Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Remembering the bad stuff as protection against charm
Sometimes I only remember the cheating and the lying. I put it all under the heading of 'infidelity' and then I tell myself that relationships can recover from that. But it's not just that. It's abuse. And the abuse is there almost all the time - sometimes vicious and malevolent, sometimes subtle and manipulating. But never far from the surface.
So today's piece is about remembering a viciously abusive moment, and capturing it for me to re-read when the 'lovebombing' gets so intense I'm tempted to go back.
We're driving to a game lodge in the bush. It's the last weekend before I'm due to start my chemo regime and I have no idea when I'll be able to have another break like this. It also turns out to be the weekend I discover his cheating: D-Day as a lot of people call it. But that is not the subject of this piece. I've been looking forward to this time so much - I want skintime with him. Close, loving, life affirming lovemaking in a beautiful place that feeds my soul. We've been driving for almost 4 hours - just happily settling in to a comfortable and relaxed place. We arrive at the gate of the Game Reserve and are now just a few km away from the lodge. A 10 minute drive at most.
I lean over to him and kiss him on the mouth - I'm so happy we're together. As I do, I detect a smell of cigarettes. I pull back. Frown. Think. We have a pact about him smoking. I have serious trauma memories from earlier in my life about the smell of cigarettes. I cannot lose myself and make love to anyone who smokes. He didn't smoke when we got together, then started again secretly, and then told me he had stopped because he knew how traumatic it was for me. He knew 100% that we would not make love if he smoked. I can smell it in his lungs for DAYS after even just one cigarette.
I say in a small voice: "I just smelled cigarettes on you. Have you been smoking?"
He explodes. Tells me there is no ways I can smell cigarettes because he hasn't been smoking for weeks. Accuses me of lying about it just so I can avoid sex with him. Shouts and screams about how much this game weekend was costing, and telling me how I was just sabotaging it. Threatens to turn the car around and go home. Yells. Shouts. Pounds.
I cannot for the life of me remember what I said to him. I know I was shouting too. Sobbing. Maybe even hitting my hands on myself. Or the car. Or him. I don't remember. All I can remember is sobbing and weeping and trying desperately to defend myself against those accusations. Prove that I wasn't trying to avoid sex. I knew that I wanted that sexual and intimate connection more than anything and I was feeling devastated that we may not be able to do that because of his smoking. Had I got it wrong? Was I just imagining the smell? Was I really just trying to get out of intimacy with him? How could I? I wanted him so so much. I was aching for his body. Yearning deeply for his touch.
I do remember one line from him: suddenly in the silence of my car: "Maybe we should break up now. While it's easy. While we're both sick of each other's shit".
I could feel the world opening up underneath me and my heart breaking into a million tears with those words. "What Shit was he sick of? What had I actually done here that deserved being called 'Shit' and deserved a breaking up?" I remember being so distraught that I tried to get out of the car and walk to the Lodge. In the middle of Game Reserve. Where the Big 5 roam freely. Somehow, in my decimated state, I felt safer on foot with the Big 5 than I did in a small car with him.
He kept on threatening to turn the car around. I eventually gave up and asked him to drive me to the Lodge: he could choose for himself if he wanted to leave, but that I needed to stay. I needed the peace. And the bush. He eventually decided to stay too after an embarrassing and awkward moment with the Lodge welcoming staff.
I felt completely annihilated. Broken. Bereft. Beaten up. I couldn't understand how so much could have gone so wrong in that short period of time. After having such high hopes for the weekend, we were instead reduced to sullen, devastating silence. I went on the evening game drive alone and deeply sad, trying to recover from the shock and violence of his attack on me. He sat on the balcony of our chalet. He was still there, in exactly the same place when I returned. We went to bed without saying a word to each other.
Of course I was soon to discover that he had been lying completely about the smoking. He had been smoking all along. And just hiding it from me and sneaking around. He kept telling me that I may have some sort of psychosomatic issue when I 'imagined' him smelling of it. Feigned incredulity whenever I smelled it. Lied. Lied. Lied. I am still amazed at how cruelly he turned that on me in the car. How viciously he attacked me and accused me of all sorts of things that were just not true. These are typical elements of Narcissistic abuse: and I think this piece sits under the term ''Gaslighting'. It involves presenting alternative realities to their victim until the victim (and her friends) begin to doubt her judgement and sanity. I don't understand how someone could make up all that and use it as a such a devastating weapon with SUCH conviction. But he can. And does.
He has never apologized for that attack. Often he says 'I have done some terrible things to you and I'm deeply sorry'. But he has never called up that one and acknowledged the complete lie. The concocted defense to distract me from HIS choice to smoke before a weekend that was supposed to be so very loving and connecting. How HE was possibly trying to avoid sex with me (because of the fact he had just finished having sex with another woman. Guilt??). He was in full projection mode (another Narcissistic trait), and I became the unwitting victim. His roadkill.
I couldn't sleep that night. I lay there in the silence of our chalet, listening to the night sounds and feeling my broken heart beat in my chest. It was at about midnight that I suddenly felt a gentle voice whisper in my heart: "check his phone". It became louder and more insistent. I have heard that voice of intuition before and I eventually heeded it.
And that's when I found the evidence of his affair.
Nothing has been the same since that moment.
I have been taking my chemo each weekend alone since then. Everything alone. The aloneness is devastatingly hard for me.