“He ignores everything I do that expresses pain.”
–Letitia, whose still-husband displays photos of newest girlfriend on Facebook
Are you caught up in a feedback loop of circular fisticuffs? Do you find yourself texting a manifesto when you should be chairing a board meeting? Are you starting to doubt your own mental stability?
Darling, you are not alone, nor are you psychotic. You are a rational human being, imprisoned by an underwhelming mate.
One of the most evil tactics an abuser can employ is not mere sabotage and betrayal. It is to betray and sabotage, then use your natural reaction as an excuse to treat you as a Crazy Person.
This is why setting your ex’s house on fire is an ill-advised course of action. Not only can it lay you open to inconvenient legal actions, it bolsters your ex’s case that you are Unstable and Not To Be Trusted. This retroactively justifies every act of shocking cruelty he or she has ever committed.
Your ex is the person, moreover, who once signed up to be your primary support. Your nervous system has not adapted. Any contact with them produces a cacophony of cognitive dissonance; you expect kisses and chocolate, you receive stones to the temple.
It is no wonder that you are teetering on the edge.
This is why your first action must be to limit your exposure as much as possible. Hide them on Facebook, silence their ringtone, change your café, go on a long vacation. This is not about getting them to miss you; you are not trying to control them at all. You are disengaging in order to re-wire your brain.
Now, here’s the tricky part.
1) Whenever you think about the way your ex:
- Transferred their debts into your name, right before filing for divorce
- Had an affair, lied about it, and said you were paranoid
- Refused to get a job for six years
- Screamed that you were a useless parasite while you were recovering from a C-section
- Sabotaged your career-making record album
- Ran up your credit cards buying gifts for a mistress
- Spent the grocery budget on crack cocaine
or anything else of that nature, allow your feelings to consume you.
This feels counter-intuitive. Surely your last hope of sanity is to resist the surging Armageddon within your breast? You will have to trust that this tactic will not produce a landslide that buries all of Houston. You are not taking a sledgehammer to the china cabinet; you are just going with the psychological flow, all within your mind.
Sit and view yourself like you would watch a film about the Holocaust. Notice the exact sensations in your body. Where is the pain? What does it look like? Where does it slither when you start paying attention to it? Get extraordinarily specific about the color, texture, and extent of the damage.
2) Do this, and detach from the story.
That means you do not continue thinking about your ex and their manifold abuses. You experience your actual feelings in this actual moment. You think about as much nothing as you can manage.
If you can manage this feat of psychological acrobatics, a wonderful thing will occur. The soul-shattering sensation of consumption by fire will last about a minute, maybe two. When you are not stoking it with your thoughts, it burns itself out in seconds.
3) Now you summon up some rainbows and butterflies, by remembering the time a twenty-two-year old smooched you on Coney Island at midnight. Get into the sensation of Unconditional Love, joy, peace, bliss, what-have-you. Perform the same clinical observation of this scrumptious sensation that you did before.
Notice how it expands rather than dissolving.
4) For the coup de grace, import the positive emotion to the negative situation. Notice any surprising insights you obtain. Write Pretty Lady a letter.
For those of you who are not accomplished in Zen meditation, this set of steps may be beyond you. This is why there are Personal Trainers. Find one of these who specializes in kickboxing. Perform the first part of this exercise while punching so hard, fast, and long that you are physically unable to think. Repeat steps two and three while lying on the floor, panting.
Do this as often as necessary.
If you are a woman who has endured a breakup or divorce that upended your universe, Pretty Lady would LOVE to speak with you! Write or message her on Twitter (@prettyladylee ) and she will be in touch.