What happens when the rose-colored glasses break

This word was introduced into our relationship very early on. He told me his last ex-girlfriend was a narcissist.

I thought we shared some common ground on this topic. I told him I suspected my ex-husband might have been a narcissist. I hadn’t even heard the word until many years after my divorce. As the word gained attention a lot of the descriptions made a lot of sense. The grandiosity. The love-bombing. The outrageous stories. The pathological lying. The mood swings. The projecting. The twisted sense of reality. The accusations of things I later learned he was actually doing. The triangulation. The rumors he spread about me (and others) – in an effort to turn people against me. The fits of rage. The holes in walls. The messes. The cheating. The controlling. Hours spent hiding from him and crying. The constant fear. The gaslighting. The fact that even to this day I have no idea what was true and what wasn’t.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had no such similar experiences to share. He simply claimed that their couples counselor told him she was a narcissist and to run. He complained a lot about her son. He said her son’s bedroom was a mess. That it smelled and he ruined the carpet. That instead of making her son do his chores, she would cover for him – get up early and do his chores for him so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He claimed she said hurtful things to him. Things like she didn’t “need” him. He complained about her girlfriends and how much time she spent with them – especially the best friend that didn’t like him. He claimed he took her son in as his own and helped her through some legal issues with her (abusive) ex. (I later learned that he got in contact with her ex and promised to help him gain custody of her son.) He bragged about throwing her out of his house. From what I understand, when they broke up she moved out and that was the end of that.

At first I believed the things he said about her. But as time went on things just weren’t adding up. She disappeared so quietly and just moved on with her life. If she was a narcissist, where was the grandiosity? The obsession with her image? The love-bombing? The hoovering? The smear campaign? The cheating? The controlling?

He clearly held a lot of bitterness towards her but I couldn’t really figure out why. Some of the things he said about her seemed exaggerated or blown out of proportion. Then I started noticing similarities between the way he talked about her and her son and the way he talked TO me and my daughter. It started to look a lot like he simply has a problem with other women’s children. The issue of chores, for example. My daughter was responsible for MOST of the cleaning in the house. No matter how hard she worked, she could never do anything right in his eyes. The rules he placed for her (and me) did not apply to himself or his son. I found myself keeping a log and taking before and after pictures to prove that she had done her chores. I couldn’t help but notice that the things he was saying about his ex’s son were very similar to the accusations he was making about my daughter.

I started realizing he was also this way with his “own” daughter – who is not biologically his. The expectations he set for her were much higher than the ones he set for his biological son. The way he spoke about her at times was appalling. Very little of what she did went unnoticed and the repercussions were often harsh. In contrast, his son is mostly free to do as he pleases. Things like ignored chores or wild parties when dad is away were generally overlooked.

His ex-girlfriend was the first person I heard him call a narcissist. He also implied that her son was one (he was a young child). In the early months of our relationship he started suggesting that my daughter was a narcissist. A few months later he graduated to calling me that as well (among many other things). Fast forward a year or so to a conversation I had with his daughter. She informed me, without any knowledge of my story, that he had called both her and her mom narcissists.

So who really is the narcissist in this story? How can it be that almost every woman in this man’s life is a narcissist? AND her children?? This leads me back to the story of the counselor calling the ex-girlfriend a narcissist. Is that really how that went down? What is the ex’s side of the story? Could it be that the counselor was actually warning the girlfriend of his narcissistic traits?

I wish I could ask her.

Is this woman really who he says she is? Or is she actually a survivor who managed to escape before too much damage was done?

One thing I do know: she is a strong woman and I am proud of her.

We all see those social media posts raising awareness for things like cancer, autism, or other disabilities. The same goes for fundraisers for local or international tragedies. Sometimes we share them ourselves – usually only if it's something we've personally been through, or know someone going through that particular situation.

What if I told you that every single person reading this message personally knows at least one person who has experienced or currently is experiencing domestic abuse? In fact, you probably know quite a few people silently suffering from this pandemic and you don't even know it.

Or you do.

Maybe they've tried to tell you. Maybe you have your suspicions. Maybe they've tried asking for help just to get dismissed. Because you don't want to get involved. Your life is much more comfortable staying out of it, right? Maybe you avoid the topic because some of the stories you hear are similar to some things you've done in the past. Speaking out about mistreatment might mean holding yourself accountable for your own behaviors. Someone might disagree with you (God forbid) or look down on you for whatever reason. You might lose some friends or even family. But what if I told you the people that would turn away from you for using your voice against abuse are most likely abusers themselves?

