Dead end relationship or toxic relationship?

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published:  | Modified: 23-07-2018

by Melody

I have been dating John for more than a year and a half. We are both in our early forties. I have never been married and he has been divorced twice and has a seven year old child.

We met at work while John was in his second marriage. During a work event he confided in me that he had moved out of his home and that he and his wife had been separated for two months. He told me that he had a crush on me and he kissed me. It was fireworks!!! The chemistry between us was unlike anything I have ever felt. We got to know each other over the next couple of months mostly via long phone calls and text messages. We fell in love.

Then he told me that he was in fact married and living at home and sharing a bed with his wife and child. I felt sick. I felt hurt and betrayed. I was angry. I told him that we had to end our relationship immediately and that I never would have entered into anything with him if I had known the truth about his marital status. I told him that I would reconsider a relationship with him if he and his wife separated otherwise I would only be available as a work friend.

Within two weeks, he asked her for a divorce and he moved her and their child out into a rental home. We began seeing each other through his separation and divorce. It was very difficult for me to get past his deception regarding his marital status. I wanted to forgive him and move forward. I kept thinking he lied to me and he lied to his wife. He told me I was the love of his life and his soulmate. He told me he wanted to marry me. We were best friends with chemistry and passion.

The issues aside from his separation and divorce are as follows: he kept dating me in secret because he was concerned with how he would look and what his ex would think; he prioritized his ex over me; he never spoke on the phone to his ex in front of me; his story about his relationship with his ex was always changing, sometimes they only talked about the child, other times he would say they were great friends; he had a habit of erasing his text messages; I was rarely allowed to go to his home and when I did I had to park in front of another house because he was worried about what his neighbors would say and if they would tell his ex.

He kept telling me that things would change once the divorce was final. Our relationship was damaged by the lies, the secrecy, and the nonstop emotional roller coaster. He would tell me he wanted to marry me and then he would feel overwhelmed or suffocated or he would be mad at me and then he would break up with me and disappear for days.

He has broken up with me more times than I can recall (it began monthly and progressed to weekly; it feels like a form of punishment) and nearly each time I felt blindsided because I did not see it coming. He has broken up with me over a goodnight text message because I implied that I would not send him a good morning text.

The cycle of break ups has eroded my trust and I feel insecure in this relationship. I feel disposable and discarded. Then he would promise me anything to get me back and then after he had me back and I would start to feel good about our relationship, the passive aggressive behavior, mind games, callous comments, and ignoring would start and lead to another break up.

I have broken up with him on occasion as well when I felt at my wit's end because I was tired of being ignored or disrespected and being strung along with empty promises. I feel like I have given him chance after chance and I communicate my feelings to him openly to try to make our relationship work.

If I am upset about something and tell him how the behavior made me feel, he gets defensive, callous, ignores me, turns it back on me, and breaks up with me. I feel punished for trying to express my feelings.

How can I be in a loving relationship when I get shut down for talking about anything that frustrates or disappoints me? I recently ended things with him. I need clarity on this relationship. It is either toxic or a dead end or both and I want to be sure that I made the right decision. I feel like I have poured my heart and soul into it and been loyal to a man who cannot commit to being in a relationship with me.

I feel like a revolving door and I am confused and trying to make sense of everything. I truly hate to lose the friendship and the passion but without trust and security, it is difficult to enjoy the friendship and the passion. I feel like I am walking on eggshells and waiting for the rug to get ripped out from underneath me.

We have tried couples therapy on three different occasions but always broke up afterwards. He recently started individual therapy and his therapist told him that he was immature and had narcissistic traits. I have been in individual therapy working on learning how to create boundaries. My parents divorced when I was young. My father disappeared from our lives and my mother has narcissistic traits. I was close to my second stepfather however that relationship dissolved after he and my mother divorced.

I am a confident, optimistic, energetic, and exuberant person. I really wanted this relationship to work, but I think there are too many negative patterns and a history of empty promises and deception. I am hoping to gain insight and peace of mind from your advice.

Thank you for listening.


Dead end relationship or toxic? Elly's advice

Melody, I'm so glad you wrote to me, what a horrible time you've had! I wonder if by the end of having written it all down, you'd already gained some more insight into the dynamics of this relationship.

You wrote: "It is either toxic or a dead end or both". Where is the positivity that would keep you there? Yes, there was passion for sure. I think there was addiction too. You may find Prof Helen Fisher's research findings interesting. Have a look at the video in my article How to get over someone.

John has betrayed you, but I find just as worrying the signs of criticism, contempt and defensiveness. Sure, as human beings we can't help being critical at times, but what matters is how, when and how often it's expressed. Can I hear you thinking?

It sounds like you were/are well and truly hooked. On re-reading this I realise how harsh that may sound. However, I say it with kindness and concern for you and without any judgement at all, Melody. I just want you to wake up from that addictive trance state!

I very seldom advise anyone to end a relationship - it's generally not my place and I don't ever have the complete story - even when I have both partners in my counselling room! However, I think that 85% of you has already left John - for very good reasons from what you have written.

I'm so glad that you've chosen to go for counselling, Melody. You clearly knew that this relationship, however unstable, was meeting some of your essential emotional needs and doubtless a repeat of an old pattern with some unresolved/unprocessed difficulties from your past.

I think you'll feel far more confident about your next step when you've read "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" by John Gottman.

Lastly, if and when you decide to end this relationship for good, I want you to really hold on to those boundaries. Let go of the hope that you could be friends. Your self-esteem, confidence, sense of security and safety are at stake. 

I wish you all the best for happier times, Melody.


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