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Thoughts on this person I am dating?

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Anna123 posted 3/17/2021 08:49 AM

I started dating a guy who has been great in every way. Very respectful of me and my 'take it slow' attitude.

So here is what is making me 'feel' like backing off. When he describes the reason for his divorce it is always the same. She had mental health issues. (I know, I watch for that excuse when dating) She was committed two times, once by his daughter. (who I have met and who has a great relationship with him and not her mother) BUT, then he goes on to explain that he did not believe in divorce, so would not ask her for one.

He stayed with her but had stopped being into the marriage years earlier. And the kicker is, he tells me near the end of the marriage she would want him to say he missed her or loved her when she was gone but he wouldn't. (why is he telling me this?) She wanted to go to marriage counseling after they discussed divorce, to save the marriage but he wouldn't, he would only go in order to navigate the divorce cordially. (?) The only stories he tells me are the Baker Act stories and one where she threw a wine bottle at him in front of his daughter. He also presents himself as noble that he did not divorce her years earlier when he wanted to, and waited till she finally asked him if he wanted a divorce. He felt that was his ticket out of the marriage. She didn't ask for a divorce, she asked if HE wanted a divorce because they had become like room mates.

As a BS, I am sensitive to the idea that a spouse can make another 'loose their mind'. I question if he egged it along, but he said once that her depression and alcoholism and refusal to treat it made him loose interest, which I could understand. It's the admitting he withheld affection that really gets me, and if he did, why is he telling me this? I even respond with sympathy for his ex when he says this, yet he has retold the story more than once.

We are very compatible and he treats me well, and with respect, but this story is foreign to me and makes me loose that warm feeling I have otherwise from how nice he is in every other way.

BTW, my sister has been with a wonderful man who has really come through for our family and her for many years now. His ex had mental issues, so it isn't always a fake story, which is still my first instinct.

Any thoughts on this?

Alonelyagain posted 3/17/2021 09:14 AM

Hi Anna. For me, as a fairly private person, the level of detail that I provide a woman depends upon how long we’ve been dating and whether we’ve slept together. By the second date, I’m expecting the “why are you divorced” question. I usually respond with the truthful high level response, “I didn’t like my ex-wife’s choice of boyfriends.” If she probes further, I generally give more high level details, all truthful. However, I suspect that if the woman is trying to piece together the entire history of my marriage based on those high level details, all the pieces may not fit together. After sleeping together, I’m more willing to provide all the gory details which fill in the missing pieces. So I guess my question to you is where are you on that dating spectrum?

[This message edited by Alonelyagain at 1:11 PM, March 17th (Wednesday)]

grubs posted 3/17/2021 09:35 AM

We have several here on SI that have fully admitted they are there for the kids and are just keeping the marriage in minimum survival mode. That sounds very much like where he was in his marriage. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that as sometimes the scars run too deep to repair yet there are compelling reasons to maintain the single household. I don't hold it against him to not want to pursue full reconciliation vs cohabitating as much as not cutting his ex loose after he was done.
With some religions, eg Catholic, there is the idea that marriage is for life. Some hear that as just requiring being present. Actually doing the work to keep the marriage alive doesn't seem to be in the equation. This sort of feeds into the survival mode marriage.
If I were you I might poke around his thoughts on this. There's more to not believing in divorce that just not filing the paperwork. It's believing in keeping the marriage alive and healthy that is important. It does take two willing partners to make this work and it sounds like his ex wasn't willing until it was much too late. His only fault wasn't cutting his losses, which is what you have to do with an unwilling partner, before then.

[This message edited by grubs at 9:35 AM, March 17th (Wednesday)]

barcher144 posted 3/17/2021 10:44 AM

My thoughts?

As someone who has experienced very bad mental health problems, living with me has been very very difficult when I am not doing well. Other than that fact that my mental health problems were 90% caused by infidelity, I wouldn't have blamed my xWW for leaving me if that was the reason.

Similarly, my GF's ex is a raging alcoholic (although she claims that he is worse now than when they were together). I definitely wouldn't want to live with that guy, but she stayed for 10 years even with a dead bedroom (she has a high sex drive and she said that they had sex about once per year on average).

Simply put, being married to a mentally ill alcoholic would be awful. How would YOU respond to that? Some people check out emotionally and try to keep things together for the kids or because they don't believe in divorce... or whatever other reason they might have. I probably would have stayed in a marriage like that because I am stupid-loyal.

As far as what you should do?

Well, by middle age, I would imagine that most of us have sad backstories and skeletons in our closets. The question is whether or not you trust this person and whether or not this person's backstory is a trigger for you.