If I told you that tomorrow you could lose a loved one because of abuse, would that change your position? If, in the wake of someone's passing, you discovered they had spent the last several years living an abusive nightmare would you wish you had done more? Would you wish you had spoken up or reached out to help? Would you kick yourself for not noticing the signs that are oh so obvious now?

The thing about abusers is they are everywhere. They are in your grocery stores, in your workplace, in your neighborhoods, maybe even in your church. So are their victims. They are carrying huge secrets – too ashamed to admit what is happening to them or too scared to speak up. At the same time, they are silently praying someone will notice.

Some of these victims might have finally found the courage to speak up, just to be silenced. Often times it's the abuser that shuts them down with threats, gaslighting, deflecting, blackmail, or more abuse. Many abusers will even go so far as to spread nasty rumors about their victim to make them look like the abuser (or crazy) so nobody will help them.

Sometimes it's the bystanders who keep them silent with their judgmental questions, apathy, or useless advice.

“Why did you ___?” “He's such a nice guy, he would never do that” “He's never done that to me” “It must have been something you did” “Have you tried couples counseling?” “If it was that bad you would leave” “Why do you keep ____?” “Call the police” “Just file a restraining order”

What many people don't realize is that often times in cases of true abuse the “solutions” they offer could actually create an even more dangerous situation. True abusers are manipulative and vindictive. They will manipulate their friends, their family, the police, the court systems, even therapists into believing they are not the problem. They will also retaliate and when they do, their punishments are harsh. Abusers don't fight fair – things are never equal. Payback for exposing them is severe and it is cruel.

So why would you get involved? Why in the world would someone willingly put themself in harms way to protect someone?

Because abusers see your silence as approval. Justification. Support. Because with every perceived nod of approval they become more bold. More hurtful. More dangerous. To a victim your silence is defeat. Very, VERY few people are successful in escaping without help. How can they find help when no one will listen? When they are met with silence? Or judgment? When they are surrounded by people who have bought into their abuser's lies? If they do manage to make it out on their own, it often takes a very long time with a LOT of strategic planning – all while being dismissed, judged, and questioned by the very people they so desperately wish would help them.

Because abuse isn't a genetic trait – it's learned. Deep down, abusers are extremely insecure. They crave approval and control. Their abuse escalates into manipulation, gaslighting, and slander because they are very concerned about their image. The thought of people thinking less of them will eat them alive to the point of obsession. If they were confronted about their abuse by someone other than their victim there might actually be a chance of them stopping their abuse.

Because abusers don't just create victims – they recruit and train as needed. An abuser rarely abuses alone. Again, the disapproval of others discourages that behavior. They NEED the approval of others. Most abusers are also parents. A vast majority of their children will end up becoming a victim of abuse or an abuser themselves. There is no neutral zone as far as an abuser is concerned. You are either with them or against them. Again, silence is perceived as support.

Because one day that victim might be someone you love. Your friend. Your coworker. Your sister. Your cousin. Your niece. Your mother. Your grandparent. Even your daughter. People who look up to you. People who trust you. People who NEED you. People who may one day need to turn to you for help. People who will see your silence as exactly how their abuser sees it: support of the abuser.

When it comes to abuse … Silence = Support.

April 30, 2021. Tori was over after taking Madeline driving. Garrett, Tori, and I were on the back patio talking. For whatever reason, the conversation turned political. Garrett is borderline conservative extremist to the point where he won't even associate with someone he views a liberal and often has rude things to say about their character based on their political opinions (or his assumptions of their opinions). Tori is (was) liberal leaning but usually very careful to avoid discussing politics – especially with her dad.

At some point in the conversation, Garrett decided to start talking trash about the BLM movement and voicing his opinions on social media telling people what to believe. He brought up crime and incarceration statistics, arguing that black people are more likely to commit violent crimes. Tori argued that white men are more likely to commit sexual crimes (and get away with them) and that she often felt safer with black men than white men. Garrett responded with an underhanded, rude comment clearly meant to get under her skin. I wish I could remember what it was. Possibly something about white men being wrongfully accused – he often uses the Judge Kavanagh debacle to argue this point whenever the topic comes up. Tori got very quiet, clearly upset, and quickly came up with an excuse to leave.

