Potemkin relationship collapsed. Now what?
February 14, 2018 12:07 AM   Subscribe

Serious boyfriend was cheating, without condoms, throughout our relationship. He never had feelings for me; our entire relationship was a lie so he could use me. Now I'm doing everything right but nothing helps at all. What else?

Background: I'm an early 30s woman. Up until my mid-20s, I had a string of longish quasi-relationships with guys who seemed good, ended up horrible. I wasn't OK with accepting that risk, so I stopped dating completely, focused on myself for years, I had planned permanently. Did years of therapy, "graduated" from therapy.

I had been friends with this guy for years. He was feminist/woke but not a LOOK HOW GOOD I AM jerk, more about amplifying others' voices and supporting them. I had seen him have good relationships and (apparently) good breakups with other women in our friendgroup. He knew about my terrible past situations with guys and had always been supportive. He had done therapy for years and seemed to have a secure attachment style. He was very stable and responsible, which is like my #1 thing. I was also close friends with his sister, a wonderful person. Everything about him always seemed excellent. Finally I decided to give it a shot.

We were together for over a year. We were having unprotected sex (a first for me), I was giving him my key (a huge deal for me), he was talking about wanting me to move in when his lease was up soon, he had grilled me about my taste in engagement rings. Like I thought this was it.

Anyway, it obviously isn't, since he spent the entire time lying about literally everything: where he was, what he was doing, who he was with, what he thought, what he wanted, everything. And having sex with at least two other women (whom he was also lying to) without condoms. He ghosted on me, and when I reached out, finally he admitted, calmly and not vindictively, that he had never had any feelings for me at all, that our entire relationship had been faked so he could manipulate me into giving him more and more. I of course fell for it 100%.

Obviously everything is over permanently, which also means likely losing our friendgroup. He's already spinning it as "you know how clingy and crazy she is, it was just casual, we never had any of those conversations." (We definitely did. Some are even in emails, but bringing that out would be crazy.) His sister is sort of torn between us; she thinks he behaved horribly and she's mad at him, but I think she also probably thinks I'm clingy and pathetic and possibly making shit up, and basically she's tired of hearing about it. Our crew is into restorative justice, so he'll probably be "rehabilitated" soon, which I won't be OK with.

So I am dragging myself to work every day, and treating myself to fancy fruits and vegetables, and spending time on my hobbies and the gym, and going to hobby groups that know none of this, and cleaning my apartment, and making elaborate meals I barely eat, and not touching alcohol or pot or anything, and taking baths and moisturizing, and going to bed on time, and and and nothing is helping even like 1%. I'm also indulging in some Ben & Jerry's and sad private tweeting, also not helping. This has been about a month and I still just completely want to be in a coma.

My friends aren't available for much support. My best friend is long-distance, she had a family trauma, she's working full-time and going back to school and planning her wedding, so chatting is all she can do and I know that's already a ton. My closest local friend was this guy's sister. I tried two more friends who had separate big work stuff. I did get two other friends to agree to watch a movie with me, and I'm super grateful for that, but that's been all. Everyone just has too much of their own stuff going on. My bio family isn't supportive about relationships (think 1950s "why buy the cow") so not an option.

My therapist moved away some time after I "graduated," and I can't afford years more of therapy. The whole time I was doing therapy before, I was running at a loss. I can afford exactly one skype session with my therapist who moved, and I've been trying to keep that in my pocket.

I don't have much extra money I can throw at this, maybe like $100?, so no vacation getaways. My career is really only available here (NYC), so I can't burn it all down and move cross-country. I can't even move within the city. I did take a couple personal days from work right after this happened, and pushing that further would be too far. My boss knows I had a bad breakup, but no details.

I got a full STI panel, all negative, which is pretty meaningless since most are still within the window for false negatives, which will be another few months. I changed my locks (I live alone).

I'm looking for more actionable advice. Buy thing, or do thing, or sit in front of this mind-numbing TV show, or if you say these magic words your friends will appear, or this specific process will turn your misery to anger, or ask his sister to make him to do thing, or invoke restorative justice in order to . . . ? I have no idea, there is literally nothing I want besides being unconscious, without horrible little realizations all day and nightmares all night. I'm also open to suggestions about what I might want!

I'm open to pep talks, but please not anything about how I'll find the right one next time, or how to identify the right one next time, or how I must have missed red flags this time. It won't be useful since I'm definitely finished with dating/relationships. Also please nothing about your wonderful partner, no matter how wonderful.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Break stuff. Do you have cheap crockery or access to throw-away crockery? Throw plates. Smash mugs. Set fires to journal pages about what a fucker he is and watch the smoke drift. Go for long marches with angry music on until you are dripping sweat and are somewhere you can scream.

I switched to different supermarkets so i could ugly cry in aisles and then finish my shopping. I walked and hiked a lot. Boxing has been recommended by friends in similar circumstances.

A month is like a moment for such a huge betrayal - this guy took not just your heart but used you to get your entire social circle access and now you are exiled while he gets to walk away? You're numb with grief and rage that is absolutely reasonable and appropriate. You need to find and rebuild new social circles while morning a loss, which is very hard.

It can be done. It takes time and it's hard, oh my god it's hard. I found a lot of comfort in completely new online circles too but looking back, i wish I'd been stronger about saying aloud what an ass my ex was/ is and not keeping the peace with Switzerland friends. People who want to keep both of you friends in such clear abuse are not your friend. Drop them.

Get a pet if you can or access to a pet through fostering or volunteering with animals. Caretaking an animal helps a lot with feeling unlovable and touch affection.

And smash everything he left behind.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:24 AM on February 14, 2018 [39 favorites]

Jesus fucking christ on a stick, what a putrid fucking dick. I am so sorry this jerkass buttwipe with a moon rock for a heart behaved like such a flaming pile of crap with you. You did not deserve ANY of this. (I know you know that, but I've also been cheated on similarly-though-less-horribly and so I also know you go through the "oh my god how could I" thoughts.)

Let yourself feel what you need to feel. Lots of self-care too, I found that having a set schedule helped. Get up, pet the cats, make the bed, shower, make breakfast, go to work, eat lunch, go for a walk after lunch, etc. and so forth.

Seconding that caring for a pet is huge, if that's something you want. My kitties love me boundlessly and with no caveats. This morning, Valentines Day, my new kitty licked me on the lips while I woke up, then she purr-chirped at me and licked some more. I mean seriously how much better can life get.

Are you still in touch with your therapist? It might help to have a few sessions. This is utterly abhorrent behavior on the dude's part and feeling a mindfuck is wholly evidence that you are a conscientious human being.

