Friday, January 13, 2012

Why I got hitched when I should've ditched

Tina, of One Mom's Battle, recently wrote a post answering some tough questions posed by a reader and I was so inspired, I just had to follow suit and tackle the same self-reflective challenge.  It was asked (and I'm paraphrasing here just a tad):  Why did you marry the STBX in the first place? What was the issue with your self esteem, your sense of right or wrong and your boundaries that led you to marry someone like him?

Common sense says that if I haven't figured this much out by now, I'm likely to make the same sort of mistakes all over again, subsequently derailing this journey of mine.  In order to get to where I'm going, I have to know where I've been, right?  Thankfully, the mental clarity that comes with letting go and moving on has allowed me to easily pinpoint a majority of the specifics as to why I got married in the first place.

Here's how I see it looking back. I've been told a few times recently that hindsight is 20-20. Ain't that the truth?


The STBX was your stereotypical "bad guy". You know the type I'm talking about. No higher education, the comedic trouble-maker, loved to party, totally unpredictable etc. Then, of course, there's the whole asshole attitude problem and cocky sense of entitlement of the bad guy. For most of my twenties, the following equation ruled:  unpredictable + excitingly different from me + cocky attitude + some sort of challenge = total attraction. Before you start wondering how I could be so stupid given my level of intelligence and all of that, I'll have you know that the "thug love" phenomena is so common its been studied by numerous professionals. I am not the first woman to fall prey to the addictive dopamine-high that often comes from falling for the bad guy.


As a woman, mother nature gifted me with the instinctive drive to nurture. That means by genetic and evolutionary predisposition, I naturally sought out to improve the STBX. The whole idea of "fixing" him was appealing and I mistakenly thought that if I was his source of influence for positive change, he would be forever grateful and he would never leave. I have since learned that you can't ever really change another person. If they do end up changing for you, and not for themselves, they'll end up resenting you for it and treating you accordingly. Not to mention, most of the changes won't stick. The STBX literally became a project that I had to constantly deal with, keep in check and tend to, and all that focus on him was just an unhealthy way for me to avoid facing what needed fixing in my own life. It was also exhausting after awhile to the point where some of my own negative qualities ended up magnified more than I care to divulge.


Opposites do not attract, they retract.  Paula Abdul 's "Opposites Attract" is a multi-million dollar myth that I grew up singing and believing to be true.  Trust me, I had to learn this one the hard way. The STBX and I were total opposites in almost every important aspect and instead of thinking this might pose a problem for long-term commitment and stability, we chalked it up to being interesting and complimentary to one another. I am an extrovert, he's an introvert. I am ambitious and somewhat impulsive, he is passive and always calculating (or, rather, manipulative). I am chatty and can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, and he doesn't speak unless spoken to. The list goes on and having so many differences in everything from personal interests to personality traits caused a whole lot of conflict on a pretty regular basis. Ironically, we were never able to resolve much of the conflict because we were so different.  For most of our relationship, he had me believing that last part there was most often my fault. It took a long time for me to figure out that belief was due to the gas-lighting he was so ridiculously good at.

I had low self-esteem. By being with a "bad guy", I was unknowingly reinforcing every negative belief I had about myself regarding what I was worth and what I deserved. I wasn't strong enough (or so I believed at that time) to deal with the pain of the end of the relationship. I cared too much about what other people would think if I called off the wedding. I was afraid to be alone while living 450+ miles away from my friends and family. I didn't have the self-confidence going into the marriage to turn around and run, so instead I was left wondering if I was making a huge mistake in saying "I do" as I was saying it.


The STBX is narcissistic. I didn't know this walking down the aisle, but it didn't take long after we exchanged rings for me suspect it. My suspicions were confirmed in marriage counseling where it became clear that I had married a pathological liar and a manipulator who had gone to great lengths to hide serious problems from me the entire time we were together. I had been bamboozled all along.  First, he charmed me by dropping the bad guy persona and taking on one of the hard-working family man. Once we were engaged, he had me, hook, line and sinker ... and that's when the mind fuck began.  Regularly, he began fueling my low-self esteem by "teaching" me just what levels of bullshit dished out from him I was expected to put up with since I was nerdy, undesirable, not that attractive, too argumentative, too controlling and too bitchy for anyone to ever love me like he did.  These types of lessons (read, brain washing), on top of the gas-lighting previously mentioned, usually occurred after promises had been broken, lies of his had been uncovered and the sham he had created to lure me into marrying him was threatening collapse.  Over time, he would cycle between building me up and breaking me down to the point where I no longer trusted my feelings or my instincts, so I rationalized away the doubts that I had. Red flags? I pretended not to see them because I didn't have faith in my judgement of them being real warnings that I should heed. And whenever he told me that I was the crazy one, I believed him. At least for the short while between saying "yes" and "I do".



Editorial note:  Title credit for this post goes to the amazing Joelle Caputa, author of this article of a similar title, and the upcoming and destined-to-be best seller, Trash the Dress:  Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s.

23 comments:

  1. There was something freeing about writing this type of post for me. I knew the reasons why but to articulate them helped me to see it clearly.

