In Sex Love and Obesity Part 28 – We left off with Peter and I getting back together. It was a mistake. One big giant mistake that I would never take back. Yes, you read that correctly. It was a mistake I don’t regret making.
I have no regrets. Because, if I hadn’t made the choice to go back to Peter and gone through the next several months with him, I don’t think I ever would have found my strength again.
Finding my strength again wasn’t easy.
I began finding the courage to start speaking my truths about a year after Peter and I had broken up. About six months later, I began feeling safe in my world again. That was when I began baring my soul and telling all the dirty little secrets that he once held over me. It was my way of releasing myself from the bondage of his emotional blackmail.
But even then, all it took was an email or a text message from Peter and my brain would shake. I’d feel overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. The hold he had on me scared me. He still had a power over me that I didn’t understand. He could still push all my buttons and incite feelings of anger and frustration in me.
As usual, Peter thought it was all about him.
My last communication with Peter was about six months ago. Around the publishing of Sex Love and Obesity Part 17. Peter was angry that I was writing this series and felt like it was a giant gripe session about him. He accused me of painting him out to be a monster and portraying myself as the helpless victim in order to be the hero.
“If you gave two shits about me, you’d see how bad it paints me out to be. I’m not the only one who noticed how it became a therapy session and release of your feelings and disgust of me.” I still recall his words clearly.
This story isn’t about Peter. He is simply a supporting character. But for someone like Peter, that’s a hard reality to accept.
The truth is, this story would have been the same no matter who was involved. This was going to happen as long as I chose to allow someone emotionally abusive in my life. The facts may have changed. The incidents might have happened differently.
But the story has never been about how horrible Peter was. The story is about how and why I allowed someone to treat me the way I allowed him to. The story is about me.
Peter wanted me to write more about the good things.
Peter was struggling with the fact that all the good times we had were lost and forgotten. He couldn’t understand why the only thing I could focus on was the fighting and the hurt.
He wanted me to write about the reasons I stayed in the relationship, the reasons I went back. Peter wanted me to stop omitting the great times we had cooking dinner together, playing video games, watching movies and taking trips to Myrtle Beach.
As I sat there reading his messages, I kept thinking “how can this man possibly think that any little twinkle of light and good that existed in our relationship could manage to sparkle through all the darkness and ugliness that existed?”
We texted back and forth for nearly three hours that day. I remember it so distinctly; it was Labor Day and my boyfriend had the day off. The messages upset me. Truthfully, any contact with Peter upset me. It was the same vicious cycle. Him pointing out everything I had done wrong and explaining his point of view. His point of view was always void of any sort of responsibility for his actions. By the end of the interaction my head was spinning, and I was doubting my own sanity.
Literally, I sat there questioning my sanity.
I was asking myself if I was bat shit crazy. Why couldn’t I see any good in the relationship? Was there something broken inside me that prevented me from seeing the positive aspects he saw?
My boyfriend had been keeping himself busy around my apartment while I was texting with Peter. Seeing how upset I was he asked what was going on. I told him about the entire conversation.
“Why do you let him get to you so much? Why do you even care what he has to say?”
There was a long contemplating silence as I began internally searching for the answer to his question.
“I just want to win for once. I want him to admit what he did to me. And not in some fucked up way where he turns it all around so that it’s all my fault. Not in some contorted perception where I’m the jaded girl that wasn’t ready for a relationship. Not with some bullshit justification that makes it out like I didn’t understand what a committed relationship was and like and the only thing he’s guilty of is trying to push me into it when I wasn’t ready. I want him to see what he did. To take accountability and responsibility for his actions. I want him to apologize and actually mean it.”
“You can’t have a rational conversation with someone who is irrational.”
Mike and I have been dating for about a year and a half now. Back then, we’d been dating for about ten months. This man has a level of patience and understanding that goes beyond anything any female could ever expect of a man. But for a moment, he looked at me like I was indeed bat shit crazy. Then he started speaking.
I stared at Mike as he spoke. A million horrible thoughts were suddenly rushing through my mind. And, before he could even finish his next sentence, I already knew what the worst possible scenario was…
The Security Guy.