In my case it was a Reddit MRA who used me as his "real girlfriend" experience, then dropped that he was sleeping around a few months later. In my case, at least he never infiltrated my friend circle.
posted by fraula at 1:07 AM on February 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

It's therapy you need. Crowdfund for the therapy. You can do this publicly or with a private listing. Your extended networks can help. You can even get a friend to do it and not use your real name.
posted by Mistress at 1:34 AM on February 14, 2018

Also, invoke restorative justice to keep that jerk out of your shared spaces. If they are focusing on him and not on helping make you more whole they are doing it wrong.
posted by Mistress at 1:37 AM on February 14, 2018 [35 favorites]

Sorry for thread sitting. If there is a restorative justice process those emails absolutely can and should get brought out! He's lying about what he's said in order to paint you as the bad guy. That isn't ok.
posted by Mistress at 1:39 AM on February 14, 2018 [25 favorites]

I don't see where you need more therapy and I definitely wouldn't say that you need it right now. You have an excellent handle on this epic lying turd and your reactions seem totally normal. A few things to consider doing:

1. Get a cat or catsit or start caring for a creature that depends on you.
2. Try to actively reframe this into how very very lucky you are to be out of this house of lies and now you can move forward in truth.
3. Tell your friends to fuck their restorative justice and get better friends.
4. Tell yourself with power and truth that you have already gotten over the first month and you will continue to get through the days until one day, you'll realize you've gone beyond getting through and you're actually living again.
5. Go visit the polar bears in Central Park, look into their eyes and learn their secrets. Enjoy their swimming shenanigans and their cute fat paws. Make this your job. Trust me, this works.

Know you have a lot of internet strangers angry on your behalf and rooting for you.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:58 AM on February 14, 2018 [49 favorites]

Good advice. Here are three more things to consider.

1. Feel free to keep your distance from your friend group (for as long as you want!), but you don't have to write them off yet. I have been in a situation with a similar result to this, and the thing is, a lot of good people just kind of, can't really believe that a person they like would act that badly? So they assume that the other party (in this case, you) must be partly to blame. Then gradually, they realise it's not the case, and they have the painful realisation that their friend is a total asshole. At that point, some of them may make tentative ventures back towards you, or even apologising for not giving you more benefit of the doubt. This may take a while, but it happened for me and although I'd moved on by the time it did to an extent, it was still gratifying and I gained a friend or two back.

2. You don't have to censor your anger at him to anyone, although it might help to keep it factual when talking to people who like/are related to him. So for example, if your friend brings it up, you can respond "I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about him because I am extremely angry and hurt. Can we change the subject?". You don't have to be subtle about it. You don't owe anyone to sugar-coat it.

3. Make art. I have worked with homeless people, alcoholics, and kids struggling to process their HIV status and I will tell you this, making art to channel your feelings and pain and confusion can be transformative. Write a poem, paint something, buy some no-fire clay and sculpt something. Play music, write a short play. Sing. Sing as part of a group. Do whatever you can, or whatever you want to. Try something new. Some of the very best art is pain transfigured into beauty.
posted by greenish at 3:07 AM on February 14, 2018 [23 favorites]

Does your job have an Employee Assistance Program? That might be good for 2 or 3 sessions with a therapist ... not your old one on Skype, probably, but at least it would be *somebody* who could listen and make suggestions.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:37 AM on February 14, 2018 [18 favorites]

For me the hardest part of this kind of experience is the way it destroyed my faith in my own instincts, and pretty much shut down all my natural inclinations to trust and believe in the good intentions of others. I am still struggling with a personal drought brought on by that destruction. I want to give of myself and invest in relationships like I used to, but I just can't. Something feels stunted and fearful and self-protective and I... just can't.

And while I no longer mourn that relationship or feel any loss in terms of the people, I still very much mourn the parts of me that were burnt down and lost as a result. I'm not the person I was, and that is a cloud over my life that has not lifted yet. I can't speak for you, but maybe there is some degree of that present in your situation also. So if you can find ways to be with people who make you feel safe enough to give of yourself, and feel that true honest exchange of energy and affection and companionship, then those are the things I strongly recommend. And as others have commented, maybe working with animals, or volunteering with NICU babies or small children may be helpful. Something that you can do where expressing empathy and feeling is in no way a risk to your fragile emotional state.

I guess what I am saying is, my advice is to take steps sooner vs. later to (in safe ways) preserve your ability to feel and love and interact genuinely with others/with the world, because it's possible to lose those aspects of yourself without even realizing it's happening. I've let those emotional muscles atrophy out of fear and self-preservation, and it's not a state of affairs I wish on anyone else. Hugs to you.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:23 AM on February 14, 2018 [44 favorites]

Lots of great ideas here. Physical activity can help move some of the frustrated energy along. It’s not quite the season for volunteering to weed at a local park or garden, but gardening and physical activity like removing invasive plants can help. Transforming a piece of furniture by refinishing it, or changing up some of your personal space might help your mojo. Zumba, volleyball, even taking a 30 minute walk in a park or through an art museum can bring perspective.

RJ is helpful if your ex is willing to participate, and there is a skilled facilitator that handles the interactive pieces. It’s not, and never is, therapy. However, deep listening is part of the practice, which is different from your friends why-can’t-we-just-hit-reset-and-bypass-ugly-behavior-and-trauma. It CAN be a strategy for you and your friend group to move through this, as an active process, however talking to the RJ intake person is where the best information resides for making that decision. Ask what happens if your ex does not participate, is there conflict coaching or similar support? There is no pressure from me to you to participate, it’s mostly extra information for people reading along who are unfamiliar with the process. Many RJ practitioners are skilled with getting buy-in from participants, as unresolved conflict clouds relationships, but it’s not a simple answer. Some people are most comfortable ignoring conflicts, unfortunately.
posted by childofTethys at 4:54 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I had a betrayal experience like this, one thing that helped me was reading about sociopaths and how to spot them so I'd be less likely to be duped again. Roughly 1 out of 20 people are sociopaths so learning this is a pretty important social survival skill.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:54 AM on February 14, 2018 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry to read about this painful experience you've endured. Nobody deserves to be treated like that and indeed you've dodged a bullet by discovering what type of person this man is before you wasted anymore time on him. I hope you don't blame any of this on yourself, it's great that you have a trusting and loving heart. It's nothing but bad luck that you gave your love to someone deceptive, manipulative and cowardly.

There are good people out there, you will find them and they will find you.

I've been in some similar situations as yours and have worked very hard to keep my heart open and not let bad luck damage my ability to move forward without bitterness. It's hard but it's also a choice and entirely possible.

If you need someone to talk with, I'm a female in her 30s from Scotland with a broadband connection and a Skype account. Drop me a pm if you think chatting with a friendly stranger could help.

Things that have helped me a lot through bad break up times (though there is no accounting for taste):

First season of True Detective - The complex relationship between Harrelson and McConaughey's characters drew me in deeply, the cinematography is gorgeous and I adored the soundtrack.

The album "Sun" by Cat Power. I listened to this whole album on repeat after escaping an abusive relationship. I found it simultaneously uplifting, empowering and healing.

