I’m not even sure why I am asking this question, when the answer seems so obvious. I think I am finding it difficult to trust myself not to get involved in this weird situation, out of desperation really, and because I’ve had to force myself to do some very hard things in the past, to try to get anywhere at all.
Basically, I have to decide whether to continue with my application for a lecturing job at a college that is quite low ranking (but close to where I live) in which my abusive ex-partner would be my Line Manager.I’m a lecturer with a recently completed PhD at a world leading college. The job situation for lecturers in the UK is grim – every year jobs are cut, staff retire and their jobs are not advertised, a great many staff are on casual contracts. I am on yearly contracts and do not know from year to year if I will be working. I work in 2 different colleges within the same uni, and my hours over the last three years have been cut by about one third. Last year I did not have enough to live on and had to get into debt. This year, I will have just enough to scrape by, providing I have no ’emergency’ expenses. I cannot have normal social activities at all – cannot afford things like joining a gym or going on holiday or even going out for a drink. I’ve very few friends, no partner, no family really and I can’t really go out due to having no money. I’m a single mum from an originally abusive family and I’ve had no support from them or my ex husband in being where I am today. My daughter is grown up and working in a different city. I worked for years in jobs I hated, just to ensure I could give her security and buy our own home to escape private landlords. I worked my way up through from secretarial to managerial and directorial positions. I have always loved education and learning and have only ever wanted to be a lecturer. I worked incredibly hard to try to make this career change. However, in the time that it took me to work my way up through higher education and get into uni. teaching, the whole landscape of academia has changed; of all of the employers I’ve worked for, the universities are absolutely the most ruthless and exploitative. I am now very lost as to what my next move should be.As well as this, I’ve had to deal with countless crises caused by my original family and the lack of support from others – none of these crises have been of my own making, except perhaps that I’ve always been overly giving and kind, and have always been the one that others take from. I have never learned how to put support networks in place and people seem to react badly if I ever dare to ask for help, because they only see me as strong and only take from me. Whilst all of this has been going on, my ex partner (not my ex husband /daughter’s father) was being very abusive in the background. He was basically an alcoholic but people loved him and he is an expert manipulator of people to get them to help him (basically the opposite of me, who never seems to be able to get help from anyone). I retrospect I see I treated him like a needy child, putting my own needs totally to one side, to nurture his. I guess I also hoped that one day he would love me equally; I’d grown up with abusive, emotionally damaging and withholding parents and siblings, so his ‘mad’ behaviour and my role as his ‘carer’ were very familiar. In the end, I became physically ill with stress and also his abusive behaviour behind the scenes totally undermined any confidence I had. I became dependent on him emotionally because there was absolutely no one else. This felt like a ‘sick’ situation; being too ill to stand up or go out, doctor’s saying they didn’t know what was wrong and couldn’t help, and then the only person coming to visit was the person who I felt had put me in that position in the first place. Anyway, one way or another, and with absolutely minimal qualifications, he has managed to work his way into a leading position within academia. In an odd way, I kind of respect that he has managed to do this through nothing other than his charm; people honestly have no idea what he is really like. However, another part of me loathes this; I know what he is really like – totally disorganised, chronically anxious and narcissistic, completely over-indulgent with his own childlike emotions, chaotic and pretty much useless but – and this really is the only thing that gets him by – is exceptionally skilled in getting other people to help him, support him, do his work for him, guide him and then he takes the credit for it. His done this with me ever since I’ve known him. Since we split 5 years ago (after 17 years together), we have remained friends and I have not really been able to create a life of my own, mainly due to lack of money, illness and lack of confidence. He keeps saying he has changed and wants to get back together. He is the only person I have any sort of long term history with, and he feels like ‘family’ (although messed up). I don’t have this connection with anyone else, so I get very confused – torn between wanting that familiarity for the rest of my life but also revolting, inwardly, against the possibility of feeling controlled by him and used by him again.Now a job has come up in his department – working only for one day per week. It is a permanent contract, unlike my other contracts. I could initially combine it with my other jobs, and this would give me a basic salary, allowing me to lead something of a more normal, social life. Also, there is a very strong change that this almost ‘failing’ college could eventually amalgamate with other, better colleges, creating more job opportunities. I feel like if I finally got my foot in the door, on a permanent contract, I can definitely work my way up. On my CV, it would be a small ‘step up’, allowing me some new responsibilities, and possibly the chance to progress. I know 100% that he would be a nightmare to work with, due to his chaotic character. I don’t think he would deliberately sabotage my progress, but he would take credit for everything I did and it would also be his way of convincing himself and others that his abusive behaviour of