Posts from the ‘cheating’ category

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There was a time in my life where the only purpose I knew was keeping my family happy. The years and years of being a “yes girl” added up to one big blur of a human being who oftentimes gave up her own happiness so as not to rock the boat.

Passions within me died. Hobbies forgotten. I didn’t even recognize my own voice, because I heard my mother’s or husband’s voice in my head and regurgitated their opinions and ideas. That is not living with a purpose, whatsoever.

Writing here is my voice. It is my truth. The truth that I never shared before for fear of being yelled at or ignored. Or, heaven forbid, disappointing someone.

My purpose is living my story. And I choose to share that story. That story involves being abused, being manipulated, feeling guilty all the time, and one day learning that all of those things lead to me being strong, confident, and finding myself. The result? I have deeper friendships, an authentic relationship, and I have pride in who I am and own my journey.

I’ve read so many stories of people’s struggles, healing and faith. Writing the TRUTH about your life is a scary thing. To put it down on paper or in an online form makes it real. No one knew that as a child I was mistreated by someone and it changed me forever. They only saw me being a good student and a busy pre-teen. I stayed quiet until I found my voice at 40.

My family had no idea of some of the struggles I had with my first husband, because I kept them secret. I wanted to protect him and didn’t want people knowing he could sometimes say mean things, yell, or be so controlling and jealous that I changed who I was.

But ya know what? They saw the small signs. They could tell I had changed. My older brother saw me at my first Thanksgiving after the divorce and I was playing and giggling loudly with the kids and he said to me, “Finally. You’re back. After 20 years!” That hit hard on me. Had I really changed that much?

I have no need to hide anything anymore. I live my life with purpose. I share this story so others learn that through pain you can find the other side. You can learn so much about yourself and the people in your life when you live with purpose.

Take it from a woman who was afraid to speak with her own voice. You must learn to stand up for yourself. You must find who you are inside and share the real you. When you do that, and share your light, genuine people find you. Opportunities find you. The world opens up to you because you live your purpose.

Keep sharing your story. Don’t be afraid. It’s the first step to owning the truth and being happy.

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Exhausted.

At 6 months pregnant, I had been working full-time as an assistant to a Marketing VP at a big technology company. You would think that anyone who is in the upper echelon of a tech company would be computer-savy and have mad-skills when it comes to computers. Not that man.

My days were filled with printing and answering his emails (yes, I said printing). He didn’t understand how to use email (it was 1997–email was main-stream by now), so he liked ALL of his emails printed and on his desk first-thing at 8:00 am. Once I brought the stack of in-box items, he would sit at his round meeting table (his desk was covered in “things to read”) and hand-write his responses to co-workers, collegues and the like.

While he read off of dead trees, I kept busy doing budgeting, meeting with other admins on processes, and training the new hires. I was well-respected and I enjoyed my job, but I was looking forward to the arrival of my first son who was due in 3 months.

I was 26. My husband was 27. We had been married for close to four years, and had planned this (and every other) pregnancy. It was a conscious decision to wait to have children, because I was insistent that I would not work full-time and have a daycare raise my child.

I had worked 2 jobs since our engagement and would typically be heading to the mall for work, but this night I was headed home. I was glad to be on my way to comfy sweats and a quiet evening.

My second job was working for a local photographer I had met when I was looking for someone to photograph our wedding. He couldn’t function on a computer, and I wanted to work off my wedding package so my parents wouldn’t have to pay for photos. It was a match made in heaven. I didn’t love working 2 jobs after the wedding day, but it was extra income, and my husband often worked late, so I figured I’d be earning more money for our home and our family.

My husband came home and was extra happy and talkative that day. He was in rare form, and seemed happy as a clam. I wasn’t sure what was putting him in such a great mood–he’d typically eat dinner and zone out in front of the television after work, but I was glad he wasn’t grumpy from work. He was practically giddy tonight. His words spilled out about his day and he somehow managed to mention that he and a few women from his office had gone to a strip club for lunch.

I’m sorry, what? A strip club.

I stood there in my hot-pink shirt, the hem just long enough to cover my expanding belly, and tears swelled in my eyes.

“You went where?” I asked him. His smile turned sour and he spouted off a few, “Oh, what’s the big deal? It was just me and Yvonne and 2 other girls…it’s not like we were watching the strippers! They thought it’d be fun!”

Yvonne and 2 other girls. Yvonne…the Yvonne who is nearly 40 with platinum-bleached, too-blonde hair, ginormous fake boobs she’s not afraid to flaunt, knee-high black boot, too-skimpy mini-skirt wearing can’t hack it in a real position so she flirts endlessly with mortgage customers to make money Yvonne.

I stared blankly at him in utter disgust and confusion. A) I didn’t even know he was the strip club type and B) His wife is 6 months pregnant and he’s standing here acting like what he did this afternoon is completely acceptable and can’t fathom why I’m upset.

“Do you know how disrespectful that is?” I shouted at him.

“Oh please!” He shouted back at me, not one bit of remorse in his tone.

The argument continued, and somehow, through the magic of the narcissist, he kept insisting this argument was now my fault. I was “overreacting” and I should be glad he went with women instead of the men in the office…because for some eff’d up reason, that makes it better.

