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Still struggling with "real vs. imagined"?

barcher144 posted 4/22/2021 08:28 AM

I figured that I would put this in New Beginnings because... well... it's relevant for my post-divorce life.

I now recognize that xWW was gaslighting me about her affairs... and although I don't remember many specific details... I am pretty sure that she was gaslighting me about a lot of the rest of our lives too.

Anyway, these days... I still find myself struggling with recognizing what is real versus what is not real.

I had a conversation with my attorney yesterday (we're appealing the judge's decisions on my divorce) and we discussed a few things that xWW said at trial. It was shockingly comforting to have a third person recognize that her statements were ridiculous. Meaning, I felt "less crazy" after talking to my attorney about things that xWW said at trial.

I know that some of you have been victims of long-term gaslighting like me. Have you gotten over it? Do you ever feel normal again?

I haven't lived with xWW for almost two years... and I am still struggling with recognizing reality.

The1stWife posted 4/22/2021 08:47 AM

If you are being validated by a third party that should help you realize it’s not your imagination. That your XW was and is the person you perceive her to be.

That should be enough to make you realize it isn’t you— it’s her!

I had that “aha” moment in dday2. My H blamed me for his affair and his unhappiness etc. I worked hard for 6 months to “fix” things. At dday2 when I learned he was still cheating I realized it was never me —- it’s him!!!!

And I stopped believing the lies and utter nonsense he spewed at me. I also stopped caring about what he thought or felt.

Here’s an example of how I changed. The day after Dday1 I was just devastated. I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom just sobbing. My husband came in and stepped over me as he told me he was going to a barbecue that we had planned to attend for the holiday. He just got in his car and left without a care in the world.

At dday2 when I had enough of his lying and cheating, I told him I was divorcing him. He thought he could say “I’m really sorry let’s get back together“ and I would just magically take him back. However I had no intention of reconciling with him. If you days later I told him he needed to leave the home and he refused. I then made a phone call and found him a place to stay and told him he would be leaving a few days later and after that it was up to him to figure out where he was going to live. He was very upset and we’re still trying to get me to consider reconciling. I knew he wasn’t feeling well and was very traumatized by this whole thing.

However I stood my ground and I did not cater to him. Well I wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt him, the end result was that he was the one in my shoes and he was expecting me to emotionally support him. It broke my heart but I had to take the farmstand and not reach out to him because he needed to learn I was no longer his wife. I was just the person he screwed over during our marriage.

My point is that once I had validation I no longer was concerned about what anybody else thought. I knew his affair was never about me or a marriage but purely about his selfishness.

In my opinion, your ex-wife appears to be of the same mindset and acted out of selfishness during your marriage. It’s unfortunate she has inflicted such damage upon you but I believe you have been validated by others as to the person you were once married to. She was never the person she thought she was.

I hope this helps you.

WhoTheBleep posted 4/22/2021 12:39 PM

Have you gotten over it? Do you ever feel normal again?

No I haven't gotten over it. My coping mechanism is to not think about it, to not look back, and to keep stbx as far away from me as possible. When he sends me an email that veers from strictly Business, I tend to forward it to my friends and family and we all have a good laugh at his lies and ridiculousness.

My sister said to me over the phone the other day, "I'm so glad you're back. I'm so glad your backbone is back. You're you again."

The scars are still there. And it brings waves of pain for what I allowed and believed. But I try to quickly brush it aside and move forward.

What is "normal" after 19 years of gaslighting? Not sure. The mere absence of stbx in my day-to-day life is enough for now.

I went camping this past weekend with a new beau. I tied up a trash bag to bring to a dumpster. I handed it to new beau while grabbing something else. He said, "I'm glad you handed that to me.". I asked him, "Why?". He responded, "Because you've carried enough shit in your life.". I'm telling you, that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

Keep surrounding yourself with good people, Barcher. The kind of people that don't lie to you. Continue to be good and honest and transparent. And enforce your boundaries with people in your life. It's the best we can do.

[This message edited by WhoTheBleep at 12:41 PM, April 22nd (Thursday)]

barcher144 posted 4/22/2021 13:28 PM

If you are being validated by a third party that should help you realize it’s not your imagination.

I know that it's not my imagination for many instances in the past. I can list off dozens of examples of where I was gaslit.

