I’m having to face some tough realizations.
My husband used me, for years. However he justified it to himself, he chose to stay in a relationship where he knew he had inordinate power and got what he wanted from me, and he used me year after year after year. He never did anything meaningful to make sure we were equals, instead choosing to blame me for not standing up for myself. When I was almost used up and started to put up boundaries to save myself, not even having seen how I was being used, he hated me for it. (Funny, standing up for myself is what made it obvious the relationship had to end. So I guess in a way, he’s right – standing up for myself would never have made me an equal in the relationship, but I might have realized sooner that I needed to leave.)
Friday night, he went past the lights out / TV off bedtime without asking or discussion or even saying he was doing it, he just did it. Last night I knew he’d do the same, so I decided I was going to leave the house while he did his thing. I let it appear I was leaving to take a walk, then took a drive instead. I didn’t bother using the GPS. The way the roads around here are set up I wasn’t particularly worried about getting lost, easy enough to find my way somewhere I’d recognize or simply pull over and program the GPS for a route. At one point I realized I was heading south when I thought I’d been heading west, which was amusing. I forgot the name of the road I’d been intending to drive down and ended up by I69 instead.
There was a McDonald’s near the intersection and I decided to stop for an ice cream cone. Someone ahead of me in line must have had a large order or a very customized order because it took forever to finally get to the window, pay, and get my cone. After I finished, I hopped on the interstate and headed back home, arriving around midnight. I discovered my husband was still awake, and that he’d let our 13 year old stay up, too. He’d put on an episode of a show that would be over well after midnight (he might, in fact, have put it on while I was in the bathroom after returning home).
I came out and told my son it was after midnight and that he needed to head to bed, because I was tired and needed to sleep. My husband was silent for a couple of minutes, while my son asked if they could keep watching the episode in the living room. My husband eventually said no and sent him to bed. Then, he turned off the episode of X-Files but switched to one of Lindsay Ellis’ youtube videos. I’m 99% positive he did it on purpose to punish me and show he was still in control. I put my headphones on and attempted to relax even though the bright lights from the TV were interfering with my ability to fall asleep.
Eventually, he turned the TV off and I drifted off to sleep. 4 hours later I was awake, seething. I know my husband plays games like this on purpose with people – when he worked as a deputy in a jail, he told me about ways he found to keep the inmates in line that didn’t require a show of force. Honestly, I thought he had some clever ideas and enjoyed the story of how he handled one guy acting out – he moved him to a different bunk, which the guy didn’t think was a particularly terrible punishment, until the guy sharing the bunk with him started snoring and turned out to be the loudest snorer in the entire pod.
I would assume my husband was being reactionary rather than intentional if not for all the stories he’s told me over the years of how he’s purposely indulged in social engineering in his hobby and at his workplace. How he is conscious of his image, what he says, how he says it, and how he’ll purpose do X in order to try to get Y as a reaction. I have every reason to believe that he is doing this to me on purpose, to punish me and send me a message. Well, the message he’s sending is that he thinks I’m a child or an inmate, someone he has authority and control over and that he’s justified manipulating me and treating me in a disrespectful, harmful manner.
Even IF he’s just being reactionary and stupid and doing this as a way to feel like he’s stopping ME from controlling HIM, I will still need to respond to this and erect a boundary over it.
Message received. And I’m not going to accept this from him. I knew when I set out to divorce him that I was risking everything – my children’s affection, my reputation, such as it was – finances, housing, personal safety, friendships. Everything I care about. And I knew I had to risk it because the alternative guaranteed a loss of health – emotional, mental and physical – that could put me in the ground or in a mental hospital.
If he wants a war, he’ll get a war. If he gets any kind of victory, it’ll be a Pyrrhic victory.
Some people would say one of us needs to behave like an adult and take the high ground. Do it for our children. My sister J took the high ground with her ex. It’s 12 years later and her ex continues to try to take everything from her. She was dealing with being suicidal earlier this year because of the way he’s been alienating her children (it has, unfortunately, been working way too well on her teenage son).
Taking the high road only works when you’re dealing with a decent human being and you just happen to be going through difficult circumstances.