Relapse & Recovery

Last night I got a little melancholy. I think it’s still too soon to listen to Adele while cooking myself dinner on a Friday night. For a moment, I felt a twinge for Mack. I forgot the abuse, and remembered the better times. I thought maybe I was being too hard on him. Maybe I should have answered the email he sent a couple weeks ago about his uncle dying. He sent the email on a Saturday night at 3:20 a.m., and said his uncle had died a month ago. Annie, my therapist, saw it as bait; an attempt to hook me again. I tend to agree, which is why I let the email go unanswered. Nevertheless, last night I found myself missing having him around. I forced myself to snap out of it, and I switched my iPod from Adele to Bomba Estereo’s “Fuego.”

Bumping and grinding my hips around the kitchen was quite therapeutic.

With the crisis averted, I pondered how I had convinced myself that being with Mack was better than being alone. Annie keeps reminding me that Mack is manipulative. That abusers are expert mind-fuckers. Even the strongest women fall victim. (I hate that word, “victim.”)

When Mack proposed to me, he said, “Now you don’t have to be alone any more.”

My immediate reaction, although I didn’t say it out loud was, “What the fuck? You think you are saving me from a doomed life of singledom? You think I’ve been angling desperately for marriage so I don’t have to be alone?”

Yes, I had those thoughts in the middle of his proposal. But they flashed past, and I let them go. I didn’t want to see them. I wanted to say, “Yes!” And so, I did.

Mack thought I was fearful of being alone. In an attempt to capitalize on that perceived fear, to make me cling to him, he often said, “I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you’ve been on your own all these years.”

Although I didn’t have that fear, I soon would. Eventually, I convinced myself that being with Mack, an angry, abusive, jobless man, was better than being alone. Mack also liked to play with the opposite end of the spectrum. He knew I saw myself as an independent, financially secure, successful, strong woman. So he’d say things like, “Why do you care so much about what other people think? What’s wrong with a woman making more money than a man? You’re successful. You’re going to make more than many men you run across. Is money that important? Are you that shallow?”

And then I’d start to think, “I don’t care what other people think. If I want to be with a ‘writer/musician’ with no job, I can. He’ll have more time to support me emotionally. He can take care of our home, write songs and work on his novel, and I’ll have more time to focus on my career. Men have been paying the way for women for years. I am a liberated woman. What’s so wrong with my paying a man’s way? What’s wrong with having a house husband? I am a new generation of woman. I can buck traditional gender roles. After all, I’ve been avoiding the traditional role of women my whole life: single and childless at 48, as well as successful in a male-dominated profession.Love is the most important thing. Money doesn’t matter. It’s all about the love.”

What a bunch of horse shit.

Mack didn’t take care of my home. He didn’t support me emotionally. In fact, he tore me down. He spent very little time working on his writing and his music. From time to time, I’d ask him what he did that day. He’d get angry and say I was abusing him, demeaning him, by making him account for every minute of his time. The next day, he’d give me a list of everything he’d done from the moment he got up until I came home from work:

  • 9:00 – 9:15 made coffee, scrambled eggs
  • 9:15 – 11:15 worked on novel
  • 11:15 – 11:45 personal grooming
  • 11:45 – 12:00 planned dinner
  • 12:00 – 1:30 gym
  • 1:30 – 1:50 lunch
  • 1:50 – 2:30 ran errands (gas, groceries)
  • 2:30 – 4:30 vacuumed, dusted, made bed, cleaned kitchen
  • 4:30 – 5:30 answered emails, responded to on-line job posting
  • 5:30 started dinner

I’d feel petty, as he’d intended, and stop asking, “What did you do today?” when I came home from work.

Despite the list, I was fairly certain Mack spent his days watching sports and exchanging emails with fellow sports fans and ex-girlfriends. And he wasn’t looking for a job. Mack had no intention of working. The woman he was living with when I met him had been supporting him for the past 15 years. Why work? And if I was going to make him work, he’d go back to her. Which he did, the minute I brought it up. Yes, Mack is a taker. And with him, there is no reciprocity.