As I argued with him I found myself lost in the swirls of deceit and smoke screens. I walked outside and sat on the steps in my back yard. It was almost March, and the grass was yellow and dead-looking still. The grass looked the way my insides now felt–dead, uncared for, cold and forgotten.

I had the phone in my hands and I slowly dialed my mother. I began explaining the story to her and tears streamed down my face. I was searching for validation, support and comfort…things I never received at home, especially that day.

That day.

The day I wanted to leave.

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I’ve connected with many women (and a few men) through this blog who are suffering through divorce with a narcissist. The road is long and it is hard. You find yourself staring into space and wondering what on earth you did to deserve such a curse to have to deal with such a wretched person. The narcissist isn’t mean and awful when you are doing as they wish. They are pleasant and giving and almost sweet. But once you turn away from them, or DIVORCE them, then the gloves come off and you see their scaly skin and all of the ugly warts they covered over the years.

Some of the most awful things come from their mouths. They will type the most ridiculous things and they will hurt anyone, including their own children, to get back at you. As a girl who’s lived this drama roller coaster (and who still is), this is why I tell you to only communicate in writing by email/text!!!

One of my e-friends, iamfindingaway, was appalled when I told her the story of when I kicked my ex out. You see, the minute I told him I packed bags for him and I wanted him to move out and wanted him to go think about his relationship with “the neighbor” and realize that this marriage is something worth fighting for, my ex ran to the bank and took our money–lots of money–out of our savings account. He didn’t care how it affected his kids. He didn’t care that I quit my job to work on our marriage “issues” and had no way to pay for things because he took the money. He only cared about covering his sad, pathetic ass. Typical NPD actions.

As I thought about this moment, there were many others that came to mind and I was immediately rushed back to how hard life was just after initial court date/beginnings of the divorce. My stomach turns as I think about each of them, but I want to share some of the stories for those of you out there who are dealing with the devil–literally. It’s NEVER easy. Ever. And I’m sorry for that. But you’ve gotta know that after the storm comes the sunshine. My life has been proof!

Here are a few of the highlights lowlights:

On our first Memorial Day post-marriage, I had plans to take my kids to see their grandfather’s grave. My ex’s father had died one year prior (an event that was a catapult into his mid-life crisis, if you ask me) and I told him I may take our kids to see their grandpa’s grave. He was vicious and controlling in his response:

I will ask you only one time to move forward with your life and not take the kids to my dad’s grave, or any other family things on my side. Taking the kids to MY dad’s grave and any other {last name} family thing is MY family and my business, not yours! If you would like to take the kids to your families graves that is your choice. I would never interfere and take the kids to your family’s stuff. I feel very strongly about this and am willing to get a restraining order against you so you cannot do this going forward. If I hear you have visited my dad’s grave I will be contacting my attorney.

Really? A restraining order to not visit a grave? I can laugh at this response now. But just after leaving a NPD person, you are weak and frail. When I read this, I was actually wondering if I was doing something wrong. Could he get me in trouble for going to the cemetery? Still can’t believe I let him bully me on this one.

There were numerous times he refused to take my son to his games because “my parent time is more important than his sports”

I want to be clear about Thursday. Are you “asking” me or “telling” me that {insert child’s name} won’t be at my house on Thursday at 5:30? Just to be clear with you that parent time is more important or takes priority over {child} going to baseball. This is not your decision whether or not he misses his games over my parent time. We have had this discussion too many times and I’m tiring of re-visiting the topic. In the future, I suggest that you ask me versus telling me he won’t be at my house when he is legally scheduled to be.

The man never budged. On many times I told him, “Please think about the children in these matters and don’t expect them to give up their activities. Their lives should be kept intact as much as possible. They should not have to sacrifice their activities because we are divorcing. Keep this in mind.” These pleas fell on deaf ears. He knew that if he threatened or didn’t take my kids to their sports, I would dance in circles to give him what he wanted to give the children their sports back.

He was angry that our kids had sports during his “parent time” and threatened and wanted his nights changed. I stood my ground and told him, “Our four kids are very active. On any given day of the week, the kids have activities. Their lives should not have to change because we are divorced. We agreed on Tuesday and Thursday visitation nights, and that is the schedule we will stick to moving forward. Their activities will be planned on every day of the week from now until they are 18. That is just how it goes. Your time can be spent at her practice supporting her, just as my nights with them are spent doing the same. I am at soccer, baseball, softball and football on my nights to support them. You wanting to trade because their activities mess up your time is not reasonable. Parent time can be spent supporting them. Consider {daughter’s} needs instead of only your own.”

On one occasion he actually told me he would remove my daughter from the soccer field if I EVER showed up at her practice during “his parent time!” How absurd! Really?

FYI- you are legally obligated to deliver {insert daughter’s name} (and the other kids) to me on my parent nights.  I will decide whether or not parent time is more or less important than her soccer.  The judge and attorneys already told you this on multiple occasions so don’t try to scare me with your BS. I will tell you that if you continue to show up to the kids practices etc. I will simply take the kids and leave, which is in my legal right. If you are unwilling to change days and I decide for {daughter} to miss a practice on a Tuesday and/or Thursday then so be it. I gave you the choice of making adjustments to help the kids and you said no. This has nothing to do with feeling uncomfortable with you there. It has everything to do with spending time with the kids without your interference. I know you have a hard time not interfering, but you should let go. Once again, this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the kids. I am thinking of the kids, I suggest you do to. I can see you have the kids best interest in mind. What a joke! In my opinion you seriously need some help.

