I recently broke up with a boyfriend of two years, and though I know it was for the best ... I can't seem to move on. I clung on to this man longer than I should have, and made him the center of my universe and now my center is gone. I don't know how to move on and I don't know how to be alone.
This man is charming, and he showed me a way to live a fun and exciting life like I've always dreamed of. I've always been the responsible one. I'm a lawyer and mother and though I dreamed of having a crazy party-driven life, I never really tasted that life until I was with my ex-boyfriend. I derived my sense of self-esteem from him, because he was so handsome and so charming and I couldn't believe such a handsome man would be interested in me. He knew the right things to say, told me he loved me in a way he had never felt before. He was physically affectionate in a way that I always wanted, and never thought I'd have. Our sex life was out of this world. I don't know if I was in love with him or whether I was infatuated with his persona. I'm still trying to figure that part out.
A year into our relationship, he had to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco for work. I turned my life upside down to follow him because I believed I couldn't live without him in my life. A few months after making that move, I discovered that he had secretly been soliciting random men from Craigslist for sex during our entire relationship. I was heartbroken. I had no idea he was bisexual in the least, and I had no idea he was cheating on me. It was rampant. He was emailing random men several times per week and actually met with them for anonymous sex at least once per week. There were some women and some female prostitutes in the mix, but it appears that the actual sex only occurred with men. I was shocked to discover this truth about his sexuality as well as his infidelity. When I confronted him, he was very honest and he answered all of my questions and he said he would do anything that was required to show how sorry he was and to keep me in his life. He confessed that he had been soliciting men off of Craigslist long before he even met me, and that it started even before his failed first marriage. I don't believe his ex-wife has any idea even to this day that he was seeing prostitutes and men behind her back. He explained that he could not love a man, and he only wanted the physical sensation. He said he only ever loved me. I believe that sexuality is not black and white, it's a spectrum and we all fall somewhere in the many shades of gray. I convinced myself that since he was having sex with men, it could not have been sex for love and it was only sex for physical stimulation and somehow that category of cheating was easier for me to try to forgive and move on. I wanted him in my life at all costs, because I was afraid of being alone and because I thought I could never get another man so handsome and so charming to want to be with me.
Trying to recover from the shock of discovering his secret sexual life was very difficult for me. The most scary part is that I still to this day can not think of any clues or signs that I should have picked up on to signal his activity. He was a master at keeping that secret part of his life secret. Before I found out about his infidelity, he used to accuse me of being very jealous and his favorite example would be that he should be able to call me from a roomful of naked women and I still should have faith that he wasn't cheating, I should always give him the benefit of the doubt. In the abstract, I do believe in giving a loved one the benefit of the doubt. But considering that he was rampantly cheating on me when he uttered those words, I believe that he was very cruel.
Fast-forward a year later. I thought I had worked through all of the issues associated with his cheating. However, toward the end of our relationship, he started literally ignoring me. We did not live together, so I understood we couldn't be connected 24/7, yet he wouldn't take my calls, he would not respond to text messages, he would not respond to emails. He told me he could only see me one weekend per month ... and then one day, he broke it off ... via phone. I found out after the fact that he had been telling people for months that our relationship didn't mean anything to him and that he was in an open relationship. That was not true.
Now, I find myself wondering how he could be so loving and charming when we were together, and be so awful and cruel behind my back? Mostly, I am trying so hard not to be bitter. I don't understand why he could be so cruel to me, and now he is literally having the time of his life without me. His career is at a lifetime high, he is in the most prestigious position he has ever had, making the most money he's ever made. He lives in the best part of town, and he goes drinking and partying every night. Since he left me, he is having the most fun of his life. It's not fair that someone could treat another person so terribly and be rewarded in life. So many people think he is such a wonderful person -- he is very well liked by many, many people -- but secretly I know the truth. I, on the other hand, am trying to rebuild a life after letting him be the center of my world for the last two years. I'm in therapy, trying to make sense of how cruelly he cheated on me and how someone I loved so much could be so deceptive. It doesn't seem fair to me that he could cheat on me so rampantly, leave me in such a cold way, and now he is at the pinnacle of his life and I'm fighting just to create a life for myself.
I no longer believe in karma. I don't believe that what comes around goes around. Bad people can do bad things and they're still rewarded in life. It's not fair. I treated this man like a king. Even after I found out about his cheating with men, I treated him with respect and dignity while trying to move on. "Exposing" his bisexuality would have severe consequences in his family (unfortunately, they don't have the same perspective on sexuality that I do) and I have no intention of ever being "the bitter ex-girlfriend." I fight internally, because on one hand I want him to suffer some consequences for how he treated me and yet I know it's not right to wish ill will toward anyone.
What do I do now? How do I move on with grace and dignity? How do I move on from someone who treated me so poorly, and yet seems to be rewarded in life at every turn?
What Comes Around Does Not Go Around
Dear What Comes Around,
"Sociopaths want three things in life: power, control and sex," says "Love Fraud" author Donna Andersen. "They crave stimulation, and sex, of course, is one of the most stimulating activities that a human being can engage in. So they are promiscuous. They push the boundaries of what their partners find acceptable. They get bored with normal and seek the taboo."
Your ex-boyfriend sounds like a sociopath.
Sociopaths hurt people and break laws. But the laws they break are not on our law books. The crimes they commit are crimes against the human spirit. So maybe you can't put this guy in jail for what he did. But you can certainly regard him as a criminal, as a dangerous and irredeemable person who has no place in your life.
And you can devote the needed time to recover from this attack.
Since you are a lawyer, the book "Responsibility and Psychopathy: Interfacing Law, Psychiatry and Philosophy" may also interest you. It's edited by Luca Malatesti and John McMillan, and available from Oxford University Press.
It's good that you have a therapist, but you might want to consult someone who has special expertise in helping people recover from involvement with sociopaths. See what your current therapist thinks. My take on it is that you deserve the absolute best help you can get. And in my own experience, people who have been through the same thing have an amazing ability to intuitively grasp what you are facing. One intuitive leap from a person who has been there can save you months of foundering about. Don't be a people-pleaser about this. It's too important. Make sure that you are getting the help you really need.
Here's the positive side. This thing can be a turnaround for you. This can be the moment at which you make a great breakthrough and see life in a new way, and see that certain beliefs you have may have made you vulnerable to this predatory personality.
"Bad people can do bad things and they're still rewarded in life," you say. "It's not fair." You're right. It's not fair. That's why we have laws. That is probably one reason you decided to become a lawyer. Since life is not fair, we need a system to redress injustice. We also need systems for nonmaterial crimes.
You also say, "I wanted him in my life at all costs, because I was afraid of being alone and because I thought I could never get another man so handsome ..."
This belief can be paralyzing. Perhaps this moment will allow you to let go and trust that there's going to be enough for you, that there are other handsome men out there and that being alone is not such a terrible thing.
You can recover from this. There is a part of you that is strong and knows that a wrong was committed. Lean on that part of yourself. Seek redress. Heal yourself. Never let this happen again.
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