When we live lives for duty, or obligation, fear of judgment, we are not living authentically, we are not living ‘freely’ and we lose ourselves.
What I’m about to share is only a small part of my story. We all have a story to tell and can learn so much from other’s stories. My heart is to challenge, encourage and hopefully ‘hit’ the mark with someone out there…. to impart some hope.
It can be an excruciating ride but I think most women have learned through various cultural influences to undervalue their own personal truth, their worth. I discovered the true fullness of this going through my separation.
I had been married to my partner for 19 years and realized early on I didn’t love him in the way I noticed others did their partners.
There was a lack of passion, chemistry, attraction. I realized I loved him as a person, a friend but not a romantic interest. The interesting thing with us was that there wasn’t a lot of fighting or bickering, we got on really well BUT we didn’t have that ‘charge’, the aliveness that comes from connection and intimacy, in our relationship.
Sex was a duty, nothing more. Being brought up in a Christian home and having strong Christian values at the time, I never envisaged during those 19 years ever experiencing anything more because of this foundational belief of ‘you only marry once’. I remember very early on crying out to God for help when I realised I wasn’t ‘in love’ with my husband, I mean having to sleep with him was awful, I would literally just focus on my own bodily sensations and other times I would be screaming on the inside for him to get off me.
But I remember vividly the process of the deep crying out, then coming to a place of acceptance and very quickly consciously burying the truth of my feelings deep within. So from that early moment on I just chose to love him the best way I knew how. I was supportive, respectful and just tried to be the best wife I could be.
I should have known before I married him, I never liked kissing him and even he noticed I would move away sometimes if he put his arms around me. A red flag or what!
I had struggled with understanding myself in those early years before we married.
I had such residual identity issues from traumatic teenage years and I cannot understand what was going through my mind between the ages of 18-22, our dating years. What was I thinking!!!! I know I had a very sheltered life and in that, I was probably quite immature but in the end, I’ve really had to accept the reality of this. I can’t change the past.
During our early marriage, if I ever had any kind of thought about him being unattractive or times where I just didn’t feel respect for him, I very quickly buried the thought. I think because the idea of being stuck in this situation for life was too much to bear so I buried it and just ‘got on with it’. I think women are really good at this! We will ‘bear’ and absorb a lot of negative thoughts and emotions rather than act on them because we choose to put others first.
Women would rather absorb our own pain than hurt others.
Whilst this can carry the ‘appearance’ of honor or something admirable, I came to really judge this notion, this mindset in terms of my own worth. Having a strong faith at the time I really felt God showed me that He wasn’t happy with my marriage, it didn’t please him to see a marriage, a relationship this way. This was the first step for me. After being bought up in the church I had deep conditioning, a fear-based grip on me in regards to choices about marriage and possibly divorce. It was seriously frowned upon and it is amazing how the most liberal Christians when it comes to the subject of ‘Divorce’ or even separation can have such a fierce reaction.
But this didn’t translate to how I felt God cared for me or how I had come to think how God thought of me. So I was in this process, this toing and froing from what I had now seen and felt as a new truth, opposing what my own values had been for so many years. I would uphold those values with such pride, judgment and indignation at times.
There was an inner battle raging with myself but also being very much aware of the thoughts of those around me.
Despite this, I chose to tell my husband the truth, I felt I had to. It was as though something in me had suddenly woken up and I could no longer keep on living the lie. It’s amazing how we think that living unauthentically and lying to someone is somehow more acceptable and right. But if telling the truth conflicts with a religious principle then we won’t allow that truth to rise.
Somehow, from that position of my new found conviction I just barely had the strength to tell him. I really just had to focus on telling him, just getting through that. The fear of being confronted with his reaction, hurting him that way and the fear of his family’s reaction, which dare I say in the end was worse than my own family’s reaction was strong. Joining that with the inbuilt fears of life-long held mindsets and personal fears of what would my life become now; all became a jumbled, aching mess within.
So I did just focus on speaking the words out, with my heart pounding so heavy and fast. I had never said an unkind word to him during our relationship, I would never have said anything hurtful to him. I’m just not like that, tempered and careful before speaking. The anxiety was immense. With all the strength I could muster and conviction of heart I told him and yes it was heartwrenching, he was confused and then angry and so hurt.
I did hope for a miracle in my own heart in the next few months that followed, as we remained living under the same roof albeit sleeping in separate rooms. I opened my heart for something to change. But nothing had changed for 19 years and nothing was going to change. In the process of finally acknowledging the truth of how I really felt to myself and then to vocalise that out loud to him, it was like the full scope of the truth of it enveloped me. There was certainly no going back!.
Not unusually, I did carry, beyond all that, a deep sense of guilt for what I had done to my family as we had two young children at the time. But I was ‘speaking my truth’, living truthfully has to be one of the hardest things to do but despite that, I believe in my own worth as a human being and as a creation of God. I deserve to be happy and experience joy and pleasure in all that life can offer and so did my husband. He deserved to be loved and adored, I wanted this for him too.
As time went on my husband said he could no longer live with me and he wanted to move out since nothing had changed in my heart towards him. I understood where he was coming from and couldn’t blame him at all. It was so difficult, not knowing at that stage what would happen. The future looked bleak, I hadn’t worked in years, no degree to fall back on so I had no idea how to be a single woman financially, or in any way.
We had known each other and started dated at 18, there hadn’t been anyone else. But day by day I dealt with what I had to deal with just for that day. I got a place of my own with my two children and my ex-husband moved into a separate house on his own but not too far away so he could visit the children regularly. Slowly, bit by bit I learned to find my own joy, spending time with friends, going out socially (something I never did, we lived a very boring life). I started to enjoy and crave the vibe and energies of having many people around me.
This whole experience opened my mind up, enlarged me in ways that I don’t believe would ever have happened if I had continued on in that life.
I eventually met someone and am now married again. My new husband answered those deep heart desires of how I wanted to and needed to be loved, he fulfilled me. It wasn’t my ex- husband’s fault, he didn’t know any better but he just didn’t know how to ‘love’ me the way I needed. I didn’t feel that sense of safety, trust, and protection that I feel now.
So, here I am, life can certainly throw up some trials but learning to live from our true identity in who we are, is something we should be fighting for, for ourselves and all women.
When we live lives for duty, or obligation, fear of judgment, we are not living authentically, we are not living ‘freely’ and we lose ourselves. I lost myself over those 19 years, laying my life down in a sense for the sake of others, for the upholding of a belief system. But at what cost?
Aren’t we worth more than that?
That’s the big question for a lot of women I think. To sit down with their own mind, their own feelings and get to the center of their truer selves, what is that inner voice really saying? It sometimes takes the trial, the suffering, the pain to knock us down but out of which, once surrendered, we can rise again in our new found identity.
All the richer for the experience, we are re-framed, re-built with a stronger foundation. In this place, we find ourselves again; new and refreshed with a sense of ‘aliveness’, able to truly give to the world around us with a greater sense of empathy and compassion than we had before. We become living stories; exuding life, hope, possibility, joy. We are worth it women! So….. go on and share the story.