7 Subtle Signs You Have a Backseat Driver in Your Life

For a long time (okay, even now), when my now-husband would vocalize his opinion about something that he thought would be good for me, I recoiled. It felt almost invasive.

Smothering.

Controlling.

Not because of what he was saying, but because of what I have been through.

My now-husband is direct, expressing his thoughts and feelings overtly and directly (a trait I very consciously looked for the second time around). Sometime I chafe, but I love the fact that it’s all on the table. And even though it’s not always comfortable, I love that he challenges me to defend my decisions and actions because it serves to help make me better.

My former husband was covert, passive aggressive and manipulative in his approach. Unflinchingly supportive on the surface of any thought or action I undertook, while silently steering me in the direction he wanted. He never questioned me, never told me what to do (except to relax while he tackled some chore on his own). His control was subtle, which is exactly why it was so powerful. My defenses were never triggered until it was too late.

The following strategies are commonly used by people who are passively controlling. Those who, rather than overtly take over the wheel of your life, cunningly influence how you turn the wheel. All of these signs can have multiple meanings; on their own they do not indicate control. But when more than one show up along with a sense that boundaries are being crossed, it warrants a closer look.

The tears may be real, but the emotion is not. This trick is learned in infancy, as babies realize how tears can halt punishment and bring attention. Some never abandon this trick and persist in using tears to manipulate those around them. Look out for waterworks that only come when something is desired and seem to halt as soon as the goal is obtained.

Affection and attention are doled out as a distraction and a pacifier. This was my ex’s favored ploy. It sounds crazy to complain about an attentive husband, but when I look back, the affection was increasingly used whenever I came dangerously close to the truth. His great big bear hugs felt protective at the time, now they seem more like a martial arts-style submission.

Decisions are held back. Waiting to make and/or communicate a choice is a particularly crazy-making form of covert control. Everybody else is held in limbo, their own lives and decisions delayed. Doing nothing can carry with a great deal of power when others are depending upon you.

Money is used as a mode of communication. Sometimes finances are used in overt control, such as when one spouse makes all of the financial decisions and doles out an allowance to the other. But it can also be more indirect, such as when purchases are kept hidden or the partner with the higher income feels entitled to make decisions for everyone.

Judgement is passed. This can be direct, “You look like you’re trying too hard when you wear that skirt,” or indirect, pronouncing something unacceptable in someone else. My ex took it a step further and frequently renounced choices and behaviors in others that he was guilty of himself.

The favors and gifts are given with some sort of reciprocity in mind. The stereotypical idea of a wife using sex to get her husband to do things comes to mind here, but it’s by no means the only modality used. Handouts can be used with great efficacy to shape behaviors. After all, there’s a reason we train animals that way.

They accuse you of being controlling. Projection and gaslighting at its finest.

 

In a healthy relationship, each partner challenges theother and accepts influence from the other. It flows both ways, balanced.

When there is controlling behavior present, the interange is not equal. One holds more power than the other.

And when there is a backseat driver, a more passive controller, this inbalance can be difficult to pinpoint.

Control thrives when you’re too close too it, too afraid to see it and unwilling to erect and maintain boundaries.

Take a step back, trust in yourself and practice making decisons by yourself and for yourself.

 

Related:

I Hate Mums

I Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own

Subtle Signs You’re Being Manipulated By a Covert Abuser

The Misuse Of Affection

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Why Do We Fall in Love With People That Are Bad For Us?

Have you ever fallen for someone that turned out to be bad for you? Who left you worse off than you were before? Who perhaps used you or abused you?

My hand is sure is sure raised.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

So why is it that we fall so easily for those who treat us badly? And what can we do to keep it from happening again? Learn more here.

10 Reasons Being Gaslighted Is the Worst

There’s a reason governments utilize psychological torture techniques on suspected terrorists.

It works.

