Building a new life
December 23, 2018 4:10 PM   Subscribe

How do I find healthy ground and further move past a toxic relationship period?

here's the situation:
So my ex (lets call him Mark) and I were together for 5 1/2 years and we broke up in 2013 yet had to live together for 8 months. After the 8 months were over, we decided to be friends yet started to have sex again. this behavior went on for a while. Later on we both became bartenders at different restaurants. He ended up leaving for an art residency out of the country and I took over his old job bc he did less work and made more money. 4 months later he came back with a new boyfriend(it was an LDR), yet we were still having sex. At some point the sex stopped and really he was the one that stopped it, yet we remained really really close. We worked together, slept and cuddled together, we were pretty much still in a relationship long after it ended. At this point I have to reveal that we are both gay men and had a lot of sex. We would tell each other about our sexual experiences but honestly, I didn't talk about mine as much as he did but I played along nonetheless.

Sometime in 2016 I started coding on my own and another friend told me about this coding bootcamp that I should try to get accepted into. I did talk about it with Mark but he didn't really take any initiative to code on his own so I didnt think he was that interested.. I started to feel that I needed a "real job" and to keep exploring what I like. I got accepted into it the program. Feeling excited, I then told my Mark and he wanted to join too. I had reservations about this but decided to help him get in anyway bc he was a friend and we talked about helping each other --which is where the trouble started for me. Deep down I didnt want to share this part of my life with him but put my feelings aside, however the fact that this was a bad idea became really evident when he pretty much excelled and I didn't (partly bc of the angst I had about him being there) but also he became braggy and competitive with me and at one point even laughed at me when I couldn't code a program that he had long finished.

I had to endure this for 6 long months. Finally after the program ended in 2017, he got a decent job and put my name down as the beneficiary of stocks in his company, which honestly I thought was a little odd being that we were no longer together (this will be important later). Meanwhile I was suffering from bootcamp burnout, yet managed to find an internship that became an entry level job.

In September of 2017, I went away to this place off grid (that we both visit) and finally had some alone time. It was there that I really started to confront the idea that this relationship was not healthy and highly problematic. After about 2 weeks there, I came back and he told me that he had met a guy that he really liked. We talked about it for a while, but decided to go out that night. While pre-gaming, I noticed that he seemed to try to pick a fight with me, made it seem like he didnt really want to hang out. I confronted him about this. I had noticed this behavior before. When a new guy comes in the picture he would be more short tempered and insulting but the minute it doesnt work out, everything is fine between us. He made it seem like I was the making it all up, I called him out for trying to gaslight me but we went went out.

3 days later, I told him we need to talk and I let all my feelings out about how I felt about the relationship, how I had thought about ending it and all the problems I had ( feeling like an object of convenience, constantly feeling like he was trying to 1-up me, the wishy washy behavior when new guys come in the picture, the unnecessary competitiveness, lack of reciprocity). After that I decided that I needed a break from him to clear my head and later in October 2017 I found out Mark and the guy were in a full on relationship.

Now its December 31, 2017 and I saw he and the guy at a club. He told me that he and the guy were moving in together . I was stunned. At that point, my feelings became really really evident and I told him that I will need to take all the time I need to heal from all of this because I never really separated from him since we broke up. I decided to go home. Right before leaving he says " by the way, I took your name off as one of the beneficiaries of my stocks " . I said Ok that seems fair, I really hadn't been there for you lately anyway. " He replies, " just kidding I kept you on it" . I said " you know what, take me off of it because it's things like that that are confusing me" .

Since then we have not talked. That statement really highlighted that to him I really was just an object of convenience. However I must say to his defense I guess, there was a conversation about moving to a different state where I told him I was gonna leave whether he comes with me or not. So there were times when I was manipulative as well. Since then I got rid of a few other toxic relationships, endured 5 months of unemployment and went to therapy for 5 weeks about all this. Now I am back on my feet with a new job and I haven't talked to him since December.

This relationship was really close and definitely the most important. I feel like I lost a part of myself and have been rebuild myself ever since then. Because I was so afraid of the feeling of facing the world alone, I spent much of the last year --alone and digging myself out of an employment funk. Because I was so badly affected by all that happened in the bootcamp, I moved laterally into the field of digital marketing. For a long time I made him responsible for sucking the joy out of my coding experience. I have yet to get over the regret of helping him join. I have lost a lot of motivation to do some of things I used to enjoy like swimming and yoga. I feel like I have lost a lot that I need to regain or shift in a new direction.

Now I have moved onto a different circle of friends although none of these friendships will be as close as that one and I am now a few months in with this new job. This definitely feels like healthier ground but I think about him a lot and Im wondering what else could I do to ease the pain of all this or to find joy again. I will accept all ideas, questions, criticisms about this post. Thank you for reading.
posted by itsurreal to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What a painful, drawn out relationship that was! I hear how important he was to you and also see how he treated you very poorly. You were wise to end things and move on with your life without him. Major kudos for not having talked to him for almost a year!! It hasn't been that long since you truly ended things, especially in comparison to the duration of your time together; you also dealt with a hard time in other areas of your life, which compounds the pain. So, first, please give yourself some credit and love for having made it this far and rest assured that it will get easier with time, if not quite yet.

