Gaslighting Part 2

I have a scenario in which I am involved with someone who is housemates with 4 other people….one of which as I found out some time after dating him is an ex lover. I found this out because there was a situation that occurred with this ex and a very close friend of mine before meeting my boyfriend and his housemates. We have all become friends to some extent and they have friended me on FB etc. Keeping track? yes…it has the makings of a drama series. My boyfriend discloses that they were lovers during a time where I invited his housemates over for dinner. During dinner, a conversation about my close friend comes up and it is revealed by the girl(his ex) that she had a traumatizing experience with my friend. It was of a sexual nature. After hearing what she had to say, I naturally felt shocked and upset by it. Not having heard my friend’s side of the story yet, my boyfriend then after everyone went home, told me about him and her. ,
He presented it in such a way to suggest that it would shed some perspective of her possible inappropriate behavior as well. This upset me even more.

It’s worth to note that during the time I didn’t know about my boyfriend and her, I picked up on subtle vibes and noticed certain boundaries that didn’t exist between them during my visits to their household from time to time. Also I have noticed her own behavior there and how she interacted with her boyfriend that influences my opinion of her. She also moved from her room (which was next to her boyfriends)from the top part of the house to a room close to my boyfriends room in the bottom portion of the house. She shared with me her reason for this and that was so she can express herself sexually without fear of being heard by the members of the top part of the household.
Trying to be enlightened and forgiving of myself, I attributed my hackles to this girl to be natural jealousy that can come up and tried my best to let the wave come and go and deal with what I was feeling or perceiving for that matter. But this has proved difficult with my boyfriends behavior and attitude. It should be noted that her boyfriend (also their housemate) works with and is essentially my boyfriends primary employer. They have also been good friends it seems but I do not know the extent of his knowledge about their relationship past.

I have since talked with my friend and heard his side of the story which he presented as taking some responsibility for what occurred between them, however also giving his opinion on her demonstration of possible promiscuity. She was involved with her current boyfriend at the time.

After coming back from a really nice road trip to meet my boyfriend’s family, he discloses that he intends to get a massage from her. I am taken aback by this. I initiate a request for space because to me I find that unacceptable and inappropriate and after hearing him try to justify it with talk about respecting her as a professional we did not see eye to eye, so I stated what I wanted which was a break. A couple of days later my boyfriend attempts to reconcile with me by stating that he has cancelled the appointment. I thought that he realized the importance of why, but he stated that he was stressed out about us and would not have been relaxed enough to receive the massage. Say what?

No…it gets better..

After trying to be reasonable and tired of the rollercoaster wtf doses I experience ,things settle yet I’m not feeling 100% resolved with this . A couple of days later ,I get a text from HER stating that she doesn’t appreciate the assumptions I’ve made about their relationship and that I was not to come over to their household until I speak with her. I contemplate answering this woman. I thought to send a quick Fb message to let her know to call me instead of texting (so that there are no misunderstandings) but found that she was no longer listed as one of my friends. I do not feel I have to answer to her, nor am I inclined to based on my opinion of her.

First thing that comes to my mind is why is he talking with her about our situation? These things for me do not add up: the fact that he on some level does not respect her character yet is talking with her about what affects me instead of just politely declining the massage – asking for a good referral – and leaving it at that.

I understand that there are subtle nuances that could paint an accurate picture of the dynamics at play. But I feel like I am basing my strong opinion on this by what I have witnessed and experienced with him as well. Including prior to any of this happening, we had issues related to what I feel was him not prioritizing me. First time it happened was about 3 months into dating and he called on a Fri night and stated that he thought to ask me to go to a party that evening, but discovered that an ex(unknown-didn’t ask) was going to be there and so he wanted to be mindful of her feelings.Hmmm. That was the first time I really wanted to end it with him. This happened after a couple of issues with him not being able to commit to setting some time aside for an event or something else a week in advance. I find that our situation seems like a broken record, revisiting the same core issue.

I think that I struggle also with trust but in all fairness I think that behavior demonstrates whether something can be trusted. Another example would be –during the first couple of months we were sitting in a restaurant , and supposedly by coincidence a “friend” of his was there . She happened to be sitting in the table next to us. I’m not sure when she came in, but there she was .He introduced us , and when it was time to go, he and I were headed out he leaned over to her and kissed her in the mouth. I was second guessing what I saw and chose not to make a deal of it then, but it kept coming up for me and I finally asked him and found out that she was another ex-lover.