[This message edited by barcher144 at 10:45 AM, March 17th (Wednesday)]

twicefooled posted 3/17/2021 10:57 AM

Being the spouse of someone with both addiction and mental health issues is exhausting. Each of those are hard on their own, put them together and even the most sane person can lose their mind and become someone they didn't think they would.

My ex would beg me for the same things that your boyfriend's ex begged him for. I would NOT give in to those asks because they were too little, too late. My ex only wanted therapy when he finally pushed me over the edge by cheating (I would only go for an amicable divorce, like your boyfriend). I could not, would not tell my ex I would miss him after I left - why add fuel to the fire?

Your boyfriend sounds honest. Are you worried that he would just "all of a sudden" hold back affection from you? I can understand that fear, but I'm certain that your boyfriend put up with many years of abuse before getting to that point.

twicefooled posted 3/17/2021 11:02 AM

Anna123, I wanted to add congratulations on questioning things to ensure that you are getting what you deserve in a relationship. It's soooooo hard to get back into dating after being married.

My boyfriend has a similar background to me. We have an "understanding" with each other about what our past lives were like when married to our ex spouses that had mental health and addiction issues. We also each have children that also lived that existence, so we each parent similarly and co-parent in the same way.

I, too, have questioned things along the way. I've been dating my guy for 7 months now and feel like this is the very best relationship that I've ever had - not because of how he treats me, but because he lives his values and is still a very kind individual despite his trauma.

AnnieOakley posted 3/17/2021 11:03 AM

Anna,

I don’t have any personal or what I would consider long term knowledge or experience with anyone that has a mental illness. So...

How does he respond when you expressed sympathy for the ex? The thought of him presenting himself as noble for staying in the marriage rubs me the wrong way. And if he is giving you no details, how did or did he attempt to help her when the problems first started? I realize he couldn’t “fix” anything himself, but did he just sit back and watch her implode?

How long have you been dating? We all know if people want they can maintain a facade, but eventually it starts to crumble.

Finally, I think the most interesting “tell” may be that her daughter still has a relationship with him and not her? Does she seem to have empathy at least for her Mom or was it so terribly toxic she severed the relationship completely? What about other long term friends of their marriage, anyone that you have met to get another read?

And I do agree with not laying out all the gory details too early, but at some point and to a greater degree...most people would want more answers.

zebra25 posted 3/17/2021 11:16 AM

Mental health issues can mean a lot of things. Not everyone with diagnosed mental health issues are necessarily any more difficult to live with than anyone else.

Someone who has received inpatient treatment has most likely been give a diagnosis and follow-up care.

There are lots of people that most certainly are living with mental illnesses without the the label or admitting anything is wrong.

Having an unsupportive spouse and/or family members can certainly make someone's issues much more difficult for them to manage.

Personally, I think this falls under in sickness and in health.

Sorry for the t/j. People who seek treatment for and are diagnosed with any type of mental illness don't deserve to be lumped into one catagory.

twicefooled posted 3/17/2021 11:22 AM

Zebra25, you are 100% correct it shouldn't be a generalization and there are degrees to it.

I have always dealt with anxiety. I have sought professional help for it and have been on medications a few times. I take control of my own mental health and seek help when it no longer works. In my marriage, my then husband was not interested in seeking medical help he wanted to self-soothe with illicit drugs. That does not fall under the category of "in sickness and in health" and to generalize that sentiment is as dangerous as labelling everyone with mental health issues the same way.

It's all an individual choice and individual circumstances, just like affairs are. No 2 situations are the same. I commend those that seek help. That doesn't equal success, but it certainly helps to know that the individual is doing their best.

zebra25 posted 3/17/2021 11:30 AM

Thank you twicefooled.

I didn't mean to generalize. I was thinking of people trying to take care of their health in a responsible way.

Everyone gets to decide for themselves what is a deal breaker.

twicefooled posted 3/17/2021 11:33 AM

Zebra, I'm glad that you brought it up for clarification. I'm so sensitive to this stuff and I try to take a "curious not furious" stance when discussing this stuff :)

zebra25 posted 3/17/2021 11:41 AM

Trust me, especially after what I've been through and reading here, I would not judge somebody's decision to call it quits.

I just hate the mental health stigma. I am also well aware you can have a mental illness and still be a jerk or just be a jerk.

Sorry. Not trying to offend or push any buttons.

Carry on.

lieshurt posted 3/17/2021 12:55 PM

he goes on to explain that he did not believe in divorce, so would not ask her for one.

He also presents himself as noble that he did not divorce her years earlier when he wanted to, and waited till she finally asked him if he wanted a divorce. He felt that was his ticket out of the marriage.

