Lessons

In the beginning, you will feel like you’ve landed in a world completely different to anything you have ever known or imagined, almost as though a tornado struck and whisked you off to another land.

As you begin this journey you will feel like a modern-day princess. You will be swept off your feet and away from financial hardship, routine and your normal hum-drum life. The one who sweeps you away will introduce you to a world of status, excitement, wealth and prestige. He will paint a life of perfection for you. This life, at your moment in time, will strongly appeal to you.

You don’t know it yet but you are a student.

You are not a companion, wife, lover or partner although this is what you so desperately want. It’s an illusion. The Universe has assigned you a teacher, and you are the student. This teacher is like no one you have ever known. He is charismatic, charming and very powerful. You will feel blessed and honored that he has chosen you.

He will educate you.

You won’t be aware when each lesson is taught; you will only know and understand once you have learned the lesson. Pay close attention. Try not to get blindsided by his tricks of flattery, gifts, and promises, all of which are ploys to manipulate and distort you, setting you up for heartache, zero self-confidence, loneliness, and low self-worth.

Acknowledge these ploys and schemes gracefully; be grateful and say “thank you”. Keep them tucked away in your memory vault. You will need to refer back to his promises and material tricks as you forge through your journey. Your mission is to learn. Absorb as much as you can.

In the early days of your time together he will give you a cellphone. He will request that you keep it on at all times. He will want you to be available to him 24/7. He’ll explain that he is a very busy, important man, attending many events, meetings, and social events. He expects you to attend them with him. This makes you feel very significant.

You will never say no or refuse him. He will take your “no” as rejection, a sign that you don’t want to be with him or that you are not grateful for him. He will accuse you of being embarrassed to be seen with him, probably because he is old enough to be your father. Instead, you will do whatever it takes to accept and attend these functions, even if it means having to beg for time off of work, find suitable care for your young daughter at the drop of a hat, and even if you are exhausted or ill. You will suck it up and go.

Become very organized and obsessive about how you look. Schedule hair and make-up appointments in advance. Media will always be at these functions or close by with their camera’s waiting to get a snapshot of the two of you together. You’ll become paranoid about this and pressure yourself to be camera worthy all the time. You’ll be the talk of the city being on the arm of this man so you’ll make damn sure you look flawless. Everyone knows who he is and soon everyone will know you because of that. “Always smile and keep your face soft, just in case you are photographed without your knowing it. No one likes a frown or stern looking face,” he’ll remind you constantly. Least of all him.

You won’t dare wear the same dress to an event in the same year. If you’re photographed in the same outfit twice you could risk being the subject of criticism within his sizable circles. Even if you have to spend every single cent you earned that week on shoes, outfit, hair, and accessories – you’ll spend it. Think of it as an investment for your future.

He will act as though he is proud of you. He will make a huge fuss and tell you how beautiful he thinks you are; he will shower you with compliments and make you feel extraordinary.

You will believe he is sincere.

He will make a point of showing you off to all of his acquaintances and colleagues. People will praise him, and the press will give him accolades. He will strut like a hero. When you meet these people be polite and happy; keep smiling even when they make you feel uncomfortable, which will be more often than not. Most of the women he introduces you to will be around his age, married to his acquaintances; they’ll make little digs about the fact that they have children your age. They will comment on the age difference between the two of you. Much as you’ll want to reach across the table and scratch their envious eyes out, you will blow it off. You will just keep smiling, saying nothing. Showing no reaction will kill them.

Some women you meet will be those he has had casual affairs with. They will be closer in age to you and more than likely women he works with, sits on committees with, or they will work as volunteers for one of the many charities that he organizes. The majority of these women are married (however unhappily). They use him for free dinners and event tickets.

They will try to befriend you. At first, you will oblige, meeting with the odd one for lunch. You will have a gut feeling about this – you will know these women have no real interest in becoming your friend. Trust your gut. Play the game, even though you feel sick to your stomach about it. Exchange phone numbers, compliment them on their shoes or handbags, make them think that you are interested in seeing them again and then never follow through.

You will want to confront him with your suspicions about his relationships with these women. You’ll ask questions such as “Why do you have lunch with Lynda so frequently?” or “Why is Mary always calling you?” and “Why do you flirt so much with Susan when we are at events and furthermore, why is Susan always at the same events we are?”

He will become agitated and lie to you, insisting that you are crazy.