Not long later I received a text from her apologizing for getting “angry” (she was nowhere near angry). She told me something had happened to her – twice, both by white men, and that the first time it was a black man who walked her to class so she would feel safe at school again. She also said the first time her dad didn't believe her because she didn't want to report it.

Let me break that down for you:

His daughter was assaulted. In SCHOOL. By a white “man.” She tried to tell him. He DIDN'T BELIEVE HER. Flat out dismissed her. It happened more than once.

If there is ONE PERSON in the entire world a girl should feel the safest with, the once person she should be able to count on to protect her – it should be her dad. Hands down, without question, a daughter should ALWAYS feel that she can count on her dad to be there for her. To believe her. To protect her.

But not this dad. This dad refused to believe her. This dad downplayed what happened to her and treated her as though she made it up. And then he completely forgot about it.

I believe her.

Tori doesn't know this, but he also did the same to me. Ignored me every single time I tried to open up to him about things that have happened to me in the past. Or he changed the subject. Or he argued. Brought up that Judge Kavanagh thing. Every. Single. Time.

After Tori's death he flat out accused me of lying about my past experiences. Out of the blue, for no reason at all – other than to hurt me. (Why would anyone make something like that up? With absolutely no motive.)

Tori also didn't know that her dad would one day become a member of that club. It's no surprise, knowing how flippant he is about the subject and how good he is at dismissing and justifying his behaviors.

Today I'm remembering what Tori told me about her dad stealing from her.

I don't remember the story verbatim. She's gone now so I can't ask her to remind me of details.

She was young – 17 or 18. Garrett was still on her bank account because she was a minor when it was set up.

If I recall correctly, he was moving and wanted her to help. She was no longer living in his home. She had plans, so she couldn't. Or maybe it was something with expecting her to help with the household bills even though she was no longer living there. Either way, he expected something of her that she was not obligated to give.

He punished her by cleaning out her bank account.

Took everything.

Somewhere around $2,000. She had to jump through hoops at the bank to get his name off her account. Went in person and met with a manager. Eventually managed to get him removed.

I was horrified when I heard this. What “parent” does this?

He doesn't know I know this. Of course he would deny it.

I believe her. I know she's not a liar.

Tori was a sweet, kind, beautiful soul. I know for a fact she did not make these stories up. The things she told me – without even knowing my own experience – is proof enough.

I will be the voice he fought so hard to silence. I will forever defend that beautiful girl.

My daughter from another mother.

He has stolen from others too. He stole from me in many ways – the most blatant was when he held my snowmobile hostage, sold it to pay his mortgage (because he was unemployed), and never gave me a dime. Not even when he could afford to. (I bought it for $3,500 the year before.)

He stole from his friend Keith – “borrowed” money and then refused to pay it back. Cut off ties and blocked him instead. I believe around $3,000.

In a way, he stole from his own son.

When Tori died, Garrett got the bulk of her life insurance policies. (I have no doubt she was manipulated into naming him as beneficiary.) At first they agreed that all life insurance money would go to Zach. I was there, as was Jason. Both parents agreed without hesitation Zach should get it. But when the money came, that all changed. He instead told his son that when his mom turned over her ENTIRE portion of her life insurance settlement, he would match it and write off the child support she “owed” him. Of course that never happened. He oh so easily justified it. I don't care what she did or didn't do with her portion – she only got a fraction of what he did ($17,000 to his $100,000). Rather than doing the right thing, he broke a promise to his son and shamelessly blamed their mom. Meanwhile, he made a show of buying himself a new truck and plenty of other nice things.

What I don't understand is why and how he was ever awarded “child support” from her. She was the homemaker in their marriage. She took care of the kids and the home while he worked. They were married for over 10 years. Why did he not owe her alimony?

Tori's car is still sitting in his driveway. I know he didn't pay it off. That car loan is most likely in default by now.