My present-day issue is not with xWW very much. I know that everything that she says and does is toxic and I usually have a good laugh about it (although, there are times when it still hurts... listening to her in court for 6 hours... led to about 3 days of depression symptoms for me).

The problem is that the gaslighting still has an effect on me in the non-xWW parts of life. For example, she told that I was a lazy and uninvolved father. Then, last week, DD14 got really mad at me because I was trying to juggle issues for all three kids at the same time and something happened that she didn't like. DD14 literally told me that I was not good enough.

I know that's a combination of parental alienation (I'm guessing at least half), her legitimate frustration, and the fact that she's 14. Still, I felt like a worthless father even though I was put in a terrible spot and I literally did the best that I could. DD14 didn't speak to me until yesterday because of this.

barcher144 posted 4/22/2021 13:41 PM

No I haven't gotten over it.

This is an odd thing to say, but thank you for sharing this. I don't feel like there is something "wrong with me" so much.

My sister said to me over the phone the other day, "I'm so glad you're back. I'm so glad your backbone is back. You're you again."

My status tends to go through peaks and valleys. My GF commented in the last day or two that I was doing noticeably better.

What is "normal" after 19 years of gaslighting? Not sure.

Precisely my point. A bunch of emogees apply to this:

Keep surrounding yourself with good people, Barcher.

Yep. The problem is that I need to recognize who isn't a good person a bit better. The good news is that my GF is a good one and she helps a lot.

leafields posted 4/22/2021 16:53 PM

My children are adults, so I haven't had to deal with the teenage phase through this. The response for all 3 sons has been to limit contact with XH - he's so selfish & such an emotional vampire that they just don't want to be around him. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with teenage angst through this.

I thought I'd processed through a lot of the memories, but once in awhile I'll recall when we were doing something and stop myself & think, was this really true?

Dr. Ramani has a YouTube video called, "Recovering from realizing your life with a narcissist was a lie." For me, it helps put things into context and realize it's a matter of working through things.

Phoenix1 posted 4/22/2021 21:56 PM

*Posting as a member*

I know that some of you have been victims of long-term gaslighting like me. Have you gotten over it? Do you ever feel normal again?

What does it mean to "get over it?"

That's really a rhetorical question. Same goes for, "What is normal?"

Remember how often we tell folks it takes time to find your new "normal." And that goes for recovering from gaslighting as well.

Long term abuse of any kind takes a toll. Do we ever get back to "normal?" IMHO, no. This experience changes us, and those changes are different for everyone. Self-esteem takes a big hit. Feeling "less than" is common. It takes time to build back that confidence, but the wounds are never far below the surface.

The trauma also heightens other senses though. I know for me, I am much more in tune to red flags. I get suspicious about things much easier. Call it a gut check, but I listen to it when it calls. Before, I would have blown it off. Doing that made Xhole a more proficient manipulator and gaslighter.

I can now look back at Xhole and roll my eyes. Where I once trusted him implicitly, I now know every time he opened his mouth he was lying (still that way).

Give yourself time, Barcher. Your XWW put you through the ringer. Don't expect to get back to your old "normal," but look forward to the new, improved version. Have faith in yourself that you are doing right by your kids (and teens can be difficult in the best of circumstances).

Hang in there!

Anna123 posted 4/22/2021 23:27 PM

Me too!

When dating I think everyone has an angle now. I assume they are full of it:-). I met someone that I am slowing finding out is NOT full of it at all, and it is a big adjustment ! Now the only problem is I am not 'feeling it'. Damn, it appears I am not attracted enough to a good one - WTH.

messyleslie posted 4/23/2021 00:54 AM

I don't really know if this is all gas lighting, but I have had some weird experiences where I realize something that I thought was normal was not in fact normal, and that my previous "normal" was totally f-ed up because of my ex's addiction and mental illness.

I had friends come over and spend a day at my house last spring - they power washed everything, cleaned my gutters, pruned, did just general yard clean-up etc. I felt like crap having them there because I basically spent the entire time inside my house crying (it was at the beginning of covid so no one was hanging out or vaccinated) and I called a good friends who husband was there working in my yard and she basically said that I was not expected to do everything, that they were there helping because this is stuff that when you have a healthy spouse you have the space and time to get done but that basically I had been doing everything on my own for years and thats not how its supposed to me. And I realized I had been looking at friends and feeling like a complete failure for so long because they were managing life so much better than I was - but its just different when you have a spouse that helps and one that isn't in crisis all the time and all your emotional energy isn't being sucked away by them and you aren't parenting three young kids by yourself and being a caregiver to a grown man.

