Told my non-PD boyfriend I can't cope with lack of boundaries around toxic ex

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BohemianRambler

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Hi

I posted in welcome mat, but thought I'd chime in here.  The full and gory details are in the welcome mat thread, and thanks to bloomie for answering and welcoming me.

The short version.  I have cPTSD myself, I escaped a very very abusive relationship with a PD boyfriend ten years ago (I had a nervous breakdown, was carted off to a posh clinic and it still took me a further three years to leave!).  My recovery has been hard won, agonising, and blew up my health along the way (autoimmune disease and PTSD).  Dating was a very big deal.

I am 7 months in to a safe, appropriate loving relationship.  He loves me, I love him.  His safe and consistent actions gave me the courage to show up, and I wobbled along the way.  I was truly starting to relax thinking finally it was my 'turn'.

I met his daughter, he had warned me his ex was tricky and at times 'hateful' but it appears she's a full blown Cluster B (I'm guessing, and using my knowledge and experience, not a doctor obviously but if I had to guess at a diagnosis I'd say malignant borderline with narc tendencies or a full blown narc, that's my amateur assessment).

Long story short, as soon as I met the child (and mom sniffed out he was serious about me) she's launched the most vitriolic campaign of divide and conquer and triangulation I've ever seen.  It started as the kiddo 'hating' me she said, refusing to come (although kiddo never said this).  We went from warm, fun and friendly to kiddo slamming doors in my face, refusing to eat at the table, locking herself in the loo to facetime her mom etc.  It has escalated to unannounced visits, her 'women's intuition' that I'm a [insert most offensive expetives you can possibly think of ...] and 'bad news' and must be dumped.

She ruined our valentines day by upstaging daddy with a huge bag of gifts (child was with us), and then facetiming child for two hours telling her 'if you feel uncomfortable with that woman I'll come and get you' etc etc etc.  This to me looks like a classic loyalty bind, and nothing to do with hatred.

Suffice to say she's relentlessly bombed him with whatsapps, berated him on the phone, turned up unannounced when I'm not there to berate him in his own home, and turned up unannounced to force a confrontation with me (I've no intention of meeting her, she's nobody to me, coparenting is between him and her, nothing to do with me) and on and on and on and on!

Cue two weekends ago, she withheld access on the Saturday (due to how much I'm loathed by her child), kept it up all day Sat, child asked to come sunday, they arrived early she let herself in and demanded a meeting with me, I again said no.  Cue an entire week of endless vitriol that I'll rue the day I 'crossed her' and refused her, I clearly must have something to hide and he must DUMP me or he won't see his kid (despite him having court ordered shared custody with no caveat that she gets to vet his girlfriends).

Now this is all classic divide and conquer, but the issue is, despite promising me I'd never have to meet her, he'd never ever tell her anything about me, and he'd never let her over the threshold, he folded like a cheap suit on all three.  He's said 'I'd rather you angry with me than her, you don't understand, you'll have to do what she says or it won't stop'.  I lovingly told him no, this is not about me, I'm the trojan horse here, it won't help, I don't want to, this situation is nothing to do with me.  I love you but I can't say under these condition as she's never going to change and she's never going to stop, if I cave now, what possible motive does she have to stop?

So now my own PTSD is in play as not only does her weird and relentless focus on me feel nasty and unsafe (we're talking literally hundreds and hundreds of messages day and night, very personal about me, and our relationship) but HE does't feel safe either, because in a very real way right now, he isn't.  He can't even keep himself safe, I think it's highly unlikely he has the capacity to protect me either.

He disagrees, so with regret I've ended it, said you are enmeshed with your ex, and whilst I have sympathy for the relentless pressure you are under there are no boundaries here, not even your own front door.

He has a court order, but he says I don't understand, if he enforces it, his life will be a living hell (from where I'm standing it's already a living hell!) but I just know I can't and won't live in a trauma vortex, I don't want this crap in my life, and no matter how much I love him, it's not safe, she's dangerous.