It’s a way of controlling somebody discretely. Without obvious threats or harm. Simply by controlling their reality and steering their perceptions. Planting seeds of doubt and carefully nurturing them until a dependence upon the manipulator is created.

And you don’t have to be a prisoner suspected of treason to face this torture.

It can happen in your own home.

In your own marriage.

Only there, it’s not called torture (although maybe it should be).

It’s called gaslighting.

And here’s the top ten reasons why it’s the worst-

10 Your Protector Becomes Your Persecutor

It’s horrifying when you realize that the person you love, you trust, has been slowly and intentionally lying and manipulating you. It’s like that nightmare you had when you were 5 where Santa Claus suddenly turned into a monster. Only this monster is real and you shared a bed with them.

9 It’s Invisible While It’s Happening

The whole point of gaslighting is to control somebody and distract them from what is really going on. As a result, it’s very difficult to identify when you’re in it. Generally, all you recognize is a sense that something is off and perhaps a sense of generalized anxiety. In some ways I’m glad I never spent time in a “bad” marriage. But then again, it’s scary to only realize after the fact that I was in one.

8 Your Memories Are Tarnished

I have 16 years of good memories with my first husband. And at least part of that history is false. But I have no idea what parts. So it’s all damaged. Ugly water stains on beautiful wedding photos. Was any of it real? I’ll never know.

7 It Doesn’t End When the Relationship Does

Some of this is by design. Often the abuser defames your character to others, leaving you in the position of either trying to convince them of a new truth or cut them out. But even without the character assassination, gaslighting persists. It’s in you, an unwanted tattoo imprinted upon your doubting brain.

6 Impact Is Hard to Recognize Until It Builds

The flood of feelings that led to my emotional hangover the other day was building for some time. But I couldn’t see it. It becomes very difficult to separate the implanted thoughts from your own. And sometimes the false ones take the lead for a time.

5 It’s Difficult to Explain to Others

Because until you’ve been there, you don’t believe that somebody can really have that much influence over your thoughts. Like much abuse, gaslighting starts slowly, ramping up the distortions until your reality is altered. And when you try to explain it, you either get judged or dismissed.

4 Words Are Meaningless

When somebody does try to comfort you or convince you of something, you find that words have become meaningless. Because you’ve learned that words can be used to paint a picture of a fictional reality. And although we should always trust actions more than words, it’s hard to communicate when you immediately shrug off somebody’s utterances.

3 Over Analyzing Becomes Second Nature

Determined not be a victim of gaslighting again, you over analyze everything. It’s like being a detective 24-7, always looking for proof and validation. It looks like A to me. But is it really A? Or do I only think it is A because that’s what I was told for so long? And here’s the crazy part, some of what allowed you to be gaslighted is that you ignored your intuition. And now the excessive scrutiny can cause you to fail to observe your gut again.

2 It’s Difficult to Trust Others

Because the abuse was invisible while it was carried out, it’s hard to trust that others are not trying to do the same to you. It’s tempting to wall off, to refuse vulnerability. Trust becomes a daily intention and a huge leap of faith.

1 You Don’t Trust Yourself

And this is the worst. You don’t trust yourself to recognize if it’s happening again and you don’t trust your perceptions and conclusions. There’s a skepticism and a confusion woven into your very fabric. And you have to slowly tease it out. One little thread at a time.

 

Subtle Signs You’re Being Manipulated By a Covert Abuser

Covert abuse is sneaky.

It doesn’t leave a bruise on your cheek.

Or cut you down with scathing words.

Or even obviously isolate you from others.

Instead, it wisps in slowly through tiny cracks. Velvet-trimmed lies whispered into trusting ears. The smoke builds until you no longer remember what it is like to see clearly and your head is filled more with the thoughts of your abuser than with your own.

It’s often only possible to identify covert abuse once you have escaped its clutches (and even then, it usually takes a period of months or years to fully grasp what happened). It’s like a domestic form of Stockholm Syndrome, the persecutor masquerading as a protector.

