Toxic, or abusive- how does one make sense of the past?

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Iwantmeback Iwantmeback 2 weeks ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #67979
    Profile photo of Sarah.S. Sarah.S. 
    Participant

    Hello,

    I have recently went no contact with a former partner, and someone I called a “friend” for a long time after we have split from each other. I knew this person from the age of (detail removed by moderator) I am in my thirties now.

    After No Contact, a lot of feelings came up, which I thought I have dealt with a long time ago.
    I need some help in untangling some of them.

    I am certain that we had a very unhealthy and toxic relationship, that has made me feel dependent, trapped and very unhappy. It is also true that we shared a lot of mental intimacy, humour and fun with each other. What I am really uncertain about it figuring out if any of the negative aspects shaded into abuse, given that I do not think any of this was intentional. But the whole relationship made me feel hurt and damaged. I can cope with that, but I find it difficult to reconcile the knowledge of the difficulty of my experience, with the fact that a relationship is always two people. That if we are autonomous, then how come I indeed up in something that I did not want to be in for such a long time? I also find it hard to feel affected by the relationship, which was “toxic”, but not abusive.

    Brief story:

    Very smart person with a great sense of humour, who had some definite mental health issues- diagnosed depression and anxiety, but I do not know what others, a therapist assessing him suspected some personality disorder, but he bolted without completing the questionnaire.

    Graduated with a masters in a pretty demanding topic but only had 2-3 jobs, lasting few weeks each. Worked as a private tutor for a bit.
    We met shortly after my mother died, in my home country.
    We spend together a few months, before having a year long distance relationship and I moved to his home country. After I moved in with him, he pretty much withdrew any physical intimacy.
    We continued having sex for about 4 years, every few moths, but he would not kiss me during sex. It was pretty damaging, and a complete change to how things were in the first few months when were dating in my home town. He later explained that he was “swamped by my feelings” and felt a bit suffocated during sex, because sex for him was about sex, and not feelings, which are separate. I eventually drew a hard line about not having sex with him anymore, because I did not want to be subjected to sex without emotional intimacy.

    In the next years I have lost my father, and he his.

    Extreme, extreme procrastinator, probably due to the above mentioned MH issue. Most severe example, we fell into rent arrears on our room because he did not open a bank account for 6 months. The benefit payment he applied for was not paid for that period, because he failed to update the office with his bank details.

    He worked through this through extreme denial. He was able to appear professional and on top of things to others. To himself and to me he was always saying that he is “dealing with it”. He was able to lead the landlord on regarding the rent arrears for close about 8 years. He is a rational and charming person who appears to have their life together to others. Only, he is around 40 and living of inheritance that might run out soon, and never had a job, apart from those 2-3 few week temp gigs. He suffers a lot because of this. It’s not like he does not want to have a job, its just that he is incompetent at getting one.

    I suffered my own issues, depression and so on. I had therapy and through that I was able to distance myself enough from him to be able to move out- admittedly only into another room in the flatshare that we shared with others, but it felt like a bit step. I completed a degree and had a few jobs meanwhile, but I also was unemployed, stuck with him for a long time.

    He eventually got therapy to.

    We had our last attempt at being a couple about 6 years ago, and it failed. After that we both dated other people, and understood each other as friends. But I think our emotional separation only occurred last year after I moved out of our room, and got a new partner. In many ways he was my closest family that I had in this country. Because of this it is extremely hard to figure out how I feel about this. On the one hand he was the person I was always speaking to honestly, on the other hand, he is also the person who could push my buttons and make me crazy hurt and depressed.

    Soon after this he got a new partner, and spent most time with her, but we saw each other occasionally because we lived in the same flat (not room anymore). He moved out last moth completely. They are expecting a child together, so there is no need to worry that he will be in my life soon. He is in therapy, and his behaviour improved somehow in the last year. I do hope that he is able to give her a relatively ok -relationship. They seem to be happy together.

    To the issues:

    * Never, even remotely admitting to hurting, upsetting or otherwise making me feel bad. The best I got was “I am sorry you are upset”.
    After he had therapy, he was able to apologise getting into a relationship with me.

    * I have routinely felt that my feeling and versions of events were not *seen* and recognised. With my current partner there is conflict sometimes. But we agree that there is a difference, he recognises that we both feel completely different about something. We grumble or argue, or become terse, and give each other space to cool down/ and then come back to the issue and discuss it more calmly.

    With my ex every argument was a struggle “for truth”, or for the ultimate reality. There was simply no room for my feelings and his feelings to exist. With therapy I have learned to really be specific, and make sure that I separated my own feelings from his, but we still ended up in loops of arguments.

    Every conflict was escalated into endless spirals of hot-potato counter arguments. I had an issue with him doing something, then he wheeled out an issue in response, and I did another one, and so it went.
    I think it had to do with his self- esteem, or anxiety depending entirely on things being “good” between us – me getting over my grudge against him.

    This also ties up with issue Not respecting my physical space. I was not allowed to walk away from an argument until it was solved. This caused me to feel trapped and eventually lash out at him, to scream, etc because I felt extremely claustrophobic.

