Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?
I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when it’s ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming, has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings–because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her– has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which at the time I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much). So, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. Once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments, and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you reconnect with yourself? How did you reconnect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?