He’ll say things like, “These women are really good people who do good things for the community on their own time.”

He’ll say, “Don’t be silly! Now you’re sounding crazy! I don’t flirt with women! You’re paranoid! It’s part of my job, I have to socialize with them for work.”

Don’t even bother wasting your time confronting him again. He will continue to lie to you while denying everything.

His male acquaintances are business owners, politicians, work colleagues, and committee members. They are the “I have more money than I know what to do with” men. They are the high rollers. They are the lowest of the low.

Some of these guys will make advances. A few, in particular, will come right out and tell you that they want to sleep with you. You don’t know if you should feel flattered or disgusted. They will look you up and down, scan every inch of your young body. They will then glance over at him with a slimy grin or a little chuckle as if to say, “You did really good with this one”. He will then look at you with great pleasure. In the early days, this will make you feel like you are the most important person in his life. You are not. You don’t know this yet. You will go to great lengths to achieve that status.

You are crazy about this man. You have never felt this way about anyone before. You’ll go with this foreign feeling. You won’t question it. As time moves forward you’ll beat yourself up – asking yourself how you could be such a fool. But for now, you need to experience this; it’s part of your learning.

People will gawk and comment. They will say he is way too old for you. More than once, people will insinuate that you are a gold digger. People will say that you are in it for the money and he is in it for the sex. They will appear to be puzzled by your union. You will be called his arm candy, his trophy. It will drive you crazy. Let it go. Let the people talk. Let them think what they want. You cannot control that. The people are the least of your concerns.

He will ask you and your young daughter to move in with him. He will purchase a house for all of you to live in together. He will make all the rules without you even knowing that they are rules. He will pay for the mortgage, taxes, and insurance policies. You will pay for groceries and utilities. You will begin to feel safe and secure. You have moved to the next stage with him. It feels like a commitment to you. This will make you feel happy and content. You will dream of being a family and for him to solidify your union with a proposal.

Your calendar will become your best friend for without it you won’t know whether you are coming or going. Your time, as you once knew it, will not be yours anymore.

At first, you will enjoy the events, meeting celebrities, and fine dining, even though it is taking its toll on you physically and emotionally. You will become sleep deprived and miss the time you could have been spending with your young daughter. You will become more obsessed with your body image.

You’ll begin each day by getting up at 5 am, heading downstairs and running like a maniac on the treadmill for half an hour. You will obsessively watch every move and exercise you do in the mirror until your body is exhausted. Step on the scale, step off the scale. Step on the scale again to ensure that the number is accurate, then step off.

He has commented periodically about your body, about how it could be improved, despite your overly thin frame. He’ll compare you to other women in his circles, noting how fit they are. He’ll suggest that you could look that way too if you put some effort into it. You’ll think you need to maintain your unhealthy weight for his approval. It’s all part of his mind-game to make you feel not good enough. At this point as you’ll stop at nothing to give him what you think he wants and needs.

Go have a hot shower. After your shower, put on a pot of coffee and let it brew while you blow-dry your hair, apply your make-up and get dressed for work. Wake up your daughter at 7:15. Make her breakfast. Sit with her for a few minutes while you sip your coffee and watch the morning news. You will tell yourself that coffee is all you need and forgo eating breakfast. You will stand in front of the hallway mirror, examining yourself and your outfit for the day, making sure everything looks perfect just in case you happen to bump into someone that knows him. Again, I repeat: the people are the least of your concerns.

You drive your daughter to school, kiss her goodbye and watch her run to the school playground through your rearview mirror. Your heart aches because each day she is getting older and you beat yourself up as you drive to work, thinking about all the valuable time you invest with him and all those people that you spend oodles of time with that really don’t give a shit about you at all.

You go to work and get through your day. It’s 4:30 pm, he calls wanting to know when you will be home because you need to be ready to leave no later than 5:30 to be at one of his important events. Important to him, not important to you. He makes you think that your presence is important but really it’s not. You could say no but you don’t because you don’t want to upset him. Your role is to be well groomed, well spoken, smile and be witty. You will do an outstanding job making him look really good. You have learned how to do this exceptionally well. You are also learning and understanding that this is not what you want. You are getting tired.