Recently I really was compelled by a series on Netflix called Sense 8. The premise is 8 individuals around the globe find themselves connecting to each other in what seems to be at first a hallucinogenic way, experiencing each other's feelings, emotions, the sense of being somewhere else in a foreign culture, speaking languages they previously couldn't understand. What I really loved about this series was the portrait of the power of empathy. There are many beautiful relationships between the central characters and I was often moved to tears but not on a depressing way. Would strongly recommend it for some pleasurable escapism. Lots of hotness to appreciate too!

Finally, I would recommend the novel Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (my username Kudra is one of the central characters) This is a fantastical tale that is a 100% antidepressant. You will laugh out loud and marvel about love, loss and immortality. Beautiful story.
posted by kudra23 at 4:54 AM on February 14, 2018 [12 favorites]

I was in a lie and a farce and a fake of a "relationship" for about six woeful and unpleasant years with a fraud and a liar like your ex, except mine was a white-anter and a gaslighter.

That was the way she paid back the emotional abuse she suffered as a child; always demeaning, chipping away, niggling, sometimes very explicitly but mostly using constant and more subtle attacks with "plausible deniability" that allowed her to blame the victim for being "too sensitive" to the endless barrage of negativity.

The minute it was over I felt immediately 500% better, escalating over time.

You can't help the fact that other people are trainwrecks, or festooned with more red flags than May Day in Moscow.

What you can help is your reaction.

I don't know you at all, but I'm sure you have basic goodness in you. You're fine.

Get on with doing the stuff that gives you pleasure. Be yourself, and stop thinking or worrying about "the right one" or dating/relationships.

Time for you right now, and fuck everybody else. When you're ready, things will probably happen :)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:57 AM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry. It sounds like you're doing all the right things. It's only been a month and it will just feel sucky and bad until it starts to suck less.

The only other things I can suggest are yoga and meditation, both of which you can do for free in your living room. Both helped me to get a break from my feelings and thoughts after my last breakup. It also helps to remember that falling in love is like heroin - you're in withdrawal and of COURSE it sucks - knowing this helps me to be more patient with myself and the process.
posted by bunderful at 5:29 AM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Holy crap. I'd be done too.

Keep doing everything you're doing. It might not feel like it's helping, but it is. You're doing better than a lot of people in your situation would be doing . . . the temptation to give in to the downward spiral is overpowering, and you're fighting and beating that.

Find something or someone to care for. A pet is great because it will give you unconditional love AND a reason to keep going: it needs you. So do other people. You could volunteer with an organization that works with children, or the elderly, or other vulnerable people who need someone to show up and care about them and where you can surround yourself with other good people who give a damn. Yeah, he seemed to be one of those people, and this course of action means you might encounter others like this, but you can interact with them on a superficial level, at the very least. You don't need to become too involved with anyone.

You'll get through this. You're doing well so far. It really is partly a matter of time.
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 5:39 AM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

It helped me to know that I wasn't the only one who shit like this happens to. I mean, it really really sucks that ANYONE deals with this but it helped me to feel not so alone and stupid to know that other people go through this.

You don't say how long ago this happened, but time really is a great healer. It will likely take longer than you want it to but one day you'll realize you haven't thought about him ALL DAY. And then you'll realize it's been weeks, and then months. I literally hadn't thought about the dude who lied to me about having a brain tumor so he could get back in my pants for like a year until I started writing this comment. And what am I feeling for him right this minute, this guy who I thought I was going to marry, who I grieved over when I thought he had terminal brain cancer? Literally nothing. No anger, no pity, no regret.

You'll be okay. You really will.
posted by cooker girl at 5:51 AM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

How invested are you in this circle of friends? Because it seems very odd that he's been dating in this circle and this is the first time he's pulled a stunt like this.

I guess what I'm wondering is whether your friend circle is worth fighting for (showing them the emails, etc. )
posted by kingdead at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

Break stuff. Do you have cheap crockery or access to throw-away crockery? Throw plates. Smash mugs.

+1 that letting yourself really feel and let out anger in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself or others can be really helpful. Anger is often stigmatized and shoved away in the kind of lefty peer groups where you’d be talking about restorative justice, but as long as it isn’t being turned on people and used as a weapon it can be a tremendous way to heal. Thrift stores are great for picking up cheap crockery for something like this (like, two-mugs-for-a-dollar cheap); my personal favorite is Out Of The Closet, in Brooklyn.

In a similar vein, I’d also recommend looking in to something like a cheap boxing class.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:14 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

Do stuff this jerk hated.

I spent about three months after my ex-husband moved out eating all the stuff he made fun of, and listening to all the music he complained about and watching the stuff I loved and he didn't like. It was good both as reclaiming my space (most of it was stuff I did while we were married, just much less often or at times he wasn't around) and also breaking a lot of the habitual patterns from when we were together.

I definitely second the advice to spend some quality time with animals if you can - volunteer, cat sit, whatever works - there really is nothing like a cat or a dog for being delighted you're paying attention to them right now.

If you have friends who are long distance, but who are otherwise glad to chat, I know people who do the 'stick computer on Skype and chat while you do household stuff' and people who do the 'let's both watch X movie on Netflix and chat about it while it happens'. It can help with feeling connected to others without needing to be in the same place.

(And I know it's hard, but if you can ask specifically, you may get different answers even if they're busy: I wouldn't necessarily arrange to do this on a regular basis with people because life is busy, but if someone said "I am still having a really rough time with this breakup, can we plan to hang out online once a week for an hour or two?" I would definitely be there and figuring out how we could make it work. Planning ahead also means you have it to look forward to.)
posted by modernhypatia at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2018 [14 favorites]

Boxing gym maybe?

And please just know that one month is NOTHING in terms of healing time. Of course you are still feeling this way. Anyone would be. It has no implication for your future. You will heal, but it just takes more time than this, no matter how much self care and boxing you do.

Cleaning rituals might help too. Does your gym have a sweat room, sauna etc? They help.

Aaaand finally. There's no shame in a valium every now and again. They help, especially at night. But they are highly addictive, so if you have a propensity to substance abuse I would steer clear. I'll be honest, there have been times (and a horrendous breakup was one of them) when I just don't know how I would have gotten through it without that help -- just to know that I had the option to have it was huge.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:54 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh hell no. I'd take screenshots of your email/text message evidence and put it on imgur and then I'd send the link out with a "if anyone has any doubt, here's my side." and let that be it. If your friend "circle" doesn't "circle" the wagons after that, then they're shitty friends.
posted by vivzan at 6:57 AM on February 14, 2018 [34 favorites]

Rearrange your apartment. Buy sheets he never slept on. Get really into a podcast. Learn how to cook a complicated dish. Keep your hands and brain busy, your heart will catch up.

