Liz Update & Gaslighting

Liz Update:

A few days ago Liz emailed that she was taking her dog and leaving the state. Headed to where she was offered the job that paid better. She wasn’t taking all her things. Just leaving for now.

The husband is about to drive her crazy. He’s waiting for her when she comes home. He hounds her. He shows his anger over various things.

I hope she takes this job and moves. He might still find ways to hound her. But when she’s farther away, it won’t be so easy for him. The distance will help her feel safer.

Gaslighting:

I don’t know if I’ve been under a rock or what, but it’s only recently that I’ve been aware of the word gaslighting.

Gaslighting (in this sense) is a term used to describe a man who manipulates a partner into doubting their own sanity.

Had I understood this means of control when I was married, I wouldn’t have looked at myself in the mirror and said: “Well, I don’t have a black eye or a broken lip. So maybe this isn’t abuse.”

It truly does make you doubt your sanity. And it certainly erodes your confidence.

You just can’t see it because the bruises are on the inside.

You hear the words in your head, over and over again, even when he isn’t saying them to you. And you wonder at times if what he says is true.

Where did the phrase come from?

The phrase originated from a 1938 mystery thriller written by British playwright Patrick Hamilton called Gas Light, made into a popular movie in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

In the film, husband Gregory manipulates his adoring, trusting wife Paula into believing she can no longer trust her own perceptions of reality.

In one pivotal scene, Gregory causes the gaslights in the house to flicker by turning them on in the attic of the house.

Yet when Paula asks why the gaslights are flickering, he insists that it’s not really happening. That it’s all in her mind, causing her to doubt her self-perception.

Hence the term “gaslighting” was born. (Via Vox)

How this applies to my own experience:

He would say to me: “Why don’t you just kill yourself. The world would be better off. Your children would be better off. You know you want to. So why don’t you just do it?”

When I think about it all, really think about it, I’m there again. It all comes rushing back like it was yesterday.

I sometimes feel anger toward him and sometimes I feel guilt that maybe I was too much for him. That I was a patient that couldn’t be helped. Maybe my problems were his professional undoing.

Such a relationship is never on a level playing field:

And I think he did try to curtail what was happening. He did say I should see another therapist. But the thought of telling three years worth of painful gut-wrenching stuff to someone else was unthinkable.

It felt good to have a man saying nice things to me. I was flattered and I smiled more.

Then as the ball started rolling downhill, faster and faster, I told myself I was in love. And that made what was happening okay.

After a few months I pulled away from him. Something didn’t feel right. I stopped seeing him or answering his phone calls, and he couldn’t handle it. He became obsessed and I became afraid.

He was censured and even that didn’t stop him.

And still, after ten years of no contact, he located me and I ended up marrying him. Why, I continually ask myself. Why did I do such a thing?

You must think I’d lost my mind. How could I do something so unbelievably crazy?

When guilt becomes love, or so you tell yourself:

I felt guilty because I’d caused him professional harm. There was now a blight on his record. And it was because of me that it was there. I told myself if he’d never met me, he would have been okay.

Somehow, I guess I felt that if I could make it up to him, I would have paid my dues. Then maybe the guilt that I often stewed in would go away.

You see I didn’t listen to my gut. Even though I knew there was an imbalance in such a relationship and probably always would be. I stupidly threw caution to the wind.

Why, why, why?

His finding me should have told me that something was very wrong. Red lights should have been blinking in my brain.

Instead it was somehow easier to fall back into a relationship. Because he promised that no one would ever love me like he did.

He was a doctor with all this knowledge and education, so he must know what he was talking about.

When you’ve told this person every secret you’ve ever harbored and he loves you anyway, then that must be love.

I know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead. But sometimes at night, after the lights are off, I visualize him in a coffin. And then I visualize the dirt on top of it.

Does that make me a bad person? I don’t know. But it sure makes me feel safer.

It gives me a measure of peace. And if that’s wrong, then so be it.

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20 Comments

  1. You are not a bad person. I believe your visualization makes you feel safe. Safe that he will never hurt you again. Give yourself a break. You deserve that much! Yours is the only blog I follow!

  2. Your ex-husband was a preditor and you were his prey. His words encouraging you to kill yourself show an individual of unspeakable horror, a soulless sociopath. I wonder why hearing “a man “ say nice things to you allowed you to be so taken in. There was an obvious imbalance in your relationship. You were coming from a genuine, authentic place and he was looking for someone to dominate, control. You looked for help, he was looking for a woman who was an easy mark.
    Well, the truth won out. You were ultimately the strong one, the survivor. And I bet he hated that unti the day he died.
    Liz is in my prayers. ( Are you sure she is, indeed, a real person and that this isn’t a catfish situation. I just read an article about catfish and it shook me to the core.)

