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How do you recover from a monster?

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careerlady posted 5/25/2014 23:17 PM

Hi, I'm freshly divorced.

This is probably not the best first post on NB, but it's a burning question for me. I spent 15 years of my life with a man who cheated repeatedly and emotionally abused me. Of course things started off with him being sweet and wonderful and then he became gradually worse and worse. I only found out about one cheating incident in the middle and then a couple in rapid succession at the end after we had my DS. But recently I've discovered that screwing other chicks has spanned our marriage and likely therefore our whole relationship (I was saving myself for marriage, no wonder he put up with it for so long ). So, basically our whole relationship was a lie. And the man I thought would be a great father is increasingly emotionally abusive to our young son. He didn't fight the default divorce giving him custody and now that he found out CS is being garnished as is standard in our state he is spewing venom and threatening to not even see DS, all while dating multiple women at the same time. I anticipate he'll move out soon and maybe even fade away completely.

People keep talking about how there will be a line of good men waiting to date me because I'm attractive and kind with a great career. But how could I know the next man won't be a monster too? Don't they all start off great? My best friend also married a monster. After my mom divorced my dad she has married a series of monsters. Because they all seem good in the beginning. Obviously I'm no where near being ready to date. But how can anyone ever be that has gone through years of deception after choosing someone they thought really loved and cherished them only to have their life destroyed? How do you ever trust again? Seems like a bad idea!

Guinness23 posted 5/26/2014 01:21 AM

I am with you on this! You spend years of your life building a life together giving your youth away and the best years of your life to someone you completely trust. You believe that you will grow old with this man/woman and will be buried next to him/her. This person IS the one who has your back when everyone else in the world fails you. All of a sudden your life is turned upside down and you have to experience the worst pain imaginable for a contained period of time as you divorce and if there are kids, making sure they are provided for, are safe and not scarred. All of a sudden, you are divorced and now the PTSD kicks in from all the emotional trauma he/she caused because they couldn't keep their pants zipped or legs crossed. Now you look in the mirror and see the age on you that this kind of experience has put on you. For me, I think to myself that when I was younger I was thin, pretty, youthful, full of energy and trust...and THAT got cheated on and dumped. Who would want me now that I am 47, have grey hair I need to cover up, an age spot on my face, love handles and a look of wariness for all human beings in my eyes that USED to look happy and trusting?

People have told me that oh...exh cheated but there are SO many nice guys out there waiting for you. Except that in middle age that I find myself in there are:

1. a whole bunch of divorced men out there that cheated on their spouse, got bounced and now sloppy seconds with morals in the toilet looking to screw anything that shows them a hole and have no conscience as seen by what they did to their spouse and kids to lie to get access no matter what it takes and how long.

2. a whole bunch of divorced men out there that have been burned badly by bitches who couldn't appreciate what a gift they were given

3. a whole bunch of younger guys that want to ONLY help Mrs. Robinson get her groove back and not really add any decent value to her life.

4. real good men that hiding in plain site that are damn difficult to find because they look as good and the scum out there and you can't tell the difference because the "salting" phase of date schmoozing involves smooth talk and real personalities buried deep.

I am lonely and miss sex A LOT. However, it is just NOT worth putting my hand on an open flame just yet. I am PRAYING to become flame retardant but it hasn't happened yet. Until then, my 19lb Lhasa Apso Rigsby is my main man.

SBB posted 5/26/2014 06:54 AM

((careerlady)) This has changed me forever. Thanks to my FOO I've always known people were capable of hurting each other in terrible ways. I didn't realise that I would be one of them or that I would help someone hurt me - let alone that I'd hurt myself.

I don't think I'm immune to monsters and that scares the fuck out of me. I don't think any of us are. Psychopaths are so hard to spot because they know how to act like normal, healthy people.

I'm hopeful that I'll recognise the signs within me even if I don't recognise the signs in them.

I posted recently that I don't think the biggest danger is external. It is within me. It is up to me to fix what is broken inside me that not only led me to such a patently damaged and damaging individual (in hindsight) but also what led me to hold on to him with all fingers and toes.

Many of us never had models of good, healthy interpersonal relationships. We start off blind. This experience has made me a little less blind.

