I have been driving in traffic for years. I am not talking standard, just busy street traffic at rush hour. I am talking about that kind of traffic that moves along at a steady pace then BAM! it stops. You inch along and at times even contemplate taking a service road or an alternate route. That traffic that becomes so infuriating and you just can’t even hear the radio pounding from your dashboard. All you can hear and feel is your heart beating and your blood temperature rising. When you are just about to take the next exit, you see the flashing lights and get past the congestion to start going at a steady pace again. Wait! Don’t get too comfortable and convinced that you will get there on time. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.
Relationships with someone who suffers from addictions and/or narcissism are just like this picture of traffic. Sometimes everything is moving along at a good, steady pace towards your destination. Other times you are just trying to find a way to breathe from all the congestion and chaos. I label my experience for the past many many years as “Emotional Whiplash”. Just like physical whiplash that leaves you in pain and unable to turn your head to see the world around you, emotional whiplash leaves you in pain and unable to focus on anything but the person in front of you. He keeps you going with false hopes and lies to continue with him on his steady pace towards his own darkness. Then he makes you stop in the middle of life, crippled with despair and the inability to find an alternate way other than his way. Sometimes you become that accident or broken down car sitting on the side causing everyone else to stop or slow down. This sick person is like that passenger who keeps saying, “Get in that lane, it’s moving faster. No, go back to this lane.” Yeh, you know that passenger. Then if you change to his lane and it slows down, he blames you for changing lanes. It is always a reminder how wrong you are and how he is better in so many ways. When you finally arrive at the destination on that day, he is all loving and supportive of you in a distorted false loving way. But it is the best love you can get from him, so you feel calmer and pleased that he sees you like that. The whiplash comes when it all just happens again the next time you are stuck in the traffic of his addiction and narcissism. The extremely painful whiplash from feeling good and bad in the relationship you so desperately wanted to be “stuck” in every day. Love. Anger. Love. Anger.
Living in a marriage like this for way too long has given me chronic pain from the emotional whiplash of the “false” love and rejection cycle. First, he couldn’t get enough of me and pursued me with such passion. It felt great. No, it felt amazing to think someone was really like me and wanted me like I wanted him. He was easy to fall in love with then. He made himself easy to fall in love with then. He was a professional at love bombing women as I have learned throughout our marriage from the many others to whom he was doing the same things. Love bombing brings you in so fast that you don’t have time to breathe or think except about them. This happened to me and we married so fast after just meeting. It seemed like a romantic movie in the making. There was no second or third level of the process. We went from dating, quick marriage and newlyweds to just a middle of fog and confusion. He played games of rejection and love for 14 years. Chronic whiplash of love and rejection; love and lies. I thought it was normal for a relationship to have ups and downs. Take the good and the bad in a marriage, right? For good times and bad? For sickness and in health? Well, yeah all that was constant. Sickness…5 rehabs in 10 years. Health…well, never sure, maybe about 1-2 years of sobriety after counting a few weeks here and a few months there. This added to the terrible whiplash. I would think he was clean and sober. Looked for the same signs of relapse every time he would get clean. I would find familiar “items” and only get yelled at for finding them or for looking for them. So I was whipped between loving to save him and letting go to let him die. Nothing was right by him. Nothing. I would approach with love and fear and get the devil yelling at me and punching walls and doors right by me. The next day I would get this man saying he was sorry and wanted to be better and make our marriage better. Only to get verbally beat up hours or days later. I was the crazy one much of the time to think that he wanted to change and make our marriage better. He only would change the habit or drug to throw me off and to get even higher than before. Or placate me to stop looking or trying to help him survive. I was trying to get him to take a better route and get off this highway of disaster. Then to make it worse, he would add new addictions like women and material stuff. His addictions progressed into a terrifying place as he could no longer drive anywhere near the speed limit. I was suffering more and more from the back and forth of love and anger – love and rejection – love and lies. And the cheating added to the drug addiction made the whiplash more frequent and more painful every time he would reject me and give false love to keep me from leaving. Wow, the cheating was worse than the drug use. It was like being on the interstate across this large country and EVERY city had a major accident that delayed you. I didn’t know about some of these women until we separated and things started to surface. The “signs” of other women were like billboards on your way to South of the Border on I95. I realized that he started cheating about two years after my first child (well, that I know of). I do believe that he was always a cheater when I look back at those times that just didn’t add up even when we were first living together. I put up with so many painful moments of seeing things, reading things and hearing things that I shouldn’t have. No wife should. No one who truly loves someone should. Then I turned to him in pain and got verbally beaten up for the truth of his actions. I was always at fault. My fault for stumbling upon the information. My fault for not believing his insane stories that constantly changed. It was my fault for having a sick baby. It was my fault for everything all of the time. It was even my fault that he lied about drugs. Why? Because I didn’t approve so he had to hide it from me. Yes, it was all my fault. I started to believe some of it and that I was starting to go a bit crazy and imagining some what was true. I wasn’t. Whiplash of love and anger – love and rejection – love and lies. He was doing exactly what I saw, read and heard. He even told a girl on the phone that he loved her. Of course, he lied in a grand way and made a big deal about me not correctly hearing him and definitely not being on the phone with her (phone records don’t lie). This was the first major accident that I came across on this long journey. The emotional whiplash from the many women throughout our marriage is beyond any pain that an actual case of chronic whiplash would cause me. I even started to work on healing from it all when we separated. But there was no healing as long as he was still on the road with me (no longer in my car but on the same road) and running around with women, bad behaviors and lies. There are far too many women stories going back to the beginning to start talking about now. That will be another article where you may need a glass or two of wine in order to get through it all. Yes, I have had jaws drop at my “accidents” that I have had to get past on this road of his addictions and narcissism. This emotional whiplash has been the greatest pain to me. False loving gestures (thinking and hoping that they were authentic) followed by the ultimate rejections…lying and betrayals in every way possible. Even verbal rejection of me as a person was mixed in there at times. I started to believe his words too. Crazy how sick we become and how normal sitting in traffic and seeing bad accidents becomes to us. Even crazier how normal it becomes to be the broken down car on the side of the road causing the traffic. It even became normal to be in the major accident that everyone stopped to look at in the middle of the road and get back into the demolished car and keep driving to his destination. I am getting car sick just thinking about all of this chaos of constant stopping and going. I stopped looking at the reason for these stops and starts and just kept finding a way to get passed them without turning off his road. I was in so much pain and so sick from it all and never stopped to look at myself anymore. I had started to believe the things he was putting into my mind. I just allowed myself to keep getting hurt and walk around in pain. I was so traumatized by the constant back and forth of love and anger – love and rejection – love and lies.