  3. That old saying, “Don’t speak ill of the dead” is based on what? We shouldn’t speak ill of anybody, of course, but especially of the dead, even if they were not good persons? I don’t think it’s any worse to speak the truth about the dead than about the living. Some of the dead were not good people when they were alive and dying didn’t do anything to change that. Dying doesn’t sanctify us in the least, in my opinion. So, I think it’s fine for you to tell the truth about your ex-husband, which is that he was not a good person and did not treat you well in any way.

    I’m happy to hear that Liz is taking her puppy and leaving town and I hope she decides to take that job and makes a new, happier life for herself. Hopefully, he will not be able to find her once she leaves and she won’t have to deal with him ever again. I wonder if there were signs that he was unbalanced when she married him. Usually there are red flags, but many of us don’t notice them or if we do don’t pay them the attention they deserve. Being infatuated with someone or desperate for a relationship can blind one to signs we should be taking seriously. I speak for myself here as well as anyone else. And I don’t consider desperation or infatuation to be real love. I have a quotation about love that I consider a truth. It is: “It is said that Love is blind. Love is not blind; it is only through Love that we see rightly.” So, true Love is something much different than the feelings that often lead us into relationships that aren’t good for us. How do we learn to discriminate between the feelings we mistake for Love and the real thing? I think to recognize real Love we have to be approaching the relationship from a position of strength and self-respect rather than desperation or helplessness. Many of us just are not mature enough or mentally healthy enough to be able to do that. And we end up in relationships which are to one extent or another not healthy and sometimes dangerous. I’ve always tho’t it would be a good idea if no one was allowed to marry until they were at least forty. Maybe by that time we would know enough to pick the right person! Maybe not! Relationships—Life—are complicated. Anyway, I hope Liz is on the path to safety and a more fulfilling life. And, Brenda, I am sorry that you have had to deal with a man who did not respect you and did not treat you kindly or with love in any way. I’m sorry that you and Liz and anyone else has to go through that kind of sorrow. Then, again, there’s that other old saying that goes: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” So, there you have it. We wouldn’t be the strong women we are without our own difficult and painful experiences. I end here; I didn’t mean to go on so long.

    Hope you and the furry ones have a restful weekend together. We have had four inches of snow here last night, so I’m staying in and staying warm. Hugs and pats.

  4. So happy that Liz is moving away and will be starting a new life with her little doggie. I wish her all the luck.
    I am so sorry that you had to put up with the mental treatment that your ex gave you. It is so sad that some men are so controlling. I am so glad he is gone and he will never bother you again. Hopefully these memories will fade away.
    You have your sweet little Charlie and Miss Ivy, what more do you need to be happy.

    Love to the 3 of you
    Marilynn and Hayley

  5. Some good points have come up here regarding Liz moving and how that will effect her legal situation. I do believe women flee a great distance to escape abuse as they are divorcing so there’s probably a way of dealing with that. Might move her case from county court to state/federal court if she changes states, but the legal work would be done as it is now. I think it can vary from state to state and if she’s in a no fault state she should do better with division of assets, including property. Could be assets and income of both parties is considered and devided equally and her new income could be taken into consideration during the bean counting process. Another legal issue to investigate is how did her husband legally change ownership of her property to his name and how did he legally remove her from ownership of their jointly held property. Something seems wrong with the explanation of what happened with that. Did Liz sign legal documents at some point that proves this was done. Why would she? If he took money from her bank account without the legal right to do so he should be in legal trouble for that. If he took or used any credit with her name (only) on the account he should be in legal trouble for that as well. As it was said before, if Liz feels her attorney isn’t well versed in divorce concerns in regard to abuse and stalking cases, she might consider exploring her options. I do wonder why, if this guy did indeed gain legal controll of their property and bank accounts, why is he so worried? Is his anger and attempt to control her about manipulating her into staying with him or is he afraid of how many ways he could be in trouble with the law? Something about this story seems off and I hope her legal council is doing his or her job. Moving away sounds like a good idea. A fresh start and new employment that provides the ability for her to support herself is the best thing she can do for herself. Her soon to be ex sounds like a desperate man who knows his ship is about to be sunk.

  6. It doesn’t make you a bad person it means you’re human. He knew your weaknesses and played you like a fiddle. This happens in all kinds of relationships. Parents can do this to children. Play on their weaknesses to keep them needy then complain they have to take care of them. It’s all very sick and depressing. We all have our skeletons. When someone uses that for control it’s evil. He pretended you were the sick evil one when he should have been looking in the mirror. You ask if you were a bad person but bad people never ask that. It’s always the other person drove them or provoked them to do bad things. See the difference? Most of us are broken to varying degrees so we make mistakes.

  7. SO happy to hear that Liz is moving with her pup and hopefully on her way to a new life. Frankly, her husband sounds a little dangerous. All of a sudden after transferring their homes( one joint and one she owned) into his name, draining their bank accounts and going to South American to stay with his girlfriend he is back and wanting what from Liz? My thoughts and prayers are with her.