    Hope it was therapeutic for you also-- Tina ;)

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  2. It was so therapeutic for me! Thank you :)

    I feel like a giant weight has lifted or something. Not to mention, getting it all out helped me cope with some other anxieties I've been dealing with surrounding C's first weekend visitation with the STBX starting tomorrow. When I can't sleep because my brain won't shut off, I blog. It helps. It is the whole reason why I started doing it in the first place. Cheap therapy that I could tailor to my own needs!

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  3. Did you get the conditions you requested for visitation?

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    1. To be determined. We are battling all of that out in court next month. That's a whole other can of worms for an entirely different post that I can't muster writing just yet.

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  4. I also married/ divorced one of those 'bad boy' types, for many of the same reasons you meantioned. I'm still trying to figure out how to build the back bone so I don't fall for the same type again, any advice? Low self esteem + being too nice to say no = a bad combination.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear you went through a similar period of misery, but also happy for you that you didn't stay and subject yourself to the misery for life. That's the first -- and hardest -- step.

      You know how alcoholics and drug addicts need to hit "rock bottom" in order to really and truly realize they have a problem and do what they need to recover? The same concept applied to my life when it came to men and relationships. I had to hit rock bottom. Being a mother and trapped in a marriage to a narcissistic mental case put me in at that low point and I will stop at nothing to make sure I never ever make the same mistakes again.

      I'll be writing a post soon detailing what changed in me, what lit a fire under my ass and how I grew a set of (metaphorical) set of balls that has allowed me to start over and live the life that I want. Stay tuned! Sign up to receive my posts in your e-mail. Follow me on twitter @OverWondeful :)

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  5. I have to say that I have NEVER been attracted to "bad guys." They actually repulsed me. I am not sure if it was upbringing or my birth order...

    It is good that you are able to answer these questions but I question some of your answers: With answer #2 you seem to be saying "because I am a woman I am pre-dispositioned to abcde." Bad answer. You are a human being capable fo self reflection. Saying that genetic pre-dispositioning makes you unable to make good choices in your personal life is problematic for obvious reasons. The last answer is not an answer at all. The question was about you, not him.

    Don't externalize. You're giving your power away.

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    1. I don't think I was trying to make sense of the reasons by only discussing the reasons that I was entirely responsible for ... which is why I included the part about my STBX and his narcissistic manipulation. He was spending money behind my back, opening credit cards without my knowledge, struggeling with porn addiction; the list goes on. More than 2/3 of his sketch ball behavior was kept hidden from me and on the DL until after I said "I do". So, if I had known about it before maybe I would have been less compelled to go through with the marriage given the other issues too? I don't know.

      Also, I'm not blaming mother nature. I'm simply pointing out the fact that women like to try and "fix it" and be the nurturing "picker-uppers". It is just natural. Not something blame-worthy.

      Thanks for the positive feedback though. *sarcasm*

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    2. P.S. Please feel free to explain how my own self-reflection could be classified as "not good enough". Or rather, how could my personal perspective on my own life and my own reasoning as to why things may have gone one way or the other be labeled as "bad answers" to my own questions? I think my answers are honest and MY take on my choices given where I was in life at the time they were made. Yeah, I was not in the greatest place when I walked down the aisle and I made a giant mistake. The reasons behind that mistake are going to reflect that. Poor choices are usually made by people not at the top of their game for whatever reason. :)

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  6. Phenom,

    I was not being sarcastic at all.

    Again, the questions were about you & what was it about you that led to the decision making.

    Rather than sticking to "I statements" and descriptions about yourself...The second answer seemed to say that there were uncontrollable compulsions you had due to being female and the last answer was about him. To be honest, the only answer that was really about you seemed to be the one about self esteem. All of the others seem to be about external factors beyond your decision-making and control.

    My intention was not to upset you.

    Good luck.

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    1. I wasn't saying you were being sarcastic. I, however, WAS when I responded.

      1) my STBX being a bad guy -- I pretty much admitted that my attraction to him was bizarre and complex and had a lot to do with my self esteem, my place in life at the time, my unhealthy addiction to the natural high that resulted from his exciting, unpredictable and daring behavior that was so much different from my own etc. (please see referenced link in that section). I don't think I just said anything along the line of "Oh well, he was a hot bad ass so it is his fault". No. It's way more complex than that and it wasn't black and white.

      2) Wanting to fix him. Well, that had a lot to do with being a woman no matter which way you dress it up or dress it down. It's a motherly instinct thing. And this actually being part of the problem was directly tied to number 1 and number 3.

      3) My self esteem. I had none. 'Nuff said. According to you, I don't need any more explanation here.

      4) Picking someone opposite to me and then telling about what happened from that is me obviously and outright admitting my poor reasoning abilities and my inability to use good judgement in choosing a mate. I think you may have skipped over attacking this point in your comments.

