My priest boss told me that he liked that I could not see anything but goodness in others. My ex-husband once told me that the reason our marriage had problems was because I was “too nice”.
I think it’s safe to say that trusting someone has gotten us into some rough times. Not just with the abuser. If boundaries are foreign to you, trying to erect them can feel exhausting.
My ex-husband used to go out almost every night. For some reason, I thought that if we were living together, I would see more of him. Things do not change after you get married. I never told him that he could not go out. I felt that if I had to tell him to stay home with me, that it wasn’t going to be very sincere if he was sitting on the couch sulking.
And it’s funny. In “allowing” him his freedom, I never asked myself how I felt. Neighbors asked me. Seriously, they did. They didn’t want to pry but told me that I should not be alone as much as I was.
But here’s the thing about feeling….all I knew was that I did not want to force someone to be with me. I did not acknowledge out loud to myself that asking for attention meant that I would feel that I was walking on eggshells. Although I never demanded that he stay home with me, I did bring up the fact that I felt unhappy. And that was a big step. I have no idea why but I felt at the time like I could not survive without him. I spent weekends with our kids without him. It was like something was taken from me. I could not function without the other half of me.
And because of that, there was emotional abuse. But I didn’t know that it was abuse. Sex with him was not loving. I literally remember him hopping out of bed, throwing on his clothes, calling someone, and heading out the door while I had not yet moved to put my feet back on the floor. Or when he came home after drinking and not caring if I was awake yet or not and he would start without me. I kind of felt like his ski poles that he would take out of the closet when he needed them. A thing.
I did not know at the time that he was a reflection of how I felt about myself and how I felt I deserved to be treated.
In fact, it wasn’t until last week that I had a light bulb moment. He had removed his wedding ring, he said, because he didn’t want to get it caught on anything at work. He said he had put it on his dresser but it was gone. I searched everywhere for that ring but I could never find it. I asked if he wanted to get another one. He refused.
It wasn’t until this past week that I thought about that again and I thought….I bet he never lost it in the apartment. I bet he didn’t take it off in the apartment. I was pregnant at the time and he was out with his friends a lot and drinking a lot. It’s not that I’m looking for proof or that it matters now but it just kind of hit me that maybe the reason we never found the ring is because he had taken it off and left it somewhere else.
It doesn’t matter anymore and he and I get along fine now and the fact that after we split up he got a tick where no man wants to get a tick….that helped. I wish no harm on anyone, but that kind of did it for me. Any dark thoughts about the past were released. I laughed….maybe a bit more than was polite… and just thought….”Karma”.
What I discovered over time with this relationship and others in my family and whatnot is that you can love someone and still protect yourself emotionally. And I think that discovering that was a major emotional growth for me. My ex and I share memories and our grown kids and grandkids and such, and there is a kind of love there, but where I once thought….I love him, he is the father of my children, I can make this work, I have a responsibility blah blah blah…..and even my father telling me that God says blah blah blah about the woman and I should not leave, etc. The fact is, I realize that just because we get along great and care about each other does not mean we should ever live together.
Some people you are forced to spend time with. I cannot be in the same room with my brother without having all kinds of uncomfortable feelings and not wanting to be there. But I love him. But love does not mean trying to save him from himself. Because sometimes when you try to help people, you get pulled down as well. And I think when you realize this, it is growth as well.
It has been my pattern in life to help or take care of people who will often take advantage of the fact that I don’t enforce boundaries to their own end. And then things get out of control and trying to enforce anything becomes ugly and….well, you know….I am so mean and abusive and whatnot. So the boundaries become invisible and my personal space no-existent. And instead of pushing outward, I internalize. Until it gets to the point where I begin to feel I need help to keep balanced inside because the boundaries are now being violated inside of me.
I have been here. I call it the 35% dilemma. You know what I mean. If you took a piece of paper and wrote down all of the negatives about the relationship, you would see some pretty bad stuff. But, there is always that 35 percent that we are afraid to lose. And Heaven forbid you hurt someone by asking for something for yourself.