The following are the subtle signs that were present in my ex husband. Small dots of data that when connected, paint a crimson flag of warning. If you see a preponderance of similar signs in your relationship, it warrants further investigation. If you recognize these traits in your former relationship, it can give you some information that can aid in the healing process.

These signs are subtle and can have many causes and manifestations. Just because someone fits these descriptors, it does not mean they are covert abusers or narcissists. But it does mean that you should look twice. Especially before you leap into marriage with them.

He came from a troubled family. Both parents were alcoholics and neither established a warm and secure relationship with him. He learned how to lie and play pretend from the beginning.

He got a thrill when he got away with something. He claimed to know a particular software program to secure a job and then worked around the clock to teach it to himself before he started working for them. He learned that he was clever and that he could fool others.

He never voiced displeasure. I rarely ever heard him raise his voice or disagree. I thought we just happened to get along really well and have similar views on everything. He learned how to not rock the boat so that he could sail smooth waters.

He always wanted to be the good guy. He wasn’t flashy and he didn’t want to be the center of attention. But he wanted to be liked. And he bought favors with paying the check at dinner or building something for somebody else. He learned that if he did something for other people, they wouldn’t look at him too closely.

He had serial relationships. With the exception of our marriage, he would have friends for a period of years before he moved on to new ones. He even removed his parents from his life for a time. He learned that when people see too much, it’s safer and easier to cut them off.

He was very affectionate. And the more upset I was, the more affectionate he became. I thought I was lucky (especially because I did not like touch until he taught me to soften to it). He learned that if he held me, my anxiety would lessen and that I would associate him with loving and trusting attentions.

He was a storyteller. In high school, his favorite class was creative writing. In adulthood, he traded in the pen for the voice and enjoyed telling about the day’s events in story form. He learned how to blend plausible fiction in with reality.

He used undeniable excuses. The reasons offered up for anything were airtight, frequently backed by physical evidence. He learned that by crafting an impossible-to-disprove lie, he was safe from unwanted questioning and examination.

He corralled others. He never demonstrated overt control, never told me what I could or couldn’t do or who I could see. Instead, he would influence me to take certain actions, like when he booked a cabin for my mom and I when he wanted me out of my hair or encouraged me to see my dad on the trip where he sent the “I’m gone” text. He learned that manipulation could be subtle and still effective, especially when used on a trusting wife.

In the final years of the marriage, I had an uneasy energy running through me. I passed it off on a very difficult period at work and my concern for my husband’s career and health.  It’s only upon years of distance and hours of reflection that I’ve been able to partially assemble the pieces aided by the additional information that came out once he left.

Recovering from covert abuse is not easy. Especially because the signs are so subtle and are often not recognized or validated.

It’s not easy. And it’s also not impossible.

Here’s how I did it.

And if you’re in the divorce process with a manipulator, here are some tips on how to survive.

The Four Words That Are Holding You Back (And the Four Words to Say Instead)

It’s ingrained in all of us.

Inevitably, when I motion for a student to quiet down, I hear the response,

“It’s not my fault.”

(Or its synonym, “It wasn’t me.”)

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It is a knee-jerk reaction to any pronouncement of culpability.

And rather than grow out of it as we grow older, we begin to pay others to tell us that it is not our fault.

———-

When I first starting getting into health and fitness in the early 90s, I noticed that the industry advice came in two distinct forms – one voice said that you could transform your life and your body through willpower and hard work while the other side spoke of reassurances that the excess weight or sagging muscle was due to no fault of your own (and often this burden shift would be followed up with a “quick fix” for the low, low price of only $19.95).

And I soon figured out that the second view led to increased sales.

Even as it failed to create the desired body.

Because we all like to hear that it’s not our fault. That someone or something else is responsible for whatever is holding us back.

Yet even though we all have situations and circumstances that make certain goals more challenging, ultimately, you are ultimately the only thing holding you back.