It’s bullying, abusive behavior at its best. Not only do you have to deal with control issues via the kids, but also regarding money. To this day, my ex refuses to pay for any of my kids’ extra curricular activities. Our divorce decree states “parents will split 50/50 the costs of all extra curricular activities” to which my ex added in the paperwork “when agreed upon in writing” because he didn’t want me to enroll them in “frivolous” things. Fine. But when the first payment for competition baseball rolled around at $500, he spinelessly responded via email “I DON’T AGREE.” To date, this man who played baseball through his school years and in college and helped to enrolled these kids in sports right along with me does not pay ONE PENNY towards their sports. He tells me to “take it out of child support!” Even though he knew this was a huge issue we discussed in mediation and he agreed to it. His conscience feels just fine letting me pay for all of it.

At first, it infuriated me. But now, I have a husband by my side who reminds me, “We don’t need his damn money!”

So how do you deal with an individual with NPD who is abusive, rude and controlling? My advice? You don’t. You ignore the beast and the threats, you let your stomach settle down and your anger disappear and you remember that you are strong and powerful and an amazing person.

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Setyoufree

TRUTH

It can be the most painful thing you’ll ever encounter, but it can also be the most freeing.

I’ve been deceived many times in my life–by many different people. Each time it was ugly and painful. Being lied to has to be one of the most damaging things to the human psyche. Mostly because you can’t explain it (well, sometimes we try to explain it away, but we can’t explain why someone would choose to lie to us). You have no control over it. You don’t understand it. And you certainly cannot fix it.

I don’t believe in lying. I am a truth teller. If my life were lived in the movie Divergent, I would belong to the group Candor. I’m not a truth teller in the rude, don’t-care-about-your-feelings kind of way. I’m just honest. Honesty may hurt someone you love, but lying to them over and over is more painful than the truth ever would be!

Why is it that people lie to the most important people in their lives? Why do men hide that they are speaking to an ex behind their girlfriend’s back? Why do women flirt when their significant other is away and deny it if they are confronted? Why do people sneak around, steal or cheat?

The answer: they are insecure.

My ex husband cheated on me because he felt old, undesirable, bored in his life, and he didn’t want anyone to know about it. He wanted to play the big tough jock role he’d always played so he needed a bit of a supplement to his ego in the dark of night where no one could see. This came in the form of the neighbor.

He lied to me time and time again. Even after I caught them texting (over 500 texts in a week). Even after I caught him at her house at midnight after he told me he loved me and wanted our marriage to work. Even after I found photos of them on dates in my safe along with $2,000 in cash. And even after he told me, “I never stopped loving you!” when I told him I wanted a divorce. Each lie was a ding in the armor of our marriage. Those dings can’t be repaired very easily. Lies always stick with you–they are in your head and heart and they don’t just disappear because someone says “I’m sorry” or “I’ll never do it again.”

Once you discover the truth, and you’re open to pay attention to the lies and deception, your life does indeed change for the better (but not until after the anger and desire to hurt someone leaves your body). Ya know why? Because if you are with someone who lies to you, someone who takes the most vulnerable side of you and uses it to their advantage to sneak around with another woman and meet her in the dark of night, you should be done. You deserve better. You’re better off alone than with someone who is insecure and deceptive and who chooses to not put your needs first–your need to feel secure and loved.

I’ve been lied to a few times since my divorce…by people I’ve cared about. Some I gave second chances to and some I didn’t. I don’t know if I’ll truly ever get over the lies. But I also know I’m not dwelling on them. I’ve learned the truth and I live the truth and I am free. I choose to be who I am and be secure in myself. If someone in my life chooses to lie to me, they are only hurting themselves.

 

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Vulnerable

The thought of being vulnerable to me used to be something that was such a far off idea–I don’t even think the word was present in my vocabulary.  Being tough and a “winner” was who I grew up to be–always wanting to be the best. I didn’t speak of my weaknesses, nor did I admit them. And after being with a man who showed me his “true” self on our honeymoon by screaming and yelling at me over the smallest thing (don’t ask), I don’t think I was ever completely open and vulnerable with him.

How sad is that? Isn’t that was marriage is about?

Anyways, I’ve since embraced showing my imperfections by learning to let my guard down. I’m not that good at it yet, but I am trying. Some of it comes in the form of perfecting the apology or by admitting when I need help. All of it is very foreign to me, so it’s like entering school all over again and learning to breathe.

On the long ride south to my daughter’s tournament out of town this weekend, I began listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability. I’m a huge fan of Brené’s work, and I credit her words for helping me overcome some of the issues I’ve carried throughout my life. I felt very in-tune with the words as I listened, and I came to a better understanding why I have the personality that would stay with a man who gave me no love: Simply put, I never stood up and said, “I deserve to be loved as myself for who I am. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love.” And on the flip side to that, he could never show me his true self for fear of being discovered that he, too, wasn’t perfect.