For now I can't worry about what the future holds. Maybe I will have my heart broken again. Maybe I'll be betrayed again. Maybe I'll be alone forever. The only thing that is certain is that I'm free of that guy and the prison I helped him build and keep locked.

If my heart is broken again I will survive it.

If I am betrayed again I will learn and grow from it.

If I am alone forever I'll learn to not only live with it but make the best of it.

I won't ignore the signs in me ever again.

Right now I'm hyper vigilant. No-one can get close to me. I don't see it as a bad thing but it is not how I want to be for the rest of my life. The wall is necessary until my skin grows back.

It is growing back. Little by little. Yours is too. It's just hard to see amidst the regret and fear.

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future. ― Fulton Oursler"

Not only do our pickers need fine tuning but we also need to learn how to walk away even when we don't want to. That skill is the most important one, IMO.

PhoenixRisen posted 5/26/2014 07:10 AM

I am so sorry you find yourself here.
I married my best friend, who over night, morphed into my worst enemy who enjoyed criticizing, belitting, sabataging, & hurting me.

I can't tell from your post if your ex had Narcassitic Personality Disorder.
If so, there are some great books about there to help you understand what happened (and why it was NOT your fault).
Narcassist Lovers (you can read 1st chap on Amazon) is my favorite.
Every website outlines red flags but NPDs are master manipulators are can easily fly under anyone's radar until its too late (and you find yourself in the middle of an abusive relationship). If i start dating serious, my main NPD test will be to talk to his ex(s). Many abusers say their ex is crazy (to allow deniability of any accusations of abuse) - that to me is a huge clue. Yes, your ex-wife maybe crazy, because YOU drove her there! I want to chat with her.
Also a lot of us share experiences here in SI under the I Can Relate Theead: NPD.

BrighterFuture posted 5/26/2014 07:36 AM

Infidelity sucks in so many ways! I also struggle with 'who will want me now with 2 kids?' My self worth has been depreciated but I intend to be happy in my life whether alone or with someone.

I pray for strength and healing for all of us.

[This message edited by BrighterFuture at 7:39 AM, May 26th (Monday)]

cmego posted 5/26/2014 08:06 AM

I used to describe my ex as a monster too. I actually called him a "monster with a bow on top" because he is, on the surface, a "boy scout".

The 3-5 year healing process has definitely been the correct timeline for me. It has been frustrating at times, but it IS a process and IT DOES take time.

Now, I can see ex for more of what he is, just a selfish, needy, shallow person. A user.

I think what SBB said is the most spot on truth after getting through the worst of the crap…

I posted recently that I don't think the biggest danger is external. It is within me. It is up to me to fix what is broken inside me that not only led me to such a patently damaged and damaging individual (in hindsight) but also what led me to hold on to him with all fingers and toes.

WE have to work through our own healing process. I believe most of that happens within ourselves, then some of it happens when we date. The situation changes once dating starts, and different ghosts make their appearance and you have to deal with them the best way you can.

NaiveAgain posted 5/26/2014 08:08 AM

I don't think I'm immune to monsters and that scares the fuck out of me. I don't think any of us are. Psychopaths are so hard to spot because they know how to act like normal, healthy people
Absolutely true. They can even fool the experts.

I married 2 sociopaths in a row. That is because they tend to hone in on people when they are vulnerable. I was extremely vulnerable when the second one preyed on me.

The lesson I've learned is to not date while I am feeling vulnerable. Wait until I recover, heal, learn, and grow strong. The last few guys I've dated came from a position of strength instead of a position of need (I didn't ever feel that I needed a guy, but there was some need in me that I may not have even acknowledged, with the first one I think I was looking for fun and adventure), and again, they can "sense" vulnerability and need like a shark with blood in the water.

Educate about sociopaths. Read Martha Stouts book, "The Sociopath Next Door" and/or Robert Hare's "Without Conscience". Those are great books for the lay person to educate them on sociopathic behavior.

