CN: brief mention of sexual assault
A little over a year ago I got my recently dumped, heartbroken self into a casual “relationship” with someone who ended up assaulting me, though I wasn’t totally cognizant of that at the time. The relationship ended after about a month when the guy told me has was in love with me but too depressed to be in a relationship and that I should stay away from him. Red flags abound. I figured this was his somewhat twisted way of letting me down easy, and I was ultimately glad to be done with him.
A few months later, I got a Facebook message from a woman who told me she was this guy’s wife, and that our relationship happened while she was staying with family in order to get help caring for their newborn. She was not angry with me, thankfully, but it was clear that he had cheated and she wanted to know my side of the story. Obviously, I was beyond horrified, as I had no idea that he was married. A few weeks after this revelation, I got a Facebook message from him (we were never previously connected on social media) congratulating me on a recent accomplishment, which he would have seen from public posts on my page. This creeped me out and I blocked him without responding.
At the end of 2018, nearly a year after this month long relationship, I got another Facebook message from the wife. Apparently, she and her husband had separated, and she was reaching out because I was his “happy place” and she was wondering if I might give him another chance (it seems he asked her to do this). I had been seeing someone new and was obviously not interested in this married monster, or in further involving myself in this weird situation, so I told her no and tried to move on. A few weeks after that, I got a message from the guy from a new Facebook account asking if we could talk because, according to him, he was in a bad place and I made him so happy. I said no, told him not to contact me and blocked him again.
I have not heard from either of them in months, but I can’t stop thinking about this whole thing. I cannot comprehend the level of selfishness it takes for someone to cheat on their wife while she is caring for their baby, then ask said wife to set him back up with the other woman (I also cannot comprehend her willingness to oblige him). That he is narcissistic enough to believe that he still had a chance with me after all of this. This has made me seriously question my ability to judge a person’s character and has bumped up my anxiety to new levels.
I saw him around town a couple of times, and while he either didn’t notice me or pretended not to notice me, it sent me into a panic. He scares me, and he makes me scared to trust other men. I am currently in a relationship with a lovely man who has only shown great care for me. I still lay next to him and frequently think “who the heck is this guy? Will he turn out to be a monster, too?”
I frequently google married guy, thinking this may help me “figure him out” and therefore be perfectly able to spot the subtlest red flags in others. I don’t want to give married guy any more space in my brain. I want to enjoy the relationship I am currently in without wondering if my partner will suddenly unzip his skin suit to reveal a garbage monster. I would go to therapy, but it’s not financially possible for me right now. How do I let this go?
Dear Accidental Ex-Mistress:
“How do I let this go?” is a great question. What is it you wish to release? Is it the anxiety and worry that your current (who sounds pretty cool) will turn heel and become terrible? Do you want to release the idea that you’re always gonna choose the wrong guy?I think the best place to start is with the understanding that being taken in by a complete landfill of a person isn’t a character flaw. Based on your letter, this shitbag manipulates anyone he gets close to. He had his wife ask you to take him back??!!!? After he cheated on her with you??!!!?!? Accidental, my dear, he’s been working on being a manipulative dick for a mighty long time. He’s seasoned. That isn’t your fault.
I completely understand the way you feel about your ability to identify garbage monsters and other ne’er-do-wells. It’s really hard to get caught up in a situation like that and see all the red flags after the fact. Anxiety can exaggerate the feelings of “I should have known,” which is known as hindsight bias, one aspect of PTSD. It sounds like you have deep feelings about your relationship with Married Guy. The feelings may include guilt which may push you towards thinking and feeling like you could have prevented this whole mess. Which brings me to the Googling: stop doing that, please, for your own sake. You are not going to find a magical key to trash ass manipulators the world over. What you have currently is hyper-vigilance that keeps you from enjoying your current partner, and from feeling safe in general. That sucks and is hard to deal with.
I don’t think it’s possible to necessarily let go of the entire Married Guy situation, because the deepest release work is best done with a clinician present. So, here’s what I suggest: write down all the things you now realize were red flags about Married Guy. Write down the red flags you saw when he got back in touch with you, and again when the wife reached out to you. You already have a good idea of what to avoid going forward — and with this list, you get to employ your wisdom to look after yourself in the future. There is no exhaustive list of garbage human traits, because each garbage human is different from the next. The best tools you have are what you’ve learned from the situation and the ability to listen to yourself. It takes some work to redirect your thoughts. “When is he going to treat me badly?” is one hell of a question. I wish there was a one-and-done way to shut that thinking down. For every question like that one, can you come up with an affirmation that completely shuts that shit down? For instance, you might wonder if he’s waiting to reveal something awful about himself. An example affirmation could be about his honesty and transparency. Counteract the negative self talk as best you’re able.
I hope this helps, Accidental Ex-Mistress. I hope you find a way to enjoy yourself and your sweetheart.
About the Author: Lenée is a fat, Black, queer femme who lives in Philadelphia. She’s a lover of Black music, Steven Universe, true crime, and doing the electric slide whenever possible. A new plant mom, Lenée writes on occasion and usually tweets as @dopegirlfresh.