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I encounter people that tell me that they cannot lose weight because of PCOS or hypothyroidism. “It’s in my genes,” is offered as a reason for the Type II diabetes or metabolic syndrome. I hear others defend their lack of fitness by claiming that their family or job requires all of their time.

They feel a freedom by stating that it is not their fault.

Yet really they are in chains of their own making.

I workout alongside people who use wheelchairs and people with artificial limbs. I have friends who alternate days at the gym with nights at the hospital as they are treated for their autoimmune disorders. I know women with PCOS who accept that weight loss will be harder for them even as they strive to work within the limitations of their disease. I work with single parents who problem-solve creative ways to exercise while the kids are at practice or asleep.

I’ve never once heard any of these people say that the situation is not their fault.

And it’s no accident that they are constantly pushing the boundaries of their situations.

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———-

The problem with, “It’s not my fault,” is that it so easily slides into “And therefore there’s nothing I can do about it.”

And the two declarations are vastly different.

It is not your fault if you have been cursed by faulty genes that cause your body to grasp onto every fat cell for dear life.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It is not your fault if you suffered at the hands of abusive or negligent parents who failed to give you the tools to excel in adulthood.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It is not your fault if you have been exposed to trauma, bruising and damaging your very core.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It’s not your fault if your brain struggles with anxiety or depression.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It’s not your fault if your spouse cheated or abandoned you.

(And what are you going to do now?)

In all of these cases (or in any limitations and struggles you have in your life), you can spend your energy on blaming the fault-carrier. Others will help you, either for pay or for free. After all, it’s easy to point fingers at others.

Because then we are absolved of any effort.

Of course, we are also guaranteed not to make any progress.

Because the last time I checked, reps of reciting “It’s my hormones,” had a dramatically lesser effect on fitness than reps on the weight machine.

And assigning liability to a screwed up family of origin is inherently dissatisfying because they’re too entrenched in their own drama to absorb yours.

And calling your cheating ex an ass won’t help you get off yours to build your new life.

So rather than focus on what happened, focus on what you can do now.

Replace “It’s not my fault” with “It is my responsibility.”

Rather than point fingers (or waste your time and money on those that help you pass blame), use those fingers to grab your own bootstraps.

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Nobody else is going to do it for you.

———-

Your future is your responsibility.

Your well-being is your responsibility.

Your happiness is your responsibility.

And if you don’t accept that responsibility, that IS your fault.

———-

It is my responsibility to …

Shift my attention from what happened to me to what I am going to make happen.

Focus on what I can do.

See my limitations as my starting point, not as excuses to never start.

Be realistic with my goals.

Set a limit to the amount of energy I expend on placing blame. That energy can be put to better use.

Surround myself with people who believe I can.

Ask for (and accept) help when I need it.

To refuse to allow somebody else to define me.

Communicate my needs clearly and calmly.

Manage my emotions so that they do not control me. 

Establish and maintain appropriate boundaries. 

Speak and act with kindness. Towards others and also towards myself.

Believe in myself and act in accordance with that belief.

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And what are you going to do now?

Related:

The Part of the Betrayed

Sprained

I’m Not Strong Enough

Covert Abuse

I’ve never thought of my ex as abusive.

Then readers tell me they recognize their (very much abusive) spouses in my descriptions of my ex.

And I wonder.

I read a story in the paper about a domestic murder in the county where my ex and I lived and I always half expect to see his name.

And I wonder.

Then I discover that security procedures were altered at my old school during my divorce.

And I wonder.

He certainly was never overtly abusive. There were no strikes or shoves and never any threat of physical harm. He never belittled or yelled or uttered lines designed to wound. I was not discouraged from seeing friends or enjoying excursions without him. He didn’t exhibit excess jealousy and always demonstrated respect. He was the same man in public with me as he was behind closed doors – attentive, affectionate, loving. I never feared him while we were together.

So then why was I afraid for my life when he left?

