I was in a relationship with my ex from age 15-23. He was bipolar and used his condition to excuse his lying, cheating and verbal abuse. I stupidly let so many horrible things slide because I thought he couldn’t help it. Until one day, I came home to find him in our bed with someone else and he just laughed at me and told me to go back out for another hour. Something snapped and I got angry. Really angry.
I left him that night, never took another call from him or answered his emails. It’s been two years now and we’re well and truly out of contact. The only problem is, I am still furious. I never had proper closure. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for a year and he is amazing. However, the tiniest little slip up on his behalf and I come down on him like a ton of bricks. I go to the greatest lengths to punish him over the dumbest mistakes. I honestly don’t know why he is still with me.
I love him but I am terrified of being walked all over again and I can’t get it through my thick head that he isn’t like that. How can I let go of all this anger? I really don’t want to lose him. Vana
There’s something to be said for walking away in dignity. To think that if you do, your rage will take care of itself and karma will take care of him. But all too often after a classy exit, the rage and hurt remain – and how can they not? That shit sticks around until we process it and let it go. If you don’t, it’s all too easy to drag it into new relationships.
As I’m sure you know, feeling such toxic emotions towards an ex when you’re in love with someone new feels all wrong – almost like you’re betraying what’s fresh and good in your life. But we’re the sum of our parts and experiences, and being cheated on or treated badly for a long stretch of time changes a person. It can change how you relate in new relationships, and how you’ll react to situations that are no biggie, or completely innocent. It’s hard not to dump our baggage onto new partners who don’t deserve it, but we have to work to try to change that cycle, and trust that the past doesn’t necessarily dictate how the future will look.
That said, Vana, don’t beat yourself up too much. It sounds like your ex put you through a lot in eight years. And two years may just not be enough time to get over it. A solid new relationship can be a healing thing – but the rest is up to you. Lashing out, or punishing him for dumb mistakes is about your fear, and you’ve got to retrain yourself not to go there. If it happens, explain to him why you do it and tell him you’re taking steps to change the behaviour, because you love him and it’s not how you want your relationship with him to play out. It’s a process and if he’s as amazing as you say, he’ll hang in there while you figure it out.
You might benefit from some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). You could also get your hands on this excellent book about finding forgiveness. Or write it all down. Give your rage a focus, let it burn out on the paper. Write until you’ve literally wrung that rage dry. And keep writing whenever it comes back. You’ll be fine, because you’re aware of it and you want to fix it and that’s really the first step.
Love, reality chick