Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliche;
When I met Lianna, I thought she was amazing. She was as beautiful as a model and extremely well-spoken. She worked in PR at my company. She came after me, for some reason, and at first it was great. We had a good time together and the sex was great. She had two kids and I really liked them a lot.
But little by little, the flaws came out. Lianna was incredibly manipulative, was constantly asking me for money, and had an unholy alliance with her mom, whom she called four times a day. As Lianna showed more and more of her dark side, I was on the verge of leaving- but then she had some personal problems and really needed my help and the kids depended on me because their mom was acting like a ranting loon. To make a long story short, I ended up staying 8 years, intending to leave most of the time, but having one tragedy after another make me feel like I’d be a heel if I walked out. It wasn’t just minor, manufactured dramas that kept me hanging on. Lianna’s dad died, and then her brother. I felt that if I hadn’t been there, her kids would have gotten thrown to the wolves. I couldn’t stand the thought of that happening.
I finally left, but I can’t get around the fact that I knew this woman was a monster and yet I stayed. I even went on medication to help me deal with the stress. I threw all my pills out when I left and I never went back.
Still, I wonder why it took so long to leave. I know that my own mother was a nightmare, so I probably don’t have a healthy role model. I really do not want to make this mistake again. Any thoughts?
Black and white thinking puts us in tiny boxes; and not seeing the big picture traps us there. Stay and Go were never the only options you had. They are simply the two black and white extremes. Eight years ago, if you were honest with your feelings and said “this isn’t working out for me but I want to remain friends and be there for you and the kids,” this would have been a middle option that would have allowed for flexibility…and a potentially better outcome. Of course, she may have told you to go f__k yourself. Then it would have been her choice, and that would have been that. Her kids are, after all, her kids, not yours. You have to realize that it ended eventually anyway- but if you’d been honest earlier on, there might have been a more balanced outcome for all involved now.
This much is true- you are accustomed to ignoring bad situations and just drifting through time. Learn to ask this question daily: “do I agree with this?” That will prevent the same situation from happening again and again. All relationships seem great during initial attraction; but if you learn to ask questions you won’t miss the bigger picture.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I am having a good laugh at the thought of a guy telling a ranting woman, in a reasonable manner, that he doesn’t want to be with her anymore but he hopes to stay friends and help with the kids. I hope that if he tries this, he is wearing a football helmet and some protective gear.
OK, I am willing to grant you, Zorro, that a neurotic, manipulative woman with whom you also work may not the easiest tie to break, but I can’t buy the part about sparing her feelings. Let me tell you something about neurotic, manipulative women- their intuition is better than you think. If you don’t want to be there, but are pretending because you are afraid to leave, she will sense this the same way a dog smells fear. It will just make her crazier. You are not doing her a kindness by staying. You are setting the stage to send you both over the edge. No wonder you needed to resort to medication.
When two people are intimately involved, they build their world together on the information that is given. If you are giving out a pack of lies, you can’t build anything but a house of cards. In the end, it will always fall apart- every slight breeze that blows threatens the foundation. This is not a favor to the children either. They need something real.
I will relate a story to you. I lived with a man for four years back in my 30’s. We had a tempestuous, destructive relationship that finally blew up. A month after our demise, he discovered he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In his fear, he came and begged me to go back with him, saying he couldn’t make it without me. I wanted to cave in because I knew it would seem like a terrible thing to deny him. But I also knew that his being sick wouldn’t change the way we interacted; in fact, the stress from constant fighting may have contributed to his condition. I told him as gently as possible that I just couldn’t pretend. Then I felt like I killed a puppy. But wait! The story has a happy ending, or at least as happy as it could. The guy found another woman with whom he really was compatible; he married her and spent his last year in peace. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I’d tried to “spare his feelings.”
If you want my advice, it is this: be honest, Zorro. It takes courage, because people will be hurt and yell and make threats and all sorts of crap. But pretending won’t make any of that go away. It will just prolong the agony, for everyone.