(as to the friends...I lost my entire friend group in a breakup situation because they were super liberal and empathetic and gave lip service to restorative justice and always always always picked the "underdog" but were also super terrible at working out who that was. I miss many of them still a decade later but looking back I don't think what we had was friendship if they could let me go so easily without ever really inquiring about my side of things)
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 7:02 AM on February 14, 2018 [21 favorites]

when I reached out, finally he admitted, calmly and not vindictively, that he had never had any feelings for me at all, that our entire relationship had been faked so he could manipulate me into giving him more and more. I of course fell for it 100%.

You know he's lying about this, too, right?

You're not crazy, you're not weak, and your instincts aren't wrong. He's just an asshole. I'm so sorry you're going through this. You don't owe anyone any politeness about him, feel free to calmly say that he's a weirdo pathological liar who hurt you deeply.
posted by desuetude at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2018 [69 favorites]

There are bound to be sliding scale and free therapists in NYC. You should find one!

I think you need to cut your losses with his family and any friends who are acting loyal toward him. Also, fuck him. If they say he's told them you're lying, show them the damned emails. That's not crazy. You're not crazy. If you calmly and consistently stick to your narrative, and work on moving forward one day at a time, it will be clear who the real drama-mongerer is.

I'm sorry this happened to you. You deserved better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 AM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

So I am dragging myself to work every day, and treating myself to fancy fruits and vegetables, and spending time on my hobbies and the gym, and going to hobby groups that know none of this, and cleaning my apartment, and making elaborate meals I barely eat, and not touching alcohol or pot or anything, and taking baths and moisturizing, and going to bed on time, and and and nothing is helping even like 1%. I'm also indulging in some Ben & Jerry's and sad private tweeting, also not helping

Firstly, this internet stranger is PROUD of you for all of the good work you're doing. These are going to be great habits to have once the clouds lift, and they will lift.

I agree with the suggestion to buy new sheets, and I'll also add that you should find a safe way to print his emails out and burn them.

You have over 20 of us here, at your back, telling you that you are NOT crazy and that he is a jerk. Bookmark/favorite this post and read the comments every day.
posted by kimberussell at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2018 [13 favorites]

I was going to memail you, but you are anonymous, so I wanted to let you know that I'm going through something sort of similar (not a romantic relationship, but a betrayal that has left me feeling like the world is something I barely recognize), and if you want to talk about it or NOT talk about it or just have a pal who sends you cute animal faces and has no connection to your friend group, just let me know.

Also chiming in with: tell people what this dude really did. You have the receipts. Make people understand that choosing him over you is complicity. Make them really, really uncomfortable. Your community has no right to make you bear this burden alone.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:25 AM on February 14, 2018 [23 favorites]

I agree with the person who said re-arrange your apartment. Paint the walls if you can. New sheets and pillows yes! New curtains, new art. Move your bed especially.

Also do some kind of symbolic purification ritual, like burning sage, and and repeating something like out motherfucker out.
posted by mareli at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

It seems like you haven’t yet reached the anger stage. You need to get there; you need to be full of rage and fury that this piece of something you’d scrape off the bottom of your shoe DARED be such an asshole to you. You need to be incensed that he’s allowed to walk the streets without people pointing at him and yelling “Lying, sociopathic asshole!” as he passes by. Because once you get to the anger stage, the “I was always too good for that shithead” stage is next, followed by the “Who? Oh, that loser! Haha!” stage.

Everyone gets to that stage at their own pace, but what worked for a friend of mine was when we took a short (3 hour drive each way) road trip, and she discovered the cathartic powers of angry hard rock and metal music. Which led to me posting an AskMe, and getting tons of great suggestions for an “Angry Breakup Music” playlist.

And I’m sorry that this jerk has blasted a hole through your trust. I hope his teeth rot and he can’t afford a dentist.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:39 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

These are wonderful suggestions and observations above. Everyone who has read and responded to your post is On Your Side. For good reason. We have all been somewhere similar with someone who has betrayed our trust and made us question our own judgement. If a stranger wrongs us it's fucked up but we move on without much damage inside. When we've crossed our own boundaries and let someone in who wrongs us in such fundamental ways, it attacks our sense of self and questions our own judgement. You had trust and hope and allowed him inside your perimeter, and he betrayed you. You need to process this, and you will. But not all at once. It takes time. In the meantime you deserve a breather and some safe spaces while you begin to recover.

Take up some of these suggestions - the ones that feel the most healing to you. You don't owe him anything and you don't need to compromise or explain yourself to his family or friends. If you want to send his lying emails, go ahead. If not, that's good too. You know what the truth is. Now, it's all about you and recovering. Cultivate a new group of friends who do a completely new activity, like a book club only for comedy. Someplace where not much is demanded of you so you won't feel vulnerable. Make safe spaces for yourself with new experiences that have absolutely nothing to do with him or the hurt he caused you. Gradually, there will be more and more situations where you have a history that is entirely your own.

In moments of doubt tell yourself that living well is the best revenge.
posted by citygirl at 8:06 AM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you lost a good friend and found out about your ex boyfriend's betrayal all in one go. That's super tough and you are AMAZING for reacting the way you have. WOW. You really have it together.


Go to The Met and visit the Temple of Dendur. (trust me.)

Binge watch Steven Universe. It's on HULU. (super trust me.)

Give it time. I think you are doing GREAT. Also, this is a thing everyone goes through, an exceptional betrayal. This happens to everyone. You're in NYC, make the most of it. Embrace the city. There's a lot more there than these people. Expand into new things/people/places/events. Keep moving. You've got this.
posted by jbenben at 8:27 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The last time I was in a dude-done-me-wrong breakup, I ended up writing to an online advice column about an issue I was having with the breakup. And the reason that the response I got helped had nothing to do with the actual issue - it was that an impartial outsider was telling me "wow, that dude sounds like an ASSHOLE" and it was amazingly validating. (Last letter in that column, talking about a guy named "Zitbrain".)

I think finding someone in here you can semi-regularly talk to, who can affirm that "that dude was an asshole" can help. This may be why your friends turning from you right now hurts even more, becuase this is supposed to be THEIR job and they're not doing it. You need that validation of "no, it's not all in your head, this guy really was a flaming pile of poo".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Volleyball = punch the ball
Zumba = punch the air
Kickboxing & martial arts classes have their place on the menu of legit punching
Self-defense classes, too.

Vicarious revenge books/novels like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo might scratch an itch as well.

Music might help, plenty of bluesy options with bright endings to add to the soundtrack of your life, similar to Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right But It’s Okay
posted by childofTethys at 8:44 AM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry this happened to you, but it sounds like you are doing all the right things.

I'd add to have self compassion for WHATEVER you are feeling. After my breakup, I pressured myself to move to the angry stage, to "get over it", to move on. In the end that kinda backfired and I should have just taken the time I needed to mourn the loss. This guy is obviously such an asshole that you might feel like you "should" be angry but there is still the loss of what you thought you had. Please be compassionate towards yourself if you are just feeling sad. You'll get to the angry part when it's right for you. And you'll move on.