There are warning signs to spot them..a few are:
they "may" make you feel sorry for them
they "may" mistreat animals
they do not show normal compassion or empathy for others
they "may" lead a parasitic lifestyle
they usually get into abnormal trouble as a child (setting fires, animal abuse, extreme vandalism/truancy)
they "may" move in fast, pretend to get attached or "LOVE" you too quickly, or throw your life into chaos so you don't understand what is happening to you.

Just one of those issues can be a red flag, but if they have several, they are not someone you want to date.

How to heal:

Educate yourself. Get counseling (usually necessary if you have PTSD from a psycho because they turn your entire world-view upside down.)
Learn to trust in yourself...realize that you DID survive a monster. If you survived once, you can again. Find yourself. Figure out who YOU are and what you value and what is important to you. Follow your dreams. Don't let the experience dictate the rest of your life. We will always have wounds, but that doesn't mean we can't have great lives in spite of them (in fact, many of us use our experience to help educate and support others, which gives us a purpose and helps us make sense of the trauma.) Realize you are a survivor, not a victim. You WERE a victim, but now you are a survivor. You are strong!

For me, after a traumatic experience, I usually need at minimum a year before dating again in order to heal, learn, educate myself, get counseling, and figure out what happened (how I got myself into the situation, what to look for next time, and what is important to me, and what I learned from the experience).

Make male friends. This is important, so your view of the male species doesn't get skewed. They aren't all sociopaths and predators, although it may seem that way, especially if you do a lot of online dating or hang out in areas that more predators congregate (although you can find them anywhere, even in church.)

There ARE great guys out there, and there ARE female sociopaths (ratio is about 4 to 1 or 7 to 1, depending on the expert).

You will never be the same. You cannot "un-know" or "un-learn" things, but you can become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate towards others because of your experiences. ((((careerlady and the others))))

ETA: I came back and edited the "MAY" into this, because not all predators are the same. Some may abuse animals, some may not. Sociopath #2 "loves" his dog but he did start a fire as a child, has no compassion for others, got me feeling sorry for him (he is a cop, big guy, heroic sort, and he still found a way to use my compassion against me), and he totally lived off of me financially. He ended up getting me very deeply in debt and I may never be able to climb out of this.....

[This message edited by NaiveAgain at 11:44 AM, May 26th (Monday)]

cayc posted 5/26/2014 08:33 AM

Hi Careerlady, your story is mine except that I didn't get the privilege of having a child, my xWH even stole that from me.

Ten year marriage, eleven year relationship and he was never not fucking other women: from ONS to full blown relationships where he lived with the women and took them on $10K helicopter skiing vacations (that was when he was deployed). He lied about everything under the sun, nothing from my decade with him was true. Every memory in my life is a lie. People will say, oh you stuck with him because there were good times. Well sure, at the time I *thought* they were good times, BUT THEY WERENT BECAUSE THEY WERE A LIE!!!!!!

I haven't actually found anyone who understands. Plenty of sympathetic people of course. SI has been a godsend. But no one can really relate to having everything taken from you, my livelihood, my chance to have children, my retirement. All gone. It will take me the rest of my life to recover financially. I'm in a job that wasn't what I wanted and prevents me from dating men with careers/jobs/children. And I'm too old to have children, too old to adopt, and thanks again to the career I have that I don't want, I am not in a position to be a foster parent.

I'm two years out from my D, three years out from finding out that xWH was fucking his co-worker and waving it in mine and everyone else's faces what a dirtbag he was. He hasn't suffered any karma whatsoever. He married her (she's wife#4) and still has his job or a new one. She's younger so if he wants kids he can have them.

There is not a line of good men waiting to date me. Most men in my age range want a younger women. The ones I do meet are nice enough guys, but at my age, they haven't taken care of themselves physically and look a good 20 years older than me so it makes me feel like I'm on a date with my dad. Plus, they have jobs and things that they aren't going to leave for me. Kids they are still raising and so on. (And the latter is as it should be. My friends all say "ooh you'll meet a man with kids and get to have children that way! Um no. Because if a man will leave his kids for me, he's not a good father and why would I want a man who isn't a good father? What kind of good man would move away from his children??? And if he takes the kids with him, then I'm stealing them from their mother, and what kind of person would I be if I did that? A shitty one, that's who).