I am 99% certain he is stealing from the energy company. When I lived there, that bill was in my name. $400 a month because of the lighting, heater, and always-running compressor in his garage. (To this day he still blames my daughter for running small loads of laundry and long cycles on the dishwasher. He still uses the 4 ½ hour cycles on his dishwasher.) After I moved out and switched my service he never called to set up service to his house in his own name. That was a year and a half ago. For whatever reason they never shut off his power. He admitted to me close to a year later that he hadn't yet set it up. A few weeks ago during an argument he started up again about Madeline and her laundry. He once again started claiming she's the reason the bill was so high. I asked him what his bill is now – he claimed $200. I know for a fact he was lying. We had a very cold winter, gas prices have skyrocketed, and the energy company recently raised their rates. Also, in December when there was an energy crisis and something going on with the pipeline, the energy company sent an email to all customers asking them to conserve energy. He didn't get that email – because he's not a paying customer.

That man is a lying, cheating, manipulative thief.

So that fight continued on into Saturday. Round and round in endless circles. More nonstop accusations and crazy-making. I finally told him no matter what I say or how much evidence I provide, he will just continue arguing and making random, wild accusations – and I asked him to leave me alone. He continued for a bit, but I didn't respond.

Yesterday he reached out one more time asking if I want my things ...

Meanwhile, I am finally making some progress in changing my number. After a lot of work and technical difficulties, I got a new number set up on a new phone with a new carrier. Got everything I could think of changed over and reached out to as many people as possible to advise of my new number. Obviously Garrett and his enablers were excluded. I sent Madeline a new phone and am working on getting her number ported over (he doesn't know her number). My old number will be disconnected at the end of the billing cycle – next Sunday. Hopefully I survive until then.

Today was supposed to be our second couples counseling session. I reached out ahead of time to let the therapist know Garrett would (hopefully) not be showing up and asking if he was okay meeting with just me and he agreed. I was nervous all morning not knowing if Garrett would show up and cause a scene. Lots of breathing exercises in the waiting room fending off a panic attack. He didn't show. This session provided the validation I have needed for so long. It started with the therapist confirming the abuse. He said Garrett clearly has some “anger management problems” and later confirmed that he noticed it (and his difficulties maintaining relationships) in our first session. This man sees it. He sees everything! Finally, someone who is not fooled – was not manipulated by Garrett! He will be working with me through my journey to healing, happiness, and learning how to establish healthy relationships.

He strongly encouraged me to let my landlord know and make it clear that Garrett is not welcome on this property. This evening I finally found the words to text Pete and relay the message and apologize for all the drama. The response I got: “I hope this goes without saying, but if you have any trouble, do not hesitate to call me. I got your back.”

I was not prepared for the wave of comfort that came over me. I have people. Here. People who know me for who I am and they care. People who will support me without having to know the details or getting involved in the drama – because my character has spoken for itself. People who see Garrett's slander and manipulation for exactly what it is – abuse.

I am so incredibly grateful for the people God has placed in my life. Finally I can see and feel His hand of protection over me. I have no idea what the next year or two will look like for me, but for the first time ever I finally feel like maybe I can actually escape this awful man.

“Petty” “Shallow” “Scapegoat” “Selfish” “Lol” “Wow” “Lie” “Soulmate” “Thankyou” “Sugar coat” “Complete jerk” “Fall guy” “Enjoy your day” “Focus on her” “Fix you own ruts” “Nothing changed” “You changed” “Complete shit show” “Out of control” “You feel sorry for her” “You support her” “You defend her” “I'm glad your happy” “Just needed to clarify” “I know how you feel” “Distort the truth” “That's your opinion” “I saved everything” “Glad things are better” “Sorry you feel that way” “I don't fucking care” “I'm not apologizing” “Your kid was a complete asshole” “Your choice has been to defend her” “Thanks for valentines day” “You've spent years sympathizing with her, defending her” “We have very different memories” “Keep doing what your doing” “I have your/her words” “You two have the relationship you wanted” “I completely understand how you feel. You don't need to repeat yourself.” “The nonsense you said about your conversations with Madeline” “Maybe work through that with your counselor” “And congrats, the real world slapped your kid in the face and she's living with someone that doesn't take the BS and she needs her mommy back.” “The only time things got better is when you took her phone away.” “I don't accept a person that forgets” “You wanna go back to day one, let's do it. We can talk about it all!” “Difference is, in Tucson I was nothing more than a guest with a dresser drawer. Up here I didn't need to take it.” “3 people working, there wasn't going to be the 4th sitting around.” (about making my daughter do MOST of the house cleaning) “I will never apologize for parenting” (he calls punishment “parenting”) “I was more than willing to forgive and forget” (biggest lie yet) “I have zero sympathy for Madeline”

(His misspellings, not mine) (He forced me to take her phone away – abusive control)

My last post was written Monday morning. Today is Saturday.