To say I'm heartbroken after risking loving someone and getting loved back would be understatement of the century, but I know that I've done the right thing, hard as it is.  And even if he doesn't agree, I HAVE in fact done right by him and the little kid involved here.  I stood up for sanity, reality, safety, peace, containment.

I just want to reach out to others as I'm so sad, I feel torn in half.  But I know I can't rescue him, that's his job.  I am so very badly triggered I've been adrenalised and trembling for two weeks now, struggling to sleep, eat or work, this is absolutely not to borne.

I have other couples as friends who are in this boat, but they are an immoveable object, they are 100% on the same page, united in the face of 'crazy', there are strict boundaries and there is NO divide and conquer as they are in agreement about what they are up against.

I'm just so sad that abuse is back in my life after I worked so hard to get away from it, even if by proxy, and I think the ONLY sane solution is to let go, and walk away, and do what I've done, which is tell him I love him, but I can't do this.

I'd love to hear from others.  I know my instincts are good, and I know these days I have clarity of vision.  It's so hard when someone else can't see, but what can I do?  Nothing but keep myself safe.

Love

BohemianRambler
« Last Edit: April 06, 2021, 12:19:47 PM by BohemianRambler »

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Penny Lane

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Hi and welcome.

I think you have done the right thing. This is very telling:

He's said 'I'd rather you angry with me than her, you don't understand, you'll have to do what she says or it won't stop'.

He has literally explicitly told you that he will pick her insane demands over your well-being. Also, YOU have to do what his ex wife demands of you? No, that's a sign that he is so far from reasonable on this topic that there is not getting to a reasonable place.

He does have another avenue here. He could set boundaries with her, assert his parenting rights, and refuse to give in to the emotional manipulation. My guess is that at least part of the reason that she acts so badly, is because she knows that it works. That is no way to live, and you don't have to live this way! He doesn't either, but it seems that he is going to continue to choose to do so.

Even with a partner who does everything right, this is a very hard situation to be in. With him, your life would be impossible. On its face it seems that you have a BM problem, but in reality with him you have a partner problem.

There are other men out there who would be better partners to you, who will prioritize your well being over caving to an emotional terrorist. (Many of them don't come with their own personal emotional terrorist, even!)
« Last Edit: April 06, 2021, 02:47:31 PM by Penny Lane »

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BohemianRambler

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Thanks

That was literally what I told him when I said I wouldn't meet her 'I don't negotiate with terrorists, I refuse to live in a hostage situation, me meeting her won't stop it, it'll just teach her if she bullies and rages long enough she can control our relationship, I won't live like that'.  He said I was totally right, but I didn't understand what she'd do to him.  I said I did understand, I'd been in his shoes, but this was no way to live, nobody has to live like this.  And I agree she KNOWS she's got him where she wants him, and now she's alienated him again from support and good things and love (me) again.  That's the thing I learned on my own journey years ago when I left my own abuser, when I used to say to friends 'but he doesn't hit me', it took me a long time to learn that he didn't need to, he had me perfectly under control just by the insane gaslighting and coercion and control games.  It took me even longer to learn that my abusers 'rages' weren't actually rages, he was very good a feigning anger and blaming me, would say he 'lost control' but he never 'lost control' in the supermarket, or at his boss, or in a bar, or anywhere else, but behind closed doors.  I mean, what had he got to be angry about really?  I was under the thumb, mission accomplished.  I think it's my own knowledge and insight into what's happening that's so maddening, it's SO CLEAR to me that she's a highly skilled manipulator, it's frustrating I've been shouting into the wind.

The saddest thing has been seeing how GRATEFUL he is when she stops - rewards him with some stupid thing - it's like stockholm syndrome, in fact I think it IS stockholm syndrome!