I finally had to turn off and take an alternate route when he went to rehab again and I found a dating site with an alias and fake life with no kids or relationship. The worst stop and the worst whiplash came when he had only been home a month and he texted my friend the wrong text at my birthday party, yes my party. He meant to text his new girl, a mother in my daughter’s class, that he loved kissing her. This was the same day he professed to me that he loved me and wanted to make this next year great for us. He even got mad at me for not believing his revolving lies around this text. The story changed about four times and somehow I was the bad person for even thinking he was lying and being hurt by the words I read. He acted out by going to a hotel the next weekend, lying about it and then making me feel bad for questioning the hotel receipt that I found. Then he would make me think he wanted to make it better and do the right thing by doing a few of the marriage recovery steps. Only he was still carrying on with her and lied again about staying over in a hotel after a “business” meeting that was close enough to come home. I had such severe emotional whiplash that I couldn’t tolerate the pain or breathe normal. The pain of being whipped between love and anger – love and rejection – love and lies was and is beyond words and I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew there was only one route to take off this dangerous road…DIVORCE. I was so beaten up by the emotional whiplash from his hurtful rejections and crazy love cycles to keep me confused and lost. He was in control. I looked in the mirror and realized that I wasn’t driving at all during these years. I was the passenger suggesting alternate routes. Sometimes telling him he was wrong to stay on this road. I am sure it annoyed him to hear that he was on the wrong road that offered him selfish rewards for his own pleasure. I saw that the alternate routes promised a better way for both of us. I was reading WAZE how to go around the troubled spots and make it safely home. He didn’t want any GPS telling him how to drive. I was the passenger of someone who was very sick, sober or not. I am lucky to be alive. I am now in the driver’s seat of my own life. He is not in the car with me anymore. He is on a road of his own choosing, not mine. I can breathe at times. But sadly his sickness is still there and affecting me. Now his “women” are adding to the pain and whiplash with their chaos and his behaviors with them. One of his new girls (yes I said one because I hear from others in town that she is not the only one) has proceeded to send me a picture of them, texted me using his phone about how he is cheating on her and even a picture he sent her from our bed when he was professing to love me and rants about him and other women taking the same nudie photos he did with her. Whiplash of moving on and anger – moving on and rejection – moving on and lies. I just want to stop this whiplash that he seems to love giving me with lies about these women, our divorce and what he is doing in a very small town that affects me and his children. Small town and lots of mutual friends creates no secrets. But sick as he is, he continued to lie to me through all of this torture from his disgusting behaviors being put on me by the talkings of so many and the sightings of myself. There will always be stand stills, slow downs and accidents to get past but I can hear the music and stay calm because I am not the passenger in a car driven by someone who doesn’t care about sharing the journey with me or if I am even safe and loved. And my whiplash from all of the emotional and verbal abuse and harsh destructive actions will take a lot of therapy in order to heal. BUT I know now that I AM worth the time and effort to heal. I am worthy of genuine love, honesty and serenity regardless of the traffic on the road. There is grief over losing someone but sometimes passengers are not meant to take the whole journey with us. They may just be there to teach us an important lesson for the roads ahead. I have learned a lot about myself and understanding the caution signs others give us as to who they really are and how they can affect our journey in good or bad ways. Pay attention to the signs, whether positive or negative, on the side of the road. Don’t let the false love and rejection cycles of these very sick people trap you in a dangerous journey that only leads to darkness and pain. You will live in constant back and forth of love and anger – love and rejection – love and lies. You can drive your own car on this journey. I am still in so much pain from years of emotional whiplash but I am learning how to recoup and grow stronger every day. I am learning how to not allow him to continue whipping me around with his selfish behaviors, constant lies and anger. He most likely will never change but I don’t have to stay on his road of chaos and destruction anymore. Just remember sometimes it is important to pull over the car and rest so you don’t get into another bad accident. Take care of yourself now.
Breathe out impatience and breathe in patience. Breathe out being lost and breathe in finding yourself. Breathe out toxic people and breathe in genuine love. Breathe out chaos and breathe in calm. Breathe out getting there on time and breathe in getting there when you are ready. Breathe out rejection and breathe in self-acceptance.