I am completely exhausted. My brain is mush. I struggled to get any work done all week. As a result, I'm behind (again) and have a LOT of catching up to do. But I can't for the life of me sit still or stay on one topic for long. My anxiety is through the roof. I have spent far too much time pacing. My house is a mess. I haven't left the house since Tuesday. It's cold outside and the weather has been gross, which does absolutely nothing to motivate me to go out. I'm honestly considering skipping church tomorrow if the snow doesn't melt off the driveway. I don't have the energy to deal with the sleet that is now frozen solid and snowed over.

I am also numb. I have no energy left for emotions. Just completely drained. This fight felt different – yet lately they ALL feel different. No name-calling this time. He is getting more and more covert as time goes. He hasn't gotten his son, family, or exes involved in the last few fights (that I know of). This time no “stuff” battle. I only have a hoodie and a few other things at his house. His pizza maker is at mine. No word on that yet. I won't go over there. Why would I? He refuses to ever drop my stuff off. Makes me come get it. Tells me “I owe you nothing.” I don't want him here because I don't want him passive-aggressively doing more damage to my landlord's property. At the same time I wonder if he's too ashamed to show his face here because of what he did. Because he's worried that the people here think less of him (as they should). And because he's not man enough to apologize to my landlord for the damage he caused and make it right. The behavior itself doesn't change.

It was also very much the same. He hung up on me several times mid-sentence. (Never mind how angry he gets if I do it even ONCE.) Forced the conversation into text – to add to his collection of “evidence,” I'm sure. A vast majority of the fight was about Madeline, as it usually is. The same old stuff over and over. Round and round, in endless circles. But also bringing up countless, totally unrelated things to bicker about. For the millionth time.

Monday afternoon we were arguing the move to Wisconsin and whether the intent was to move permanently vs. going for the summer. Forced me to go back and re-read the conversation. The exercise was horrifying. Me repeatedly asking what the plan was and him never directly answering me. But then getting angry

Every time, I think “this is it. This is finally over for good. This time I can actually move on with my life. Pursue my healing journey.”

But then it's not over. He'll show up at my house, finally calm and ready to have a rational conversation. Or he'll want to meet for a drink. Or he'll do something vaguely resembling nice. He'll say something that implies he's sorry, that he'll work on not doing XYZ. The next thing I know I'm sucked right back in. Expected to spend nearly every evening and weekend with him, very little time to to take care of my needs, and for the most part ignoring the elephant in the room. Just pretending these problems aren't here.

Until the next time he gets mad about something. Anything.

His most recent trend is to call me “shallow.” Just out of the blue with no context or reasoning behind it. To the point where I wonder if he even knows what the word means. I guess he has to find new insults since the old ones are worn out.

“We both know I am anything but shallow. I am also not insecure. I know my worth is not based on anything you think or say about me. Or anyone else, for that matter. Your words don't make me a bad person. Knowing that makes your insults look pretty ridiculous.”

“Thankyou.” “I'm glad your happy Emily. There is really no purpose for continuing our conversation.”

“I don't need your validation, Garrett. Your criticism is no longer able to bring me down – I'll just point out the ways it applies to you and not me. I also don't need this level of negativity in my life. It's destructive and I'm not interested.”

“Thankyou!” “Your right. Totally agree. What matters is we are each happy.”

“At this point I don't know that you're even willing to accept happiness. Certainly not with me. I've also witnessed the way you pick other people apart, so I know it's not just me. But I don't have to accept this chronic negativity.”

“I know”

That was yesterday around noon. We haven't spoken since.

EDIT: didn't realize this didn't publish until about a week later.


I'm realizing I haven't written in here in quite a while. A lot has happened.