      5) My STBX being a manipulative, gas-lighting narcissist. Well, I'm sorry to get defensive here, but until you've been taken advantage of and completely manipulated by a sociopathic psychopath, I don't think you have any right to make a clear victim in that scenario feel like she should not feel victimized. I hate claiming to be a "victim" at all, and I think my story and speaks volumes to that fact. But, point blank, I WAS a victim to his issues for a very long time. I was subjected to a lot of emotional abuse where another person controlled a very large portion of my sense of reality for a very long time. Make of it what you will, but I was subjected to a LOT of manipulative mind control for 6 years and that takes a HUGE amount of knowledge, strength, courage and support to get out of. Thankfully, I had that and I got out only 2 years into the marriage. Thank GOD. As much as I even hate to admit it, that had a lot to do with why I was afraid to call off the wedding. 6 years of being manipulated and gas-lighting is not something to scoff at. Or try and say that wasn't "reason enough" to make the mistakes that I did.

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  7. Hi Phenom,

    This response was a little better. It focused more on you.

    I have a few comments.

    Gas lighting is a very real phenomenon which manipulative people use to wear us down and control us. Sorry you had to go through that in a personal relationship. I have experienced it professionally and personally myself, so I know what that's like - very painful and confusing.

    Wanting to fix other people is a personality type thing, not a gendered problem. For example, there are plenty of males with a "Rescuer" complex. The bottom line is recognizing your own shortcomings & mitgiating them with self reflection is your best defense against being victimized again. What you originally posted sounded a lot like - "I couldn't help it because I am a woman." Plus you gave lots of detail about what was wrong with him when the questions were about you. And - like it or not - the only person thatype of thinking harms is you.

    in this response, you said: "I don't think you have any right to make a clear victim in that scenario feel like she should not feel victimized."

    I have no control over you and I can't "make" you feel anything Phenom.

    This is exactly what I am trying to explain to you. The way we express ourselves reveals how we think. You still seem to be in a mental place where you're giving your power away to someone else. I am making you feel something? No - you are responsible for your feelings and reactions.

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  8. Found something which may help you. http://www.therapyideas.net/triangles.htm

    Again - good luck

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    1. I'm not afraid to explore my role as the victim in my past relationship, or what I did/did not do to play into that or contribute to what happened.

      I'm also, in no way arguing that you, or anyone for that matter, translate my attempts to state that it is not productive to blame a victim into somehow saying that someone who's been victimized not grow by self-reflecting and really seeing their role as to why or how that came to be.

      Also, I find your comment thread somewhat contradicting in some areas. You admit how gaslighting has made you feel in life, then go on and tell me that it isn't right for me to allow my ex's behavior to have influence on my own feelings. That doesn't make much sense, in my opinion.

      It is unrealistic to expect the actions and behaviors of any significant person in your life (a spouse, friend, family member coworker) NOT to have an impact on your feelings. I think that would border on being unfeeling and incapable of experiencing attachment and intimacy.

      Then again, I'm not claiming to be a psychological expert. Are you?

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  9. How predictable. You're not as smart as you give yourself credit for.

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    1. I must have missed life's memo regarding how predictable it is. Especially when it comes to love, matters of the heart, marriage, making mistakes etc.

      If you have your copy handy, could you please mail it to me?

      And, sadly, 'til true -- only stupid people make mistakes. The current divorce rate of almost HALF is surely proof that only the intelligent ones get it right the first time.

      HA!

      I'm not saying I'm a genius. But, for the record, I am smart enough to know how to traffic track my blog and that "anonymous" selection you make there when you leave a comment is only an illusion. I see you!! (IP, location, number of visits, page views etc.)

      Oh technology, how I love thee!!

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    2. Paranoid, much? Your failure at marriage is laughably predictable."OMG I fell for the bad boy cos I like totally thought I could change him!" Boohoo.

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    3. What am I paranoid about? Traffic monitoring a blog is a responsible thing to do. It's called being responsible when managing internet content.

      What am I "boohoo-ing" about? A majority of this blog content is about celebrating starting over and learning from my past. I am excited, thrilled and overall content. Thank you!

      The only thing laughable, at best, is your "anonymous" absurdity. But troll on as you wish, as you apparently have nothing else better or more worthwhile to do.

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    4. This whole blog is you justifying bad decisions. Boohoo indeed.

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    5. LOL

      If my blog equates to a pity party in your eyes, you're hereby excused from continuing your active participation in the dismal celebration with your illogical commentary.

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    6. Oh no, its a lot of fun watching you flail about, its hilarious. A monument to failure. Amazing blog. Keep it up.

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    7. "It's", not its.

      Amazing intellect. Keep it up. Sure does reflect the "value" of your criticism. ;)

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  10. Phenom...I just stumbled across your blog and I must say, I feel like I could've wrote it! We are very much alike in both thought and situation. I too am 30, a single mother of an almost 2 year old boy and about 6 months into my mandatory year separation.

    Thanks for writing this. While I'm sorry for all you're going through, I appreciate knowing I'm not alone in neither my current struggles nor the reasons for marrying STBX in the first place. I agree that the self reflection piece is very freeing.

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Have something insightful or intelligent to contribute? Please do. A diverse variety of comments ranging from praise to criticism are welcome here, so long as we all play nice and refrain from hostile hate compounded by ignorance.

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