I do feel for him, and in fact just had my own trauma session this afternoon and she said, 'stop taking it personally, you know it's not about you, the only sane response here is compassion' and she said, he's still so beaten up and traumatized himself, that him facing the reality of who has his child half the time is too terrifying to face, his instincts to protect his child, and his learned helplessness will be so immense, he simply doesn't (yet) have the capacity.  This does make him unsuitable boyfriend material sadly, but I do have compassion for his suffering.

But yes, he did explicitly choose placating her and caving to her demands over me, he threw me under the bus, he might not have meant to, but he did.  That's what scared me so much, just how utterly desperate he was, he'd do that ... that is not safe for me (it's not safe for him or kiddo either, but that's by the by) because I literally can't trust him to have my back, nobody can deal with someone as dangerous as her, and not be a united front, I'd get ground into the carpet like a slug.

I'm making him sound more of an idiot than he actually is, he is a lovely person and he'd been under bombardment for days and days by that point, sleep deprived and was in a panic, and when I called it off I did point out 'Nobody can live like this, nobody sane and thinking straight would think they have to, all this is teaching your kiddo is how to treat you with utter contempt just like their mother, this is too much for anyone, it's too much for you' .... That said, he could have blocked her, reported her to the police, used a parenting app, set some boundaries, locked the front door, GOT HELP more to the point, and he didn't.

It's so sad, I'm heartbroken after taking a gamble on love again, but I honestly have to save myself right now, I'm so triggered and jittery and adrenalised, and - frankly - shocked, the task at hand is calming the hell down.  I knew she was nutty, I'd intuited she was manipulative, I was getting the sense she was PD but THIS has taken my breath away (and I'm no naif when it comes to abuse, I've seen and heard a lot).

So my focus is soothing my own cranked up alarm, getting back to my healing and resourcing activities, and telling myself over and over I did right by me, him and the kiddo by saying no to all this.  It's hard to hold all that though, as I'm sure you all know, as these people dont' fight fair, they don't care even, they have no awareness even that what they are doing is wrong, it's a fight I can't win, so best to exit gracefully whilst I'm still in one piece.  Plus I'll remember to the day I die kiddo bouncing in that day and saying with a big grin, 'mummy wanted to meet you and daddy said you told her no'.  I hope kiddo remembers that, because it won't be getting any better any time soon.  I hope it made her feel sane, that someone modelled boundaries just once at least and stood up to that monster.

Thanks again, it's really shocked me, really knocked the wind out of me.

BR

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Stepping lightly

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Hi BohemianRambler,

I'm so sorry your heart is broken.  I do think you made the right decision, even if weren't already dealing with PTSD, it was a super unhealthy dynamic.  Your mental health is the most important thing!  I am the stepmom to 2 kids with a PD that is as intense as you describe the x to be.  I came into my relationship very emotionally solid (I thought I could handle anything!) AND DH gave me the ability to create any boundary I felt I needed.  I didn't even see BM face to face for the first year, she was not allowed to have my phone number or email, she was not allowed in the house, and we took every precaution that after I did meet her in person, I never had to be alone with her.  Now, all of those weren't just for my "well being", but to protect us against accusations as well.  However, with ALL of that in place, I still feel like I have a bit of PTSD.  It feels odd to say that, but I shake uncontrollably when she is present- and if she walks up to us to talk I literally stop breathing.  We have been SO abused by her, and this is what she did to someone who came into the situation without previous trauma.  A PD terrorizes people.

I think the positive thing here is that you were really brave in entering a new relationship, that is so amazing!  It didn't end as a fairytale, but maybe the next one will.  You deserve a safe and happy environment, so keep looking until you find it!  Sadly for your BF, he may be alone for quite awhile if he can't protect his partners from his x, he is allowing BM to drive away someone great.

