When I left my ex, everyone I knew was looking at him as though he was the villain. At 13 years older than me, marrying him just out of college, the relationship was a train wreck in the making. And my ex's mental health problems only made everything worse.
Given all I went through, you'd think that I'd want to point the finger of blame in his direction. But I don't.
It's natural. When something falls apart, you want to be able to point to one specific thing (or several) that explain the breakdown of the marriage. And they must be one person's fault more than the other's. Right?
I guess I'm guilty of sometimes pointing my finger. Certainly, if you asked, I would say that our co-parenting relationship is a mess because my ex is unable to deal with our breakup.
But the breakup of our marriage? Was that his fault? Can I place the blame solely in his lap?
No. I can't.
As much as I'd like to paint him as the villain in our marriage, and as young as I was when we got married, I was as much in the driver's seat as he was. I walked into the marriage with open eyes. Even if I was wearing rose coloured glasses at the time. I was there. It was me. I did it. Whether it was doomed to fail or not, I was there from the the start, I participated fully in the difficult middle part, and I was the one who called "uncle" - I was the one who ended it.
I had no idea what a narcissist was at the time when we got married. But that doesn't matter. I allowed him to become my whole world. I allowed myself to become his narcissistic supply. I stopped going out with my friends and family. That was my choice. I called him when I did make the rare foray outside of work without him. My choice. Even though I knew that his jealousy was unwarranted.
I have to take full responsibility for all of my choices and their results.
And I do. I really do.
That "marriage", that relationship - lasted almost ten years (if you count with the last six months or so where it was done but neither of us was willing to pull the trigger).
Not taking responsibility for my actions in keeping that marriage going as long as it did - that's a total cop out. Whether it was passive acceptance or active participation. I was there. I stayed.
And as much as he continued to be a narcissist in every sense of the word, I stayed. Even when I understood what a narcissist was, and I realized that I was his narcissistic supply - I stayed.
As much as some of my friends think that I was worse off for that relationship, I do not feel that way.
I not only chose to stay - I chose to have two children. I can't blame low self esteem. I can't take away from that choice. Because I have two beautiful children. Two. Because of the choices I made. I take full responsibility for those decisions - and the beautiful result. I revel in it.
I acknowledged my own responsibility for my choices, and I was able to choose better the next time. And now, as a result of those choices, I have a third child - and my relationship with his father, my husband, is imbued with the knowledge I gleaned from the choices I made in my first marriage.
So if you're going to ask me who's to blame for the crumbling of my first marriage, I'm going to put up my hand. It's me. I did it. And if I had to do it over again, I would make the same choices. I have three children and a wonderful marriage because of those choices. I became who I am today because of those choices. And I love the person I've become.