Mike and I had met each other just a few weeks after Peter and I had broken up a second time. It was far too close to mine and Peter’s break up for me to be anywhere near ready for another serious relationship. I had set up a profile on Match.com to meet some local people and actually “date” someone for the first time in my life. In the beginning, I nicknamed him #TheSecurityGuy. Because, he is a security install technician.
I was so wounded and guarded. Truthfully, I tried to push him away more times that I could possibly count in the first couple of months of us seeing each other. I kept a safe distance, made sure we didn’t spend the holidays together, didn’t let anything get too serious. I warned him from the beginning that my career was my top priority. That my independence and my space were extremely important to me. I let him know that I had no intentions of letting anyone move in with me or attaching my finances to anyone else’s.
I set more boundaries than I had ever set with anyone in my entire life. He knew I was married. It was abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to accept anyone pushing or pressuring me into filing for divorce until I was ready. Mike was literally the first man I’d ever been in any kind of serious relationship with that I hadn’t gone to bed with within the first week of meeting him.
He was the first guy in my life that I didn’t pressure into saying “I love you.”
The first time he said it, was nearly five months into us dating. He was kissing me goodnight and I faintly heard the words “Love you baby,” slip off his lips. I wasn’t ready. So, pretending I didn’t hear them, I rolled over and went to sleep. A few weeks later, he said them again, I still didn’t respond in kind.
We’d been dating for nearly ten months and I had only told him I loved him for the first time a couple short weeks ago. It was important to me that when those three words left my lips they held all the emotional gravity they are deserving of. But I didn’t just love Mike, I was in love with him. All of this had rushed through my mind before he had even finished his next sentence.
A horrible sinking feeling swelled up in the pit of my stomach. I just knew that what he was about to say was going to be bad. He was going to be angry that I was even talking to Peter. He would assume I was still in love with Peter and nothing I said was going to be able to change his mind. We were going to end up having our first real argument over this. He’d say something that hurt me, I’d get defensive and lash out. We’d end up breaking up. I would lose someone else I loved because I couldn’t figure out how to get the worms Peter left crawling in my head out of my head space.
I completely underestimated this man.
“Pandora, you’re never going to win that battle. He’s a narcissist. Incapable of understanding or recognizing your feelings. He’s never going to see your point of view or understand that he did anything wrong. He thrives on attention and any time you give it to him; he wins. Anytime he can get a reaction out of you, any reaction, good or bad, he wins. You’ve been sitting there for three hours, giving him exactly what he wants. Attention. And, you’re doing that on a day we both have off and could be spending time together. You’ve got to stop responding.”
I took a deep breath. I’d been holding my breath in anticipation of my worst-case scenario. But I had completely under estimated this man. I expected him to respond to me in anger. There was a little hint of frustration in his voice as he was pointing out that I was wasting three hours of a rare day off we had together feeding Peter’s need for attention. But other than that, his words were full of patience, love, understanding and a genuine concern for my emotional well-being.
I doubt Mike even knows this, but I knew at that very moment, if he ever asked me to spend the rest of my life with him, I would. Few men possess the ability to ground me when my mind starts fragmenting into pieces. To calm my chaos and quiet the negative self-talk that echoes through my mind.
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“I’ve never known how to do that. I don’t know how to not respond and not engage.”
My words were full of more truth than Mike could even understand. I’d never known how to ignore someone. I’d tried to ignore my mother throughout a childhood of verbal abuse. The only way I had ever found to escape the fighting was by disassociating, letting another part of me take control so that I didn’t have to hear or experience the confrontation and hostility.
“You’re going to have to figure it out babe. Not acknowledging him is the only way you’ll ever win. Ignoring him and not giving him any attention is the worst thing you could ever do him. As long as he knows he can get a reaction out of you, he’ll always push your buttons.”
I’d always suspected that Peter was a narcissist but hearing someone else say it validated my suspicions. I spent the rest of the day doing the very thing Peter thought I was incapable of doing. Focusing on what was good. Spending time with the man I loved.
I spent several days thinking about what Mike had said. The thought of ignoring Peter seemed so foreign to me. I knew how much being ignored hurt. I had felt that pain in my relationship with my ex-husband and in some ways, in the lack of intimacy in my relationship with Clark. Being ignored in those ways amplified my lack of self-confidence and my feelings of unworthiness.