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BohemianRambler

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Hey SL

Thanks so much, I really hear you,  I haven't stopped shaking uncontrollably for THREE WEEKS, my entire nervous system is vibrating, better than it was, but every fibre in me knows she's a terrorist, and a dangerous one at that.  The curse and the blessing of trauma is really sharp instincts, I can FEEL how unsafe and uncontained this is, I know enough about abuse to KNOW there's something about me that is making her escalate and decompress, and that really, really, really is not safe.  Her repeated mantra about me is 'I can see right through that c**t, you need to get rid of her' - I know enough about PDs to know that is a confession and a reversal, what she means is 'She can see right through me' - he can't possily be allowed to be happy, out of her clutches, and heaven forfend have back up, I must be destroyed, and it very much has felt like a very malign attack.  It's scared the living daylights out of me!  Like you with your DH, the only way to deal with this is to be an immoveable object as a couple, and he's nowhere near that, he can't even see it ....

I grew up in a toxic environment (drunk dad, mentally ill mum), I then attracted that in my relationships, peaking with my own nemesis, and my recovery has been very very very hard won, and it cost me my health, I'm only still functioning at all because I've worked so hard to put my life back together.  The heartbreak here really is I KNOW I cannot be in this situation, with someone who cannot even keep himself self safe, let alone me (or the kiddo). 

The only sane thing to do is get off that triangle, not take part in divide and conquer which is what I've done.  And I totally agree with you about accusations, the only lawful reason to violate a court order (which he has) is a child welfare concern.  It's very plain to me she's been trying to concoct one on the basis of some guff about 'women's intution' that I'm a bad person and her kiddo 'hates' me, but she's smart enough to know that's full of holes, in order to actually concoct a welfare concern SHE'D NEED TO MEET ME.  Absolutely no chance, and that is why I said no, for me (am not bending to this insanity) but also for him and kiddo.  I will not be the proxy in whatever war this lunatic is raging, absolutely not.

Anyway, I am not feeling particularly brave, or indeed good about having my heart put through a mincer once again, but I am proud of myself that literally the moment it became apparent what exactly I was dealing with, I got myself out of it (years ago I would have stayed, so Im counting that as progress).

I did tell him, this isn't because I have cPTSD, no solid, decent, kind, respectable woman, which is what you tell me you want in your life, would EVER agree to live like this.  I may be a little bit damaged, but I know I'm good and kind and gentle, there's literally no reason why I'd put myself through it.  And he may never have an epiphany, he may remain angry with me, but whether he knows it or not, I did the right thing.

Anyway, off to walk the dog (which is all I seem to know how to do right now, walk and walk and walk ....)

BR

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Boat Babe

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Hey BR. My heart goes out to you right now as you negotiate heartbreak. Coming on top of your previous experiences, it must be so painful. Be sure to give yourself the best self care you can.

I am so impressed by your clarity of thought about the situation and your courage to protect yourself. You are a shining example of survival, healing and growth. You have done the right thing in the circumstances and saved yourself living through more toxic PD abuse, which is way more damaging than your current heartbreak. This is the difficult choice you have made; the lesser of two evils basically.

Please stick around here so that we can support you in your decision and so you can share your own experiences and insights to support us.

 :bighug:
It gets better. It has to.

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BohemianRambler

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Hiya BB

Thanks, it's been a while since I've been this utterly heartbroken, I really, really, really love this dude, and I know he loves me.  As my trauma lady says, 'that's in the bag' no matter what else happens.  Just trying my hardest to get my own healing vortex going, to pull me out of the gravitational field of this trauma vortex ... it really is like a forcefield, even from this safe remove.  Thing is, having got myself out of an abusive trauma vortex more than once, the sad truth is is there's something kinda addictive and compelling about the chaos (trauma bonding, which is where I think he is), she and him seem stuck like glue, going around and around, there's no room for me (or kiddo).  It's so sad, and I'm crying a lot, but I don't find chaos 'normal' or energising any more, I find it scary (because it is!), you can't save people, you can't 'win', even thinking about it in terms of 'winning and losing' is as insane as the PD ... so I'm doing the right thing, I left, bloody agony though!