And slowly other things have been revealed to me like that. But I think in general once I realized the truth - it just made everything make sense and it was so easy to look back and see that I wasn't a bad wife or the other things he said about me - that I was a really good wife and was having normal reactions to a really abusive situation, and thankfully just looking through things through that lens has helped me reframe our entire marriage which has been really important in me realizing how I really am.

Karmafan posted 4/23/2021 07:38 AM

I know that some of you have been victims of long-term gaslighting like me. Have you gotten over it? Do you ever feel normal again?

Nope, never got over it, probably never will. Five years on, I still approach men thinking they are liars, and will always be on the lookout for something better. Out of the box of delights that is infidelity, fear of rejection is definitely the hardest bit for me to overcome. It's like it's seeped through my bones.

Doing hard core IC now, and by hard core I mean I am getting all the ugliness out, no filters this time. I can tell I shock her sometimes

barcher144 posted 4/23/2021 11:44 AM

What does it mean to "get over it?"

That's really a rhetorical question. Same goes for, "What is normal?"

They aren't really rhetorical questions for me, unfortunately. I regularly question what is real vs. what is imagined.

Thinking about it more deeply, most of my issues are with my kids. They are very critical of my parenting, which I suspect is the product of parental alienation.

That said, it's pretty common for me to be stuck in between child A wants to do something and child B wants to do something else.... and so no matter what, one of the kids is angry at me and saying that I am terrible dad.

This 'terrible dad' accusation hurts... especially when they aren't parroting what xWW says (it's easier when they say the same things she says... because then I know that it's gaslighting).

I know that it's all crap... because on a regular basis, I will be told how I play favorites with my kids by each of my kids. Apparently, they're all simultaneously neglected and receiving special treatment from me... it just depends on who and when you ask.

[This message edited by barcher144 at 11:58 AM, April 23rd (Friday)]

barcher144 posted 4/23/2021 11:47 AM

Damn, it appears I am not attracted enough to a good one

This is definitely a problem that I have... and it probably goes back to my abusive mother, who modeled male-female relationships for me.

Anyway, I've reflected on my entire dating history... and most of the women who I really liked were abusive. As my first therapist said, we don't typically date who is good for us... instead, we date what feels comfortable.

My current GF is definitely good for me... and that's a major problem with our relationship. And, I wish that this last sentence was a joke -- it's not.

JanaGreen posted 4/23/2021 12:49 PM

It was shockingly comforting to have a third person recognize that her statements were ridiculous.

YESSSSSS

I feel like I need to back up and justify and prove why my feelings are valid. A few months ago when my ex got blind drunk and kept calling me and saying crazy shit, I put him on speaker phone because I wanted my boyfriend to hear it himself so he would understand how much chaos I dealt with in the marriage - after the call I told him my thought process and he said, "But you didn't have to do that, I already believed you." I think we get so used to having our reality called into question by gaslighters that we get wrapped around the axle of defending our feelings - I do, anyway.

I'm glad you're rid of her, barcher.

[This message edited by JanaGreen at 12:50 PM, April 23rd (Friday)]

barcher144 posted 4/23/2021 12:56 PM

I feel like I need to back up and justify and prove why my feelings are valid. A few months ago when my ex got blind drunk and kept calling me and saying crazy shit, I put him on speaker phone because I wanted my boyfriend to hear it himself so he would understand how much chaos I dealt with in the marriage - after the call I told him my thought process and he said, "But you didn't have to do that, I already believed you." I think we get so used to having our reality called into question by gaslighters that we get wrapped around the axle of defending our feelings - I do, anyway.

Are we dating each other and don't know it?

My GF's ex is an alcoholic... and she likes to put him on speaker when he calls and rants at her so that I believe her. And, I say... I already did.

I'm glad you're rid of her, barcher.

Me too. My guess is that I'd be dead if I had tried to stay much longer (sadly, not a joke or exaggeration). She did me a favor when she asked for a divorce...