I inquired about a restraining order, but since there was no history of abuse and no threats of physical harm, I was denied. However, the police were concerned enough that they performed drive-bys at the house where I was living as well as the house where he was staying. The chief of police told me I was lucky; he related that many cases of marital fraud he encountered resulted in a murder/suicide.

I couldn’t imagine the man that had always touched me so lovingly intending to harm me. But then again, I couldn’t have imagined the rest of it either.

I didn’t know the man I was married to.

Was he abusive?

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. From HelpGuide

When I read descriptions like that, it seems clear. He certainly was controlling me through his deceptions.

But then I see this:

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. From HelpGuide

Control? Check.

Doesn’t “play fair”? Check.

Fear, guilt, shame and intimidation? No.

At least not until he left.

And that’s when I realized I was terrified of him.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that he was abusive. Not overtly, but undercover. His was a clandestine abuse, hidden even to me until the covers were ripped back when he left, revealing the buried machinations.

His abuse was financial, embezzling from the marital funds while covering his tracks with ever-shifting balances, hidden credit cards and fabricated stories.

His abuse took the form of gaslighting, altering my reality to match his goals. He took it a step further by assassinating my character through lies told behind my back to those around us.

His abuse didn’t use whips; it used a gentle leader of manipulation. Velvet trimmed lies whispered into trusting ears. No need to threaten when I easily followed along.

His abuse gained in cruelty when he abruptly abandoned me with no money and no explanation, refusing all contact. Protector turned persecutor.

During the divorce, he upped the ante, painting me as the controlling one. Falling right in line with the favored “You made me do it” excuse of the textbook abuser.

He never hit. He never yelled. He never isolated.

But behind the scenes, he was pulling the strings I didn’t even know existed.

Gatekeeper

A marriage should not have a gatekeeper.

Where one party restricts and manages the flow of information into the relationship.

And one partner assumes the responsibility of pre-filtering what the other person sees and hears.

 

A marriage should not have a gatekeeper.

One person acting like a parent who knows what is best for the other.

And one spouse making decisions that impact the relationship without first consulting their partner.

 

A marriage should not have a gatekeeper.

Where fear that your partner may step out of line prompts new guidelines to be followed.

And one individual attempts to control the thoughts and actions of another.

 

A marriage should not have a gatekeeper.

Because the mere presence of a gatekeeper speaks to an imbalance of power, one holding the keys while the other is held.

And a balanced marriage is built upon mutual trust and respect, not confinement and limitation.

 

A marriage should not have a gatekeeper.

A marriage should have two.

Because while one person manning the gate leads to an imbalance, when both partners work as a team to filter what comes into their marriage, they work to make it stronger.

Not with manipulation and coercion, but with conversation and adaptation.

That begins with the acceptance that both partners are whole and capable and can work to strengthen each other rather than restrict each other.

And where the spouses work to hold the marriage together instead of keeping the other out.

Seek to protect your marriage rather than protect your partner.

Be gatekeepers together.

 

 

I Used to Judge

I used to judge.

I’m not proud of it.

But I used to judge those who stayed in abusive relationships.

I criticized the victim for staying put while exclaiming that, were I ever to find myself in a similar situation, I would leave immediately.

It always seemed so clear to me. So cut and dry.

If the victim wasn’t choosing to leave, then they were choosing to be hit.

But that was before I was judged myself.

I wasn’t in an abusive relationship*. But I was played. And I played along. Played the fool. People hear of my situation and wonder how I didn’t know about the marital embezzlement or the double life. I’m criticized for staying unaware.

And you know my first response when I hear those words?

You weren’t there.

You don’t know.

The same words spoken by those that have been in abusive relationships.

It’s so easy to declare a solution to a problem when you’re viewing it from the outside. But it’s a false clarity, born of perspective and ignorance. When you only see a piece, it’s easy to play judge. But life isn’t that simple.

People stay in abusive relationships because the abuse comes in slowly and “normal” is changed over time.