    For example if I sat at the kitchen table in the morning and just wanted to write something undisturbed, and did not feel particularly sociable- or worse, was working on a university assignment, he would feel that I am not really responding to his “good morning” that I was being rude to him, that there definitely must be “something wrong”, which he wanted to “clear up”, which resulted in me feeling anxious and stressed and cornered and aggressive towards him. He acted entitled to my space, and I responded with anxiety, anger and hostility, which escalated the issue.

    Or if I wanted to get ready to go out and did not want a person walking behind me in the corridor as I was putting my eyeliner on, he’d get offended and want to “discuss” the issue in the moment. I felt extremely stressed, because it was precisely not the right moment to discuss something when I was running late. Screaming for him to leave me the f*** alone usually let him off my case. But I feel that any other person with a little bit of awareness of others, would just have let me be for the time, and talked to me after I got back from going out.

    He basically felt and acted entitled to my space all the time (not my body, thank good), and it was extremely hard to cope with, because he almost never left the flat, and we shared a room. There was no space away from him, once at home.

    * He was not violent towards me, it was me who smashed a few plates. He also did not call me names, However two issues stand out:

    * He said on multiple occasions that “he will not give me a free pass because I am a woman”. Meaning that he’d be willing to escalate conflict to a point of violence, and he will not treat me any different, to if I were a man. I felt that he could push our arguments beyond my limits, because if I were to fully engage full blown conflict I’d need to have been a man to be able to fight him.

    * There was an instance of conflict which ended up in me being hurt, and the police being called. To this day I do not know how to think of this.

    I mopped the floor in our room and asked him repeatedly to not enter the room, until it dried. He refused to respect my request, and barged into the room, effectively ruining the work I have just done, because “he lives there”. There was some showing and pushing in the door of the room and eventually I shouted him out. I have then told him to leave the flat- he left, ostensibly to take the trash outside. I tried to close the door behind him (he had the key), and shouting for him to go, but he put his foot in the door. I never touched him, or did any gesture towards him, apart from trying to get him out of my physical space, somewhere in the process he made contact – he said that applied a karate move to block me (the door?) I am not sure exactly, what happened. His hand touched my lip and I caught it on my tooth and was bleeding. I did not know what happened, I was just in shock that my lip was bleeding and I called the police, who came immediately and arrested him for DV. In his account he blocked me, and that he did not know that he had hurt me. I decided to not press charges, because I decided to believe him that it was not intentional

    * Years before he posted an anonymous intimate picture of me online, without my consent. Took him about 8 years to apologise for this.

    * felt dependent on him for a long time. Dependent, and weakened by him. Dependent initially because when I moved into his place I lived off his money for about 6 months, each time I had to ask him for money, it was pretty uncomfortable. Before I got a job, and later because he did not acknowledge that I wanted to leave, we never had a constructive conversation about it, I did not really have any family or friends, and did not have enough money to be on my own in a foreign country. He did not “isolate” me from my friends, it’s just that I ended up being isolated by circumstance.

    I also felt trapped, because he just would not let me leave- each time I wanted to, he’d just change his behaviour and promise that things will get better. He was skilled at appearing good-willed and innocent, and a good person whom I felt protective towards, and for a long time I did not want to leave, also because I felt he would not be able to manage on his own emotionally, and I cared about him.

    We shared a room for 13 years in total, also after we have split up. It was very tough, but in the end we established our individual spheres- I had to grow tough boundaries to be able to cope with this. I am very grateful to my therapist for helping me to figure out how to create conditions for him to move on and to let go of me. I tried leaving for few months few years ago, and I came back because I missed him. I regressed emotionally with him, I was a bit childish, and for a long time it did feel like the good times were essentially a couple of kids living together.
    No doubt there was a lot of projection and enabling going on from my side as well. I would also not been able to move out, had I not been in an accident- I was given some compensation to help with the costs immediately after it, and that enabled me to move out into another room in the flat that we both lived in. As pathetic as this sounds, this enabled me to basically have a completely separate life from him.

    * When we were still intimate- we had sex on few occasions where I have explicitly initially said that I did not want to. He “convinced” me into it- by teasing etc. He essentially grasped onto the part of me that might have wanted some of it, and teased, manipulated me long enough for the part that did not want it, to become overpowered. It felt wrong, and it also had to do with the fact that I had weak boundaries. After a while I have learned to set very hard boundaries, and these incidents did not occur.

    * the straw that broke the camels back was the fact that nearly a year ago he borrowed the wheel of my expensive road bike without my consent. Then the wheel got stolen. He refused to see why this was upsetting, and how this was really his fault, because he was not responsible for the theft. He argued that me agreeing for the wheel to be returned a bit later, constituted consent to it being borrowed, in the first place.
    I asked him to replace it, but it dragged his feet exceptionally long. After I threatened that I will not be his friend anymore, he bought a wheel, but the cogs for the back where still missing, and it would have to be fitted professionally.

    Shortly before he moved out we had an argument- he was acting all worked up because I forgot to wash up some of the shared flat share items, and refused to accept me saying that I simply forgot, and that I was about to do it anyway, and was only waiting for the other flatmate to leave the kitchen so I could do it. He again acted insistent.

