Please help me stay true to myself
August 15, 2016 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I need help in staying true to myself, avoiding self-pity and being naive as I try to conclude my divorce following a long, drawn out separation. Long story below.

I have been separated from my soon-to-be-ex husband for 18 months now. I left the family home and am living in an apartment in the same small town. Long story short, the separation was preceded by various affairs from his end and excessive drinking. He is a foreigner and often felt isolated and with difficulties to integrate to the country we live in and attributed his affairs and drinking to that. I have always put up with everything and looked after every singe detail from his life, from paying bills to dealing with electricians and doing his tax return so he didn’t have to. On the other hand he was always very focused on getting more work (so was I - we are both freelancers) and we’ve had a financially stable life.

I was willing to get the divorce finalized straight away. I found a divorce attorney and was ready to get it all over an done with but then he asked me to not rush into things, take a bit more time to think things through, etc. Because I didn’t have any emotional energy left in me and was still utterly miserable about the whole thing I agreed to that. I developed depression and other conditions as a result of the stress caused by this situation and am now being medicated and doing therapy, which has helped enormously.

During all this time we have been separated, he has travelled the world, done several cool things without ever inviting me, spent a lot of time in a much larger city where we have a small apartment, apparently to learn the local language with a private tutor. He never once came to visit me at my apartment or tried to do anything to actually convince me to stay with him or win me back. During all this time, I continued to manage the bills, jobs that needed doing at the house and all the practical stuff on his behalf.

Fast forward a few months and I discover that he has been in a relationship with a “friend” of mine since about February this year. This girl was not a very close friend of mine but lived near the city apartment we have and did come to his rescue when he needed to get to the hospital when he got ill last September (I was away for a few days when that happened). She was on his bedside most of the time and I confided a few things about how I was feeling regarding the divorce to her, was happy to have someone to help me cope with that situation, trying to help an ill STBX and wanting a divorce. I thought of her as someone who had become a good friend, but there you go.

About a month ago I gathered up strength to tell him I needed to get out of this limbo, that I knew about his relationship, that we needed to get on with our lives and so on. That was a Friday. He went to see the football that was on that night, the following day he was setting up his brand new home cinema so he could have friends over the following weekend, then on Sunday he texted me to say he was off to the city and he “would write to me”.

I got a 20 page letter the week after, where he asks me to get back together with him, what a great couple we could be, that we could start a new relationship, get married again (?!) that he has worked on himself, that he never intended to get together with my “friend” and it all happened gradually because I had left him anyway. As background it might be worth mentioning that when he met me, he was also separated (not divorced) and living on his own. When things got serious between us, he got divorced - and it was a very ugly divorce.

It took me about three weeks to digest this letter and be able to send him an email in response. The main thing I said was that I could not get back together with him because I do not trust him at all for many reasons. And that I did;t even wanted to think too much about how someone can involve another person emotionally for several months and tries to get back with their STBX at the same time. I said I wanted to meet him the day after to talk about practical matters related to the divorce but when I got there, we started a whole debate about how he didn't know I was open to him winning me over this whole year, that he thought it was all lost, etc etc.

Hell, if he thought it was all lost, then why did he think I did not formalize the divorce? Just so that I could continue to be his secretary for all this time? He also drank a whole bottle of wine while we were discussing this. I have serious problems with excessive drinking because of my alcoholic father and this was one of the main reasons we broke up. We talked and talked and never got anywhere. I was trying to say I could not be with him anymore due to lack of trust, that he ripped my heart out and tore it to pieces and there is no way I can recover from that - and he was saying he would do anything (including leaving his girlfriend) to be with me. But only when I questioned him about it. It’s as if he waits for something from me in order to offer anything back.

Last weekend, I found out that he flew with his girlfriend for a weekend break in another city, which was obviously booked when he was begging me to get back with his last week. He only wrote a message to me today, when he got back from his weekend with his love bird.

Today, I wrote another email to him outlining all the things that needed to be addressed for the divorce and also contacted the lawyer again. I am hoping he will finally agree to getting things finalized and we can get out of this situation.

I know that staying with him will be an act of violence and disrespect to myself, but I can’t help but think of everything that could have been. I feel absolutely devastated. But I also feel manipulated and dragged into some sort of sick game where people are just objects that he plays with. I would not be able to even contemplate the idea of sleeping with him. Then I remember all the good times we had together, how he helped me become a better person, a better professional…But what we consider essential in a relationship is just different - to me it's loyalty, transparency, honesty, consideration, trust.

Which leads me to my original question: how do you stay true to what you believe in when you are the party that has decided to divorce? How do you do that while avoiding drowning in a sea of self-pity/looking back? perspectives from people who went through difficult divorces would be also very much appreciated. Thanks so much!
posted by longjump to Human Relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hell, if he thought it was all lost, then why did he think I did not formalize the divorce? Just so that I could continue to be his secretary for all this time?

