Ask Elizabeth: I Gave our Relationship Everything
My partner broke up with me tonight. It’s been a tough relationship from the start. His ex-wife left him middle of last year, and we started dating in October. He was very charming, loving, caring, kind to start with. It was great. Then his ex-wife started interfering in our relationship – refusing to allow me around their son, refusing to meet me. It made things hard. His short temper really became evident after this. Last week my 3 & 1/2 year old daughter and I were staying with him for a few days. On Tuesday he wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t spoken to me very nicely all day. So that evening I said to him I understand he’s not feeling well but could he please speak a bit nicer to me. He completely lost it at me, saying it’s his way or the highway and if I don’t like it I can fuck off. And then kicked me out of his house, knowing I only had 30kms of petrol left in my car. So at 9.30pm at night my daughter & I were stranded on the side of a main highway after my car ran out of fuel.
I told him I didn’t want to give up on him and that I wanted to help him through whatever he needed.
But tonight, a week later, he messaged me breaking up with me.
And I am heartbroken.
I am aware that he treated his wife the same and that is why she left – she couldn’t take his mood swings anymore.
I just can’t stop crying. I loved the nice side of him. I gave our relationship everything.
Thank you for Your question
I am so sorry this has happened to you. So often I hear that women who are prepared to give their relationships everything find themselves with men who take. It is almost as if because you are so kind and giving you set yourself up to be hurt. What can happen is that we can make the mistake of thinking that if we try hard enough if we are kind enough or giving enough that he will come to his senses. The problem is this is a man who doesn’t take responsibility for how he is in the world and so it doesn’t matter how nice we are he isn’t going to change his blaming behaviour. Kind loving giving people are fair, and can make the mistake of thinking that if a man loves them, then he will also be kind loving giving and fair. The trouble is some people just aren’t nice. They will say whatever they need to say to get whatever they want and will treat us with contempt.
It is interesting you mention that at first, he was very charming loving and caring. This is very common when you start out in a relationship with a toxic toad. They know they have difficulties maintaining a relationship so they do whatever they can to lure you in. Being charming like this is also part of the abuse because they show you a side of them that you get hooked into, and so you keep trying over and over again to get back to how it was at the beginning.
Your relationship can end up in a pattern of honeymoon where the relationship feels like it is perfect, however as you tiptoe around him, not talking about the issues in the relationship, because you don’t want to spoil how good things are, nothing gets resolved. The issues build and build within the relationship until there is another explosive argument which may be verbally and or physically abusive. You both separate to calm down and then there is a pursuit. It sounds to me like you pursue him and tell him you want to work on the relationship, maybe there are even times you have apologised to him, even though it wasn’t your fault, for the sake of the relationship. Then he accepts your pursuit, and you move back into honeymoon. Around and around the arguing cycle you go until the relationship burns itself out. Eventually, the nice parts of the cycle, the honeymoon and the pursuit become less and less until there is just an argument, a pause a buildup and another argument.
The hook is the nice parts of the relationship that we keep believing are real. They are an illusion. What is happening is this man is repressing how he really is in the world and becomes Mr perfect. The problem is he can’t maintain the pretence, and he goes back to being the toxic toad he really is. We keep thinking about the beginning of the relationship which we believe is real. Every glimpse of Mr Perfect we see as we go around and around the arguing cycle in this toxic dance hooks us back in. We try harder and harder to find Mr Perfect until eventually he is gone. The reality is he wasn’t there in the first place. This whole toxic dance becomes a pattern that hooks us in because it links back to our values and beliefs about ourselves and the world and even to the relationships we had as children. The more this toxic dance replicates childhood patterns where we had difficult relationships with mum or dad, the more we will be hooked into it.
What is important here is the recognition that no matter what you do there is no excuse for abusive behaviour ever. This man is in a space of deflection. It seems from what you have written that he takes absolutely no responsibility for his behaviour, and blames you. Unless he can come to a place where he can inwardly reflect about his own behaviour nothing will ever change, no matter what you do. The fact that his first partner left him under similar circumstances and he has repeated this behaviour all over again tells me he is very firmly entrenched in a pattern of toxic, abusive behaviour that may never ever change.
Be careful you don’t excuse his toxic, abusive behaviour because he has depression or anxiety. Many people have mental illness that are not violent or abusive. They might be moody and very difficult to live with, but they are not abusive. Often very giving people want to believe the best in people will use illness as an excuse for another person’s horrible behaviour. You need to take off your rose coloured glasses and realise some people aren’t nice.
How do you protect yourself from this happening again? The first thing I would strongly recommend is don’t let yourself get carried away with your feelings. Don’t believe that because everything feels good that it is good. I have an article on my website called The Feelings Trap. I would like you to read. Slow down and watch and look for the signs, there are signs you can look for right from the very first date that will help you recognise whether a guy is a frog that will turn into your Prince Charming or a horrible nasty toxic toad. One sign you have told me about that you mention in your letter is he did this to his last girlfriend. Learn to be a super sleuth.
I highly recommend my book Stop Kissing Toads – Pucker up and find your handsome prince. It takes you through the emotional processes that happen within you that cause you to choose the men you do, and teaches you what to look for to choose the partner who is just right for you.
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