You are doing GREAT: you're not feeling good but you're really doing all the right next steps in terms of friends, work, exercise, and beyond. How good that your name is off the stocks, and how shitty of him to continue to engage you that way. I say there is a 99.9% guarantee that he is the same awful person with the new guy but still I know how much that hurts to see!

While my background is different from yours in many ways, I can relate to having a devastating break up at a huge crossroads in my life. (Fwiw, I'm also queer and believe you are as well?) What helped was finding a good therapist, going on a low dose of anti-depressants to get over that initial hump, and also giving myself time and permission to mourn the loss. I'm really sorry you're in this spot, and wish you all the best. The holidays can be especially hard for bringing up longing and lost, so please take care of yourself. And, if you haven't yet, don't be afraid to share how hard this relationship was with your new friends. Of course, you don't want your new connections to be dragged down by old pain but it's OK and appropriate to ask for extra support sometimes, however old or pesky the pain may be!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:46 PM on December 23 [5 favorites]


Try a different kind(s) than you did before. Or do two kinds simultaneously - if you can find a kundalini yoga class A++.

Similar to yoga, and especially kundalini yoga, there are EMDR apps and/or therapists that will help you re-wire your neurology and nervous system, breaking you out of your thought patterns around this relationship. It’s a habit considering this person as important even though you intellectually know better. You are not a “head in a jar.” This is a body/mind change you need to make. Engaging in body/mind solutions is how you make the change happen.

You’ve already made the right choice. Support this choice by bringing the rest of yourself along for the ride!
posted by jbenben at 6:00 PM on December 23 [1 favorite]

So, to summarize, you and Mark started dating 10 years ago. Then you broke up, but you stayed together, but you didn't, because he was seeing other people, but you're still together, and he's being a jerk, and he's still seeing other people, then a year ago he finally beats it into your head that you're for realsies seriously broken up because he's in a really really real relationship with another guy. But he's still stuck in your head enough that you're writing this long and winding Ask a whole year after you broke up.

So here's the deal. He doesn't exist any more. Not in your life. Not in your reality. He doesn't exist any more. You have to get him out of your head. Take up video gaming, or skeet shooting, or basket weaving, or knitting, or writing, or anything that's mentally demanding enough that you're incapable of thinking about him.

~~~Therapy is good~~~

I would strongly urge you to do that again. Your therapist can help you find ways to find your joy again. To get Mark out of your head for good. One point I'd start with is the idea that you "made him responsible for sucking the joy out of my coding experience," because you can choose to find joy in anything. One of my favorite quotes says, "It is only a thought, and a thought can be changed."

Find personal development books. Self-help books. Any of them that speak to you. Chicken Soup for the Soul books help me if I'm in a funk
(You might get something out of Chicken Soup for the Soul:Divorce and Recovery,
Chicken Soup for the Soul:Find Your Happiness,
Chicken Soup for the Soul:Find Your Inner Strength,
Chicken Soup for the Soul:The Power of Forgiveness,
Chicken Soup for the Soul:The Power of Positive,
Chicken Soup for the Soul:Reboot Your Life,
and Chicken Soup for the Soul:Time to Thrive.)

Beyond that, I like There is Nothing Wrong With You,
Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting,
and How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have.

Another favorite quote - "It's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left." That's where you are right now; figuring out what to do with what you have left.

And finally, my best ever "pull me out of a funk and kick me in the ass and get me going again" trick: read 7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can't Move Anything but His Face. Then read everything else on that site. Then read 7 Life Lessons again. Then write "This is my life now. What’s next?" on sticky notes to go all over your house, and on an index card to go in your wallet, and on your phone wallpaper, and directly in front of you in the bathroom, and everywhere.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 6:36 PM on December 23 [4 favorites]

This was a significant relationship for a very long time and it makes sense that you wouldn't get over it in a snap.

It's a bit of an cliche but this seems like a good time for therapy - to help you process the loss and rebuild.
posted by bunderful at 8:01 PM on December 23

I had a relationship that sounds similar to yours (in that it was very intense, very confusing, and ultimately not good for me at all). It took me years to get over it. I'd find myself going over what happened and still trying to make us work in my head, even though I knew logically that it was over. I had such a hard time letting go that I forced myself to move across the country so there would be no chance for me to run back to him. What finally cured me was seeing him, ten years later. He was in a relationship, treating his new partner in the same sleazy, dishonest way he had always treated me. And just like that, I was free. Completely over him for good. Also, I was suddenly so proud that I had done such difficult things in order to take care of myself, and that I hadn't stayed with him and put up with his shit.

You're going to feel the very same way some day soon enough. Believe me, as hard as what you're going through right now is, you're going to feel SO good about it some day, and you're going to truly understand that being loved starts with loving and protecting yourself.

You are being incredibly smart and strong, and doing all the right things. This will pay off, I promise. Hang in there.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:04 PM on December 23 [4 favorites]

Sometimes healing just take time, even a LOT of time. You spent a long time grappling with the ups and downs of a toxic relationship so it makes sense that you're still feeling its effects.

But- you're doing all the right things! You're not in contact (definitely keep it that way). You've got a new social circle that doesn't include him and you've nailed down a new job. Keep exercising and enjoying the things you love in life, maybe even start a new hobby, and this will keep fading! I guarantee there will be a day where you realise that the cord binding you to this dude has snapped, and it will feel great. =)
posted by DTMFA at 12:26 PM on December 24

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