As Brandon and I go through the final steps of selling my house and prepare to move into our new home together, I find myself flooded with emotions. These emotions weren’t making much sense to me, but I could feel the uprising within me and had to spend some time sorting through things. Inside my mind, I felt as though I was wading through a foggy swamp trying to establish which direction I was going, where my next step should be, and trying to gain footing that felt comfortable and stable. All of this confusion is, I’m sure, because of the move and the instability in my life right now as we try to get financing in line, sell my home, and begin anew.

Included in all of this emotion was a good chunk of fear. A fear of selling and leaving my home, my stability after my divorce (my safe place), and moving forward with my new husband on our new path. A fear of rolling all of my equity into this new home and actually having to depend on this man to be present–to make the mortgage payments with me. A fear of moving the final step away from “my” life into “our” life. He is the first man I’ve had to depend on since my ex husband, and taking that final step is a scary thing.

As I pondered my feelings (by spending some time alone and doing the “work” to discover all that was bothering me), I uncovered the ugliest fear of all–a fear that this new path will bring stress, misery, arguments and perhaps infidelity into my fairly-close-to-blissful marriage. After all, that’s what happened in my first marriage. Now, to say that out loud (or type it in black-and-white) is absolutely absurd! People who cheat choose to do so because they can. They choose it. They don’t all cheat because of life and stress and mortgages. But my feelings were real. My ex husband began relationships with women other than his wife soon after we finally bought the “home of our dreams”. The stresses of life had burdened him, he had began to fall into a routine of work/alone time/TV and it was obviously he was escaping. He chose to reach out to other women. He would rather do that than admit his fear and frustration to his wife of 17 years.

Last night, I needed to have a heart-to-heart with my husband. I had to recognize my fear, validate it on my own, and I had to open up myself to exposing the deepest, darkest places in my heart and my head and share all of these things with him. And as a tough girl who was raised to “kick dirt on it” and “suck it up”, that was an extremely scary thing. (I’ve been practicing vulnerability all along in our relationship as a way to heal and let myself been seen, but for some reason, last night was very real and very scary.)

I’m learning so many things about being truly vulnerable. To be as though you’re standing there naked, alone, with all of your ugly skeletons in your closet and messy baggage from your past and telling the person you love, “Look, this is me, and I need you to love me.” is what it’s all about. While vulnerability is a terrifying thing, because you expose your weaknesses and fears and imperfections, you can also gain so much from it. As Brené shares, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”

Brandon was quiet as I spoke to him about the hurt from my past and my fears about the future. Some of this isn’t new to him. He held me in his arms and just listened. I needed to be heard and hugged. Sometimes just that little bit of reassurance makes things seem so much better. Everything I shared didn’t mean I think he’s a cheater. It didn’t mean I didn’t want to move. It didn’t mean I compare him to my ex husband. It meant that I have been affected by my past–it meant I needed him to love me with all of my skeletons and messy baggage.

I dared to ask the questions I needed answers to and told him about my shattered feelings I dared not show to anyone. Would he have the guts to tell me if he were ever unhappy in our marriage? Or would he just leave? I explained to him how degrading and humiliating it felt to feel “thrown away” and disregarded after my first marriage. It was such a blow to my confidence. I cried as he hugged me–some of the tears from fear, some from gratitude of being loved so deeply, and some of it from relief of carrying this “burden” of being scared to depend on anyone ever again. I also worried what he was thinking. Will he think I’m crazy? Will he think I’m being a baby?

The most interesting thing about being vulnerable and being OKAY with it is hearing those fears in your head and not giving them any weight or credit to allow them to grow larger. It doesn’t matter what Brandon thinks about me and my fears or about all of my ugly scars from my past. He’s chosen to love me for me. He’s chosen to stand by my side and shoulder the pain and fear right along with me. He may not understand it, but he will carry it with me because he has seen the deepest most vulnerable part of me and loves me all the more because of it. And for that, I’m blessed.

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49ersvsSeahawks

How can a single football game make me feel nauseous, angry and sad all at the same time?

No, it’s not the playoffs.

No, I didn’t have any money riding on the game.

Yes it was a close game, but I wasn’t freaking out about the outcome.

It was the fact that my ex husband was in San Francisco with his new wife watching our favorite team.

I haven’t been bothered when the two of them have traveled or gone to MLB baseball games in the past. It hasn’t phased me one bit. But the Niners games he goes to still seem to be the knife in my side that twist a little when he goes.

3 years ago, when he and I were trying to work through the final breaths of our marriage, I proposed an anniversary surprise. After finding out he was involved with another woman in our neighborhood and kicking him out of our home, he told me that he was frustrated that our life was only about our 4 kids and that he wanted to travel and have fun, I did some research and found that his two favorite football teams were playing in San Francisco on our anniversary weekend.  What were the chances? I thought to myself This is totally a sign! We need to go!

Our anniversary was in November. He liked the idea and told me, “Let’s book it. This is my way of showing you I’m looking towards our future and I’m committing to you.” So I planned the week of our dreams. We both love sports, and we were faithful 49er fans. I couldn’t believe he said yes! He’s typically a penny pincher and would always say, “We can’t afford that.” to anything involving spending money, so I was thrilled! (I was also falling back into my pleaser role and was trying to make him happy and woo him back into the marriage by competing with the new relationship with our neighbor. She seemed to feed his ego much better than I could as the “old” woman of his past.)