All I wanted was a sincere apology.
There was a time when I wanted to hurt him. A time when I wanted Peter to hurt as badly as he had hurt me. I think that is a normal phase someone who has been abused goes through.
There were moments that I wanted to hurt my Mother. That I wanted her to feel the sting of my words the way I felt the sting of hers.
There were times I wanted my ex-husband to feel the pain of abandonment and neglect he had wounded my heart with.
There were even brief moments that I wanted Clark to feel as unwanted and rejected as he had made me feel.
For most of my life, I wanted to hurt the man that abused that innocent and untainted version of me that existed before he touched me. Moments that I wished he’d gone to jail, and someone had done all of the things to him that he had done to me.
But in all of those cases, when the anger over being hurt subsided, I realized that I didn’t really want to hurt them. What I wanted, was for them to acknowledge that they had hurt me. More than anything I wanted them to understand the gravity of what they had done and take responsibility for their behavior. I wanted them to offer a sincere apology for their actions.
I wanted to be able to forgive them.
That’s what I wanted from Peter too. I wanted to be able to forgive him. But anytime I got close to being able to, we’d have another interaction where I realized that in his mind, he had done nothing wrong. As a result, I’d find myself back in that stage of being angry all over again.
Peter had told me once, in an argument where he was trying to convince me that I should be more open to having a relationship with my Mother, that I was incapable of forgiveness. At the time, I was angry that he was once again trying to pressure me into doing something that I didn’t want to to do. He didn’t understand my feelings. He had never been abused by someone the way I had. My inability to forgive was something he threw in my face anytime I brought up a grievance he thought I should be over.
Peter never apologized. His idea of an apology was always “I’m sorry, but.,” followed by a justification of his actions. Then, an explanation of his feelings and a narration of his thought process. He always had to make sure you heard his opinion and understood his point of view. There was never any actual acceptance of wrong doing or fault. He was sorry, but really, he was just sorry that you didn’t see it his way and he’d fight with you about it in circles until you we’re verbally beat down into agreeing with him.
He never seemed to be able to understand that when you’ve hurt someone. The reasons why don’t matter. Your intentions are irrelevant. An apology isn’t about you, it’s about the person you are offering it to.
It’s almost impossible to forgive someone that isn’t apologetic.
Maybe that’s just me. Perhaps some people have that ability and I’m just not one of them. If you do, I consider it a super power. My mother used to ask me “What did I do to make you hate me so much?” My response to her was always the same “If you have to ask what you did, you won’t understand my answer.”
About a year ago, I started speaking to my Mother more. I realized she had started going to therapy and was trying to work through her issues. She was making a valiant attempt to deal with all the pent-up anger she held inside and unleashed on me when it got to the point that she couldn’t control it.
It wasn’t that long ago that my Mother finally said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t protect you. I’m sorry that I didn’t realize what was happening to you.”
I realized as I told her stories about the things she had done, the things she had said, and the way she had acted, that she had little to no recollection of it. But when I share those things with her, she doesn’t argue, fight or try to justify them. She apologizes. When she does, I can tell that it is sincere and heartfelt. My mother is coming to visit us for Christmas this year. It will be the first time I’ve seen her in almost five years.
Peter was wrong about me. I am not incapable of forgiveness. I’m unable to give forgiveness to someone that that is incapable of a sincere apology. There’s a big difference.
I didn’t ignore Peter the next time he contacted me.
It was about a week later. I got a random text message from him asking me if I was ready for the storm. Hurricane Florence was quickly approaching us. I titled my head to the side, crinkled up my nose and furrowed my brow in disbelief.
Our last conversation had left me so angry. We’d gone through the whole gambit of the typical exploitative behavior patterns and manipulation tools he used to try to push my buttons.
I had done everything I could to respond in ways that were non-confrontational and yet firm in my resolutions.
First, he was upset because of what I was writing about him. Then he was upset about what I wasn’t writing about him, and trying to get me to see it from his perspective. When that didn’t work, he threw out the “I’m not the only one that thinks this.” card.