I came across my first hand-written journal the other day. I started it as a way to process my thoughts about what has been going on with Garrett. Partly to document it, but also to try to work through the confusion and hopefully identify patterns. I found it to be a pretty difficult task because there was SO MUCH happening and a lot of the times even writing it down didn't seem to make it any less overwhelming. I've also varied quite a ways from my initial style of writing down words and phrases he used, documenting events, and keeping track of potential links to the mood swings like menstrual cycles and illnesses. I also attempted to keep track of my physical and mental health in relation to the fights. Part of this is because of my pure need to just vent my frustrations sometimes. Another part is because there are often long gaps between writing and I feel the need to explain some backstory for some of this to make sense. This is a very dramatic relationship. Lots going on. Way too much to handle. As for the gaps, sometimes I'm just too emotionally exhausted or confused to even try to reduce what is happening to words. I also struggle to have time to do this. If we're not busy arguing, I'm expected to spend a majority of my free time with him, which means very little time alone with privacy to write. I will attempt to get back to that initial documentation style and see if it helps bring some clarity.

Of course, this story requires some back story.

Tuesday was Valentine's day. I expected nothing because he's never done anything for me in previous years and it's not as important as my birthday or Mother's Day to put energy into getting upset about it. He surprised me by bringing me flowers, a nice card declaring his undying love, and brought me to a very nice steakhouse. Really turned on the charm. I thought he was going to expect sex but he didn't ... yet. Tuesday night he stayed at my place. Wednesday morning after he left I got a call from my landlord about deep ruts in the grass next to the driveway caused by Garrett's dually. He was very nice about it. I apologized and told him we would figure something out with the parking situation. When I told Garrett about it, he was apologetic to me and promised he would fix it. But he also acted very angrily about my landlord saying something about it and said some very rude things about him. I did my best to ignore the comments and not feed into them. His comments about my landlord extended into the weekend.

Wednesday we had our “first” couples counseling session. This was an ultimatum given by him a few fights ago. (In the space between booking the session and actually attending, there were more fights and breakups. Absolutely nothing breaks or even pauses the cycle.) My thoughts on couples counseling in this relationship will have to be shared another day. This session is with an actual licensed therapist – not a young, inexperienced and easily-manipulated Lutheran Pastor like the last time we tried this. And unlike either of the people we previously sought help with, someone completely new to Garrett. (Scott he has known for many years, Pastor Burke is his parents' pastor.)

I have been having quite a lot of anxiety about trying couples counseling again. In the past, things that get said in these counseling sessions tend to trigger fights. He gets very angry about things I say in counseling and often takes it out on me later – so I definitely knew it was a big risk. He also has a history of using those sessions to try to turn the counselor against me – attempting to get the person to side with him. Manipulating the sessions to make him look like the loving, doting partner and make me (and Madeline) look like monsters. It didn't work on Scott – at least not long-term. Pretty sure that's the underlying reason he got mad at Scott and stopped seeing him (and then all but demanded that I stop seeing him.) Our last session with Pastor Burke, he set the stage for an argument. He picked a topic we had been disagreeing on lately and insisted on pushing me on it. He then brought that disagreement into the counselling session in what appeared to be an attempt to get Pastor Burke to side with him and participate in putting pressure on me. He also insisted on driving together. By the time we got to the church I was already pushed pretty close to my limit. The discussion got heated, with Garrett getting up several times, pacing, interrupting and talking over me, raising his voice, acting like he would storm out, etc. My anxiety skyrocketed. I was careful to stay calm and tried hard to not let these tactics get a reaction. But I felt trapped – forced to discuss something I was sick of fighting about. My perspective, my needs, and my feelings on the topic were being devalued and flat out ignored. I was also scared. Scared to get in the car with him and drive back to my place (where his truck was) with him in this state. I knew without a doubt this was well on its way to escalating into a nasty fight that would go on for days. The anxiety I was experiencing was physical. I felt as though I would shatter right there. Somehow I found the strength to stand up, mutter an apology to Pastor Burke, and leave. Many times afterword Garrett accused me of “storming out in a rage” and claimed Pastor Burke was shocked by my outrageous behavior – that he completely sided with Garrett, that he “saw” what was going on, and that I was “exposed” for who I am. Of course none of this was ever confirmed by Pastor Burke himself. We never saw him again. That scene and those comments showed me that he was using counseling to as another method to bully and humiliate me – attempting to manipulate counseling sessions for validation and to claim another person saw me as the villain in this relationship.

Back to Wednesday's counseling session.