I also got a weighted blanket after my breakup. It's kinda like a hug and helped with the anxiety. Lots of layered blankets can have the same effect.

It looks like there are some breakup support groups in Meetup in NY. Maybe one of them could be a space to talk and get some support.
posted by seraph9 at 8:54 AM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've taken the high road in a situation like this before and I regret it as there are people I like and respect who think I'm the crazy one still a decade later. (Roomates, not relationship). Send the sister and a couple friends one or two of the emails or screenshots thereof with a message that's says "I'm not the liar here, I don't want to get into it but if appreciate people not spreading rumors about me that are not true" and walk away for a while. Let them come to you and apologize. If they don't then I guess you know what kind of people they are.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 AM on February 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

It sucks, but you have to write the sister off. She's his family. She's not going to pick you. Trying to prove to her directly that you're not "crazy" over this will likely make her more defensive and more likely to find ways to protect him. I'm so sorry you're going through this.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 9:05 AM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I just want you to know that this is 100% not your fault. Emotional manipulators like this are pros at seeming great and making you and everyone else believe they are great and sincere. I have recommended it here before, but the now-defunct HBI has plenty of stories, rants, and warnings about this very same guy.

(I understand that you aren't looking for dating advice and I want to clarify that I'm only linking to the red flag lists because in reading them, and the associated commentary, I have found tons of validation and a sense of community post crazy-evil-ex breakups. I do NOT AT ALL want to imply that you could have seen this coming or to keep dating, it's more of a "others have also been here and this is what their assholes did" thing).
posted by windykites at 9:21 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, I also want to add that by your 30's, many people have come to the realisation that men who protest too much about their "crazy clingy ex" are often full of shit and there may be more to the story. Don't write off your friend group just yet, particularly the other women, especially particularly other women who've been through a few breakups. Reach out and have tea with a few, tell them how betrayed you feel (when it feels like a safe risk, as some won't be on your side and you might not need that pain just now).

You might be surprised how many will be on your side, not his, even if he is charismatic and popular.
posted by windykites at 9:35 AM on February 14, 2018 [13 favorites]

Reading your ask again, I am struck by a few things. One - the biggest - is that time is time. Numb is numb. The only way out is through (sorry). The fact that you are at the point where you can write it all out and ask for ways to move forward suggests to me that you are almost at the next stage, whatever it is - numb is cracking a bit. Does that sound possible?

Another is that this absolute dickhead dated other people within the friend group. If the breakups didn't look bad from the outside, maybe they look different from the in? If you are still in contact with any of these previous people, maybe ask them directly what their experience was? Maybe it wasn't so different from yours, and maybe it would change how you feel about holding on to any part of this friend group. Maybe some of them have been feeling unheard and would be interested in making restorative justice really work for you all - rather than your fear that it will 100% allow him back into everyone's good graces with minimal inconvenience to him.

Yet another is that you are in New York, and that your sense is that your other friends "have too much going on." I feel like big cities, especially NY, have this thing that happens, a kind of attention calculus. Does showing up for someone mean leaving my borough/leaving work on time/skipping this other thing I want to do? I hate that and I'm sorry if it's part of the picture here. Recognizing it doesn't solve it, unfortunately.

I totally agree with what someone else said above - when he tells you it was all a lie and he felt nothing for you and he was using you to see how far he could go - this is also a lie. It doesn't make him any better, and it doesn't mean you need to empathize with how scared he is of feeling things for people, but he is an empty shell of a liar.

I have read this question, and all the excellent responses, a bunch of times today. I am thinking of you as I go about my day, and hoping that you feel some solace from how you are being heard and the chord you have struck. You! You are in the world, making things happen, and while I totally sympathize with your desire to be unconscious until you feel better somehow, I think you are putting in all the work and will see the results.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:56 AM on February 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

All the suggestions here are considerably healthier than the following, but I wanted to put in a good word for escapism. TV shows, books, computer games - if they can help you get out of your head for a while and help time pass more easily while this is still raw, then I think that's useful. Personally I get the most benefit out of things that make me laugh hard, but ymmv. (Sometimes I even watch older shows with laugh tracks on purpose, because even laughing along at things that are only vaguely funny helps me feel more level and reminds me that I still can.)
posted by trig at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I've posted anonymously here once about a guy I dated who treated me like shit (I kept making excuses for his behavior), led me to believe certain things, and then walked away when things started getting "too serious" for him.

1. The way you've written this all out here looks positive - most people who are in the throes of emotional anguish get bogged down in details. Not to say you aren't in emotional anguish, but it seems that the edge has worn off a bit and you're at the cusp of a change in emotional state. You'll get to where you need to be, eventually.

2. I spent seven months mourning my "stupidity" in trusting this guy, and believing that we wanted the same things. My friends were supportive, but they told me they were tired of hearing about this guy when they'd told me for months that he was no good. I really crumbled. I put aside my dignity and reached out to him, only to have him say some really demeaning things. You're not doing that. This is great.

3. It took me seven months to really begin to feel like myself again, so a month is... nothing. At the time, I couldn't afford to splurge on a vacation right away, but I did begin to save for one using an app that automatically took a specified amount of money out of my bank account towards a goal. Just seeing that happen made a huge psychological difference and gave me something to look forward to. The vacation I eventually took felt like a huge exhale, and when I came back, I was ME. Perhaps setting up a goal like this will help you focus on something tangible that you know will help set things right.

4. A big part of my healing process involved getting over the fear that I'd spend the rest of my life alone. I've heard the same from friends who've been through breakups. No matter how gullible you think you've been, or how bad you think you are at dating, it is extremely unlikely that you will end up alone. What happened to you isn't completely out of the ordinary, unfortunately, and there are many women in similar positions that have gone on to find true partners. Case in point, me.

The guy that crushed me (temporarily) went on to date two other people, and finally fell for someone. She recently left him for the same bullshit reasons he gave me (I heard this through a good mutual friend of ours.) As much as I don't wish ill on him [anymore], I won't deny I felt a slight sense of satisfaction that karma got him. It takes a very unhappy, insecure person to do what this guy did to you. That in itself is an indicator that his life isn't going to be hunky-dory.

If you need someone to write to or talk to, I live in San Diego, I'm in my mid-thirties, and I'm a great listener. My friends and I have all been where you are, and a couple of them even live in NYC. Even though we're invisible to you, it's a sisterhood that exists!
posted by Everydayville at 10:46 AM on February 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

Wow, I wish I had your discipline. Eating fruit! Going to bed on time! You should write a self-help book to tell people how to eat fruit and go to bed on time.

I echo jbenben's advice to go to museums and exhibitions and make the most of New York.