That anniversary trip never took place. A month prior to our anniversary, I came to the gut-wrenching realization that our marriage had taken its last breath and all that was left was a cold, still figure that would never live again.

I asked my ex to cancel the flights and sell-off the football tickets (it was his fault we were getting divorced, so I wasn’t going to deal with all of the tasks involved in canceling the trip). I remember the conversation like it was yesterday…

HIM:   “Oh I’m not selling the tickets.”

ME:   “Oh, you’re not?! You’re seriously going to take her on the trip, aren’t you?!”

HIM:   “No. I didn’t say that…I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

The emotions that rolled through me were very familiar by that time. I’d experienced these feelings almost daily for almost 4 months: Betrayal, fear, anger, frustration, abandonment.

Yesterday’s football game brought up those feelings all over again.

His new wife doesn’t even like sports. She is a pleaser and supports him in all he does (sound familiar?!) so she goes. He purchases football and baseball jerseys for her to wear and tags my children in the photos of the two of them on Facebook so I can see the them. Every.damn.photo. Interesting!

Like I said earlier, the trips don’t bother me. I have no desire to be alone with that man anywhere on the planet. It’s that feeling of betrayal that comes back to me like a stealth bomber rushing through the black midnight sky. Moments like these sneak up on me and it takes me a few hours to sort through what I’m really feeling.

What am I feeling?

Sometimes I want to scream out to him: hoping that he’ll hear and understand, but I know he never will.

I always wanted to travel! Why did you never take me anywhere?

Is that why you started seeing someone else? So I would divorce you and you would only have to pay child support and all of your extra money can now go to your selfish activities without taking your children to any of the games?

Our children go without: you tell them you don’t have gas money to take them to their friends, you won’t give them money to pay for the tax on a video game, you buy them used clothing, you won’t let them turn up the heat at your house because you “don’t have the money”, but you travel and go to professional games and send the kids photos and they get mad. Do you not see it?

Sometimes I still get angry. Not as much as I used to, but sometimes I still do.

I worked hard on that marriage. I always worked and I raised our 4 kids while he worked and enjoyed being in his garage on the weekends. I worked full-time with 3 kids under 3 to put him through school a second time so he could support our family–After graduation, our plan was for me to work part-time and be home for our children. Now that’s all gone. And my kids suffer. Their mom is gone to work every day until 5:30 and they come home to an empty house. They are shuttled to-and-from sports by friends, grandparents, and coaches. He isn’t there for them, even though he says he is. He is only a father when the court-designated visitation time comes up on the calendar.

I realize that days like these will pass. They always do. But that doesn’t stop them from coming occasionally And once days like those pass, I remember to breathe. I remember to look in the faces of my children and love them. Money and trips are not what happiness in life is about. They know this. They know it’s about love and time.

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After one of my last blog posts about cheaters and divorce, I had a discussion with one of my readers about narcissists. You see, both her and I think that our ex husbands are narcissists and could possibly suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Neither of us are psychologists (we may or may not play doctors on TV, however), but we’ve seen enough of the signs to know that each of them qualify in many ways. In hindsight, we are both very happy to have divorced our ex’s, because it is extremely difficult living with a narcissist. Both of them were cheaters, and both her and I have found good men that understand our stories.

This discussion led me to ponder if there was some sort of study about what percentage of cheaters suffer from narcissism (who am I kidding: they don’t suffer like those who are involved with them do!). So I began a search. I never found a true percentage or number to back up some of the thoughts I have about these types of individuals, but I did find out some interesting things that ring VERY true to me and my situation:

Narcissists  CAN’T sympathize with their spouse or children

Last week, wisegeek.org published an article titled “What is the Connection Between Narcissism and Cheating?” In the article, is states “Most psychologists agree that narcissism and cheating in relationships often occur together because the average narcissist is unable to sympathize with, or in some cases, even see, the emotions of others. People with narcissism don’t usually understand, or care about, the emotional turmoil that their cheating causes in their spouse. Nor are they usually concerned with the wider family and social ramifications of these acts in a relationship, such as the effects that such behavior may have on any children in the family.”

Wow!

When I confronted my ex husband about attending local college sporting events with his “other woman” or him going on dates to local establishments, I asked him if he had every once thought of our children. He flatly explained, “No.” As I plead with him to stop seeing her and to try to work through things (because he, too, was from a divorced family and knew how hard it would be on the kids) he would always reply, “Kids are resilient. They’ll be fine.” How truly clueless he was.

Narcissists like to maintain a “normal” appearance

The article goes on to say, “Experts believe narcissism and cheating in a relationship are inextricably interlinked. The symptoms of narcissism are often such that these individuals cheat repeatedly on their spouses or significant others, usually without understanding that they have done something wrong. The typical narcissist believes he is beyond reprisal and entitled to do as he pleases at all times. The narcissist may also feel obligated to maintain a “normal” appearance of married life, while still viewing his spouse as a hindrance and resenting the fidelity she requires of him. People with narcissism tend to use marriage for the social status and the appearance of normalcy it can bring them, rather than for intimacy or family, since they are typically incapable of real emotional closeness.”