the past was never that bad – and it was very extreme, at one point causing him to be arrested for assault. I also know that my CV and experience would really boost his own profile ‘by association’ – he has used me in this way before, to seem to others that he is far more intelligent and capable than he is, just through association with a doctor from a world-leading college. What I can’t bear is my years and years of hard work and suffering due to his behaviour all amounting to him being my boss. On the other hand, I am totally stuck anyway, and don’t know how to move forward as there are simply no other jobs. And I have nothing like the drive and energy I used to have – I still work very hard and I know I do my job really well, but I’m 50 now, and much younger, far more strategic candidates are making sure they get jobs before they are even advertised.There are honestly no other jobs on the horizon, even for someone over qualified like me. I have put in an application for it, not knowing if I can cope with him being my manager – he would be on my interview panel and he has already ‘scored’ my application. When we first discussed it, he totally freaked out with anxiety, as he routinely does about absolutely everything. It took me two days of almost constant reassuring, talking with him and explaining and basically counselling and supporting him, before he would even accept that I had applied. This is extremely typical, but people on the outside have absolutely no idea he is like this and only see him take the credit. As soon as he had managed to get into his head that I may be applying, he started to assume a very superior tone ‘part of your role would be to support me’ etc, etc. as if he had never been the total nightmare that he had been.I know that it makes very little sense for me to get any further involved, even in a professional role, with this person and that I should be distancing myself from him as much as I can. But I get drawn back every time, because I’ve known him for 25 years now and have barely any friends and definitely no-one else I can turn to, nearby, for help. However, another part of me knows that I have been through hardships before and, up to a point, they have paid off; I am exceptionally determined, now own my home outright through sheer hard work, I have at least something of a life of my choosing now (rather than no life at all) and although it would be a nightmare with him being my boss, at leas I’d know how to handle him. It’s just that it feels like the degradation to beat all forms of degradation; so why am I trying to persuade myself that I can handle it? I do think there is some sense in that statement that ‘people can only put you down if you let them’ but, at the same time, there’s only so long you can keep thinking in that way without it becoming self-harming – and I am not sure if this is what I would be doing if I continue towards interview stage with this job. By the way, there is no guarantee I will get it either – he has said over and again it’s not up to him, and I know there is one other very strong candidate who would be my main competitor.Can someone please tell me why I am even contemplating doing this? Surely it makes sense I should just be running a mile from this situation, but it also seems like a possible ‘key to the future’.
View related questions: alcoholic, confidence, debt, get back together, money, my boss, my ex, on holiday
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A male reader, WiseOwlE + ♥, writes (3 October 2018):
You don’t need to work under your ex. I think something deep-down is making you feel you have to prove something to him; or you are driven to prove you can make it work.If this guy has a narcissistic or borderline personality disorder; you may be psychologically-conditioned by his mistreatment to submit to his mistreatment. Working under his management would place you in a totally subordinate role; which will give him far too much power over you psychologically and emotionally. You don’t need to be told this, you already know it.Your first paragraph is all about how under-utilized your skills are. There’s no demand for your talents. Perhaps you need to find another profession that your skills can be transitioned over. It makes no sense to have a PhD and no way to put all that knowledge and training to work for you. If you realize the fact work in that field is so rare and difficult to find; it doesn’t make sense for you to exclusively pursue work in that one profession. Surely your education can be used to succeed in other lines of work.I think you want to submit to him to degrade you; because that’s how you feel about yourself. You seem to have this draw of affinity towards situations that don’t fulfill or elevate you. Instead they stagnate or degrade you. Are you seeking any professional counseling?. You mention other jobs you have; but yet you can’t afford to go out or do anything. You may need to cross-train into another field of work. What good is a job you hardly earn enough to live on? Just subsist! You’re over-educated, for so little use of your skills. Then having to distress yourself with constantly seeking work; with some scary and questionable notion of working under someone who psychologically-abused you. How could you even consider it?Get some therapy and counseling. I think your PTSD from abuse has rendered you down to working below your potential. You find work, but you don’t seem happy; or sort of dazed, and going through the motions of life. Barely surviving. You’re a brilliant and mature woman; and you need more encouragement and support. Stay away from your ex. That’s too toxic, and you will destroy yourself. He will suck the very life out of you.
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A female reader, mystiquek + ♥, writes (3 October 2018):
I believe hopelessness and desperation are clouding your judgment right now. There is NO WAY you should consider working with an abusive ex knowing he will be your boss! You would be opening yourself up to all kinds of drama and headaches. Just say NO.
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