My ex used to say that if I was unhappy, that I should not let the door hit me on the ass on the way out. And that used to work at one time.
Perhaps we have all been in a situation where we are afraid to lose someone. You know….I have to tell you…..if part of the 35% that is good about not letting go is because being with them means you are not alone…..well….
It’s tough. I know. And there are people who mean well whose advice does not help when you are searching for answers. It’s not easy to find strength when you’ve forgotten who you are and your self worth. When all you know is what you have been surrounded by.
I saw a show this week about the brain and about how we can drive home on auto pilot while thinking about other things. But if we were driving in another country where we had to focus because we needed to drive in an unfamiliar setting and possibly on the other side of the road, we would not be able to let our mind wander freely. Having to totally focus for a long time can be exhausting. So I am thinking that continuously trying to deal with mentally defending ourselves against attack or trying to make major emotional decisions or having on-going grief or PTSD being our focus is probably also exhausting.
I’ve been there. I’ve been where that 35% seems so very important and I’ve been where I can’t see clearly enough through and issue for it to make sense. I’ve been where logic and emotion collide and pull you all which ways.
The only thing that has helped me is to let go of having to decide. To let go of the fear and the guilt and the memories and the score card of who did more for whom. Silence the inner screams that tell you that you are not good enough, strong enough or whatever enough or too this or that. Ignore all of that completely.
Emotions can backfire when what you feel can be used against you by another person. Someone who is trying to control you or manipulate you knows what buttons to push.
And you believe it because you are saying it to yourself.
I was so used to being told that I couldn’t do things or that I didn’t do things right that I believed it when I was told that if I tried to go away on my own, I would get lost. This was before GPS. Or back when you had to print out the directions and things on the directions didn’t exist anymore or never did.
He offered to drive me there, drive home, and then drive to pick me up at the end of the weekend. And it seems thoughtful and most people would think that was thoughtful. But it’s so damn easy to accept help when you’re trying your best not to need it. And it keeps you locked into needing that 35% when the other 65% could be horrendous.
The only thing that I have found is to just jump. Just keep moving forward.
And once you begin to move, you keep going and you don’t listen to well-meaning friends who want to help but don’t understand really.
Another thing is when you are moving forward, do it one step at a time. When things look overwhelming, it’s like trying to walk through a sandstorm. Nothing is clear. If you let fear speak to you, it can stop you in your tracks. If you let guilt speak to you, it can make you get caught up in endless loops of questions. Both will leave you lost in the storm and that can rob you of years of your life.
It took me years of anguish and all of the back and forth and feeling at times that I was trying to climb up a mountain mid-winter barefoot and I lived life with the brakes on so afraid to finally let go…..and when it finally happened and I got my divorce papers in the mail…the day went on as usual. And I felt like….all of that for what? Why did I try so hard?
Someone asked me this week how I can up with a blog every week. I have so much stuff in my head to get out that sometimes once a week doesn’t feel like enough.
I heard someone say….when someone smiled at me, I was good. A thousand people could smile at me and I would be a good person. But it only took a frown from one person for me to feel like I was bad again. That was good insight.
See, I never know where I am going to go with the blog as I write. It is just like I have ping pong balls stuck to me with Velcro and until I peel them off, they aren’t going to go anywhere.
And going back to the not pleasing everyone….I do read comments before they get posted. And I do edit comments for anything offensive, extremely personal, or any comment that seems to be targeting any individual in particular or asking people to take sides. That is playground bullying 101 and we don’t do that here.
Remember that we are all recovering from trauma. None of us are perfect. We are just doing our best to help each other. Leaders volunteer and give up their free time because they care. Doesn’t mean they are right all the time. Does mean if you have an issue with them, you don’t post it publicly. Please keep your differences private unless something is hurtful and needs to be reported. Even then, this is not the place to publicly draw sides.
Thanks and have a great week. Remember to take the poll.