Posting as a member

To me, it appears he didn't want to be the "bad guy" so he waited her out until she finally mentioned divorce. He had the choice and ability to divorce sooner, but didn't want to take responsibility for making that decision. I find this to be cowardly behavior, not noble.

EvenKeel posted 3/18/2021 09:03 AM

Hmmm - I can definitely understand your concerns.

It isn't that he didn't believe in D. Obviously he does, because he is. He just didn't want to look like an idiot divorcing her when she was dealing with her issues. So instead, he checks out of the M. She knows this because she is clearing requesting him to say he loves/misses her when she goes away. The woman was clearly feeling lonely in the relationship. She was looking for validation. She even offers up MC to see if they can get it all back. Which is a reasonable offer given "he doesn't believe in D" and she clearly doesn't want to be lonely in her M any longer.

I find his "I don't believe in D" stance just doesn't hold water.

I am not sure why he thinks he did something noble either. She didn't D him, she merely asked if he wanted one because it was obvious the M was dead.

I get your empathy for her. She might of very well been very toxic but I don't find any integrity in the way he handled the situation.

I suspect he has told you this (repeatedly) because he is looking for validation.

My concern is not so much this happened. After all, many of us would do things very different in our own toxic Rs now. When you are in the throws of it all, you are not clearly seeing. You are in survival mode.

My concern is more that he is not saying that he could have handled this much better/healthier for ALL of them if he could do it all over again.

IDK - he will definitely bring this up again. I think I would ask him what he learned and what (if anything) he would do differently, etc.

Anna123 posted 3/18/2021 16:28 PM

Thank you all for the great insight! Different perspectives that I am not really familiar with. I am so glad I posted this.

Alonelyagain:

After sleeping together, I’m more willing to provide all the gory details which fill in the missing pieces. So I guess my question to you is where are you on that dating spectrum?

It has been since fall but just public dates once a week for quite awhile (my choice) and feels long enough that I need to decide if it should move to the next level. I am very nervous about covid so no physical beyond hand holding, hugs and quick pecks but honestly I am glad to have had the excuse. I feel like I need to know more before sleeping together as opposed to after. There is a good chance he is like you though, waiting before bringing more details up which puts us in a holding pattern.

A couple people brought up the Catholic thing, which he was very serious about to the point where he was very involved, but claims the demise of the marriage made him quit, although he still considers himself Catholic. He says he was all in on marriage, yet he quit wearing his wedding ring a number of years back he says because he was so angry at his ex for the mental manipulation of himself and his daughter. (not sure how that ties in with the mental illness---). He did say he felt like a referee when the daughter was a teen but more and more realized his wife was unstable.

Annie Oakley

How does he respond when you expressed sympathy for the ex? The thought of him presenting himself as noble for staying in the marriage rubs me the wrong way. And if he is giving you no details, how did or did he attempt to help her when the problems first started? I realize he couldn’t “fix” anything himself, but did he just sit back and watch her implode?

How long have you been dating? We all know if people want they can maintain a facade, but eventually it starts to crumble.

Finally, I think the most interesting “tell” may be that her daughter still has a relationship with him and not her? Does she seem to have empathy at least for her Mom or was it so terribly toxic she severed the relationship completely? What about other long term friends of their marriage, anyone that you have met to get another read?

He ignores my expression of sympathy for the ex, kind of just goes on to something else. He seems to have more anger or frustration, rather than empathy toward her. At first I thought if someone I loved had mental issues, I would feel compassion, not anger. But reading some of the insight here about being 24/7 with that, I can see I may come to that as well. I have been fortunate not to be familiar with it.

Yes him talking about being Nobel does bug me! It just strikes me wrong, like a fake sales pitch. He told me numerous times how friends were amazed at him for staying for so long.

As far as helping her I think I will ask more about that. That isn't too personal so maybe that will fill in some blanks! All he has said is he wanted counseling for her and for her to quit drinking, but she drank more and more. Lately he has added to the story that she took a lot of psychotropic medications for mood. He mentioned severe depression and then at the end of marriage her being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is a lot of stuff.

The daughter did not speak to the mother for a long time but has started again and reports it to her Dad. I think one of the things that I question is I see no empathy from him and as far as I know either from the daughter. I asked him about that and he said his daughter holds a lot of anger towards the mother for manipulating her and just being cruel her entire childhood and teen years. Cutting her down etc. But that is being a jerk, not necessarily mental illness from what I am sorting out here.

Zebra mentioned sickness and health. I guess that is at the core here for me. If his reason, that he CLEARLY states for divorce is mental illness, not my wife was a jerk, then where do you draw the line on sickness and health.