He thought you were naive and conflicted enough that he could use you for his convenience indefinitely at practically no cost to himself. Which, unfortunately, he did. Don't you think it's time to end his free ride?
posted by praemunire at 12:46 PM on August 15, 2016 [19 favorites]

We talked and talked and never got anywhere.

You aren't ever going to get anywhere. You have to stop talking and move on.

It's so hard when you're in a relationship with someone like this, because you see the person they could be if only they would stop doing all the things that make them a terrible partner. He isn't going to stop doing those things, though. You're wishing for a person who has never existed, and who will never exist. He keeps showing you who he is. You have to understand: this is all there is. He can't give you any more than this. And let me tell you, there isn't a person alive who doesn't deserve more than he's given you. Especially someone like you, who works hard and cares about people and wants to have a good relationship. Do whatever it takes to keep this in the forefront of your mind: the person you want him to be is not the person he is.
posted by something something at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2016 [20 favorites]

IMHO, no divorce is really easy, but there are easier divorces than others. The best way to avoid self pity is to think that for some people it really doesn't matter how hard your try, it will never be good enough. You need to surround yourself with supportive people, and your ex is not one of those, at least not anymore. He's sucking up your energy. Sorry if I'm not of better help, peace.
posted by dragonbaby07 at 1:05 PM on August 15, 2016

I don't know where you are living. If you are in the US, you stay true to yourself by hiring an attorney with a really good reputation and by instructing your soon to be ex-husband that all communication must go through your new attorney. You stay true to yourself by loving yourself, which in this case means no longer allowing him to use you. And you do this even though it hurts to divorce yourself from him, literally and figuratively in this way, because it hurts more to allow him to continue to take advantage of you. Your time, your love, your energy, your money, etc. This guy is simply playing you for time. You are a convenience for him. Focus on yourself in every way: what you need, what you want, what you hope to have some day. He leans on you because you let him. Stop that. Get the appropriate help you need to ditch this legally and safely and protect as much of your own assets as possible in the process. Do whatever you need to do to protect yourself and create the stability you need to build a better life without him. This will hurt and it will take time. It's necessary, though, if you want to take are of yourself. This is a hard situation. Hope you get all the support you need to make this happen. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:05 PM on August 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Finalize the divorce asap and move on. He is using you as a secretary and backup choice of lover, and he will not change. The relationship is toxic and one-sided, and every minute you stay with him, he is sucking you dry of resources and self-esteem which will take time to replenish. You had some good times, you learned some good things, now get out of there, heal, and move on. You cannot heal while you are linked to him, so cut the ties as soon as you can. Good for you for seeing through his bullshit and starting the divorce. You have conquered the hardest first step already. Just follow through and this time next summer, you will be in such a better place. Good luck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:08 PM on August 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

First you need to stop talking to him. You have a lawyer. Let the lawyer do what you are paying him/her to do.

And then when you have freed yourself of having to deal with him directly anymore, go ahead and feel the self-pity. You've been in a hard situation and held onto hope that this person would somehow change. You are entitled to a pint of ice cream and a lot of tears and some bad movies on the couch. Reach out to friends or family and cry on their shoulders. Find a counselor or therapist.

Do not take your ex's calls or reply to his texts/emails during this time, hard as it may be. Redirect anything practical to your lawyer and ignore anything non-practical.

And after a little while of allowing yourself to grieve, you will begin to feel like you want to shower and change into unwrinkled clothes. So do that, and get a pedicure or a massage if that appeals to you, and venture back out into the world in search of something(s) interesting and engaging and exhausting and challenging to do with your body and brain. Baby steps or running shoes, whatever works for you. And keep your friends/family/therapist on call during this time too.
posted by headnsouth at 1:20 PM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have been separated from my soon-to-be-ex husband for 18 months now.
He is a foreigner
I was willing to get the divorce finalized straight away. I found a divorce attorney and was ready to get it all over an done with but then he asked me to not rush into things, take a bit more time to think things through, etc.

So, let me ask this: Is his ability to remain in the country in any way dependent upon being married to you? Does he need to move elsewhere -- or, perhaps, promptly remarry -- if you divorce him due to his status as a foreign national?

If so, honey, you are being used. He doesn't give a flying fuck about you. He just wants the marriage to nominally continue while he lives as he pleases so he won't get deported.

Divorce his ass. Promptly. You weren't depressed and medicated until you went along with this bullshit while he began a relationship to a so-called friend of yours behind your back. Medicating yourself so you can keep putting up with this shit is totally the wrong answer.

He will be fine. He has no problem finding chumps to put with his crap. Let it be some other chump who takes care of all the details for this bum.
posted by Michele in California at 1:45 PM on August 15, 2016 [16 favorites]

We talked and talked and never got anywhere.

And it won't. This is who he is. Your gut is right – he's using you. That's why talking to him doesn't work: you have different goals. Yours is to be a compassionate human being in a relationship worthy of the word "relationship"; his is to con you into thinking you're in a relationship so that he has someone else doing all the stuff he doesn't want to do while he does what he wants to do, which is sleep with women.

