Loving

…it is not as clear as it seems

Archive for the category “Amanda’s Story – Abuse and Recovery”

As excruciating as any I’d experienced…

The online relationship ending was as excruciating as any I’d experienced in my traditional break-ups.  Like most break ups, it impacted me in permanent way.  I don’t make excuses for people anymore.

It didn’t feel right when my once husband called me names and degraded my own reality.  But I made excuses for him.  I did the same with Andrew.

I remained in an unhealthy marriage for years because I didn’t trust the voice inside me.  After my electronic love fell apart, I revisited my life with my husband and saw the same red flags, waving high and with vigor…the same message coming from the depth of my soul, as throughout my time with Andrew.

I am, though, encouraged to know that stepping out of my comfort zone helped me to redefine it.  It was an emotional year or so – one that I had often wished would pass quickly or let me sleep through it.  Now I’m glad I was awake for all of it.  I no longer ignore the obvious or dodge the painful. I simply look at concerns squarely and, when necessary, definitively state: “No. This isn’t right,” and move on to my next challenge.

And there was a new challenge.

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Relief?

Shortly after Andrew’s declaration of love, I started to notice that the time stamp on his messages were an hour off of my own.  They used to be the same. Now, his were one hour later than mine. 

This didn’t make sense. 

About six month into our discussions, he mentioned that he might be moving from Boston.  He was originally from Indianapolis as was I.  Based on what I knew about him, Indianapolis was a logical destination. This was exciting.  There would be, I thought, no more reasons for us to not be together.  I asked him where he was moving to and, in typical ‘Andrew fashion’, he ignored me.  I hadn’t thought deeply into this until my trip to Denver. 

Up to that point, I figured the time stamp disagreement had something to do with either my computer or his — a technical issue.  However, while in Denver, I the time stamp changed by two hours, which is consistent with the time difference between Denver and Indianapolis.  My mind, it seemed, had collected pieces of information and put them together even when I wasn’t purposefully doing any critical thinking at all.

 At the Denver airport, just before my plane boarded for home, I checked the ‘properties’ of Andrew’s email’s, copying and pasting the ‘sent’ IP address into Google to see from where his last email was sent. The response was as suspected: Indianapolis. He knows I visit the area regularly.  He clearly didn’t avoid my latest invitations to Chicago due to a distance issue.  When strategically planned around traffic patterns, it is only a three and a half hour drive from Indianapolis to Chicago. 

 Andrew, it dawned on me, had moved from Boston to my parent’s backyard and never mentioned it.  On that plane ride home, hope stopped.  Its screeching halt felt like I had plunged into an icy pool of water on an uncomfortably hot summer day.

Painful relief.

That first step out the virtual door was tough, but ‘walking away’ resulted in life-altering empowerment.  I had known something wasn’t right, but kept hoping everything would somehow turn out the way I wanted.  My head was still able to function separately from my heart.  This is good to know.

Which is worse?

One evening, while exchanging emails with Andrew, I sent some sort of diatribe about the need to let go of all that represented my abusive married life.  I assumed he would ignore my musings and move straight into sex talk like he usually did.  In the months prior, Andrew had begun to ignore my ‘chit chat’ about my day, opting to send separate emails to begin spicier discussion.  To my surprise, he did respond this time.  I opened his email to find three words:  “I love you.”   He had drawn those powerful words, there in the middle of the night, like a sword suddenly drawn in a crowd for no apparent reason.  It was confusing. I stared at the screen barely able to breathe. Were his careless words pointed towards my heart?  My head? Was he mocking me?  Was he finally opening himself up to me?  My heart leapt for safety, but fell short of arriving at its destination. Instead, I lost it all together, writing back that I loved him too. 

Andrew took advantage of my vulnerable state.  He was playing games.  Is that worse than one who overtly mistreats someone?

 

I craved overt affection…

The wounds of the intense emotional abuse in my marriage made it difficult for me to identify yet another narcissist: Andrew.

The emotional pull was so incredibly strong, that concrete fact faded into the distance of my mind each time Andrew and I exchanged heated email messages in rapid fire succession, sometimes for up to six hours in a single evening.

rationalized the inexplicable and compromised my values. Whenever my mind would scream “This isn’t right!,” Andrew would end up sending a captivating message that kept my skeptical heart paralyzed, binding it in hope and desire.

Andrew would initiate an email anywhere from 10:30 pm to 12:30 am almost every night (red flag). He would type a phrase, sentence or paragraph that would describe exactly what he envisioned we were doing. I would almost immediately respond within seconds and the evening would begin. The heat was palpable; the raw vulnerability was so intense I would shake.

The mind can stir anything.  It collects images, emotions, memories and desires, and shapes them into something as concrete as the furniture in one’s living room.