People stay in abusive relationships because they learned in childhood that abuse is love.

People stay in abusive relationships because they believe they are not worth more.

People stay in abusive relationships because they fear the repercussions of leaving more than those of staying.

People stay in abusive relationships because they love their partner. Except when they fear him/her.

People stay in abusive relationships because the abuser is a skilled trapper, limiting resources and escape routes.

People stay in abusive relationships because their partner is a wonderful parent.

People stay in abusive relationships because they are hopeful that he/she will return to the way it was.

People stay in abusive relationships because depression keeps them stuck.

People stay in abusive relationships because “one more time” is always repeated once more.

People stay in abusive relationships because of fear. And love. And shame. And hope.

I judged for the same reason people have judged me.

I wanted to believe that I was too strong, too smart, too brave for it to ever happen to me. I wanted to believe that I was safe.

And since then, I’ve made friends with many people who have opened up to me about the abuse they’ve endured. And these friends are all strong and smart and brave.

I’ve learned not to judge. To be willing to accept that I am not immune. That I cannot truly understand a situation unless I have lived it. And that in any case, it is better to listen with compassion that speak with judgement.

*My ex husband never was physically abusive. He was never openly controlling. However, he was manipulative and secretive. And I was physically afraid of him once he left; I realized that he was capable of things I never imagined. It was a type of covert abuse.

If you are on Twitter, check out the hashtags #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed. Powerful.

I Want You to Want Me

My kids this year are great – happy, funny and generous. Unfortunately, they’re also generous with their germs. Thursday night, those lovely little bugs finally got the best of me and led to a feverish Friday on the couch. My mind was too scrambled to focus on a book, so I ended up reading through the thousands of posts backlogged on my Feedly reader. And, as so often happens on the internets, one click led to another and another.

Until I ended up here on Penelope Trunk’s blog (possible trigger warning – domestic violence).

I’ve subscribed to her blog for years through my RSS reader, but only read the occasional post. I thought she was all about business and start-ups.

She’s not.

The post in question made me very uncomfortable. In it, she displays a picture with a bruise on her hip and tells an accompanying story about her husband shoving her into the bedpost. She is writing from a hotel room with her two kids, where she has sought refuge for the night.

But she doesn’t want to leave him. In fact, she claims in another post that domestic violence is a question of boundaries and that the abused can alter the dynamic alone. Like with so many inflammatory statements, there is a sliver of truth. There are patterns that tend to be in play that lead someone into an abusive relationship. And those (usually childhood) issues have to be addressed for that person to be in a healthy relationship. But, and here’s where my view differs, the first boundary that has to be enforced is getting away from the abuser. And then work on yourself. Get safe first (and get your kids safe) and then get healthy.

Her last sentence in the bruise post seemed to explain it all:

“That’s why I can’t leave. I want someone to miss me.”

Ah, now that’s a sentiment I think we all can understand in some form.

It’s human nature to want to be wanted. From being an early pick for the kickball game in elementary school to being tagged on Facebook from a friend, we all get a little thrill when we are chosen and feel the sting of rejection when we are not.

It’s natural. We’ve evolved to thrive in a community and, at the most basic evolutionary level, those that are not included are less likely to thrive as they struggle alone on the outskirts.

But as is so often the case, a basic drive can also go haywire. We can be so focused on being wanted that we ignore our basic safety and our own boundaries and beliefs. We can twist ourselves into parodies, subvert our true nature or ignore red flags just to save our spot as a chosen one.

The pain of rejection is real. And it is powerful.

But sometimes the pain incurred by avoiding rejection may be even worse.

Especially when you’re rejecting yourself in hopes of being accepted and desired by another.

 

We all want to be wanted.

But don’t compromise yourself just to be picked.

And make sure you’re wanted for who you are.

Because who you are is enough.

I’d pick you for my team any day:)

 

 

Character Assassination

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. We knew the kids and the grandkids. 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. 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.