Regarding the taking, I put together my tax documents for my accountant this week. I’d decided in 2011 to save my sales receipts to see if I could top the standard deduction. As I added up the sales tax paid on each receipt, I got to take a little stroll down 2011 memory lane. I got to relive the things that Mack and I did together. I got to see all the money I spent including him in my life. And I had Tourette’s for the few hours it took to wade through the receipts.

Sushi bills: “User.”

Clothing receipts: “Bloodsucking leech.”

Gas, beer, toothpaste, shoes receipts: “Motherfucking freeloader.”

Dinners, beach toys, groceries, liquor for my birthday trip to Galveston: “Asshole.” (Recall he threw a tantrum that weekend because I sang in the car.)

Engagement ring: “Oy, that’s a lot of sales tax.”

Guitar: “Prick.” (I kept the guitar, and gave it to my niece’s boyfriend at Christmas.)

Stack of receipts from trip to Canada: “Fucking vampire.” And then, “Hallelujah, it’s almost over.” (I broke it off a week and a half after we returned from that trip.)

To be fair, I paid for these things willingly. If I wanted to do anything with Mack at all, there was no choice: he had  no income. So I paid for his company.

Admittedly, I was a tool.

Mack’s mind-fucking, and the resulting self-talk I mentioned earlier, helped me construct the rationalization. It was powerful stuff. In fact, it almost had me married to an abusive, jobless, freeloader, who had absolutely no intention of contributing to the relationship.

I cannot allow myself to forget the emotional abuse. I cannot allow myself to justify and rationalize. I must keep writing, keep blogging, keep reminding myself over and over that this man was an abuser. Mack was emotionally abusive. And I will never allow any man to treat me that way again.

Also, I need to lay off the Adele.


  • Contacting you at 3.20am because his uncle had died ONE month before – classic hook – I’m so glad you didn’t reply. I will always keep the most appalling exchanges, I sometimes need them to remind me just how bad it was. Funny how the brain choses to try and remember just the good times – I refuse to allow that – I believe it’s that that will protect us from these type of men.


    • I find myself trying to find the line between remembering (and not forgiving) for self-protection, and letting go.

      Maybe I’ll post an appalling exchange or two, so people can see what it looks like. I felt so off-balance in the midst of it. If I had seen other accounts, it would have helped me make sense of things.


      • I know that in my case I will never forgive him, why should I, but I have let go. I still get angry when I remember but in a frustrated way – frustrated that he rendered me so weak that I didn’t leave him before I did.


    • I think we all wish we’d left these guys sooner. It’s never soon enough. I think that’s where the forgiveness of self comes in. They’re manipulative as hell. It’s hard to win when you’re up against a master. But we did win. We left.


  • “Now you don’t have to be alone any more.”

    I recognize the attitude behind that line! Having heard men proudly reveal their self perception as the “rescuer” of their spouse, I always wondered if it was an expression of narcissistic grandiosity or just a “male thing.”


    • In Mack’s case, it surely was the narcissistic grandiosity. He’d convinced himself the woman he was living with when I met him (and whom he’s living with now) couldn’t live without him, either. I’d venture to guess she’d be a hell of a lot happier if she threw him out for good.


  • One day I’ll share my story and Mack will look like a damn king…
    new to your blog, but love seeing your strength.. keep shining your light inward!!!


  • This is a really good read, and very educational. “Although I didn’t have that fear, I soon would.” Damn. Been there, done that. You can be proud of yourself for maintaining your current boundaries and for working to keep your spirits up. It sounds like you are winning the war against depression. Kudos.


    • Thanks. I’m glad it was helpful. I was out walking the other day when a song popped up on my iPod he’d written about us and recorded. It was a good song. So good, it sucked me back in after one of our breakups. As I listened, I found some compassion for myself. He knew all the right buttons to push. He wrote a song about the anguish he suffered as a result of our breakup. Maybe I should give him another chance. And so I did. He took advantage of our collective conditioning as women. Love and romance above all else. Fuck that.


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