EvenKeel: That is true! He goes on about how he didn't believe in divorce, but his wife had mental illness, so now he is divorced. It is just confusing. The story isn't complete, but like ALonely again mentioned, maybe he isn't willing to fill in those blanks yet. But for me I won't be comfortable enough to move forward unless they are filled in first.

Next time I see him I will ask what he did to help ex wife. It seems like it should be detailed. Real stories, not generalizations right? Not sure if it is a female thing, thinking there should be more details? Like "one time bla bla", not just I tried to get her to therapy? Also I will ask what he has learned/what he would do different as was suggested. That should be very informative.

Also, we will be meeting up with a group of his friends. This is a group that he claims told him he used to look so sad when it was time to go home to his ex, and encouraged him to get a divorce--- So there's that---- Not sure how to take that.

The lack of empathy for the ex really contrasts with how considerate and kind he is to everyone we come across. This divorce story is the only thing that has missing pieces.

[This message edited by Anna123 at 4:52 PM, March 18th (Thursday)]

grubs posted 3/19/2021 09:47 AM

The lack of empathy for the ex really contrasts with how considerate and kind he is to everyone we come across.

The fact that neither him nor his daughter have empathy for his ex speaks a lot to what she was like to live with during the bad years. Sometimes the damage is really just too much to forgive. I'd suspect you haven't heard the worst of it with him wanting to avoid triggers and all.
I'm more concerned that he spent so long being married to her but devout catholics are really weird about D.

What was the timing of the D? Was the daughter coming of age and his exs decision to finally takes steps to address the M connected to losing that anchor tying him to her? That is was it more self interest for her than desire to rekindle the relationship.

Anna123 posted 3/19/2021 10:23 AM

What was the timing of the D? Was the daughter coming of age and his exs decision to finally takes steps to address the M connected to losing that anchor tying him to her? That is was it more self interest for her than desire to rekindle the relationship.

The daughter had moved out I think a few years before the divorce, I am not exactly sure on that but that makes a good point. I am going to ask about that timing. The D took a couple of years and was only finalized last spring and there has been an ongoing request on her part for him to pay more alimony in spite of him being let go from a decent paying job. It also sounds like he moved out pretty quickly when he filed in 2018 without much planning as he bounced around a number of places. He still is not settled, which kind of bothers me but I was unsettled for the first couple of years after D also so I don't let that bother me yet at this point.

StillLivin posted 3/23/2021 14:00 PM

Withholding affection isn't always a punishment. Often in abusive relationship it is a self defense mechanism. Who wants to be lovey dovey when walking on eggshells? Or worse, afraid of physical violence?
I wouldn't write him off for just this. Watch his actions for about a year. If he's consistently respectful and doesn't step over your boundaries, that is more telling. Make sure its HIS actions that are putting you off and not your unresolved baggage (if you have any). Obviously, if there are more indicators or triggers, then you aren't a good fit.

messyleslie posted 3/28/2021 23:54 PM

My divorce was just final in November but I imagine if someone I was dating asked me why I was divorced I would probably say that my ex had severe mental health issues that he self mediated with alcohol. I’m not sure I would even mention his affair in the first go around - it’s not part of the 10000 foot summary, but just more details of the trauma.

I would probably mention that I stayed for a really long time too, because i am really proud of how hard I worked to save my marriage and I have thought about how I would want a future partner to see that as a testament to how loyal and fierce my love is. I would be devestated to think that someone thought it was cowardly that I didn’t leave, because the truth is that it took a ton of strength to continue to fight when I had nothing left.

And I would say that my ex was a jerk and was also mentally ill. It took my a long time to see that all clearly and to be able to understand that his true healthy self was not a jerk and so while he was doing things like telling me he wished I was dead and telling me I had betrayed him even before I met him and crawling out our bedroom window because he convinced himself I was unsafe and then sleeping in the forest behind our home or disappearing for days and then coming home and crying and asking for help and sitting on the bed and apologizing and physically hitting his head as he told me he was so ashamed of the way he treated me because he loves me so much- while all that was going on underneath it was the healthy person I married. But also he was also the person he is now and he was the person doing those things too. So I felt compassion for him and still do. But lately, after holding crying kids who are sobbing over their dad not showing up on their birthday or saying weird things to them on the phone, that compassion is getting thin. And it’s being replaced by anger - not about how he hurt me but how he continues to hurt my kids.

So all that to say, I could see myself presenting in the same way this new guy is, and I think I will be a good partner for someone in the future.

CoderMom posted 3/31/2021 22:41 PM

Really difficult to speak to when you don't know the other person firsthand.

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