I'm still emotionally weak and insecure. When people go around talking about how their 40s are the best years of their life, they like themselves and don't care what others think? That's not me. I'm in worse shape emotionally than I've ever been. My confidence is shot, I struggle to remain mentally in a good place, and I generally hate everyone.

So that's the bad.

The good? I don't live with the stress and strain of being gaslighted to hell and back. I don't have to worry what someone else is getting up to. And there are days where the bad stuff I wrote above seems a distant memory and I'm actually happy and not so negative about things. The career I have I don't want? It's going really really really well.

Lately I've found that the best thing I can do for myself is just back off. Back off on the wanting, hoping, planning and seek contentment in my day to day.

And regarding your actual questions, I hear what you're saying about never trusting in a dating situation again. Given what I've just said, you'd think I'd be all suspicious and untrusting of me. But oddly, that's the one thing I don't have a problem with. I certainly have my triggers but I'm always aware that those belong to me. For all my grim talk about the dating men aspect, the one thing I have found is that the guys I've met are good people. They may not be a fit for me, but it's not because they aren't of good character. I suspect that when dating arrives for you, you'll find like most of us do. We are our worst enemies with our triggers and suspicions. By and large the people SI-er's are dating? When I hear about them, they seem decent sorts.

phmh posted 5/26/2014 10:55 AM

Lots of good advice here. I think it boils down to two things:

1. Become a healthy person yourself, as a single person (no dating for a long time)

2. Trust your gut

There probably were red flags with your WXH. I know there were with mine, but I dismissed them, made excuses for him, let him convince me why it wouldn't be a problem.

If you are strong and healthy, you are less likely to attract personality disordered men and, if you do, are less likely to be willing to stay with one.

But, if you date too soon, you attract someone who smells blood in the water. You don't yet trust your gut, and you stay in the pattern of dismissing red flags.

There are plenty of good people out there. Lots of people down here in NB have found great new partners and are very happy with their new relationships. But it takes time and work to get there.

You will never regret the time you take for yourself.

gonnabe2016 posted 5/26/2014 19:33 PM

I don't know if it'll be any consolation to you....but I feel the same way, CL.

I NEVER want to deal with a monster again, so that means that *all* men are off my radar. My stbx is one of those *charming* successful guys who seems to have life by the tail -- the one who ALL women would love to have. If I see an attractive guy driving a nice car -- I think to myself that he's a narcissistic monster. If an attractive guy is driving a shitty car, I think he rented it for the day. If a guy has a great job/business or doesn't....same thing.

My stbx pulled such a horrific mind-fuck on me that I'm really concerned that I'll never ever trust another person again.......yes, my stbx was *that* good at his game......

Like CayC, everything I *thought* was true (for 20 years) was really a lie. I don't know how to 'come back' from that type of deception.

I *know* that every guy on this planet is NOT an evil monster......I do. Especially from reading the posts from the BH's here, but I don't want to deal with what Guinness mentioned -- most guys in the *dating* pool at 'this' age are either cheaters (who I won't touch with a 10' pole) or have been cheated on (which I'm inclined to not touch with that pole either because of her reasons --their belief that women are evil-- or because of all of the posts I've read from people that married or got involved with betrayed's and were then betrayed.

At this point, I'm very content to hang out with myself, my kids, and my few *very trusted* friends. I just cannot deal with any more *drama* from fucked-up people.

[This message edited by gonnabe2016 at 7:35 PM, May 26th (Monday)]

BrighterFuture posted 5/26/2014 23:57 PM

they "may" move in fast, pretend to get attached or "LOVE" you too quickly, or throw your life into chaos so you don't understand what is happening to you.

This is true! I dated my ex who brought me here, and another ex, and they both had this characteristic. They both were cheaters so I will be hypervigilant with these kind of guys. They move in fast and move out fast too. Safe to stay away from them.

Williesmom posted 5/27/2014 08:11 AM

As usual, I agree with Cayc and Cmego.

I find my contentment in day to day situations, with my dogs or hiking by myself.

I read a lot - it's almost like I'm mentally cocooning, just kind of insulating myself from the world.

If I'm in a situation that makes me uncomfortable, I just leave. I am my first priority, which has never happened before in my life.

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