While you are doing this, take pictures. Take pictures of every pretty sight you see, every day. By doing this, you are building good memories, so that even though you feel like shit now you will have this great stuff to look back on. I can't tell you how much it helps.
posted by tel3path at 11:07 AM on February 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

If your shared friend group is into feminism and restorative justice but thinks that the latter means that you rehab someone while they're still saying "oh don't believe my ex she's crazy" then... get better friends, because these ones suck at being feminists. But you're in a great place to get better friends, compared to huge swaths of the country, so there's that. In the moment, though? It's okay to collapse a little if you need to.

The thing I find about escapism is that during traumatic times... time heals a lot of wounds, but it heals those wounds better if you leave them alone. If you keep mentally picking at it, it takes longer to get past the initial worst stages. Escapism is only a dirty word when you're escaping things you need to deal with; this isn't necessarily something you actually need to engage with that way. In a few weeks or months, that's the point where you have the distance to do the emotional processing better. Escapism is a perfectly healthy way to avoid immediate pain that does not have some kind of actual action items.
posted by Sequence at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

My friends and I have all been where you are, and a couple of them even live in NYC. Even though we're invisible to you, it's a sisterhood that exists!

Quoted for fucking truth. I'll add that I have friends of every gender/orientation/flavor who have also been there. We are out here! I'd be willing to bet that you're not even as alone in your own friend group as you think. Reach out individually to the folks you're closest to and please don't worry about seeming crazy when you tell your side. You have receipts!! Say so! You don't have to put this shitbag on blast publicly to defend yourself. Absolutely say what you said here when talking to your mutual friends about what went down.

"We definitely did have those conversations he's saying we didn't. Some are even in emails! You're welcome to see them if you want, but I doubt you do. Just...*eyeroll* UGH he's LYING about what happened. And I'm so so sad and hurt, etc etc..."

I bet you'll find you have more support than you think you do. If I found out that a dear friend who I'd never think capable of this bullshit actually did even half of it to another friend, I'd for sure circle the wagons. I might not cut the asshole out of my life if I thought they brought value to my life in other ways, but I would certainly prioritize the safety and comfort of the harmed party at group events. The lying dickbag would be relegated to one-on-one hangouts where I rolled my eyes and said "WTF dude?!" over beers. And this only if said lying dickbag was one of my best friends. Then all future friends would be warned vehemently against dating them. Like literally that's the only form of "staying friends" with that person I can imagine. I think I'm basically your demographic here (34, ladytype who's got peeps into "restorative justice"), so I suspect at least some of your friends will show up for you on this one.

And if they don't? Holy shit, good to know, leave that group and never look back. And in that case, just to get through the day, I echo the suggestions of physical activity. I started just walking for hours listing to podcasts, books on tape, angry music, etc, and it helped so so much. I took myself out for dinner, to movies, just did everything *I* wanted to do, exactly as I wanted to do it, with no regard for what anyone else might think. It was (and is! I never stopped. I do what I want!) so fucking wonderful.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:23 AM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

There is a certain narrative of breakups with awful, bad, use-you-and-abuse-you types dudes like this one that gets pushed onto women and it's something like, Don't drag yourself down into the mud of his behaviors by talking about them, don't make your friends choose sides, don't tell people what he did, don't be the "crazy ex" because somehow this will mean he won and/or make you no better than him.

I don't think I can make you feel better even though I totally would if I could because you sound awesome and deserve much better than what this fucker did to you but I can offer a hopefully comforting perspective and that is: fuck this misogynist, bullshit breakup narrative and fuck everyone who believes in it and fuck every single one of your so-called "friends" who buys into it. I hope you don't feel that pressure-- to somehow be the "bigger" and "more graceful" and by bigger and more graceful what we mean is quieter and less troublesome-- person. Your ex dragged you down into the mud of his actions without your consent because you didn't know about them. It is not, now, somehow magically your responsibility to not even talk about what happened to you.

I am here for the healing magic of pettiness and anger and validation from others and I hope you are too. I'm not saying go out and burn his house down, but I'm pretty much only not saying it because you would get arrested and so would I. You are allowed to tell your mutual friends what happened, and how much it hurt you, and what a narcissistic sociopath this man is. Point out the incredibly misogynist angle he's taking by pushing the "she's just clingy and crazy" narrative. With your friends, you are allowed to say things like, Do not invite him to any place I'm going to be because I never want to see his face again, and if anyone pressures you to forgive him in the name of restorative justice, you can say, If you ever say that to me again it will be the last time we speak. There is not a standard you are failing to meet by doing these things. You are embracing and honoring the shitty experience you had by talking about it honestly and in detail. If it makes you feel better, consider that you telling your story means you may be warning other women away from the same fate although this isn't your responsibility, but it can depending on how you feel be a nice side benefit. Conversely, you certainly are under no obligation to be loud about this if it doesn't make you feel better. If you can't or don't like to do it in public, do it in private. Curse this fucker's name a thousand times. Hex him with hotfoot powder or draw his face on a punching bag. Take any items you still have of his and burn them and laugh.

People are afraid of anger, especially women's anger, especially women's anger directed towards men. And so you may be feeling some social pressure to be quiet and that social pressure may even be wrapped up in a narrative about concern for your wellbeing. Things like, "Don't forgive him for him, forgive him for you," or, "Anger is poisonous," things like that. But grief and anger and finding the tiniest scraps of justice for yourself that you can (what others might call pettiness) can be tremendously healing. Digging into that shadow can be that hard kernel of self that lets you snarl and claw your way into a new and better life. I'm not talking about revenge, I'm talking about finding your own feet again after someone knocked you down and discovering those feet are a little more powerful than you thought-- and going to get more so.

Give it time. You've got this.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:35 AM on February 14, 2018 [35 favorites]

While you are doing this, take pictures. Take pictures of every pretty sight you see, every day. By doing this, you are building good memories, so that even though you feel like shit now you will have this great stuff to look back on. I can't tell you how much it helps.

This! It took me a long time to be able to do it, but sometimes I drive by the apartment I used to live in with my ex, or go to restaurants we used to eat at, or museums/ events we've attended, and chuckle to myself. There's a sense of pride that I overcame the horrible stress of that relationship to now be in a wonderful place.
posted by Everydayville at 11:39 AM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you don't already make a nice bed for yourself, make one now. And make it with new pillows and sheets and a comforter, if you can. Even something gently used from eBay or a secondhand store will not have HIM on it, and you do NOT need any trace of him.
posted by cyndigo at 12:28 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

This image helps me a great deal every time I'm being hard on myself for experiencing negative emotions, (especially so in regards to a sociopathic/narcissistic lying cheating double-life ex...) because being angry means I'm on the way to healing and is a better place to be in than a place of feeling victimized and lost in abysmal depression. Take it one day at a time; it's a process.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I am honestly in awe of all that you've said you're doing (eating well! keeping the apartment clean! pursuing hobbies!) in the wake of such a devastating, reality-altering event. Since a few people have mentioned comforts like new bedding or a new pet and you have specifically noted that you're low on cash right now, I just wanted to say that I would love to contribute to your new sheets/adoption fee/hobby supply fund or wish list, if you have one. I bet that others would, too. Please send me a MeMail, if you like.
posted by Anita Bath at 12:47 PM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

I am so mad at your ex and I don't even know you, so I think you're doing such an amazing job and I am in awe of you.

