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Passover

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.

webfriendlyversion

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.

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Tomorrow, June 11, is the one-year anniversary of the official notice that my divorce is final. In the state where I live (Maryland) divorce is generally a two-part process. The first part is appearing in court and the one-year anniversary of that first part has already passed two months ago.

It’s pretty ironic knowing that the anniversaries of both parts of this divorce fall on a Throwback Thursday two months apart.

When my husband abruptly ran away from home on December 28, 2011, I was completely devastated. He never indicated that he was the least bit unhappy and he took loving care of me while I was recuperating from the hip surgery I underwent just three months earlier. Worse, he refused to talk to me unless it was a demand that I conform to a separation schedule that existed only in his head.

In the time since he left I have come across some books and web sites that were all a tremendous help to me after my husband ran away like he did. I’m going to list them in the hopes that they could help others in my situation.

In the days following his walkout, I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home” and I got directed to a book written by Vikki Stark called Runaway Husbands. I immediately ordered the book and I’ve read it several times since then. Vikki Stark is a therapist whose marriage suddenly imploded in a similar manner to the way mine did. Just as my husband walked out on me abruptly three months after undergoing hip surgery, her husband walked out on her abruptly while she was at the tail end of a tour she had gone on to promote her first book she had written about sister relationships. Using the same research methods she employed with her previous book, she conducted a survey of other people who were in good marriages until their spouses suddenly decided that they were divorcing without letting them know until the last minute. Runaway Husbands, her second book, was the result of that research while she also told the story about how her husband abruptly left her.

All I can say that after reading that book several times, I’m still amazed at how the experiences of the other people interviewed for that book are nearly identical to my own experience.

While the bulk of Stark’s book is focused on the person who was left behind by a runaway spouse, she did have a section devoted to theories on why grown adults feel the need to runaway from home so abruptly which, like the rest of the book, were based on the responses to a survey that Stark conducted with other women who had experienced their marriages ending in the same way that Stark’s marriage ended. I found those theories very interesting. All I can say is that my ex-husband definitely has issues and there’s nothing I can say or do that would help my ex get rid of those issues because he’s the only one who can work of them. (One example, as of this writing, is the fact that he has yet to make any kind of amends towards me for what he’s done nor has he even accepted any kind of responsibility for his actions since the night he walked out on me on December 28, 2011.)

I began to read other books and writings on the web that helped me. I got Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door because Vikki Stark referenced it in her Runaway Husbands book and that one was an eye-opener. I learned that, contrary to popular perception, the vast majority of sociopaths aren’t serial killers. (The ones who are serial killers are the most extreme type of sociopaths. The vast majority of sociopaths never go that route because they know they would land in prison and they would lose control—the very thing that sociopaths value the most.) But they are the type of person who is likable and charming yet that person can do the most hurtful act on another person or animal and don’t feel anything about it.

At times I also read up on narcissism (mainly because The Runaway Husbands book mentioned it as one of the theories why husbands run away from home) and I found this article written by Linda Martinez-Lewi called Divorcing a Narcissist—You Are the Enemy. This quote especially jumped out at me.

You didn’t know that your spouse has morphed you into The Enemy. He or she has never been a true partner.

That is so true. My husband went from being the most loving person to someone who, through his e-mails and texts, suddenly showed total contempt for me. I took my therapist’s advice and told him to treat me with respect but that request fell on deaf ears as he went out of his way to show how much he had really secretly detested me for all the years that we were married. It’s a devastating truth to learn because there are times when I find myself wondering that if he really detested me, why did he ever ask me to marry him in the first place? He could’ve just broken up with me while we were still dating, I would’ve dealt with a broken heart for a while then moved on to other relationships.  But, no, that would’ve been too easy. He decided to marry me and just stay with me even though he was secretly in contempt for me the entire time until something better came along.

Here’s proof that my husband detested me and considered me to be his enemy: He sent a divorce petition in a .pdf format via e-mail on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012. He knew that the one-year anniversary was on December 28 and he couldn’t file for divorce in the state of Maryland until then. He sent that e-mail because he knew that it was the Christmas holiday season and he wanted to ruin my holiday celebration.

