There were red flags.
That’s an understatement. There were so many red flags our house must have resembled the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
It’s not that I never recognized the negatives as negative — the lying, the drinking, the humiliation, the threats, the cutting remarks, the checking my phone, the insane accusations, the gaslighting, the yelling the yelling the yelling the yelling.
I know that these things are inherently bad. My parents were nice to me; I’m not one of those women who’s gravitated toward bad man and after bad man, trapped inside some Greek tragedy of repeating a horrible past while trying to outrun it. I don’t have low self-esteem or need to rely upon a man for financial support or subscribe to a faith that dictates I submit to my husband. None of those things are me.
It’s just that I love him. I ran into someone in the Universe with whom I fell so deeply in love that I lost my hold on most aspects of concrete reality. Sure, he was an addict, but that’s only because he was using substances as a stand-in for love — Real Love — the kind he and I had found. And sure, he didn’t seem like that great of a husband his first time around, but that was because it just wasn’t a good fit. And yes, he was prone to dark moods and even unwarranted anger, but none of it was ever about or directed at me (at least not then).
I thought love could save him. And to be honest, I had a dangerously incomplete conception of “love.”
I’ve written about him before, in the form of an apology to his ex-wife, in which I lament having an affair with him while he was still married to her and in which I reveal the chaos and fear I’ve now brought into my own life.
Things tend to come full circle.
I wrote the apology because it’s true and because it needed to be said, and I assumed the response to it would be vitriolic and shaming — abusive, even; I was prepared for the trolls.
But somehow, The Internet, that bottomless pit of anonymity and evil, offered me not only understanding but empathy and redemption.
I now know, primarily because of the thoughtful and overwhelming response to that story, that I am most likely sharing a life with someone who exemplifies one (or more) of the “B Cluster” disorders: narcissistic, borderline, anti-social. I also know that these disorders are almost always impossible to treat.
I should have put this all together, should have recognized and identified the sequencing — the way he warped me so gradually, chipped away at my psyche taking bite-sized pieces until only crumbs remain, the fractured ghost of who I used to be.
I’m a programmer — I write code; I specialize in detailed sequencing. I understand, intimately and precisely, how each small command purposefully and inevitably leads to the next step, all of it culminating in a complex functionality that is governed entirely by its own internal logic, regardless of whether that logic operates anywhere else on earth.
The problem, I think, is that I’ve been inside The System. The logic did make sense to me, because I’ve been operating within its borders, its batshit-crazy borders. It becomes normal to report every single text message you receive if you do it all the time. It becomes normal to mentally tabulate each second you spend away from home, if you know you’ll be made to account for them the second you cross the threshold. It becomes second nature to bite your tongue before telling him about any small achievement or good thing you’ve experienced because you know he’s just going to say something to trivialize it. It becomes habit to continually remind yourself you’re not crazy if there’s always someone else in the room assuring you that you are. It becomes easy to believe that what’s happening to you isn’t really that bad if he keeps telling you it’s not; nobody beat you.
It’s like living in a structure made of funhouse mirrors. If literally everything is distorted, you forget how things should actually look; the distortion becomes reality. The solid ground is somewhere beneath me, but where is anyone’s guess, and even when I manage to locate it it shifts again and I slip into another crevasse.
I thought I was too smart to be abused, and I wasn’t. But knowing what I know now, I have to be too smart to allow my life to remain like this.
The good thing about code is that it can be rewritten.