I STILL HAVE MY SENSE OF HUMOR (because apparently I can actually laugh at this—in a dark way).
Also I am very susceptible to emotional manipulation.
So you know how folktales, fables, and fairy tales were used to pass on moral lessons to children? Well here is my story to tell your kids at bedtime to “scare” them.
I started dating someone who was very nice and was in many ways different than my first husband in the way he treated me. It was nice to be desired and admired and treated well. It was nice having someone fix things at my house, buy me presents, compliment me, help me do dishes, bring me dinner, and treat my kids well. Basically he made me feel safe. I went to the temple and felt like I had been put in this man’s path for a reason – specifically to help him. So I accepted his offer of marriage. Because he didn’t live in the same state he was spending a lot of time traveling to visit me. He began to push for a quick marriage. And so the conflict began.
Here’s just a short list of boundaries that I didn’t keep:
He brought a cat with him on one of his visits. He left it at my house. (He dropped it off on his way out of town while I was at work so it was waiting for me when I got home). He wasn’t going straight home and couldn’t take the cat with him where he was going without endangering it (leaving it in the heat of the car for long hours at a time).
He had some paperwork that he needed to go through so he could submit a claim to the military for some benefits he felt he’d been denied. He asked for my help because it was overwhelming for him. He said he had some boxes that needed to be sorted so he could get the important documents out. Every time he tried, he would suffer from PTSD and shut down. So I said of course I’d help sort paperwork.
He showed up with 17 boxes of paper. He left the boxes in my garage – unsorted because frankly 17 boxes was a little overwhelming for me too.
He had hurt his back prior to meeting me and it required surgery to remove a piece of bone that was pushing against his spinal cord. After a hospital stay the VA finally saw him but said they couldn’t do anything for six months. So he came to see a specialist here and suggested we get married because my insurance would cover it and he wouldn’t have to wait. He was very concerned that he might be paralyzed if the bone severed his spinal cord. I felt quite a bit of guilt as he cried about how he was afraid of being paralyzed and how I could save him if only I would marry him. I managed to come up with another solution which meant we didn’t have to get married so abruptly. He began to say things like “if you don’t want me…” and I would promptly assure him that I did.
He had a fire up at his property. He lost a lot of things. His place was not going to be habitable for the upcoming winter. He planned to store some things at his son’s here where I live but the son didn’t have room. So guess where it ended up. My garage. Except for the 2nd cat. That one was now in my house too.
His Bishop and another member of his ward told me that he would come back from seeing me a changed man and how much better he was doing since he met me. And of course there were more resources for his PTSD and health here with a large VA than in his rural town.
After Thanksgiving, he fled his home because of the weather. He showed up with a third cat and nowhere to live. So he was on my couch for the time being and I was hoping no one would notice that I had a man living with me that I wasn’t legally married to.
Eventually he began to say things like: “If I’m not married by my birthday I’ll just go back to my place and stay until I die. No one wants me and I’m useless anyway.”
ARE YOU HORRIFIED YET?
Well here I was, with most of his possessions in my garage, three cats, and a homeless VET sleeping on my couch. Ever heard of FOG? The three parts of emotional blackmail?
Fear: Basically I’m living with a man out of wedlock so I was feeling a little fear about what the church would have to say about that. Plus I hate conflict. So there was the fear of conflict if I told him to take his stuff and go. What if he refused to go?
Obligation: I’d made promises to him. That I wouldn’t abandon him because he suffered from depression and PTSD (as his first wife had abandoned him). And I was supposed to help him. I’d gotten that impression remember?
Guilt: He was going to die if I broke it off with him.
So I grudgingly married him – on the last possible day before his birthday, at the courthouse, with the minimum witnesses, and no fanfare. And ten minutes later when he handed me his phone to look at our wedding pictures I found porn. And I wasn’t even looking.
When I immediately told him that it was over there was so much snot and tears and wailing and finally a call from his Bishop asking if I could possibly let him stay until the weather changed because his house out in the country had no water or electricity and was exposed to the elements and if he came back HE WOULD DIE.
Long story short: I let him stay because I wasn’t so heartless that I could send someone away to die. But I started saying things like “If you feel like you need to take your life please call someone. I can call a suicide hotline for you if you would like.” And every time he said “I’m sorry I ruined your life” I answered “apology accepted”. And when he would banish himself to the garage to sleep on the couch and text me “I’ll just leave you alone since I can’t do anything right” I would text back “ok” and just go to bed. And I got him to a doctor. And his back is fixed. And he found a job. Sadly, I didn’t have to marry him to get him to do all that. I could have done that as a friend. You know…one with boundaries…
Eventually I did send him away – better than when I found him at least. And it was painful for everyone. And I accept responsibility because I had no business dating anyone so soon after my first marriage ended. And good heavens I need figure out how to say no.