Since it was our first session it was pretty vanilla. The usual gathering of information and “getting to know you” stuff. Of course the issues between him and Madeline came out as part of that process. At one point the therapist asked if we had tried having a conversation with her about her impressions of Garrett and if that helped at all. I responded that I had, in the past, had many conversations with her and they did seem to help – until she overheard our loud arguments, the things that were being said to me and the names I was being called – and that pretty much undid everything. I think I used the phrase “hey, that's my mom!”

The rest of the week was somewhat calm, though looking back I'm realizing there were signs.

Thursday was a snowstorm and he had to plow, which means I had a very rare opportunity to spend the evening alone without eventually fighting about it. Friday I was invited to go with church friends to see other church friends perform at a local pub. I declined because of the Friday Night Fights of the past – Fridays belong to Garrett. I instead spent my Friday night at Garrett's house. It was a nice evening. We fried fish and made tacos for dinner, hung out for a bit, and went to bed fairly early.

That night we had sex. We were on the couch and for the first time in a very long time he kissed me for real – more than the usual peck in the face kiss – and I thought maybe I would get to enjoy sex for once. In the bedroom he went straight to business. Just took my clothes off and started. Zero foreplay. At least he had courtesy of using the vibrator so I got a few moments of pleasure before giving him what he wanted. But he did very little to try to arouse me for actual intercourse – just started doing it. When I asked for lube he got up and walked around looking for something multiple times (it was right by the bed). That made things worse. I resigned myself to suffering through it until he was done. He even made me get on top.

Saturday afternoon I went home to get some stuff done. For the first time maybe ever he didn't complain or get passive-aggressive with me about me leaving. He just let me go and worked on his Jeep for several hours. Saturday evening I tried texting him and he was very distant and short with me.

That carried into Sunday. He refused to reach out to me first to say good morning. His response to me was very stilted, formal, curt. “I'm good, you?” “I'm good. Just got home.” – “Nice, enjoy your day” .... Okay, something is definitely up. Called him to talk about it. He sent my call to voicemail. Texted that he's talking to his dad (another hypocrisy of his that we can discuss later – just a few weeks ago I had to cut a call with my mom short because he showed up at my house earlier than planned). When he called me back I asked what was wrong. He insisted nothing was wrong, nothing was bothering him, etc. I'm not buying it. I told him I know him well enough to know when something is up and that now was the time to talk about it – calmly. Not a few days from now after convincing himself of assumptions that weren't reality and lead to another nasty fight.

A few hours later he called me. Pretended to be discussing calmly but started peppering me with questions about our counseling session. Said he wanted to “clarify” a few things. He asked me about the comment I made about my conversations with Madeline. He wanted to know when that conversation took place. I told him there were several, dating back to Tucson (even before the fighting started, actually) and that they did help some with her demeanor and her attitude toward him but that he didn't notice because he was busy focusing on small details like facial expressions or comments and using them to make accusations and start arguments. And then when she overheard the fights and saw the way I was being treated her attitude toward him changed back. He then asked if her attitude towards him could have been because of the things she overheard me saying to him. I told him I don't know if she overheard any of that (he is more prone to shouting and is much louder than I am. Also I didn't start standing up for myself until a year and a half after it started.). He insisted she did. I told him her attitude towards him changed long before I started fighting back. Again, she was witnessing his treatment of me and the names he called me all the way back in Tucson. He attempted to claim he didn't start calling me names until we moved to Wisconsin. I told him the name-calling started very early on in Tucson and reminded him that the first time it happened I told him name-calling is off limits, that I consider it abusive language, and that his response was to get angry and to call me names even more. He, of course, claimed to not remember any of that. He later accused me of lying about my conversations with Madeline. Called it “nonsense.”

Long story somewhat shorter, that escalated into another fight and breakup.

A few hours into it I recognized the pattern of a mood change followed by a fight and breakup within a few days of sex. It happens almost every time – if not every, with the possible exception of our first few months dating.

This morning my running mind woke me up early. I did a little googling on mood changes after sex. Apparently there is a thing called Postcoital Dysphoria (PCD). There is very little information about it affecting men. It seems to be more prevalent in women, but recent studies show that some men experience it too. It appears to stem from childhood trauma. Some sites suggest this can include a history of childhood sexual abuse. He has never mentioned sexual abuse but I do know he has some very deep-rooted and unresolved issues from childhood. I don't know much other than that his dad often “brow-beat” him about things and his mom was not particularly loving. Absolutely nothing of what he's told me is significant enough to explain how he is today. I do know that suggesting possible PCD will make him angry.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 8:37 p.m. the sun set in Waukesha, Wisconsin – the moment Tori's heart beat for the last time. Five minutes later, at 8:42 p.m. the sun set in Madison – the moment her passing was officially declared.