Ironically, my GF thinks that she asked for a divorce as a power play. Meaning, she wanted to go out and screw a couple of guys (more openly... she was already having another affair with a co-worker) and then try to woo me back. So, a lot of the reason that she is so angry is that I moved on.

BetrayedGamer posted 4/23/2021 12:57 PM

I think one healthy way to deal with infidelity and the gaslighting is to recognize the complexity of the emotions and to be able to compartmentalize them. IMO an A brings two types of pain:

1. Betrayal. This the one that stings the most early on, and one you can never fully heal from. It will leave a scar that can never be recovered from, however time and focus on other things in life can bury it.

2. Disappointment. I believe this is the deeper and longer lasting part of the pain. The disappointment coming from someone you love (loved) that made a horrible decision, affecting so many other lives, and they'll live with it their entire lives. This is one I believe you can recover from, because it's not your fault. Yes, there may be feelings that "had I done something different", but that's not fair to you...the other person ultimately made the decision on their own. I believe that in some cases of D, when the A falls apart and the offender does some soul-searching, they can truly come back to their partner with a sincere apology. It most likely won't fix the marriage (although I've known people who have remarried a D spouse) but it will bring some closure. You can't bank on it happening, but there is always the potential.

I know in my case I'm finding peace with the 2nd emotion, because my STBXWW is living in fantasy land. There is no way an online relationship where they can't even live in the same state for at least 4 years, with a 17 year age difference, is going to last. But right now it feels good. The AP "fills a need" (her words). Eventually she's going to need a physical presence, and someone she has a maturity and intellectual compatability with (not just playing the same video game together). I find peace in knowing it's her stack of cards to topple, and when it does I am blameless.

Shehawk posted 4/23/2021 14:38 PM

The day after Dday1 I was just devastated. I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom just sobbing. My husband came in and stepped over me as he told me he was going to a barbecue that we had planned to attend for the holiday. He just got in his car and left without a care in the world.


Are we married to the same man?????


Is infidelity some kind of walking dead kind of mind virus where they act the same. Who does this??? Oh active cheaters, that's who.

I listen to a variety of music including contemporary "Christian" (and Disturbed lol).

One song I like the lyrics go sething like this...

"I'm fine. Yes I'm fine. No. I'm broken.....a church should be more like a hospital"
In that people basically don't say if they are not ok

Yea that was me while living with a serial cheater who yelled at me until he spit on me and had his body parts in another woman max 5 years into our marriage. Yep still broken and for good reason. Scared. No shame in that for me. Just a sometimes silent recognition of what is for me.

Sending positive thoughts for peace and healing. You have been heard Barcher. Many of us do deeply understand.

josiep posted 4/24/2021 11:22 AM

Then, last week, DD14 got really mad at me because I was trying to juggle issues for all three kids at the same time and something happened that she didn't like. DD14 literally told me that I was not good enough.
Barcher

2 things to point out to you. I might be onto something or I might not. You get to decide. :)

1. Your children are half their mother so you will still be dealing with your EX in a way whenever you interact with your kids.

2. Quit trying to please them. You're the Dad, you do the best you can and let the chips fall where they may. Life isn't always perfect or easy to arrange. But please don't twist yourself into a pretzel trying to please them (except for the things that matter, like getting them what they want for their birthdays, etc.). Don't fall into that people pleasing trap.

gmc94 posted 4/24/2021 11:30 AM

Barcher - Have you read any brene brown? She's got an audio called "the power of vulnerability" that I got on Hoopla via my library. It's about 6-8 hours of audio from a series of lectures (I believe it's beyond what you'll find on YouTube). Your comments about parenting made me think of it, and she's got a ton of tips/info that I REALLY wish I'd been clued into when my kids were teens (tho the good news is I'm able to avail myself of her wisdom with my now adult kids).

I really recommend it. Parenting is tough. Parenting teens is TOUGH. Parenting teens with an ex who has a history of some unhealthy behaviors is EFFIN TOUGH.

I get a bit skeptical when it comes to "parental alienation"... not bc I don't believe it happens, but bc I think it too easily becomes a catch-all for a host of stuff that may -or may not- be actual alienation, and that the term/accusation is overused. IMO, a big part of the problem is that the information to bring that conclusion is coming from kids - who are VERY VERY skilled at manipulating divorced parents. I was always pretty good at it, but truly MASTERED the art of parental manipulation during my teen years. I could play my parents' alienation from each other like a pro, to my own advantage.

