Move on! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that in the last year since choosing to become a no-more-lied-to-divorcee-versus-an-emotionally-manipulated-wife, I’d be on an exotic vacation instead of spending my money on therapists and life coaches. I’ve worn out the people around me emoting about the shock and awe of my imploding life. There’s still support, but with an edge of impatience, like get over it already.
My heart and mind have been catching up with each other during this annus horribilis. (Initially, picturing him with the idiot, with a nose like a Polish sausage, that he ruined his executive career with, lost the respect of his children for and his marriage over was hurtful. But now all I have to remember is that she’s the one who gets to shave off his voluminous back hair and help him file for Medicare and I’m okay.)
I’ve read numerous self-help books, listened to many professionals, cried buckets of tears, hiked hundreds of miles, and sadly, smoked like a chimney. (I’m now wearing the patch.) There are still moments when I find myself sinking down, but it’s just an hour here and there; not days, weeks, and months of overwhelming sadness giving me hope it will shrink to seconds someday.
In my pursuit for peace and happiness, I’ve considered forgiveness (not ready), gained acceptance (a step), and received my divorce papers (finalized the day after our last legal anniversary). During the past year there’s been a lot of contemplation about how did I end up (and stay so long) with this deceptive human being. Now, I think I know the answer. Does it help? Yes, because only with answers is building the road for the trip going, moving, and running forward possible. I don’t want to live my life in reverse, constantly re-examining my past, but I’ve had no choice. The postmortem was needed because I couldn’t clearly see the road ahead. In fact, there was no road, just empty space.
My life coach asked me to come up with a non-negotiable list for all relationships from this point on.
She explained that often what we don’t want is the very thing we are attracted to because somewhere in our past it’s what we know. For a well brought up southern girl, where “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am” was mandatory (and lack thereof would get you a swat across the behind), having expectations and non-negotiable’s is changing my conditioning going way back. (Compliance with various forms of abuse was on the daily menu at my childhood home, along with a lot of fried food, the result being accepting much less than I wanted or deserved in the past.)
I’m less than enthusiastic at the idea of a relationship, but a date here and there is fine. (Like my Southern Belle friend Bang-Bang so eloquently advised, “Honey, try to stay away from the [email protected]%&-tards, they are never worth a sh&t.”) Nevertheless, I began the process of the non-negotiable list. First, I had to consider the “good” things I could remember about my ex-husband. What qualities I fell in love with. Then, after listing those, I was to list all the “bad,” the things that had hurt me and were the issues that brought the marriage to its conclusion.
The first part, the “good,” was the most challenging because I didn’t want to go back there, ruminating about those first few years and feeling melancholy. Afterward, what was crystal clear was that I had used my “previous ex” as the gold standard of what I didn’t want in a relationship. My “previous ex” being an off and on again boyfriend for five years during my early twenties. Older than me by 15 years, this guy was the misogynistic asshole from hell. Back then, I believed understanding that the ex-boyfriend relationship was an emotionally abusive one protected me from ever entering into another. As the “good list” grew, it demonstrated I had cherry-picked specific qualities about my ex-husband that were pretty insignificant in the bigger picture, as being opposite from the ex-boyfriend.
Then I began the second list, the “bad,” the negatives that became more apparent with each passing year in my marriage and, of course, the last straw situation.
There it was in black and white, the negative traits displayed by my ex-husband were the very same ones my ex-boyfriend had distinguished himself with. How the heck did that happen? That happened because of me, I had married a younger version of the previous jerk, and that previous jerk was much like all the jerks before him. My love life has literally been one big jerk-off. (As the analogy implies, satisfaction has been a missing component in my relationships.)
I can see now I had projected traits my ex-husband never possessed and, sadly, his issues were always the same. They just grew with time. Highly critical, alcohol and chemical addiction, dishonesty, manipulation to get what he wanted, chronic career problems, and habitual infidelity. He was always the same person. I just saw what I wanted instead of what was in front of me. As the years of my marriage added up, I could feel myself being totally diminished as a person. But I made excuses to myself right up to the day I could no longer choke down one more lie which, at that point, were spewing out of his mouth like a geyser.
Years ago I looked back at my single life and felt bad for that younger version of me, wondering how could I have been such a doormat? Ruefully, I now realize I never really stepped off that doormat when I married my ex-husband. I simply moved it to a new address. Switching the face and the name didn’t change anything; it just re-packaged the same issues. Therapists have a name for it, Repetition Compulsion, and it means we are unconsciously attempting to fix past dysfunction in our lives hoping for a positive outcome.
Familiarity is hard to break free of.
Several people I know have commented that they realized they had repeatedly married people with the same characteristics of their abusive, alcoholic father (for instance), or they’re manipulative, highly critical mother, or whatever dysfunction had existed in their childhood.
My non-negotiable list is clearer to me now and it’s only about what I want, not the things I don’t want. (Instead of saying I don’t want deception, you state, I only accept honesty, or I only accept unconditional love versus I do not want manipulation.) The expression, ‘it’s not carved in stone’? Well, my non-negotiable list is being carved in hard, cold stone.
I understand the underlying reasons why I believed I deserved no better than the men and their treatment of me throughout my past, including my ex husband. I’m moving forward; the road is finally becoming more defined. I still have a lot of work to do. In the meanwhile, the only relationship I’m interested in is the most important relationship – the one with myself. As far as unconditional companionship, I’m thinking dogs are the way to go (the four-legged kind not the two-legged ones), and the groomer can shave their back hair.
- The Effects of Divorce on Children
- How Childhood Trauma Affects Us As We Grow
- Preparing for a New Relationship
- What I Wish I Could Tell My 20-Year-Old Self About Relationships