This - all of this bad stuff - this isn't penance you need to do for making a mistake or giving him too many chances.
posted by RogueTech at 11:13 PM on January 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

"This - all of this bad stuff - this isn't penance you need to do for making a mistake or giving him too many chances."

I wish someone had told me this when I was in an abusive relationship. You're so wise to have asked this question, even if the answers were hard to hear.
posted by jbenben at 11:42 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think you've got the protect yourself message clearly and I hope to god you heed that advice.

As someone who was in an abusive relationship, I want to address this: why am I so sad?

Because we want to believe the best about people, period. Abusive people aren't always on this fiery, scary warpath 24/7. Sometimes, oftentimes in fact, they're kind and sweet and gentle. You've seen this with this guy. He can be wonderful and it's SO FUCKING HARD to make sense of how he can sometimes be great and othertimes not. You've seen his good side, you know it's there and you know that after his rage ends, there will be a time where he will be that great guy once again.

It's sad because the more rational part of our brains wonders why can't this person just stop doing all the crazy stuff? Why can't they just be normalsauce all the time? You know it's in them.

You're sad because it's this massive cognitive dissonance and it's craziness directed toward you. It would be easier to write this guy off if he acted like a lunatic all of the time. What makes this so hard is that very often, abusive people are charming and lovely.

Talking to someone will help you work through this. I'm glad you're getting help and know that over time, you'll understand how you did nothing wrong, how you just wanted to believe the best in him. But you couldn't fix this.
posted by kinetic at 6:03 AM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

when things were good, they were amazing.

He is not a nice guy who occasionally slips into asshole mode; he is an asshole who has learned how to wear a nice-guy mask to function in society. Whenever you feel like running back to him, just take a deep breath and say to yourself, "I am missing the mask, not the man."
posted by Etrigan at 6:22 AM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

"I am missing the mask, not the man."

Because abusive people can't or won't do the work to build an actual foundation for a healthy relationship, their positive descriptions of the future or of how much they love you can become extremely compelling because they don't have to be based in fact. If someone can completely ignore their own limitations and completely write off any emotional fall-out they cause, they can create a magical fairytale future in which both of you are perfect -- not wonderful versions of your real selves, but actually unattainably perfect people -- and they can believe it, at least for that moment, because they're so good at denying reality. Those fantasies can almost become a shared delusion when the partner grasps at them so hard that they start denying reality, too. And it's hard to give up a fantasy of a perfect future when you've invested so much energy in believing it to be your only way out of -- or a just reward for surviving -- an abusive present.

For me, it helped to grieve that imagined future and to get in touch with my anger that I wasn't going to get that pay-off and with my embarrassment that all my suffering had been pointless. I had fallen for the delusion. Which certainly didn't make it my fault -- spinning a positive future is part and parcel of the abuse toolkit, otherwise why on earth would anyone stay? -- but did require me to recognize how invested I had been in believing that I deserved that delusion and also that I was never going to get it no matter how I long I had stayed.
posted by jaguar at 9:47 AM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

I think you will find a lot of support and people who understand what you've been through on the site PsychopathFree.

Missing him is due to the bonds that abuse causes, "trauma bonding." It's also known as Stockholm Syndrome. It's a completely predictable phenomenon when one has been abused. You have been "devalued and discarded." Again, it's a predictable part of a relationship with someone on the Cluster B Disorder continuum -- narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy.

I'm glad you're going to a therapist. This will help. Going no contact with your abuser is the best possible thing you can do, and it is so hard. But you can do it, and you're not alone.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

From here:
Can this be happening to me? This is a question many women ask themselves.
It can be difficult sometimes to let yourself believe you are being abused. It can be hard to admit you are being abused because the person hurting you doesn’t always act this way – sometimes they may be loving and kind.
It can be difficult to admit you are being abused because you love or depend on the person and maybe you are scared about what life will be like without them.
But if you often feel afraid of upsetting this person, and you change what you do to make sure they don’t get angry with you, then this is a sign that you are being abused.
Of the 17 'warning signs' in the quiz on that page, I confidently ticked 10 based only on your information here.

Don't for a moment relax and think he's not going to continue to abuse you. The pattern you have described with his ex is your future unless you do something to break that cycle. If you don't want to call the police directly, please call one of the hotlines and talk to someone about what is happening. Please.
posted by dg at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2015

I was you. He sucked me in with his charm, I fell in love and then the abuse began. After many breakups, initiated by me, and take-backs, because I believed his (empty) promises to change, I finally found the courage to end the relationship once and for all. I found the courage by asking myself if I would choose this person to become the father of my children and subject them to witnessing this abuse and/or becoming the recipients of this abuse. The answer was clear and I found the courage (and conviction) to take action. The fallout was rough for a while: crying, begging, pleading, escalating to making threats, stalking, damage to my car. Finally, police involvement scared him away for good. This was one of the worst experiences of my life. Please stay broken up with this person.
posted by Aha moment at 5:46 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

This sounds so awful DeadFlagBlues! I'm so sorry you've been going through this.
It might take a while to work out why this bloke has had such an effect on you and why you're so sad when it seems you should be breaking out the champers. It sounds like you're already in a therapeutic relationship with a counsellor so this process is hopefully already underway. When i'm feeling like this I try to let myself notice the feelings and acknowledge them in some way, writing in my journal is good if I'm feeling especially mental. Having an outlet for the feelings helps me create a stronger barrier between what I'm feeling and what I'm doing, if those need to be separate.
I know it can be hard to believe that there will be a good person for you and to get sucked in when someone makes you a priority, especially if other men haven't done that. That is what you deserve though, a good person, not at all the kind of person who would mock you, screw up artwork, physically assault you etc.
Even if you don't precisely know why you're feeling the way you do, at least you know what you need to do, and that is to not give the bastard an inch more space in your life than he's already had. Good luck with it all x
posted by little fish at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2015

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