I’ve always told friends that once I told my ex I wanted a divorce he treated me like I was the one who cheated. Angry emails, rude texts, swearing at me (he didn’t do this when we were married). The lightbulb went on one day when I realized that my asking for the divorce ruined his “image” he was putting out into the world. How true I was. Now that he’s remarried and his “normal” appearance is back in check, he’s not quite as abusive to me–yes, there are still times he lashes out with venom, but I’ve begun to heal and the affects aren’t as dominant in my life.

The effects of living with a narcissists take time to overcome

After I asked my ex to move out, it was like I could breathe again. Yes, I was mourning the loss of my family and my heart hurt for “failing” myself and my kids, but for me, Lori, I finally felt free. After counseling and many hours of reading about NPD, I realized why: living with a person suffering from NPD can slowly but surely erode your sense of self-worth till you are left feeling small, worthless, incomplete.

Some of you may remember my last post where I wrote about my overwhelming anxiety-filled moment with my now husband, Brandon. I was filled with fear and frustration when I couldn’t reach him by text or phone. The devastating issues from my first marriage clouded that moment for me, and I began to realize that the nearly 20 years of living with a narcissist may have an everlasting effect on me.

I found an article written a few weeks ago posted on Sanctuary for the Abused. The article goes into detail about how some Narcissists can cause PTSD for their victims. There was one point in the article where as I read, I stopped and wondered if I’d ever escape my ex husband’s controlling, bullying actions

Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, e.g.receiving threatening letters or email from the narcissist or psychopath or their friends, their family or attorneys. Additionally postings on online boards or sites about the victim by the abuser (often to try to make the victim look like the abusive one!) can add to these triggers and health related issues tremendously.

As I read this I remembered that I am now in control. Not him. He may spread rumors about me being a “bad mother” or a “liar” and some people may believe them, but I know the truth. Now, I limit our communications to email or text, and when he writes demeaning or rude things, I quickly put him in check and tell him to stop harassing me. His poisonous words still make their way into my psyche occasionally, but I’ve learned that his words come from a sad, lonely, insecure place. Misery loves company, right? He’s trying to pull me down to the dirty swamp he lives in. And I won’t let him anymore.

For those of you who are dealing with a narcissist in your life, there is hope to moving away from the pain and control. My experiences are not as severe as some. For that, I am lucky, but they are real. Daily, my ex husband’s behavior still affects my children–this is something we are trying work through. It’s something that will be in my life forever, and it requires work. My suggestion: read, meditate, surround yourself with positive people who love you, build a support system. Realize that you are enough just by being you. As one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, says, “If we can’t stand up to ‘the never good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are’ we can’t move forward.”

*photo credit: Wikipedia

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I was sitting in my office yesterday, answering emails and sipping diet coke. It really was just like any other day, except for the small, almost-insignificant fact that it was the day that would have been my 20th wedding anniversary of my first marriage. I glanced at the clock on my computer screen and noticed that it was past noon. My heart skipped a beat a bit, because I realized that I hadn’t gotten my morning text from my husband that day. Ever since the day we started dating, Brandon has always either sent me a text or called me in the morning. The texts are brief most of the time, but they mean the world to me: a simple “I love you babe.” or “Have a beautiful day.” appears on my phone and I smile just knowing he’s thinking about me. But today, there was no text.

I had texted him something about bills earlier in the day and hadn’t heard from him, so I sent him a text asking him if there was anything wrong and asked him to text me back. It was his day off, and I knew he was meeting his ex to pick up our 2 year-old for the day. I waited 20-30 minutes and got no response. I began getting a bit nervous, not really sure what I was feeling. I sent him another text: Babe, what’s wrong? The longer I go without hearing from you, the more worried I get. Again, no response. I began to get restless–or was it agitated? I wasn’t sure. My mind raced. Was he okay? Where was he? Why wasn’t he texting me? I tried calling him.

His phone rang twice and went to voicemail. Now, we all know what happens when a phone rings a few times and then goes directly to voicemail–He SENT me to voicemail! My stomach dropped I began to go to this place that I haven’t seen in quite awhile: the place where I felt like I was being lied to, humiliated, ignored, cast aside. The place I was during the last year of my first marriage. I immediately started wondering what I did wrong and conjured up all sorts of thoughts and ideas in my head as to where he was and what he was doing. I was so sick to my stomach I couldn’t concentrate. I started breathing heavy and I felt light headed. I couldn’t think. I wanted to throw up. I immediately grabbed my purse and drove the 4 miles to our home where I hoped he would be with our son.

The closer I got to our home, the more scared/angry I became. Who was he with? What if he’s hurt somewhere? Maybe he’s with someone else? It was like Jekyll and Hyde were playing with my emotions. Feelings from my first marriage washed over me like a dark, heavy blanket. I replayed the scene in my head from nearly four years ago when I drove past the “other woman’s house and saw my then husband’s car parked 5 houses down from hers in the middle of the night. I prayed no one was at our home with Brandon. When I saw his car in the driveway and no one else was there I was somewhat relieved. I still didn’t understand why he was ignoring me, but at least I knew he was okay. I dashed inside and he was sitting on the couch watching TV while our toddler played.

