A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.
I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.
If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.
Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.
I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.
That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.
Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.
I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.
Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.
If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.
I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.
This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.
However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.
Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.
Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.
The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.