  8. As a Retired RN I got every job I applied for and in any state. And I know that Liz will also. I just had to renew my license for that state I was going to work in. I have worked in 4 different states due to hubbys job transfers. I have been married 48 years and of course we have disagreed on some things that’s just human nature. Best Wishes to Liz.

  9. I’ll be blunt. Some people don’t deserve to live. Prime examples are your ex-husband now, thankfully, six feet under, and Liz’s husband. She needs to inform her divorce attorney to apply for a restraining order against this dude ASAP. She also needs to discuss whether she would have to establish residency in a new county if she does decide to move permanently and then re-file her divorce action and start all over again. That would suck. At a minimum, if he knows where she works he’ll always be able to harass her. Liz may also be in danger. How many times have we read horror stories all over the country about men who are being divorced by long-suffering wives and the men end up killing the women. Her attorney may not be able to give her adequate advice on this situation. She needs to talk to a professional – preferably another woman – who deal with this kind of abusive male personality and can give Liz some practical advice. Maybe a local non-profit group that works with battered women who finally flee their husbands would be able to give Liz the kind of advice and moral support she needs right now.

  10. Hi Brenda. Thanks for sharing about Liz. It sounds like her husband is very unstable and it’s good she is getting farther away from him. On the subject of gaslighting, I experienced it in my first marriage in the 1980s, but didn’t realize that’s what was happening. I only heard the term a few years ago myself. When I heard it, I realized that not only did it happen with my first husband, but that my parents both treated me and my siblings with gaslighting at times as well. So, I guess it wasn’t such a surprise that I got into a marriage where my husband treated me that way. Both of my parents and my first husband would say things and behave in ways that seemed loving and supportive, but they also said and did a lot of things to cause me to doubt myself and be confused. Looking back, it seemed to be a way that they could be in control, plus, they set things up so they could feel better about themselves. I won’t go into specifics because I need to be going somewhere, but I wanted to make a comment now and say, If we compared the details of what our husbands said, and how we responded, in our marriages, the specifics would be different, but our feelings would be similar. We would discover that we both still have doubts about ourselves, guilty feelings and so on. And we have to accept that our husbands married us because of the kind of screwed-up people they were, and they needed someone who was insecure like us, so that they could convince themselves that they were OK even though they weren’t. And, it really is OK to be glad that they aren’t around anymore to hurt us.

  11. No, you are NOT a bad person for thinking that about your ex, Brenda!! Sounds like a good closure to me ~
    YAY for Liz!!! But I do agree about her getting a restraining order on her crazy man.

  12. Based on what you wrote about Liz initially (nurse for over 30 years, couldn’t afford an attorney), she is in her 50s and not financially secure. Looking at the glass half full, that job is a gift. It’s very difficult to find a job in your 50s, much less one that pays decently (part of my career experience, unfortunately). Maximizing her earnings will allow her to pay her legal fees, move on with her life, and increase her retirement savings if that is something she needs. I truly hope she will follow the advice of her attorney on how to ensure her personal safety.

  13. I’m so glad that Liz is moving away from that husband and taking that job! He wants his cake and eat it too it seems! He probably feels that he has done nothing wrong. So typical! She will be alot safer too!

    Brenda, you are not a bad person and don’t you ever think like that! He put you through hell mentally and physically! A doctor saying that to his own wife! That bastard should of rotted in his own prison for saying this to you repeatedly along time ago! You are getting your justice now…finally! Thank God you are still here to tell us!

    You are a smart, caring, kind hearted, animal lover person who loves to help others anyway you can. Your compassionate to gardening, quilting, sewing, crocheting, and decorating your home to make it cozy. Hence like the title of your blog, you said it perfectly! You are also family oriented!
    Now this little summary doesn’t sum up a bad person!!! So please stop talking and thinking like that!

    Stay warm and have a great day! ?

  14. Wishing the very best for Liz~!
    Thoughts become things so don’t visualize anything that’s going to make YOU feel guilty about. He isn’t worth it, never was.
    Take care..

  15. There is a great program named GriefShare. Personally, I think asking why starts a controversy so I am careful when someone asks why.

    1. I just heard about GriefShare from a neighbor up the street whose husband passed about 6 months ago. She speaks so highly of it helping her that I want to share with anyone who is grieving for whatever reason.

  16. So glad to hear Liz is taking that job and moving out of state. I hope the separation will cease the ex from pursuing her. If that visualization of your ex in the coffin, gives you leave of mind, I’m all for it. Enjoy your weekend!

    Carol and Molly
    xoxoxo

  17. I too hope that Liz moves, and moves on, from this toxic relationship. I also hope she gets a no-contact order through her attorney.

    I think I can relate to some degree with your feelings about your ex. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel safe.