It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. I noticed it as I was walking Madeline to her car, which was parked on the roof of the parking garage. There were just enough wispy clouds to give the sky the shades of blues and whites, with hints of pinks and purples. I thought about taking a picture but knew my phone could never capture the true magnitude of beauty I was witnessing.

I few minutes later I was back down on the ground and saw not one, but three hummingbirds in a bush with red flowers that I hadn't noticed before. Again, I thought about taking a picture but the light was fading and I knew they would be gone by the time I got my phone out.

Soon after, we learned the wait was over. I think it's safe to say we all secretly breathed a sigh of relief. We also learned that in that last hour they had found a FIFTH match for her organs. Of course, it's just like our loving, generous, and responsible Tori to go beyond just a sticker on her driver's license – she made sure her passing wouldn't be in vain – and then she hung around just long enough to save as many lives as she possibly could.

I wish I could say I loved Tori from the moment I met her, but that wouldn't be entirely true. Thinking back now, I think it happened the first time her dad told me about her – and grew a little more with each memory he shared. But I'm pretty sure he failed to describe the sound of her laugh and the way she shook her shoulders – or the way she gestured when she was excited or pursed her lips when she was thinking. The funky glasses she loved wearing. The way she welcomed a “new” sister without hesitation. Bonded with her over plants and fish and whatever else. Taught her how to drive. I loved listening to them laugh together.

I'm pretty sure she never walked silently into a room, but even if she did you would still know she was there.

I love every single memory her dad and brother share with me, though sometimes I'm a little jealous. I wish I could have been there for those moments. Even more, I wish I could have made more of my own.

Sheryl, I know I've said this once before, but it bears repeating. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for sharing your beautiful girl and her incredible brother with me.

Have you ever felt a sadness so intense you can't ignore it, yet so elusive you can't pinpoint it? So overwhelming it feels as though you've been ripped in half -but at the same time buried so deep it seems you'll never find it. That need to cry it out, but you don't know how to bring it to the surface. Somewhere in there is a tiny, titanium bullet twisting and turning, bouncing around and wreaking havoc. You wish you could dig down and rip it out but ... you know you'll never find it and trying will just do more damage. Have you ever wanted ... NEEDed ... to walk into a strong chest and feel a pair of arms wrap around you and hold you tight? Only to remember no such chest and arms exist. At least not for you. So that bullet keeps twisting and bouncing. That hole grows bigger and bigger. It threatens to consume you, but still you can't find it to rip it out.

What if I told you I know when my hole started forming?

It was right before Thanksgiving and just a few short days after one of the best birthdays of my life. I made a mistake. A grave mistake. But I had to. I had to turn my back on that chest and those arms. I had to. My Monster returned. Turns out he had not yet fully released me. I couldn't drag him into this nightmare. He could have helped me – maybe even saved me. Wanted to! But I couldn't introduce him to my hell. He deserves better. So I did a thing I may regret forever. I allowed myself to hurt him in order to spare him. So I set him free. He was hurt, upset, maybe even a little mad. Said some hurtful things. And then he apologized. That is when I KNEW. This man is a good man. The kind I've always wanted. The kind I claim to deserve. Truly an angel in human form. And I knowingly hurt him. Pushed him away to go another round (or ten) with a demon.

Since then my hell has continued to get deeper and hotter by the month. Worse than I could have ever imagined. There seems to be no end. And I'm in this completely alone. I seek consolation knowing that this pain is not being inflicted on another, innocent party. I hope you are well. I wish I could have you as my own, but I could never live with myself if you became collateral damage at the hands of My Monster. I hope you are living your life to the fullest, happier than you've ever been. I hope you are safe and completely oblivious to the flames that now consume me. But most of all I hope you can forgive me. Not for me – for YOU. I pray every day that your beautiful soul emerged unscathed.

Mother's Day

I'm not going to put on a fake face this year. The truth is I'm not a good mother. None of us are. The only difference is some of us are forgiven for our mistakes. Some of us have some help. Some of us get lucky.

Not me.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.