So with all my dis-ease in this .. the fact that it is easy to label someone as jealous bothers me. It’s so much more than that. To me it’s about two people who want to be together safeguarding their relationship from destructive choices or influences. There is appropriate and inappropriate. The fact that he and his housemate have talked and collaborate on an issue that I feel he should have handled appropriately doesn’t sit well with me. I think we both want different things within a relationship.

I think I know where this is heading but just wanted to put it out there to see what other thoughts come up about this based on what I’ve shared- understanding that it can’t cover all of the nuances involved. Thanks!

So often, when reading letters written to an advice column, it seems like the person writing the letter actually does understand the situation completely, and knows what they ought to do. But there is still a barrier between that knowledge and some sort of full realization. I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes this barrier, and I guess it must be different for everyone.

I think sometimes the barrier is made of our belief that we are supposed to “work” on relationships; that they are supposed to be “hard work.” So, even when something feels really bad, we might think that that’s just the feeling of “work,” of needing to put a lot of effort and thought into the relationship.

We’ve also been taught that “no one is perfect” and that “no relationship is perfect.” And this is true! But it is also so confusing! If no relationship is perfect, then maybe this really bad relationship I’m in is actually a normal relationship. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’ve been taught not to expect perfection, so maybe this is just what a relationship feels like, and I should stick it out, and put all that “work” into it I’ve also been taught I ought to do.

There is also a barrier that is made of the fear of being alone. This is really common and no one should be ashamed of feeling this fear. Sometimes we stay in a relationship that doesn’t make us happy because we are afraid of being even more unhappy if we leave. This is such a common fear that Shakespeare literally wrote an entire play about it (Hamlet says we would “rather bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of,” or something, which is very wise). This is a hard fear to overcome. If you are afraid of being alone, then any relationship will seem preferable to you.

And finally, of course, the barrier can be made of love. We feel like we love this other person. What is “love?” No one really knows. Where does it reside? What controls it? What brings it into being? Why do we love people who don’t love us back? Why do we love people who bring us misery? Sometimes, is what we’re experiencing as “love” really something else, some strange unnameable mixture of other feelings, like “obligation” and “habit” and “sexual attraction” and whatever else? How on earth can we separate all these things?

My bottom line, when reading your letter is twofold:

1. Your second to last paragraph contains everything you need to know! You already know the score; you already know what you should do. What you say about relationships is exactly right. They are supposed to be about two people safeguarding one another. And your boyfriend does not safeguard you. And so that means this relationship isn’t working, isn’t going to work, no matter how much “work” you put into it.

2. And, moving forward in your life, just really try to accept and keep in mind that relationships are supposed to make your life easier and happier. Full stop. If they don’t, then they aren’t working. It’s true that “easy” and “happy” are subjective, and that of course even in the world’s greatest relationship there will always be moments of anger and frustration, of helping each other through really hard times, and even of just being sick of the sound of the other person’s voice. But in a good relationship, there is never any question that your life is enriched by this other person. Even when you are mad at them, you are still feeling safe in the knowledge that the other person truly wants what is best for you, truly wants you to be happy. That knowledge makes it obvious that the “work” you’re doing on the relationship is worth it and awesome and helps you become a better person. When you don’t have that trust, that knowledge, that absolute certainty that your partner truly has your best interest in mind at all times, then it’s just not worth it to “work” on the relationship. That “work” is only worth it if you both take part equally in it. A relationship doesn’t get better if only one of you is willing to “work.” Your letter makes it pretty clear that your boyfriend–while he might like and even love you, in his way–actually does not have your happiness, your safety, in the front of his mind. He is thinking of other people before he thinks of you. He pursues his own fleeting pleasures without caring or even understanding how his actions might affect you. He doesn’t listen when you explain these feelings of fear and unhappiness to him. He entrusts secrets to others and not to you. He lays bare your privacy in front of people who you have told him make you uncomfortable.

He doesn’t want to do the work of safeguarding the relationship, of making a safe space for the two of you to be in together. Maybe he is not the kind of person who can ever do this–lots of people never figure out how to have a real relationship, and that is very sad but what can you do?–or maybe he just doesn’t want to do that work with YOU. Either way, it sounds like he is not the guy for you, and all the energy you are putting into trying to work with him, communicate with him, and stay with him, is like energy you are putting into a void. You’ll never get that same kind of energy back.

You aren’t happy; he doesn’t make you happy. He makes you feel stressed out and nervous and confused. A good relationship doesn’t make you feel any of those things, honestly. And it’s not a “failure” for you to acknowledge that and move on from this guy. Reflect on what you’ve learned, and on how you might look for different characteristics in the next person you date. It’s okay! You will be okay.

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One Response to Gaslighting Part 2

  1. dv says:

    I’d say just wait it out until you’re no longer in your twenties.

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