I didn’t like reading how many of you relate to being gaslighted. It’s one of those areas that I know for me is still tender. There is much un-probed because it hurts too much to counter often-good memories with the knowledge of the duplicity and lies. And I finally realized that the daunting task of separating the strands of truth from the pot of lies is pointless. Even though I now know otherwise, I have chosen to find comfort in the fact that it was real enough to me at the time and that’s all that matters.
But that only works with the personal gaslighting, the stories told to me to keep me placid and distracted.
It doesn’t work with the external assault. The character assassination that carried nefarious seeds far and wide. That requires a different approach.
For much of our time in Atlanta, my then-husband and I were estranged from his parents by his choice. Over the years, we had many families “adopt” us for holidays and get-togethers, but one always stood out. The husband-wife owners of my husband’s company welcomed us into their family. We were at Christmas and birthdays. The kids and grandkids accepted us. We knew them as friends as well as employers. I loved the time with them and always appreciated the inclusion.
A few months before he left, my then-husband took a job with another company. It made the relationship with the family a little strange but we still kept in touch.
In the immediate aftermath of his abandonment, I did not think of them. Until a few days in when I found a note from the wife on my mailbox with instructions to call.
I picked up the phone expecting to hear shock and horror – the emotions expressed by everyone else I knew when they tried to digest the news. Instead, I got a more distant and guarded message. Condolences mixed with a dash of “well, what did you expect?”
I was shocked. Almost speechless. I asked what she meant. And heard about stories that my then-husband told at work. Tales of my cheating exploits, complete with a vivid story of walking in on me in his office with a man. Claims of staying late at work to avoid me and my wrath.
He painted a picture of a horrible wife, a victimized husband and a marriage in peril.
This from the man that kissed me tenderly every night.
This from the man who knew where I was at all times because I was rarely anywhere but work, school or home.
This from the man that couldn’t keep his hands off me and bemoaned when work kept him away.
For years, I thought this family was my family.
But they never even knew me.
Because my monthly or so visits could never compete with his daily fictions.
I was too confused and surprised on the phone that day to try to defend myself. Defeated and wounded, I simply hung up after muttering something in response to her request to keep her in the loop and ask for help if I needed it.
I never did call her back.
And I never will.
There are so many tears that come from this. I’m horrified that he was intentionally darkening my character for years. It’s hard not to wonder for how long. I’m embarrassed that people thought I was unfaithful and shrewish. And I’m sad that I lost these friends and others, as I chose to simply cut off those he had access to rather than to try to vindicate myself against his stories. Although I was tempted to send them a copy of his mugshot:)
He was telling them stories to cover his tracks. He was creating a fiction in his mind to defend his actions, both past and future. Perhaps he was desperate to see himself as the good guy so that he could temper any guilt. I’ll never know.
Much like I chose to walk away and cut my losses from the financial deception, I made the decision to leave those friendships behind. Some damage is too great to repair.
So, what’s the lesson in all this?
I know I first started to trust Brock when he actually encouraged me to have time around his friends without him there. It made me realize how my ex carefully negotiated my encounters with his friends.
I know I’ve had to let go of the concern of what people may believe about me and focus on what I know about me.
I know that realizing how my ex lived one way with me and another with others helped me realize that he was not the man I loved.
And I know that I’ve made many, many new friends who know me. The real me.
And that in the end, the only character he assassinated was his own.