As the years progress you learn more lessons. You mature and develop your voice. You learn how to say the word “no” after countless yeses to him. Your dreams of saying “I do” are gone; if he had wanted you to be his wife he would have asked you by now. You learn that you are not a novelty anymore. He stops kissing you and touching you. This goes on for years. Evidence of his infidelity is brought to your attention. You are devastated, but this is necessary.

You are sick with pain and hurt. You blame yourself. You’ll think that you are not good enough because if you were good enough he wouldn’t have wanted to cheat. If you were good enough he would have asked you to marry him.

You lose more weight, you eat less and drink more. Wine becomes your new best friend. You feel empty. You cry a lot and sleep less. He sees how unhappy you are and your changing behaviors but he never once asks if there is something wrong; he never shows any concern. He continues to insist that you accompany him to events and ceremonies.

You care less and less each day about how you look because clearly, all the time you spent investing in your appearance was for nothing.

It’s time to take back your power. Taking back your power becomes the greatest challenge you’ll face. You begin to hear your inner voice and wisdom speaking to you. Listen and listen well. This is how you will pass with honors.

Put down the bottle. The wine is not helping you. Put it down, no matter how difficult it is to stop, especially now, given how betrayed and sad you feel.

Be gentle with yourself. You have been through a lot. Be kind to yourself – nurture your mind, body, spirit, and soul. You need to be physically, mentally and emotionally ready to pass this test.

Begin to politely decline his social commitments. Engage yourself with your teenage daughter. She needs you now more than he ever will. Continue to run the household as you always have.

Don’t confront him about his indiscretions; that will only make him frantic to gaslight you more; he will try harder than ever to convince you that you are crazier than he has already tried to make you believe.

Be smart.

He has taught you how to mingle and develop your interpersonal skills. Use the lessons you have learned and the tools that you have been given to meet authentic, like-minded, positive people. Reach out to charities and groups that you can contribute your valuable time to and feel good about yourself in return. Start writing again. You used to love writing in your youth. Release the pent up negativity and the effects of your bruised emotions and broken heart onto paper. Allow yourself to feel the pain as you scribble your words on paper. Let it out and then let it go.

Continue to wake up early and embrace each day feeling stronger and stronger. Savor your cup of freshly brewed coffee but also eat a healthy breakfast. Do a light workout at 6 am. Put the scale away. Remember, beauty is not measured by a number.

Have a long luxurious shower. Let your hair air dry. Get dressed for work and for goodness sake lose the stilettos and wear more sensible shoes! Your future self will be grateful you did. Massage moisturizer onto your face, and while looking in the mirror at your natural self, remind her of how beautiful she is on the inside and out. Tell her that she is more than good enough. Leave your cosmetic bag in the bathroom drawer. It is time the world meets the authentic you. It will feel uncomfortable but very liberating. You have felt uncomfortable before and managed to survive and learn, so this is not new. This is easier.

Spend the extra time you saved not getting all dolled up with your daughter. Sit with her while she eats her breakfast, appreciating every moment you have with her for it won’t be long before she spreads her wings. Drive her to school and wish her a wonderful day. Watch her walk to meet up with her high school friends through your rearview mirror and smile knowing that you will reunite with her at the end of the day and have dinner together. The two of you will spend a nice quiet evening at home.

When he calls you at 4:30 remind him that you are unavailable and wish him a wonderful evening at his event. Tell him to say hello to all the folks that are usually in attendance, and try to sound sincere. You can do this. He taught you how.

Continue to slowly get back in touch with who you really are. Authentic, kind, loving and a good person. Speak to your higher power when you are feeling weak and ask for help. Engage your family and close personal friends. You are almost there. You have learned the lessons. Everything becomes crystal clear to you now. You feel different. It’s as though that same gust of wind that whisked you away all those years ago has brought you back, only stronger, wiser and empowered.

He will not respond well to this new version of you. He will explosively dismiss your new sense of awareness. He will become agitated each time you challenge him about his infidelity or his questionable choice in companions. He will deny everything. But you have figured him out and he knows it.

The charismatic, charming, and powerful man you fell for will shrink before your eyes. A snake in a suit. You look into his cold, apathetic eyes and inform him that it is over.

His work is done and so is yours.

“Portrait”by mpujals is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

Melanie Jones

Melanie Jones has embraced writing as a way to heals and as a way to help empower and inspire women of all ages. Hers is a journey that has been a blessing; full of heart ache and heart-warming experiences. She believes that all women need to listen their inner voice and to trust their instincts.

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