Ask Elizabeth: How can I find closure?
I am needing help in moving on and gaining closure without him actually giving it to me.
I was in a relationship with an extremely toxic man that showed signs of a narcissist, along with his own mental Heath issues he refused to acknowledge. We’d have wonderful moments together, and when things got serious he’d pull back and make up an excuse of why we shouldn’t continue, and I stupidly stuck around. He’d call me names and manipulate things and make me second guess myself. I feel in love however and ignored the red flags. Last time I saw him he told me he loved me for the first time in person and we had a good deep conversation about his past; he also accused of me lying and cheating which never occurred. Later that night he blocked me off everything and sent an abusive message. Since then I have tried to reach out, but it’s made him more angry and more abuse telling me he doesn’t care etc. I believe he ran cause he was afraid of love and has serious commitment and trust issues, he was scared how serious it was getting and has never experienced love before.
He refuses to speak with me and said he never will again. My anxiety and depression has dramatically increased, and I feel I take one step forward 3 steps back.
I’m not sure how to move forward from this, someone who I thought was forever to turn around and treat me like I’m nothing.
Thank you for your question
How heartbreaking for you to think you had found a nice man only to have him treat you like this. The trouble is when we first meet someone they are on their best behaviour, and it is such a trap to fall into. I always say when you first meet a guy, enjoy yourself, but keep that healthy level of scepticism and no matter what he says and does, wait for the trust picture to form. You might even give your heart, but be careful how much you entwine your life with his until you have the proof he is who he says he is.
You have said “I stupidly stuck around”. No, you weren’t stupid. Being in an abusive relationship is absolutely crazy-making. Holding onto yourself with all those feelings, feel good hormones and desires buzzing around is incredibly difficult. Emotional abuse is very hard to pinpoint. Even intelligent, successful confident self-assured women can find themselves loving a toad. So don’t beat yourself up about it. A better way to use your energy would be to connect with other like-minded women, work on yourself and who you are and gradually work towards healing. Most importantly you need to have some strategies in place so that when you start to go into the dating space again, you can go in with your eyes open, knowing what you are doing.
Listening to what you are describing it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t some sort of mental illness going on with your partner. The way he is running so hot and cold with his behaviour and his complete disregard for your feelings indicate that. It could be narcissistic personality disorder it could be any number of things. It is important not to confuse personality disorder and abusive behaviour. People can have a personality disorder; it can make them lack empathy, it can make them thoughtless, it can make them a real pain and difficult to live with. But, it doesn’t necessarily make them abusive. There is a distinct separation between mental illness and abuse. One does not indicate the other. It is important to remember that.
I really feel, given what you have described, that your ex-partner is very entrenched in his behaviour. I might be wrong, but I am not at all sure that you will see a significant shift in how he is in the world. Unless he is actually able to see his part in why your relationship has failed, and own his own behaviour it doesn’t matter what you do, or how hard you try nothing will change.
So how can you move on from this relationship? The first thing to recognise is that you have most likely been in a relationship cycle where you have been drawn back into the nice parts of the relationship. The problem is the nice guy you thought you were in love with isn’t real. What he is doing is repressing all his nasty behaviours for a time. Then as the relationship progresses his bad behaviour emerges again, and you find yourself experiencing what he is really like. The problem is we don’t want to believe anyone who loves us or that we fall in love with is bad. We want to believe the good in people, and so we get caught clinging to the good times.
Two articles from my blog I think you will find useful are Are you mistaking intensity for intimacy in your relationship and Does your relationship have a familiar pattern. My book Stop Kissing Toads goes into detail about the relationship cycle and how we can be drawn into toxic cycles of argument and makeup.
So how can you recover? I suspect the No Contact Rule will be a good rule to follow here. You need to disconnect from this man and wipe the slate clean. Then you need to give yourself time to grieve. The end of a relationship is like a death, only I think it is worse because in a death the person has gone, with the end of a relationship the person is still around. We can still see them if we want to through social media, and there is that chance we are still in the arguing cycle in the pause stage that happens right after an argument. One pursuit from either of you and the pain can recommence, because you get drawn back into the relationship to repeat the arguing cycle again and again. So it is important that you lock things down, have no contact and resolve to work on healing you.
I would like to see you focus on your self-care. This is going to be hard because you have told me your depression has come back. When we are depressed, it can be very difficult to make any change or stick to our resolve because we are feeling vulnerable. Depression breeds depression so it might be important for you to reach out for some support from your GP or other professional and get some medication, just to take the edge off so you can make positive changes in your life. Then as you start to feel better, you can work on the role of the medication, whether you need it and how much you should be taking with your doctor.
I also would like to see you have some emotional support. Medication in its own doesn’t work. You can come and interact in our group as a start Relationships and Dating Advice for Women. I am not sure where you are but Meetup has some great support groups. You can also look at whether you might have some counselling.
In addition, I think looking after your temple is important. Draw a line in the sand and look at how you can improve your physical exercise and your food intake. Regular exercise is very important. Make sure you care for yourself with your appearance. Make that effort have a shower every day, but a bit of lipstick on, not for anyone else, but for you.
Most importantly you need to do the hard work to establish what is going on for you. This means going onto the internet and listening to audio talks, reading self-help books and thinking about you and what has lead you to where you are now as much as you can. Knowledge is power, when you understand your triggers and understand yourself it makes you more self-reliant. You can be in a relationship, not for what it gives you but for a shared experience. It helps you to manage those feelings we all have of wanting to be in a relationship so that rather than craving to be with anyone, to fill the emptiness inside you are able to make more healthy relationship choices.
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