One year, just before Christmas, I entered a raffle at work – and I won an X-Box, complete with a couple of games.  It was great – I was surprised – but we really didn’t need an X-Box.  We had a PlayStation at home and neither the ex nor I were gamers.  The PlayStation was mostly unused.

Around the same time, my ex’s brother had recently moved back in with his parents after a failed attempt at launching.  He’d moved in with his girlfriend, it didn’t work out, and he ended up back at home.  We didn’t know at the time, but it was the start of a difficult journey that ended in a local mental hospital, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  Back then though, as far as we knew, he was licking his wounds after the end of a difficult relationship.

I suggested to my ex that as we didn’t need the X-Box, perhaps his brother might like it.  I thought maybe it would cheer him up a bit.  Or at the very least, it would give him something to focus on.  My ex agreed that it was a good idea.  I wrapped it, and we headed over to his parents for Christmas dinner.

Any event at my ex’s parent’s house was very different from anything I’d ever experienced as a child.  His mother was typically relegated to the kitchen while everyone else gathered in the living room.  As I’d been raised with some manners…and maybe a little part of me felt the need to impress my mother-in-law, I’d typically end up in the kitchen too.  

And so it was this particular year – and MIL and I missed the opening of that particular present.  I walked into the living room just as they were talking about it.  My sister-in-law commented, in a slightly snarky way, that it was too generous a gift.  I said it was no big deal, as I’d won it, and we already had a PlayStation.  My sister-in-law smirked at me, and turned to my ex with a smile on her face.  “Oh.  You won it” she said.  She smiled out of the left side of her face, similar to a certain green Seussical Christmas character.  My ex glared at me.  “Haha…very funny Liv.  You know we bought it for Andy” he said.  

Then I realized what had happened.  He’d lied.  He’d told them all that we bought this extravagant gift for his brother.  And I’d inadvertently busted him.  

It’s part of the reason that dinners with his family were always very uncomfortable for me.  I would inadvertently say or do something that my ex wouldn’t like, and he’d hold it against me afterwards.  It could be a big thing, like not knowing he’d lied about the X-Box.  Or a small thing, like talking about the recent firefighter calendar.  I never knew what would set him off.  But after each event, he would sneer and be passive aggressive and nasty.  Sometimes he’d yell at me.  Sometimes I’d just get the silent treatment.  Sometimes he’d tell me what it was, and sometimes not.  But the end result was I was careful with every single word I said when I was with his family.  Eventually, I was never truly myself in their presence.  And even then, it would still happen.  I couldn’t even say hello to them without some sort of perceived slight from my ex.

Flash forward…and now we’re divorced.  But those visits and memories remain with me.  And I revisit them on Hubs occasionally.  Not intentionally.  But when we go out with his family, sometimes I will say something and cringe.  Not because I think it was something I shouldn’t have said.  But because I expect him to react that way.  Not because he’s ever given me any grief for saying anything.  But because my ex treated me that way.  

The way I was “trained” to be in a relationship has led me to expect certain behaviors – and react accordingly.  As a result, I revisit the sins of my ex in my current relationship.  

I have Relationship PTSD.  

With time, it’s getting better.  It’s a matter of retraining my brain.  I’m learning what a “normal” relationship is like.

With each situation, my husband doesn’t react the way I would have expected my ex to.  My brain still cringes, but the result isn’t the same.  So the next time, even though I still cringe, I remind myself that the reaction won’t be the same.  And the time after that, the cringe isn’t quite as strong.

I’m out.  I’m not that person any more.  

And Hubs – he never was that person.  And he never will be.

I’ll get there.  I will.

Image Credit: (edited): David Castillo Dominici /

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