This next quote from the same article is also telling.

You are blamed for everything. He/she is lying about you, making you appear to be crazy, immoral, a substance abuser, tramp. You name it and you are accused. Lies are spread to your friends, acquaintances, even reaching at times your work environment.

I know that he definitely blamed me for his feeling the need to move out then immediately start taking a friend of ours, who has severe mental health issues, to the same places where my husband and I were regulars, which led to other friends finding out the real reason why he left me before I did. I don’t know what my ex-husband has told our friends and acquaintances about me and, to be honest, I don’t want to know. All that I know is that the majority of my old friends are still my friends and they are usually very friendly and cordial towards me. Some of my friends have confessed to me that they haven’t had anything to do with my ex-husband since he left me because they found his actions so appalling.

When I was searching Amazon.com for Martha Stout’s book, it had a list of similar books that I might like. One book caught my eye. It’s written by a man known only as Peace and it’s called Psychopath Free.  I read the blurb and I found that it’s a short primer providing helpful advice for people who have gone through devastating relationships as I did. I liked the write-up and I ordered it.  I learned that while there are technical differences between a sociopath and a narcissist, that book said that for the reader’s purpose, it doesn’t matter which type someone is because the only thing that the person can do is to not contact the other person as much as possible. It’s a short book but it’s full of helpful advice on moving on with your life.

I’ve also done Internet research on my husband’s behavior during and after the divorce and I learned that what he did was emotional abuse, which can be just as psychologically devastating as physical abuse. I used to think that my husband was honorable person who was full of integrity but I now know that he faked it all along. The very fact that he didn’t tell me that he was unhappy until the night he left showed that he is little more than a conflict-avoiding coward. The subsequent cyberbullying he did to me via texts and e-mails only proved the fact that he’s a coward. Ironically he used to tell me that other kids in elementary, junior high, and high schools had bullied him and picked on him. Given his actions in recent years, I’m starting to seriously doubt this version of his childhood. Given the fact that he seemed so clever and skilled with the bullying he did towards me, I wouldn’t be surprised if he honed those skills on other unfortunate kids while he was growing up and he somehow got away with it. (Of course I don’t have any evidence to support that theory. I’m basing it on a hunch that came from my experiences with dealing directly with his worst aspects since late December, 2011.)

There’s another piece of writing that I’ve been reading on a regular basis that was recommended to me by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go and The Language of Letting Go 2 are a series of daily meditations on how to emerge from a codependent relationship and to let go of the past (including relationships with friends, family members, and even spouses that just aren’t working for you any more) while healing yourself. I found both books to be very profound and insightful and I now know that both my husband and I made mistakes in our marriage and we both unknowingly created a codependent relationship. Had we consulted with a marriage counselor instead of my husband running away from home, I believe that we could’ve salvaged our marriage. But since he’s gone I have to pick up the pieces of my own life. All I know is that I learned a few lessons from this painful episode and if I had to go through it all over again, I definitely would’ve done things differently. I wrote about those lessons last December (on the second anniversary of his walkout) so I won’t regurgitate them here.

All I can say to anyone who is in my situation with a significant other who has ran away from home is to do as much reading as possible. Educate yourself. Knowledge is power and you need as much of it as you can stuff into your head in order to cope with an unusual situation. And don’t let the naysayers try to deter you from educating yourself. (I had one of my ex-husband’s relatives try to discourage me from reading Vikki Stark’s Runaway Husbands book saying that I can’t believe everything that I read. Never mind the fact that this relative has never read the book and has this tendency to minimize the things that my ex has done to me over the last few years simply because the ex is a blood relative. There’s nothing wrong with being loyal to your family but I think family loyalty can have its downside if it leads to seeing your relatives through idealized rose-colored glasses instead of seeing that relative as he/she really is.) All I can say is read, read, and keep on reading. There is no such thing as too much knowledge when it comes to a situation like mine.

(Read more about how it took more than just books and websites when dealing with my runaway husband.)

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