Maybe check out the next MeFi IRL event? I am not in NYC, or I would totally meet up with you! What are your hobbies? Maybe you can find a new group that way? If you don't have hobbies, maybe you can find a reasonably priced hobby and meet new friends that way?
posted by freezer cake at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain here and heavily advise agaist sharing screenshots or getting into he said/she said type siding wars with friends. People who live multiple lives in secret and hiding and who pathologically lie, cheat and sneak around have been doing it likely their whole lives and are PRO at it.
In my case my ex had unbeknownst to me installed spy software on my devices and, only a very long time after the fact when I could side-by-side compare texts and emails with 3rd parties and see for myself that my communications had been intercepted and edited, did I also discover he had been long since sharing screenshots of his own to everyone, expressing his (fabricated and manufactured) "concerns" with all mutuals. In addition he was always very careful to always be quite pleasant and employ DARPA tactics through any electronic communications with me, especially so after deliberately antagonizing and abusing me in person, then leaving suddenly so as to have a barrage of "crazy" texts/emails from me following such incidents to share with all of his avid supporters to build a case and smear campaign against his "crazy girlfriend."
People like this who get away with what your ex did for long periods of time or life have likely devised and developed a system to aid them that you're not likely even aware was possible nevermind be able to understand or beat it.
I'd say it's a good time to wash your hands of the entire situation and "friend" group, as they have likely been heavily conditioned and manipulated to be his enabling and supportive system.
Trying to fight it or remaining in contact with any of them is likely to keep you in a very negative place for far longer than you would be otherwise.
posted by OnefortheLast at 1:46 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have a project recommendation for you. Please memail me and I'll explain. (I'd give the details here but it would de-anonymize me too much.) Meanwhile, count me among the many who are rooting for you, hard.
posted by argonauta at 3:16 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have been in a similar place (as a lot of people in this thread have!). Six years ago to the day, as a matter of fact.

The book that helped me the most was Letting Go. (I've recommended it a few times both here and IRL, it's that good.) Ignore the cheesy cover. Ignore that it's only 55¢. It was written in the late '70s/early '80s, so it's a little of its time, but the advice is solid. It's got a strategy for recovering from a shitshow of a breakup, complete with concrete things you can do every day to help yourself feel better. It got me through my divorce, and the smoldering crater that was the demise of my two serious relationships since then.
posted by culfinglin at 3:20 PM on February 14, 2018

Well, I'm so happy you got away just in time! You can feel terrible for a long time, but you'll not be in an abusive relationship and that is so much better. Your ex sounds properly insane, the bad kind, without much of a conscience. Your job is really just to keep treating yourself kindly, even though you don't feel better. You lost the idea of a good partner, of a good friend (the sister), of a future in a marriage etc. You've lost a lot, and you don't have a lot to fall back on. That's hard. But even if you had a great supportive family and friends, it would still take you time to mourn all this. What it means that you don't feel better after a multitude of baths, well it means you're a normal person. It's like when someone consoles you when someone you love had died, it the best, but also it doesn't really help. And that's fine. And in your case, you're not even sure yet about how much of your physical health you've lost (I hope all the best for the results of new testing). So you'll need months to know for sure, and then process that.

You're doing all the right stuff, like so many have said here. But you'll have to give it time. It took me 1,5 years after a bad relationship of 3 years. That says nothing, but I'm just saying, and it took me even longer to feel happy again. You sound stronger, so it may take you less long! Anyway, you got away, right in time! I'm so happy for you there. You know, some people get stuck in marriages or much longer relationships, or they have co-parenting horrors with people like your ex, with no conscience etc, or being their children, being dependent on someone like that. So try to see this: you got away, you're free, free to heal (a verb, not a state you need to reach asap or else you're doing it wrong). Grant yourself the time you need, with that kind type of patience, that really just validates that it's awful, and it's been even more awful. You may feel bad, but you're not in a bad relationship actively, you're not prolonging the bad.

I'll stop, I'm repeating myself. But if you were here, I'd invite you to the spare room, you could walk around my lovely European city. And if you were my kid, I'd listen long and hard to you. Please know there's brothers and sisters for you in this fight, look in this thread! Try to select them carefully IRL as well, by not holding back!
posted by Litehouse at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

So... uh... Hi. I'm hanov3r. And I've been your ex.

I've lied and manipulated people around me and compartmentalized and hid things from people. I've made significant others doubt their instincts and have always been able to talk or charm my way out of a lot of repercussions.

Until I couldn't. Until I was confronted with just exactly what I'd been doing to people. And got into therapy, and from there a 12-step program to get out from under what was, FOR ME[1], compulsive, addictive behavior.

You're doing the right things in taking care of yourself. There is a LOT of great advice in this thread. The only thing that I might add that might help you with internalizing things like "you're not alone in this" and "you can get through this" - there's a 12-step program, in the vein of Al-Anon, for folks whose lives have been impacted by compulsive sexual behavior in others[2]. You might try a couple of COSA meetings, if any are close to you, and see if there's something there that speaks to you.

[1] not saying your ex was also an addict. but his behavior is really familiar
[2] it might not be a compulsion for him. he could just be a total dick. you might still 'feel' useful things at a meeting.

posted by hanov3r at 4:06 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Firstly, sorry.

Secondly, three things that help me:

1. Cats. I am actually a dog person, but have wound up with cats, and so that's the thing. Find a cat or two to love.

2. Plants. I love to potter in the garden. A small planter box can be had quite cheaply I'm sure. Put some good potting soil in it, plant a dozen different herbs, and look after them. It's very therapeutic. Gardening is an endless spiral of finding things out and filling as many hours as you like.

3. Exercise, which you are already doing, but do more, and do different. Weightlifting or kettlebells perhaps? Doesn't matter. Put your headphones on and do the thing until you can't any more.

Other things that are good: watching the entire run of Peep Show or Curb Your Enthusiasm or [insert your favourite comedy here] back to back. Find a few YouTubers you like and subscribe to them and watch their stuff.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:49 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry this awful person wasted so much of your time.

This quote goes around Tumblr every once in a while and it brings me comfort every time: "today my professor told me every cell in our entire body is destroyed and replaced every seven years. how comforting it is to know one day i will have a body you will have never touched."

I can speak from personal experience and advocate the above advice: destroying his stuff, rearranging your apartment, spending time with animals, doing all the stuff/eating all the food he hated or never wanted to do, and binging on immersive books and TV. Treat yourself often. A long soak in the bath, a deluxe coffee, a cute scarf you see in a shop window.