“I don’t care what other people are saying to you Peter. I got manipulated by that and silenced because of it for far too long. They can think whatever they want. We can talk about what you think and feel. I’ll listen to that. But not what others think and feel as ammunition in your opinion.”
When that didn’t work, he tried to point out that if I didn’t care what people think I’d being keeping a diary instead of writing a blog. He pointed out that I could have left out so much, only wrote a few pages about him, not given so many details and still made my point. He argued that the why I stayed was lost in proportion to how evil he was.
Nothing Peter said was every going to silence me again.
“No, I did that for two years. Keeping everything inside and not blogging out of fear of what people would think. The entire series is about WHY I stayed. Because, I feared being alone. I had no self-value. Because I was addicted to sex, love and attention and you provided it.”
He picked at the little things he felt I omitted. Accused me of lacking full disclosure and only expressing selective thoughts. Pointed how he felt I protected some and not others. Insinuated that it was borderline liable. I told him that liable and slander only apply if what is written is not truth. Reminding him that nothing I’ve written is a lie and complimenting him on the veiled threat of legal action.
Of course, he wasn’t threatening me. He was just giving me his opinion. In his opinion what I was writing wasn’t fair to him because it was hurtful. It wasn’t fully accurate. I asked him what he felt was so inaccurate. That we had more good times than bad and didn’t fight as much as I recalled? He confirmed his feelings. In his opinion there were way more good days than bad. We had bad fights, but we didn’t fight every day.
“That’s your opinion Peter. Mine is different. I’m honest about that. What we had was amazing to me until the moment you arrived in Wilmington. It was a fairy tale come true. After that, the good times were rare, and they were outweighed by the bad.”
He attempted to poke at my current relationship.
When he finally realized I wasn’t going to cave he took a stab at my new boyfriend. Expressing how he was surprised I was dating him. When I was dating Peter, I was adamant that I didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone that struggled with weight problems. Back then I had a very real fear that it would lead me right back to a food addiction and make me struggle with regain.
Peter knew I wasn’t a fan of facial hair. Mike knows it too. I’m just not a “love the beard” type of woman. I knew how to respond to Peter when he got like this. First, I had to validate his opinion. Peter had to know it was heard before I could even attempt to explain why it was wrong.
“I can see what you’re saying. I still don’t love the beard. He knows that. I’ve dated a few “hot guys” they were all assholes. I began to realize it was a lot more important to be with someone that treated me well. He just happened to walk into my life at a time that what I was looking for was a lot more focused on what counted.”
He told me that he thought I had settled for comfort versus love. That he thought I found a guy that would be my puppy dog, not interfere in my life and I grabbed it because it was as far from him as I could get.
I refrained from telling him that he had an ego the size of mount Gibraltar and that the only thing about him that warranted that sort of grandiose sense of self was the size of his penis and his capabilities in the bedroom.
I wouldn’t have said we ended things on a pleasant note.
We rehashed our difference of opinions when it came to relationships, money, and the vices I turned to to escape the nightmarish relationship we were in.
Then, we rehashed my desire for independence and being able to go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go without being obligated to take him.
After that, we rehashed how selfish he thought I was because I put my career before him. He insinuated that I lost friends because they felt the same way too. This was what Peter and I did. Repeatedly. We re-hashed things.
My last response to him was clear about how I felt.
“It still always feels to me like when we talk you accept very little responsibility for what you did. I own everything I did. But in the end, you still toe the line of the only thing you did wrong was try to get me to have a relationship that fit your partnership concept when you shouldn’t have. I’m never going to just stand here and accept all the blame like the only thing you did wrong was try to get me to be a better person.”
Now here we were a week later, and he was checking to see if I was ready for the storm like we were friends.
It was time to do a little research.
Maybe Mike was right. Maybe Peter was just truly incapable of understanding someone else’s feelings. If that was the case, Mike was probably also right about me needing to figure out how to stop responding.
I began doing some research on how to deal with a narcissist. I thought it might help me figure out how to put an end to the strange hold that Peter still seemed to have on me. Once I began learning more about narcissistic behaviors, everything I was experiencing started making a lot more sense.