So, whether it's "alienation" or something else may matter less than that it's something you can't control (which I'm sure you recognize). One of my parents was more structured, and the other was more like a "friend" than a parent (I'll call them "cool" and "boundary" parent, as that's how I saw it as a teen). It was NO secret that boundary parent was convinced there was "parental alienation" by cool parent. That made me feel really uncomfortable... added fuel to the fire, so to speak, in how I viewed boundary parent, and worked for me to more closely attach to/identify with "cool" parent). I mention this bc if you feel XWW is alienating the kids, I'd bet good $ your kids sense this, and probably do not like that feeling. I "get" that there is still a lot of anger/resentment between you and XWW. You know you can't change her side of the street, but you can work to detach from/calm those feelings of hostility on yours. And I really believe your kids will sense that work happening.

As I grew into adulthood, I began to have a MUCH greater respect for the parent whose style was more structured (boundaries), than the parent who indulged my siblings and I (cool). I was able to see that what I NEEDED - much as I resisted - was boundaries and consequences.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 11:32 AM, April 24th, 2021 (Saturday)]

barcher144 posted 4/25/2021 08:37 AM

Don't fall into that people pleasing trap.

This is definitely a problem for me. It's who I am. Yes, I need to work on it.

Have you read any brene brown?

No, but I've watched the videos. I actually bought my GF a couple of books for gifts... but I haven't gotten around to reading them myself (yet).

My work schedule is letting up in the next week or so. So... it's time to read them.

I get a bit skeptical when it comes to "parental alienation"... not bc I don't believe it happens, but bc I think it too easily becomes a catch-all for a host of stuff that may -or may not- be actual alienation, and that the term/accusation is overused.

It's fair to be skeptical but she's practicing parental alienation... I'm 100% sure of it. I have read Brene Brown, but I have read Craig Childress and my middle child fits the diagnosis perfectly. My youngest child doesn't seem to show much -- he and I are doing well. My older child... I'm confident has Asperger's so I don't know whether it's parental alienation or just who she is.

I'll call them "cool" and "boundary" parent, as that's how I saw it as a teen

To be honest, I don't know which of these that I am.

Because I don't have primary custody, I don't punish my kids much anymore, if at all. That said, I do have firm boundaries for behavior and I verbally let the kids know when they have crossed a line.

For example, my middle child was suspended from school this week for doing something stupid. I'll let her mother punish her... All I did was to point to her that all of us make mistakes (she didn't talk to me this week because of a "mistake" that I had made last week) and that she needs to be more forgiving. I also talked to her about how she needs to be aware of the consequences when she does something stupid and being stupid at school is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

Anyway, I have definitely learned not to flinch when my kids say stuff. I express my emotions when they are not around... mostly to my GF.

Finally, it's great that I am getting parenting advice (and it's good advice), but this discussion has drifted from the actual topic.

I'm the victim of a lot of gaslighting and I still struggle with recognizing real from gaslighting. A lot of it comes from my kids. My xWW still does it almost every time that we talk... but I now assume that she's lying if she's communicating, so that's less of an issue. It also happens elsewhere, so I commonly think "am I nuts? or are they gaslighting me?"

tushnurse posted 5/6/2021 13:46 PM

Barcher - Ok late as usual to this party.... But Yes it takes time of being away from your abuser to see that most of what they do is abuse.

I think you are doing really well in assuming if it's from her it's abusive. Seriously.
Now that will impact how you relate to and interact with your kids. Your kids are always a mix of both parents, some more like one than the other, and if you see gaslighting or manipulation from a certain child, it is up to you to call it out, and let them know it is an unhealthy way to behave, and will lead to problems in all relationships in their future. Period. Just keep reinforcing it, encourage honesty with safety for them all. Teens are tough, and as they exert their independence they will see when certain behaviors generate specific wanted outcomes, so it's up to you to not allow the wanted outcome when they exhibit learned behaviors from mom.

I takes time. I more than once have apologized to my kids when I realize I'm pulling the same shit my mom pulled with me. So unhealthy and manipulative. I also have shown them by being completely honest, and open that while it may difficult it is best. I still have one that lies, but he is waaaay better than he was and we have a couple more years before that frontal lobe is done (at least I hope I do).

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