He turned and saw my face. “Baby, what’s wrong?” he asked. I said, “You haven’t texted me, what’s going on?” He was surprised. My face was pale and I wanted to collapse and throw up at the same time. He proceeded to tell me he’d texted me and showed me his phone and said he was worried about me. He’d been texting me that morning as well and wasn’t receiving anything back. I immediately broke down in tears. He wrapped his arms around me, reminding me that I was safe. I completely fell apart (I’m sure there was an ugly crying face somewhere in there as well), and I explained how worried I was about him and about all the thoughts that went through my head on the way over. He held me and brushed my hair with his hand. That moment was so real and so raw for me.

We talked about what I was feeling, he assured me he loved me and wasn’t going anywhere, then we tested his phone–it wasn’t receiving calls either. I trust Brandon with every ounce of my being. But for those 15 minutes, I was transported to another place. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever been through. I lost control of all rational thought and reason and feared I’d lost him.

The Mayo Clinic defines Post-traumatic stress disorder as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” The emotions I felt were very real. Perhaps what I felt was not true PTSD, but the anxiety and fear that rushed through me is something I’ve never felt before. After being married to my ex for 17 years, I’m bound to have some underlying issues to work through. I need to tell myself it’s okay if something sneaks up on me. I’m just thankful I’ve got Brandon who’s patient enough to work through it with me.

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I’ve debated many times over the past few years what I would say to the woman who got involved with my ex husband during the end of our 17 year marriage. There were so many emotions wrapped up behind the feelings I felt for her, because she knew our family. Our girls played together. Our two oldest girls were best friends and played soccer on the same team together. She stood in my driveway and told me she’d be happy to help entertain the girls during the summer while I worked and she acted like a friend. She confided in me about her divorce she was going through after finding out her husband of 10 years was doing drugs. I listened and consoled her, as any friend would. She did all this while she was secretly texting and meeting with my husband. If I ran into her today, I wouldn’t have anything to say. I’ve moved on, and I’m happy. But for closure purposes, I wanted to write this letter to her today.

(Please note: I know it takes two to play the game of infidelity. My ex has just as much blame–if not more–in this as she does. But this moment is for her and her only.)

To the woman who tried to steal a husband and father to “fix” her family:

After realizing you were failing in your own marriage, you found a friend in a man who was, himself, going through his own personal failure. What you saw in him was a sad, broken man who told you he was unhappy in his marriage and sleeping in his basement. What you didn’t realize is that he was sleeping in the basement because he was carrying on an emotional/sexting affair with a woman who lived across the country. You reached out to him at a time where he was seeing his world fall apart. I, his wife, had found out about this 6 month long-distance affair and identified that he was depressed and angry and screaming out for help. I urged him to seek counseling and get on medication. At first, he denied he was in such a hole. But soon, he told me he hardly ever laughed anymore, he didn’t have any friends, and he was lost. I told him to seek help for his anger and depression and if he did not, I would divorce him. I had tried for years to help “make him happy” and I couldn’t help him–he had to help himself. That’s when you came into the picture.

You rode onto the scene on your “white horse” and he saw you as someone who could fix his problems. Your “fake” happiness, your 24/7 ability to plan activities and escapes, and your books on “how to find your life passion” and self improvement made him think that you were the woman for him. When I found out that your “friendship” had pushed the boundaries of our marriage, I told my husband to immediately stop speaking to you, and he complied. But you couldn’t let go of the image of this new man/father to your girls. You were told to stay away from my family, yet you drove up in your suburban in your swimsuit and found him outside and asked if you could take my daughter swimming. You kept pushing and pushing back into his life, and he gladly accepted you there because he was hopeless and didn’t want to admit he was depressed in his life.

You got what you came after: a man who left his marriage and children for you. But, you couldn’t keep him. What made you think you could? He used you for two years. You had no clue. That trip he took you on to San Francisco for your birthday? That was our 17 year wedding anniversary trip I organized! I booked the hotel, bought the tickets to the 49ers game, all of it. My kids told me their father told them not to tell you it was MY trip. November 20th may have been close to your birthday, but it was the day we got married. You didn’t know you were thrown in as a “substitute” did you?!

My children figured out the affair on their own. You two were instantly together after we separated. Did you think they were stupid? Your photos all over, your “instant” family. These were all clues to my children. I would never have told them what their father did: they simply knew that “daddy made some bad choices and we are getting divorced.”  Now they know the shattered truth about their dad. I despise you for that. Their dad is supposed to be their hero. But the two of you, equally, can chew on that bone until you have to answer to God in heaven about your life. You may have lied to everyone about your relationship, but I know the truth. Your religious beliefs didn’t get in the way of you having a physical relationship with a married man. How you could go to church every week and act like a wonderful, faithful person is beyond me.

You were always watching me and inspecting my life after my divorce from him. I know you were jealous of me and my happiness. You thought I wanted him back and you became over-protective and paranoid. You hated it when we could co-parent and let the past go. That is sad! My children told me they heard you tell my ex husband that he had to choose you before his children. What a pathetic woman you turned out to be. His anger and depression weren’t “fixable” were they? You couldn’t turn him into the man you needed so you could stay home, not work, and not be accountable for your life. He used you and threw you away after he realized you were controlling and jealous. My children heard you begging him to take you back. They saw you become a beaten-down, pathetic person. That’s the person I always knew you were. You’re not strong. You are sad, insecure, and desperate. I feel bad for you.

