Mark broke up with me.
Over the few days prior to Christmas we’d grown closer, the intimacy had gotten stronger, we’d talked more, the sex got better. He’d already told me prior to this that he’d marry me tomorrow if he didn’t have these obsessive worries he has, and at that time I thought he’d overcome these worries, eventually. He’d told me he wanted to stay with me for a long, long time, and he wanted me to stay with him at his house as many nights as possible, which ended up being almost every night the past two weeks.
Then last Wednesday he told me he just started crying uncontrollably on his way to his mom’s house, because his mind was going in a loop over past events—his and mine—and he’d thought that crying would be a catharsis, but instead he just felt worse over the coming days. By this Tuesday he went to see his therapist who he hadn’t seen in two and a half years when he was dating his ex-girlfriend. There relationship was on the rocks, and he started seeing this therapist, he and his girlfriend broke up, he started taking Paxil, after a while he felt better and stopped therapy, and then stopped Paxil. He thought he was healed but he didn’t get into a relationship again until he met me.
He knew he had OCD, but he thought it was related only to germs, or so he told me. Turns out he has something called “retroactive jealousy OCD,” as he discovered online. He admitted to me that he’d had this problem in prior relationships, and he was nice to me about it all, repeating that I’d done nothing wrong. I was like, I know I’ve done nothing wrong. I was really hurt. I still am upset by the unfairness of it all, though it’s not his fault.
Retroactive jealousy is a condition in which a person becomes obsessed with their partner’s previous sexual history, so much that they cannot get the image of their partner with their ex out of their heads. I read several articles and blog posts about it, but found this one to be helpful.
This article from OCD UK has a more scientific basis, describes the type of OCD as having intrusive thoughts specifically related to relationships. “Retroactive jealousy OCD,” or “relationship OCD,” as it’s also referred to (though may not be exactly the same thing, I’m not sure), are not medically recognized conditions, but there are plenty of websites from sufferers describing this horrible form of obsession.
But this article I found most helpful because it reminds me that I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who repeatedly asked questions about my past, snooped on my computer or phone, or treated me with mistrust or judgment. Because y’all know my codependent self wants to fix him, wait for him to get better and come back to me. Let’s be real here.
Everything had been going well for the most part, though there were some red flags I chose to ignore. He had asked too many questions about my past which I downplayed because no one wants to admit they got blackout drunk and had one-night-stands with people they’d just met in a bar; however, I did tell him I had done that, which was my first mistake. It was all a hundred years ago when I was drinking and I would never have done it otherwise, but I did it, and it can’t be undone. If I had to do it over again I’d have had sex with only the three guys I fell in love with, but I was deeply depressed back then and would do anything to escape. But what’s done is done and I don’t think about it too much these days. For him, however, he can’t stop thinking about the past. To someone with this condition, they believe that if someone does something once, they could do it again, and I don’t think he understood that I only did that because I was drunk, because he said he didn’t worry that I’d drink again. His reaction to my past, and his incessant questions became unnerving and I finally told him I wasn’t going to answer any more questions, that it was none of his business. It got out of hand when he asked me (in the beginning) if I’d ever had sex with two guys in one day. I realized then that his imagination was wilder than my past. In reality I’m a bit old-fashioned, and I carry shame about some of the things I’ve done, and for the record, I would not and have not had sex with two guys in the same day. I’d like to pretend (and sometimes do) that I don’t care about what I’ve done, because it makes me feel powerful, like I’m the woman who can do what she wants, that whatever a man can do, I can do it too. I also just don’t like to hide things; I prefer to admit the truth when it comes up (if they ask, I don’t usually offer up information), and I hope that the other person can be mature enough to understand that we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. For Mark, shades of gray like that don’t really exist. I think he knows intellectually that I’m not the same person, but he can’t stop worrying about it, and he doesn’t understand that I would not take the same actions today, and that if I hadn’t had the life experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and that person is vastly different from who I was back then.
Mark also had some traumatic events happen to him as a kid. He wasn’t molested but he’d witnessed some disturbing stuff related to his mother that has stuck with him.
Looking back on it, the bad breath incident was another red flag, and then more recently he told me he couldn’t come to my house because he was afraid it would trigger his OCD to see my room and imagine me in it with another guy. Once he snooped on my computer and on my phone using an elaborate lie that he wanted to look at my childhood pictures. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure he was snooping.
He wants to remain friends with me, and has apologized repeatedly, told me I’m a good person and a nice person, reassured me that he doesn’t think I’m slutty. He’d already told me that he felt tremendous empathy for me for my past (I’d also told him about my stepbrother and about my depression that started in childhood) and he felt that the other guys did not deserve me. I’d explained that I rarely even think about that anymore, and that the painful events of my past just make me more grateful for the life I have today, that I am not a victim, that I’m strong, and that I had many happy childhood memories and a lot of love from my biological family for which I’m grateful. But nothing I said seemed to help him.
I told him I can’t see how a friendship would help, that it would be difficult and painful, but he seems to think it would ease the pain for both of us. I’d read somewhere that retroactive jealousy is also referred to as the “madonna whore complex,” in which the guy can only sleep with women he’s not emotionally attached to, because those he’s emotionally attached to are more like his mother to him. So I wonder if he lost sexual interest in me after becoming closer to me as had happened in those days before Christmas. I do know that he couldn’t get the jealous obsession, intrusive thoughts and images out of his head and he started to feel like he couldn’t function, so he felt he had no choice but to break up with me, since I was the trigger.
I’d just posted pictures of us on Facebook, showing all of my 700+ “friends,” mostly people from AA, some from childhood, some from previous jobs, classmates, etc. How many pictures of boyfriends and husbands am I going to have to put up and then take down? So I deactivated my Facebook account, I cancelled my membership with Match and Eharmony (they renew your membership automatically, and I’d kept it going in case it didn’t work out with Mark), and I started back on Prozac because I don’t care about the sexual side effects and in fact welcome them because I want to stay single for a long, long time. As a codependent I’ve never been single for long, having always slipped into a relationship whether I planned to or not, so this time I really hope I can focus on myself, my school, career change, spirituality, friends. I won’t say that I will, because I honestly don’t know, given my track record.
But I really, really hope I can do it this time.
Who knows? This could be the biggest blessing I could’ve received at this time. This may be the start of some real growth for me. I hope for Mark’s sake that he finds true growth too.
Peace, love, and happy new year,