This post follows on from the story of me and Jim; the married man who was 21 years older whom I’d met at 25, and had a relationship with for 4.5 years.
When Jim told me he was leaving his wife and two children for me, I was shocked and panicked. I knew this was not what I wanted, and felt the heavy burden of breaking up a family on my shoulders. I called my sister in tears and finally spilled the beans about our relationship, asking her what to do – I loved this man but this was a situation I didn’t want. She rightly told me to break it off immediately. So I mustered up the courage (dreading the moment of delivering Jim bad news), but I told him that it was all over and I couldn’t be a part of his family break up.
Jim was devastated. So devastated in fact, that he was angry, emotional, and upset, and blamed me for ruining his life by walking away. Now he had nothing and nobody, and it was my fault. He cried and pleaded for support during this difficult time and I felt so torn that I agreed to stay, and help him through his emotional turmoil.
I loved him so much and wanted to make sure he was okay, after all he’d talked about suicide and there was no way now that I could walk away and leave him to deal with this situation on his own. So I allowed him stay at my apartment as he transitioned out of family life. Eventually over the next few months we fell into what almost seemed like a normal relationship. I was worn out and didn’t want to fight against being with him anymore, I thought maybe he was right, this was the best relationship I could be in.
We even talked about getting married ourselves….he showed me the blue diamond ring he wanted to buy for me. Every day he told me he loved me so much more than anyone else in the world, including his own children. That no one else would love me as much as he did, not even my parents (he said if I ever got into an accident and became a paraplegic, he would look after me every day for the rest of my life). He also mentioned that I was getting a bit older, nearing 30 and that there would be slimmer pickings once I aged beyond this milestone, especially if I wanted children soon. He was so convincing and I was so exhausted that it was easier to believe he could be right; maybe I wouldn’t be able to meet someone else after I turned 30. I would google depressing forums for single women over 30, to assure myself I’d made the right decision staying with Jim and wouldn’t become one of these lonely older childless women. But mostly, just the thought of walking away made me panic – I didn’t want to deal with the emotional fallout of leaving Jim.
We’d planned a 4 week holiday at the end of that year with some friends to Asia, after which we’d look at getting married once his divorce was finalised. But even though I’d assured myself on the surface this was what I wanted, I was fighting against my inner self who knew it wasn’t right. The stress of it all meant I couldn’t eat or function properly, I was losing weight and my hair was falling out.
It so happened that a month before our holiday, I was back in Adelaide for a friend’s wedding. When my family saw me in Adelaide they were shocked, I’d lost so much weight and looked ill. They uncovered the full story (my parents whom had no idea beforehand), and pulled me aside for a serious conversation. They told me Jim was a predator, and that I was being manipulated – that he didn’t truly love me. That I could do so much more for myself, I had my whole life ahead of me and deserved someone with the same, not an old man who had dumped the burden of his marriage break up onto me. My parents reminded me how much they loved me and that my family all wanted the best for me. I knew they were right, and with the support of their love behind me, I returned to Melbourne and told Jim that I was done once and for all.
He was so upset he threw a tantrum and cried all night, lying on the kitchen floor. When I didn’t react (partly because I was so emotionally numb), he asked how I could be so stone cold and not care. I pleaded with him just to go to sleep, so that I could get up for work, but he was too upset. I’d ruined his life yet again and he had no one now. I’d agreed with my family that I would go back to Adelaide to be with them following our break up. But I was so worried about Jim – he was so depressed he had mentioned hurting himself again. So even though I was back in Adelaide, we continued to Skype daily after we broke up, with me asking how he was and him crying about his life and the position I’d put him in.
“One Skype session, he even admitted he’d started cutting himself with a box cutter to numb the pain of our break up, one cut for each day since I’d left him – he showed me.”
So we stayed in touch after our break up, to ease my guilty conscience over what I’d done to him. The break-up then dragged on for another year, with us seeing each other, breaking up, and then reconnecting a few weeks later, each time more toxic than the previous. It was a roller coaster; I felt a toxic connection through guilt/love/obligation that I couldn’t break out of. During that time, I started reading up on toxic relationships, psychopaths and narcissists, and seeing more and more clearly the true nature of our relationship. A lot of things happened that year to slowly bring me more clarity and strength to leave (more details on a later post). But the end point was that after a year or so of going back and forth after our break up, one of my other friends came to me for help ending her own toxic relationship.
Whilst trying to help her, I went to a bookstore to look for a self-help book that could provide her with some guidance. I stumbled across a book on breaking free from toxic relationships and realised it was so relevant for my own situation. I read the book, and subsequently decided I needed true professional help to end this relationship that had now dragged on for 4.5 years. So I saw a psychotherapist, and after a few sessions I finally managed to stop all contact with Jim. I deleted his number, messages, photos, social media and anything else that reminded me of him. …And I suddenly no longer felt a magnetic energy to connect with him.
I was finally free.