I'm trying to hold it all with compassion, I've been in his shoes, it's a hard station, and he has the added complication that a 'tiger has taken his baby' if you know what I mean - I can't know what that parental fear is like, as I don't have children of my own, but can imagine you'd try everything to negotiate with reality and avoid facing up to the terror of that, that's what this forum is for afterall.  Or as my trauma lady says, 'every single one of my patients who got better crawled in here on their hands and knees' ... been there too.

I know all of that doesn't change the fact that he's in no fit state for intimacy or commitment (he does deserve it though) and all the rest, but that doesn't mean the love wasn't / isn't real.  That's what is killling me, the longing ... 

I actually have blisters on my feet, all I do is walk with my dog ... miles and miles and miles and miles, moving is easier than sitting still with the heartbreak, like each step can knit me back together, if that doesn't sound silly.

Here's hoping,

BR

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GettingOOTF

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The only sane thing to do is get off that triangle, not take part in divide and conquer which is what I've done.

Iím sorry for the pain you are in. I dated someone who didnít get along with his ex. It was nothing like the stories here. They cooperated but you could tell they didnít like her. There was always an underlying tension. I broke up with him. Their child was young and I had to ask myself if I wanted this underlying tension in my life for the rest of my life. I didnít. Iíve worked too hard on healing my own trauma and codependency to be thrown back in to someone elseís.

You are right in saying heís in no fit state for intimacy. I know as adults we all bring our own baggage to relationships. I certainly have mine, but I feel that we should all be in a position of dealing with it in a way that doesnít negatively impact the other person.  I now donít date men with young children and Iím very careful to ensure those with older children have a healthy relationship with their ex. Any hint of a PD or any kind of conflict or unresolved issues and Iím out. To me itís simply not where I want to put my time and emotional energy. I know that due to the abuse I suffered growing up and my codependency I was very attracted to men who needed help. I was a master at organizing, fixing, seeing the big picture etc. Iíd swoop in and learn all I could about their situation, to the point Iíd know more about things like custody law than they did. Iíd lose myself in their life and troubles. And of course there was no room for me as they were consumed by their troubles.

Reading Codependent No More was really a turning point for me.

It may not seem like it now but there are so many men and women out there who have a history full of trauma who have done the work to heal and are ready for loving, reciprocal relationships. For me it was a matter of learning the red flags and having the strength to walk away.

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BohemianRambler

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Thanks

I've been down the whole CODA route, and codependency, I spent a decade in all that (was the poster girl, don't hate me but I burnt codependent no more on a big bonfire of new age woo!) I don't actually agree in terms of 'codependency' -  I don't even think it's a 'thing', it's just trauma, and dependency on your partner is totally normal and natural, it's hard wired into us in fact (a book called 'Attached' by Dr Amir Levine is well worth a read) - and I found that whole arena did me a great deal of harm and repeatedly retraumatized me, I also don't hold with the 12 step model (totally fine if you do).  I think the problem for me with all that was I was being told what 'normal' was by a load of damaged people (including professionals) who don't know what normal is, it did me a great deal of damage.  I'm well beyond all that, in fact I rarely ever discuss my trauma with anyone except my lady, and body based somatic trauma stuff was the piece I was missing, it's been transformational for me.

That said, I agree with most of what you said, particularly around boundaries around exes, I'm not even friends with mine on facebook, and would want in any coparenting / stepparenting scenario the level of emotion between coparents that one typically has toward's one's dental hygienist!  There's simply no need for all this high emotion when something is OVER.

I feel a lot of compassion for myself and him in this situation, yes my heart is broken, but I don't feel blame or judgement, he's just not there yet, that's no good for me obviously, but it's not his fault, he's still being abused, and we've all been there (or we wouldn't be here) so I can hold my pain and his pain, that's what's broken my heart.