    It escalated to me saying that he had some cheek to complain about this, when his actions affected me negatively for such a long time- he did not even replace the wheel. We then did the hot-potato thing-
    Him- you are forgetting all the repairs I did on your bike over the years
    Me- you did not do that much, I usually did my own maintenance
    Him- but you used all the tools, and I bough them
    Me- no, I never used your tools, I have my own multitool, and I don’t need others.
    Me- also – what about all the mental health/emotional support I gave you over the years? (pretty unnecessary on my side, but I was annoyed that he simply would not see why I am upset with him)
    Him- That was only you, that was always you, that was never me. (read: he never had any issues ?)

    I thought it was such a ridiculous and hurtful thing to say. All relationships are two people. I had my own issues, I worked on them, but him refusing to be accountable for his own issues and putting all the blame on me is just incredible, and hurtful and frankly *maddening*.

    I was upset about this, maddened, discussed some of it with my boyfriend. He could see that this was upsetting to me. I avoided seeing my ex for the time he was moving out, I did not feel like I could handle another argument.

    I called him few days later to figure out some practical issues. He was standing outside a supermarket with his girlfriend’s dog, and it was not the best moment to speak, but I still pointed to him that I was upset about our last argument.

    * He denied the last argument ever took place, and he also denied that he said those things. It was reminiscent of many of our past arguments, in that he usually acted after a while as if they did not happen- but in this case it was an instance of maddening, hard, denial. It happened for the first time this crudely. I felt gaslighted, and I wondered how many times in the past it might have happened in milder forms. He the said: “If you want to be my friend, you have to let go of the idea that I have been mean to you” ( or “wronged you”, or something similar, I cannot remember the exact expression he used).

    I decided to just block him on everything. I have sent him a relatively polite email, saying that I do not wish to discuss the details, but that I feel that we have a fundamental conflict that will never be resolved, I have wished him good luck, and I asked him to not contact me again. Then I blocked his number. I got a reply to my email, with only the subject having been changed to “it’s only unresolvable because you made it so”.

    I feel shaken by this experience. I worry that it was me who was abusive (as I said I broke some things), I certainly was sometimes verbally harsh, and very frequently found fault with him and complained a lot.
    And clearly for a long time I also hated him, secretly, felt oppressed by his presence, his energy. I complained about his energy, I felt that fundamentally he did not see me, and did not care about my feelings, hence I was entitled to complain and be angry with him, because he did not respect my feelings.
    I dream about him frequently in the last weeks (it never happened in the last years). Sometimes they are nice dreams, indicating that I still feel close to him, and that I want to still be in touch with him, but today I dreamt that he took my personal things- my watch and something else and kept it in his pocket, and refused to give it back to me.

    I have read somewhere that the difference between abusive and toxic relationship lies in intent- and I simply do not know what was his intent, because he was in denial about so many things in his life, and put on so many convincing – because appearing genuine and vulnerable- fronts. But the experience was oppressive.

    Sorry for the length of this, and thank you for reading.

  • #67981
    Profile photo of Iwantmeback Iwantmeback 
    Participant

    Hi Sarah,S, welcome to the forum😊 this is a safe place to vent any issues you have with angry relationships you have our had. Since none of us are qualified professionals regarding abuse(or maybe are)all we are are women who have/ are being abused. I dont think it really matters if a relationship is toxic or abusive. Theyre jyst labels at the end of the day. What is important is how a relationship Has affected us and reading your post, your ex had some major red flags concerning his behaviour towards you.
    He was controlling, his opinions are the only one which countered, he abused you sexually (even though he never held you down and forced you, it’s still classed as abuse)sex without emotional content is cold and as a recipient feels uncaring. My oh used to say in the beginning of our relationships that it was just sex, it’s only women who associate sex with love which may be true, but even if that is true surely kissing should still cone into it. My oh kissed me. (Now i hate having sex with him, can’t even bear missing him😔)
    His arguements sound so pathetic but then they usually are, they just have to be right, get the last word in, prove you’re wrong.
    You’ve done great at getting out of the relationship, doing the right things regarding contact. Have you read about trauma bonding, that can explain missing them. Keep posting b, whether you have issues or not is not the point. Your reaction ffs to how he treated you were not abusive by the way, . Dure to bring not seen or heard, you have to act in someway to be seen or heard. Plus you’re recognising b how you addicted and how it made you feel.
    Ib personally don’t but I too the enabler, empath labels. We are just nicer people, who automatically want to love and be loved. If that’s being an empath, so be it. By being called an enabler, it’s laying blame on us. We are not to blame for their behaviour towards us. Whether he had mental health issues or not, they did not cause him to abuse you, he did that on his own. Too many people hide behind reasons why they abuse, but that’s all they are.
    Again welcome and all done in getting out of your Pecos relationship.
    IWMB 💕💕

  • #67982
    Profile photo of Iwantmeback Iwantmeback 
    Participant

    Sorry for typos

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

EXIT SITE

© 2015 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

Terms & conditionsPrivacy & cookie policySite mapProtect yourself onlineMedia │ Jobs

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account