Do you ever think you’re moving past something, letting go and moving on from a situation, only to read something that reminds you of that situation and makes you think about that situation in a whole new light thus rendering you angry and upset all over again?
I had that experience today. I remarked recently to Eric that I felt like a lot of my ragey feelings with Derrick dissipated after I got the check from the landlady and closed that chapter for good. I also remarked that I seemed to have an easier time of letting go of the situation with Derrick than I have had of letting go of the situation with The Greek. I still feel very ragey and angry about things regarding The Greek. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that when I told Derrick I wanted nothing more to do with him and then subsequently blocked him from my life, he left me alone. When I did the same with The Greek, he ambushed me on a train…
But then I read this article and suddenly it brought everything back up again. So much of this was Derrick, although Derrick was a lot more cagey and manipulative about some of it. He wouldn’t outright tell me I couldn’t see friends or family anymore, but he would refuse to participate in any family gatherings or refuse to help with child care so I could attend (like my cousin’s funeral). The dynamic with our families was also very vastly different. While I had to beg and plead for him to come to most events, it was just expected that his brothers could come by the house or that we would spend time with them whether they called us up to plan it or happened to be at the same place we were and an impromptu visit would occur.
This went even further though in that while he wouldn’t outright say I couldn’t see my family or friends, it was clear that if I chose to see them, it was time I was choosing to not see him. Case in point: my brother came home for a class reunion one summer when I still lived with my father, so my pseudo stepmother and her daughter and grandson came down to stay the weekend. My daughter spent the night with me so we had enough rooms/beds for everyone. Derrick wanted me to come out late on that Friday as he had unexpectedly gotten the weekend off, but seeing as I knew I wouldn’t sleep well Saturday, I declined. He declined an invite to swim with my family because he “wasn’t feeling social.” Then he went out to a party and saw a movie we had been planning to see together without me. While I acknowledge a lot of this was my own insecurity, I felt like in some ways he was punishing me for not coming out Friday by going to the movie without me. Most importantly though, it should have started to become more clear at that point that he was not interested in spending time with my family (specifically my daughter) and that his "not feeling social" was yet another cop out.
He didn’t always say that “we should just break up” during an argument, but Dr. Nerdlove is right in that it is incredibly rage-inducing to be, as Dr. NerdLove so eloquently put it: “Standing there and acting like the stern, disapproving parent” in the middle of an argument. Derrick was great at this. One of the comments actually addressed the way Derrick handled it in a much better fashion:
I want to point out something here. You deliberately goaded her into losing her calm. You deliberately incited her to anger, then stood there calmly as if to prove to her that her anger was a failure on her part. After all, look at calm, collected you! If you can do it she can do it, so her not doing it is proof that she just isn't as rational or smart as you.
In other words, you callously manipulated her specifically so you could feel like the cool, rational, superior male, as compared to the crazy, raging, irrational, inferior female. In fact I think that you chose this woman specifically because you could twist her faults into justification for thinking of yourself as her superior.
It also shines a laser onto the real problem here: you're entitled enough to expect your partner to do all the hard emotional work in the relationship, but insecure enough to be threatened if she's too good at it. So you choose someone who already has a lot on her plate, make her responsible for guarding your widdle feewings, then you sabotage her constantly. That way you never have to face your insecurities head-on or do the hard work of handling them yourself, plus your ego gets puffed up because you can pretend she isn't your equal.
Case in point: comparing my relationship with him to my relationship with my daughter during one of the many fights we had after we moved in together. The fight was about me sending “mixed signals” and in some warped attempt to prove his point, he compared our relationship to the one I shared with my daughter and then couldn’t understand why I got so angry with him. It couldn’t have been that the relationship dynamic between a parent and child is vastly different (or at the very least SHOULD BE vastly different) than that of romantic partners. He actually said that I couldn’t take constructive criticism. Thankfully, at least at the time, he acknowledged that his criticism in that instance was anything but constructive. But he acted like I was being irrational for getting angry at him for making such an unfair comparison. That directly goes to the second paragraph (which I have helpfully bolded) in the comment above. Clearly I am inferior to his logic and self control, after he accused me of something that, in retrospect, he was guilty of at the very least during the time after we broke up. Hell, WHEN we broke up, I asked him what he wanted and he said “enlightenment.” I guess I wouldn’t call that a mixed signal so much as a vague answer…
I can fully acknowledge and understand now that I was way more into Derrick than he ever was in me. I fell for him head over heels the first time we dated. I’m pretty sure that at least 90% of the reason I even started dating my ex husband and allowed that relationship to progress at the rapid rate it did was because I was so devastated by my relationship with Derrick ending the first time around that I just jumped at the first guy who showed interest. I was also devastated when he gave the smallest indication that he wouldn’t date me because I wasn’t as thin as I had been when he knew me before, so I went on an extreme weight loss plan so that I was closer to my original weight by the time he came to see me in October of 2008. I felt often that I was more of a convenience for him than anything else. I’m not saying he never loved me, but I am saying that I felt that way sometimes.
Speaking of that weight issue thing that kind of coincides with this comment by the LW to DNL: “There were things about her I didn’t like, and what I didn’t like I fixed by giving her my advice and of course she changed those things.” I don’t want it to sound like it was all Derrick’ fault. I obviously made the choice to try to lose weight and while I can definitely say that decision was influenced by his distaste for pictures I had sent him; it still was my choice to not tell him to FOAD at that point. I was hurt.
I realize it’s only been about 6 months since everything finally came to an end with Derrick being in my life at all, and really only like 3 or 4 months since I could officially close the chapter on the townhouse, but I hate feeling like this. I mean, I guess that is why so many things about sexual assault have the “trigger warnings” on them. The reactions I’m having are normal and I realize that, but it still sucks. I just want to close that chapter for good, but then I remember that I basically shut the Derrick drawer up in my head and locked it for so long that I never really dealt with it last time. I want to deal with it this time so I don’t make the same mistakes again. Though I feel like I tend to choose abusive relationships, and I hate the idea of being the perpetual victim. But with Derrick it was so much more cold and calculating than with my ex husband, that I didn’t register it all at the time, but in the aftermath, I can totally see it. I mean, my high school boyfriend used blatant tactics to try and control me, my ex husband threatened to fight for custody to convince me to stay, but with Derrick it was much more subtle. I guess that explains all of his social engineering books.
It’s funny, but on the one hand, I’m thrilled that Derrick didn’t do what The Greek did and he respected my choice to end any future involvement, even as friends. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s so much that he respected my choice or me, but more that he just didn’t care enough to bother with me anymore. He clearly didn’t respect me enough to honor the commitment he had made to maintaining the townhouse for a few more months, he clearly didn’t respect me enough to honor his word on when he would vacate the townhouse, and he clearly didn’t respect me OR our landlady enough to honor our written agreement with her, leaving me to pick up the pieces and ready it to return to her.
As they say, time heals all wounds, but I think the thing that struck me the most about this particular letter to DNL was not so much that it sounds like Derrick could have written it, but moreso that I know he never will.