I also definitely recommend long bike rides. And a haircut!! - getting your hair cut at a salon, or cutting/dying your hair yourself, or shaving off all your hair. A big hair change always feels right to me after the end of a relationship change. I've never regretted it.
posted by wintersonata9 at 6:58 PM on February 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Grrrrr your ex, I am so mad at him on your behalf. You're doing so great! I am no stranger to the I-want-to-sleep-forever brand of emotions. It's okay to feel despair and numbness. Protect your heart.

These aren't exactly unknown, but if you haven't seen Parks & Rec, The Good Place, and/or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, do that! They're all by the same person, who has really mastered the art of warm but very funny and of-the-moment sitcoms. They're also all on Netflix (except the current seasons of TGP and B99).

Also, I'm happy to lend you my dog's stellar cuddling and begging-for-butt-scratches services (I'm in Brooklyn).
posted by Ragini at 8:58 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

You don't know this, but I think you posted this for me today. This includes everything you are already doing, plus all of the amazing ideas your community here were inspired to share.

You are ahead of the game.

The only thing I would add from earlier is it struck me you should consider trusting yourself A LOT MORE. You nailed this question, your insight is outstanding. As others above mentioned, being stuck in whatever you felt for only the first few days is actually a common anger/obession/shame loop to be stuck in for years. You processed through this betrayal's schematic in days. Who does that? YOU DO THAT.

Trust yourself to make new relationships. Friendships, romantic alliances... commitments. You have the skills. You got this. We are collectively impressed (and such a long thread!) because none of us have ever been this wise within a month. It's unheard of. You did that, not anyone else.

I know you'll be fine. Do the work, always do your self-work. As always, I'm going to recommend here that you start a practice. Any practice. But beyond that, please trust yourself to make relationships. You are in a place where your judgement will help you make amazing ADULT relationships. You have graduated. Your judgement and abilities for great relationships are real. You made it.
posted by jbenben at 10:21 PM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Change your passwords. All of them. And if you know any of his then change those as well.
posted by oh pollo! at 4:07 AM on February 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

Hey. I went through a somewhat similar breakup with an emotionally abusive ex several years ago that left me feeling horribly raw, alone (I too had no one I felt I could really talk about it with), self-doubting, empty, frazzled, and with no remaining confidence in my own judgment. Also in NYC. And I had to cut off all contact with a mutual friend group that he hadn't talked to in ages but decided to reconnect with again after we broke up.

Something that helped me get through the aftermath was learning how to knit. I'd never knit in my life, and then I took a knitting class at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio near Union Square. I proceeded to knit for hours and hours while binge-watching various TV series on Netflix. Knitting made me feel more productive than it would've been to just watch the shows without knitting. I also would knit on the subway, which was great because I couldn't focus enough to read anything substantial for a long time. And I enjoyed my new cat.

There's an update to this story, too: I recently learned that my abusive ex DIED a few weeks ago. He literally died. I couldn't believe it, and - get this - he'd messed me up so much during and for a few months after our relationship that I actually wondered if he was fucking with me again by writing a fake online obituary on a funeral home website, just to see if I was still looking him up and would try reaching out to him. It brought back so many weird feelings I thought I'd gotten over. It almost made me feel like he was back in my life and that I was going through all that shit all over again. And he's actually dead now. I probably need therapy too!

This is to say that you might have weird feelings about this for a very long time. It's okay to have those feelings as long as you continue to take care of yourself and live your life, on your terms. Dealing with it will get easier in time. Be kind to yourself.
posted by wondermouse at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

The "rule of thumb" I've heard is that it takes half the length of the relationship to fully get past it. In my experience that's been about right. It's totally, absolutely normal to feel like you do after one month and frankly you're going to feel like shit for another few. There's no quick fix, no way out but through. You're going to go through the same process of grieving as a death. What died is not him, or the relationship, but the possibility of what could have been. Allow yourself that grief; don't try to skip it because it will certainly resurface.
posted by AFABulous at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to reply. I had a hard time getting myself to come back since all of this is so rough and difficult to acknowledge. I also feel like I did a bad thing, which I know is incorrect, but wow that's hard to internalize. Thank you all for your excellent responses.

Just to clarify, I don't feel like I've changed at all from my initial reaction. I would love to see some change, but I'm just super sad in the exact same way I have been since day 1. I haven't processed anything. I'm not numb; I would love to be numb. Also, I'm not angry, I haven't really been angry at him, I'm just super, super, super sad. I know lots of anger would be appropriate, but I don't have it.

I don't think anger's coming since I also haven't been really angry at other men who've treated me badly in the past. My therapist was okay with that. (Under 20 or so, I was basically constantly openly angry, so I'm fine with feeling anger, but since getting control over my life, I'm pretty chill in general -- I don't get angry in other situations like people committing subway faux pas or whatever.)

I love animals, but my studio is tiny, technically pets aren't allowed, and I can't really fit one in my budget. For years I've wanted to volunteer to pet cats, but no-kill shelters like the ASPCA have limited, competitive volunteer intake procedures with lengthy training and required ongoing commitments. One shelter, BARC, does let you just show up and pet cats . . . but only during my work hours. I'd love any other possibilities if you know of them!

I've been in NYC for ~10 years, so I've already done most city stuff. (Including the Central Park polar bears, but they both died years ago!) Also, because NYC, I have no outdoor space, and no natural light in my apartment. I do have & use a morning sun lamp.

The emails aren't perfectly conclusive, since the big conversations that he began (engagement rings, future, etc.) were in person. A lot of the time I'd email him a question or something and he'd respond in person, which I thought was just his communication style, but AHAHAHA it must have been him not wanting to leave evidence. So I mostly have my half, which are indicative, but not slam-dunk.

I know I need a new friend circle. I've been working on it for a year or two by going to hobby groups regularly, and I'm on friendly terms with people there, but I don't even have their cell numbers. So I'm not great at making new friends!

I did get to sit down with one longterm friend (away on work stuff in my OP) and that was super helpful. The most helpful part was hearing how incredulous they were, that they had thought the guy was a good person too. It's been really helpful to hear the same kind of thing here too: that it isn't my fault, I didn't do anything wrong, you guys are on my side. I really appreciate it.

I'm going to MeMail those of you who asked, getting the book, seeing if I can make it to a COSA meeting. In addition to keeping up the pointless healthy shit, I've been zoning out with a ton of TV -- documentaries or panel shows, since I can't handle anything with relationships in them at all. I'm still alive. I wish I had a better update!
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:57 AM on March 1, 2018

I'm alive. I wish I had a better update!

You are alive and gathering the strength to move on alone without him, and you are coming up with ideas for how to do that, as opposed to curling into a ball and deciding to let everything go and accept your fate.

That makes this the BEST POSSIBLE update.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 PM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

OP, please feel free to add me to the list of folks asking you to MeMail. A community of folks to talk to is an amazing resource. You are *not* alone.
posted by hanov3r at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2018

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