My ex husband has since met a very sweet woman and married her only after 2 months of knowing her. You had him for two years and planned a marriage and threatened and it didn’t work out for you. Did you learn anything? Did you understand that karma comes back to you and all the lies you told about me and stealing things from my home wouldn’t catch up to you? I always held my head high and was nice to you, because I thought you might be a step-mother to my children one day. But that isn’t the case any more. I don’t have to be nice to you. I don’t have to like you. I don’t have to deal with you. And I’m glad.

I hope you learn to love yourself. Because when you truly love yourself, you know how to make good decisions. You don’t do things that involve lying, cheating, sneaking around, and justifying. When you can live an honest, open life is when you succeed.

One last thing. I will never forgive you for breaking up my children’s family. But I want to thank you. Thank you for helping me to see my ex husband’s true colors. I am happier now than I’ve ever been. I live my life full of love, honesty, integrity and I always have. But now I also have authenticity and power, because I know how to stand up for myself and take what I deserve. My path is much different than yours. I don’t know what you were going through those years ago, but perhaps you finally learned a lesson.

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Lori_NestEggI feel completely naked: the kind of naked where you feel ashamed, exposed, and vulnerable. My nest egg is gone. In a strange way, I feel like I have nothing.

Flash back five years ago.

After 10-12 years of marriage, my ex husband and I were putting most of our extra money into his 401k account as part of our planning for our future: his job had a direct 100% match. We had begun making plans for our future. After years of diapers, preschools, building our family and settling in our “forever” home, we hoped to save enough money to give the kids a bit of cash to help out with college and for the two of us to retire someday in a warmer climate.

Fast forward 5-or-so years when a long-distance and a too-close-to-home situation occurred when my then husband conveniently forgot he was married, and all of those dreams were shattered (and flushed down the toilet right along with the marriage).

To my ex husband, money really is a security blanket. I get that now. That’s just part of who he is. Me? I’m not really molded that way, but having enough money makes me feel secure (who likes to be broke, really?). Throughout our marriage, we were debt-free for the most part. It was important to us. But he took it a step further and we lived like we had to live paycheck to paycheck, always. I felt broke, always. We didn’t need to live that way. He prided himself on paying extra on our mortgage and contributing extra to our 401k. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

We were lucky we had a retirement account—most people aren’t so lucky. I’m thankful we had the money built up. But really, what good is a nest egg when it’s cracked in half and rotting day-by-day once you get divorced? Let me explain:

Part of the divorce process involves the distribution of assets. Ours was a 50/50 split.  He believed in everything being “fair and equal”, so when he wanted 2 of the 4 extension cords, 5 of the 10 plastic bins in the basement (and so on!) it was also decided we split the 401k.

Now, one of the joys (insert sarcasm) of divorce is that if you and your soon-to-be-ex argue about anything, then you each get a lawyer and you hash it out and pretty much pay for the lawyer’s children to go to college instead of your own. I wanted to walk away from the house, the furniture, everything. I just wanted to get away! But I had people telling me to think of the kids and to stay and get half of what we had built. So I did.

The stance I took cost me nearly $13,000 dollars: $200 an hour, to be exact. When my ex husband decided to change his mind after paying for mediation and refused to sign ANYTHING we had agreed to, we went back and forth between our lawyers to agree on a settlement.  It took two months, and it got expensive—we didn’t even go to court! I was truly exhausted at that point and just called it over. I didn’t fight to have him pay all of the kids benefits like most ex’s do. Or all of the kids’ medical bills. Or for the entire mortgage. I pay 50% of the kids benefits and bills and paid 100% of the mortgage. I have always (and still do) paid for 100% of their activities and sports (although he’s supposed to pay half)! All of these payments add up to my debt.

Feeding children on a $9 an-hour salary when I worked at their school wasn’t possible. I was paying an $1800 per month mortgage! My only choice was to buy groceries on my credit card back then. Travels to out-of-town tournaments were a priority for my little family, because those activities are part of who my kids are (and I was not going to make them change because their father decided to skip out with a neighbor). Those, too, were put on credit cards. The feeling of being in debt is crippling!

Today, after dealing with lots of back-and-forth and lawyer bills to split our 401k in half, I finally am able to gain access to my half of the nest egg. Will that egg feed me in my old age? No. It will go to paying off a 3 year-old divorce and bills from surviving during the hardest 3 years of my life. I’m so blessed to be able to do this, as I know lots of people who don’t have this luxury.

Am I sad my nest egg will be gone? In a strange way, yes I am. But the two-ton weight that has settled on my back and continually squashed me into the ground every month when I pay payments to those credit cards will now be gone. The day I pay off those bills will be a day of freedom, and I’ll be able to breathe again. The past can be put behind me. The monthly reminders in the mail that whisper to me, “Lori, you might not be able to come up for air ever again.” will now disappear.

I have so much more than the comfort of that nest egg! I have my amazing kids, my own home, my husband, a job I love, and I will be debt free again. I may not have the security of a retirement account come tomorrow, but as my always understanding husband often repeats to me, “I can always make more money.”

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