Google let me down…

I searched the Internet for relief. Surely someone else was going through this, I thought.  But my Google searches came up mostly empty.  I could find nothing written by experts that could explain my plight.  I turned to blogs and discussion forums, but found few discussing a scenario exactly like mine, though some were similar.  

On one site, a woman blogged about a man in her office who would write titillating emails to her throughout the workday, but would not acknowledge the emails – or her – when they passed each other in the halls of the company building.  When she pressed the man for a date, he stopped emailing her. He made it clear he did not want anything beyond cyberspace. I also came across a woman begging someone to answer her question, “What if he emails but won’t call?”

 I understood her hope that someone would post a logical, livable answer. I was disappointed when no one did.  I needed to know that my electronic love was somehow ‘right’, even though every part of my being was telling me that it was not.

Have you ever mistakenly moved forward as your spirit tried its best to hold you back?

Trading abanonment for abandonment…

After my divorce was final, I longed for Andrew and I to become a couple, but he would not move beyond his keyboard. He never explained why — all he could give me were the black letters he typed on the blinding whiteness of our computer screens. 

He would promise to call but never did. His excuses were laughable, had I been in a position to see humor in any of them. 

Andrew wrote as if we would most certainly get together ‘soon’, but ignored all my invitations to visit me in Chicago. I began to make excuses for him.  Maybe he lost his job and had no money for travel.  Maybe time had treated him poorly and needed time to get back into shape before seeing me.  Maybe he had been seriously hurt by his last girlfriend and needed to heal. Maybe…

I went online for a reason…

I was on the edge of divorce. My husband seemed perpetually irritated by my existence, often indicating that each breath I took was some sort of selfish act. He would regularly spew verbally abusive comments that I awkwardly dodged as he hurled them at me with all of his intellectual strength.

In addition to the abuse, he hadn’t made love to me in nine years. Andrew’s attention gave me an incredible high – I felt pretty, sexy, smart and competent.

I returned his ever-increasing flirtatious comments with daring enthusiasm and candor, leading to my development of a vocabulary of an experienced porn writer. With each disclosure, I became bolder. I looked forward to each message that encouraged further creative adjective and verb use. I could not get him out of my mind. I struggled to focus on daily tasks and responsibilities.

Escape…

So…I mentioned it all started on Facebook.

After setting up my page and inviting local friends to join my list, I began to search names of people I had known from the past, first typing the name of a man with whom I’d had a fling 20 years earlier – Andrew.  I found him right away. I couldn’t remember how we’d ended, so I was a bit nervous about contacting him.  Every vein in my body pulsed as I clicked ‘Add Friend’.

Andrew accepted my friend request, and his ensuing messages showered me with compliments and expressions of regret that he had ever let me go.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, “With a husband that ‘showed me the door’ each time I attempted to talk about our marriage problems, Andrew’s messages quickly became a safe escape from my uncomfortable life.”

We had originally met while working stressful, unsatisfying restaurant manager positions in the same restaurant. We directed servers, customer service, menu planning and cooks, as we flirted with company rules and laughed at boundaries. Something wasn’t right about it all, but we had fun. I was excited to have found him again.

We quickly exchanged pleasantries, catching up on the larger facts of our lives: He was living in Boston, me in Chicago. He became a restaurant executive; I went on to teach college. He never married; I did. I quickly felt like I was living a revised version of ‘our story’, the way it should have played out all those years ago, as I fought an ever-present pull at my conscious.

Something wasn’t right. I knew it but ignored it. Am I alone? Has this happened to anyone else?

Emotional Abuse drives us to find relief from isolation.

Has an online relationship helped you to escape?

I should have known better…

As a communication instructor and consultant, I understand how perception and inference can shape our understanding of reality. I teach this concept every day. To apply those concepts to this situation was harder. 

Looking back, I can see now that my imagination took what I knew of Andrew in the past, the few details he provided in his emails, and my inferences, when he wrote things like, “I want you, I want all of you, I do not want to share you,” and “I should have had you move in with me when worked together,” and “I will wake up next to you one day, ” and made assumptions that were consistent with what I needed our ‘thing’ to be.

Am I the only one to fall in love online?

It pummeled my heart like an intense flash of light punishes the eye. An unexpected and unwelcome epiphany. Standing in Chicago’s Midway airport, returning from a solo trip to Denver, I understood that my deeply intimate, all-consuming relationship must end. It should not have been a difficult decision.

My love – the man who made me breathless just at the thought of his touch — never actually touched me at all. He also never called me on the phone or took me to dinner. In fact, I never once spent time with him in the flesh.

My boyfriend lived in my computer, so to speak. Ours was an electronically-mediated relationship, lasting one year, one month and 20 days. One would think that a professional, suburban mom in her mid-forties would be immune from the lure of love and sex on the Internet.  I was not.

It started on Facebook.

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