Please don't take that as a criticism of you, it's not. It is wonderful that you're a compassionate person. Now it's time to turn that compassion towards yourself. Give yourself what this dude never will.

Talk to your lawyer to try and get this divorce moving forward as independently as possible. This dude has given you every reason in the book for it. And I seriously hope that your bank accounts are not joint. Protect everything you can, legally.
posted by fraula at 2:35 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why would he want to give you up? He has to do absolutely nothing to support you in any way, and benefits from the fact that you continue to take care of mundane things for him. You're like a servant that he doesn't have to pay or even treat well. When you do finally make moves to divorce him, he suddenly wants you back?!?! What a transparent and ridiculous lie. He just wants the security of someone who will "manage the bills, jobs that needed doing at the house and all the practical stuff on his behalf " while he's enjoying extravagant trips, new toys, new girlfriends, and a fun new life!

You don't have to speak with him. Get a great lawyer, get what's fair in the settlement (don't sell yourself short, you did a tremendous amount to make his life comfortable even after the split), and go have a great life without this parasite.
posted by quince at 2:46 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

It took a few things to steel my resolve to keep on with the divorce:
- I had to get away from him, really separate myself from his life and establish my own. Had to re-learn what it was like to actually be single and enjoying my own life. Having a taste of that freedom gave me a real goal to work towards - my own personal happiness.
- Acknowledging that yes there were good times in our relationship, but that's in the past now. No guilt over reminiscing about it, but allowing myself to put it aside and let it all go. We won't have that ever again.
- Realizing what an ugly person he's revealed himself to be as a result of all of this. Why would I even consider going back to someone who was finding it so easy to treat me like this now? He tries to backtrack with pretty words, but I've seen how surprisingly awful he can be.
posted by lizbunny at 3:19 PM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I jump into these types of questions sometimes because I feel I have a lot of experience with both putting up with a lot of bullshit and then coming around to "being true to myself" and putting a stop to all that nonsense.

I could seriously write a novel, but to keep it concise, this is a self-esteem thing. Work HARD on your self-esteem, like it's your job.

Women who feel good about themselves don't put up with this shit. They just don't. Treat me right or take a hike.

You can look back in pity, and cry for what could have been. No shame in that. Cry your cry. Feel pity for yourself. Take stock of what you've had to deal with. Give yourself a hug.

And when you're finished with that, its time to wash the tears off your face with cold water. Look in the mirror. Take ownership of your mistakes. Thank this guy for teaching you a few things about assholes. Be proud of yourself for drawing your line in the sand and sticking to it. Work your butt off to get your self-esteem up to where it needs to be, so you can grow out of this pain.

You can do this, I have all the faith in the world and I promise you, you will be so much happier without him.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:49 PM on August 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

A lot of us have been in a similar spot as you.
Get to the lawyer, have him served.
Print out this question and take it to a therapist.

You got this.
posted by It'sANewDawn at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey, I'm so sorry you've had such a horrible time, and I promise it will get better. I wanted to add, to the great advice above, a comment about this:

I can’t help but think of everything that could have been.

I want to try and help you get past this, so in case you haven't heard about it, check out the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Because of a logical flaw in how we think about things, despite you knowing you deserve better some part of your brain is telling you to stick with this guy because of everything you've already been through, and hoping for what you thought "could have been". This is an unwise move, logically, but it's a strong feeling. From the article linked above:

"It could be a degree you want to change, or a career you want to escape, or a relationship you know is rotten. You don’t return to it over and over again to create good experiences and pleasant memories but to hold back the negative emotions you expect to feel if you accept the loss of time, effort, money or whatever else you have invested."

When you think about your marriage as something that "could have been" remind yourself that it wasn't, and it won't be, what you envisaged. And that the sooner you follow your heart and break away from it, the sooner you can break out of the above logic trap, and begin "investing" in yourself (most importantly), and potentially someone else who will give you better returns on your love.
posted by greenish at 10:04 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The only useful part of all the therapy I did during my divorce was my therapist gave me the advice to trust people's actions, not their words and to speak with actions, not words. (That took me like 3 months to get out of the therapist.)

So, his words say lots of stuff. But his actions say he's going to continue to extract as much free labor from you and convenience as possible. In fact, I'd almost bet that the more boundaries you draw, the more manipulative and separated from reality his words will get.

Get a copy of all the records. Document everything the best you can with dates, amounts, etc.

Get a lawyer. Ask the lawyer to handle communication from then out.

After my divorce (once it was filed but before it was final), I was shocked at how good I felt and how all the little things I thought were such a big deal that kept me from doing it sooner didn't matter. They were not my deal, not my problem, some of them were not even a problem but rather created just to keep me involved in the marriage.

You deserve to live a full life. Maybe that's with someone who appreciates you. Maybe that's alone with you appreciating you. But it's certainly not serving the needs and whims of someone who treats you like an executive assistant at best. You deserve better than this, but only you can go get it.
posted by Gucky at 8:45 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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