BR

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BohemianRambler

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Hey all

Just checking in, I seem to be worse (sadder, in more pain) and better (not so adreanalised and jittery).  I posted his house keys back today, after some back and forth correspondence with us going around in circles.  It's so sad, I don't doubt he loves me or me him (he's told me over and over) but I keep coming back to I can't love this man at my own expense, it's simply not safe with in his own words a 'psychopath' on the loose and no boundaries, despite all his protestations, he's a little boy whistling in the dark I think.  And underneath all the declarations, basically he's not promising he's going to tackle it (with me as a team) because he doesn't feel he can change it.  I get that's where he's up to, he's paralysed with fear.  But I'm worn out worrying, trying to educate, trying to explain my point of view, all I can do is cut my losses and nurse my broken heart.  I'm proud of myself too, it might have been extremely painful, and a real battle to trust myself, but trust myself I have.

I wrote a short note to the kiddo who has apparently been asking repeatedly when they are going to see me again, and told them I'd always be happy to hear their news, but daddy and I have some things to concentrate on, and I'm not sure if or when I might see them again.  It's so f**king hard being the grown up!

Things came to a head because he told me I needed to 'compromise' but this trauma trigger of being on the end of narc abuse again, from her - incredibly focused on me - PLUS him promising to have my back and folding on me and in effect chucking me under the bus to appease her (again, I get why, I understand that panic when you are traumatised and feel like a cornered rat under the onslaught), in other words HIS WORDS AND ACTIONS DID NOT MATCH has torn me in half, I feel compromised already, I've compromised enough.

Anyway, today is a shitty day, but I've done the right thing and now I'm curled up with my dog having a very big sob.  I so didn't want this to turn out like this, but it has, and my bottom line is I cannot live (and nor can anyone) with 'crazy and dangerous' running amok, there's no peace or happiness there.  I cannot live appeasing an abuser, I've done that in my own life, and I know where that road goes, and it's nowhere good.

I'm so sad, but hanging on in there.

Love

BR

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Boat Babe

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Oh sweetheart, you've done the right thing and you know it but, oh the heartbreak.

Do all the self care stuff and lean on us. Sending buckets of love.❤️❤️❤️
It gets better. It has to.

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BohemianRambler

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Hiya

Thanks so much.  My adrenaline is up this morning as I know the key is about to hit his doormat but I had a really good session with my trauma lady yesterday who said she's proud of me for getting out of a trauma vortex and doing it with so much love (and I really did).

She said both statements are true 'I love him and he loves me' and 'As this situation is I can't be in it' - and THAT is the heartbreak, it's so hard, but there we go!

I'm also proud of myself for doing the right thing by kiddo.  I've done the right thing by everyone actually, in the kindest way I possibly could.

But my body is telling me what the answer is, I've been so stressed with it all, and I've come too far to ever go around that abusive loop ever again (even if I am just the proxy in the PD's war this time).  My lady said, that what I told him - I can't love you at my own expense - was very wise, because if I did that, I'd be half a woman, and it wouldn't be possible to love me anyway, you can't have a relationship with half a person.

Anyway, sure you understand the LONGING, it's a killer, but at least the tears aren't the desperate kind any more, it's just sad, really very sad, I feel so sad for him and kiddo trapped in that nightmare as much as I feel sad for myself, but it's not my problem to fix, and me trying to would make it worse and wouldn't work anyway.

I'm meditating, feeling well enough to get back to yoga, walking, spending time outside in nature (beautiful, glorious spring here), staying close to friends, trying not to ruminate, going to accunpuncture, resting, and I've had a bit of time off work to just regroup.

I don't think I've ever been so in love with someone, it's all been such a shock, I knew she was nuts, but THIS, blimey, taken a while to just process the shock, never mind keep my wits about me enough to get myself to safety.  Proud of myself that I have done that, even though it means leaving him behind.

xx

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oak_tree

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Your strength is inspiring, BR. Thank you very  much for sharing.
Take care of yourself. You're not alone.