My relationship looks sort of like this if it were charted into days:
How on earth did I ever choose this life? All those years ago, what was I thinking? In this insane pattern, how much did I believe deep down inside that he’d never leave me? Did I sense this? Know this somehow? Is that part of what attracted me?
In the beginning, there were warning signs. To be fair, I was so young and didn’t know how to interpret them. Also, I was conditioned by some family of origin stuff to navigate what would have had a healthier person walking away.
I grew up knowing I was an unplanned child, that I came at a bad time, and failed from the get-go because I was born a girl instead of a boy. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t loved, or that I was mistreated. My parents, products of their own painful lives, gave the best they could, and as they fought through a terribly unhealthy and incompatible marriage, they also fought to give their kids love, and a good home. They went without and didn’t complain, they worked, and the years of desperately good intentions flew by. I don’t blame them, because where would the blame stop?
The objective bad part is that I grew up feeling I had to earn a place in the family. I was the last born that added another body to an already tippy boat in rocky waters. I had older sisters, and one brother, the golden favorite child who could do no wrong. This meant that no matter what I did, no matter what I achieved, no matter what I accomplished, it was unmarked and unnoticed, ‘lest it somehow detract from him. It meant being invisible in many ways. So ah yes, one of the cardinal rules I learned: Don’t make anyone feel bad. Even if it means neglecting yourself, or ignoring your own needs and talents.
When I met my husband, my life was in some chaos, and I was trying to figure out a plan to recover it. My parents had moved away from where I grew up to out in the rural boonies. I was trying to understand why my first love (whose parents didn’t approve of me) had married someone else, yet said he still loved me.
My plan included going to college. I’ll never know what might have been, because I met my husband. He pursued me fast and intensely, and almost immediately suggested we should marry. He vowed that it would be his priority in life to support me and share my dream of going to college. (in reality, he continually sabotaged and put up road blocks to my getting an education.) That sounded good, and after all, he was just about to graduate from college, so it seemed sensible. But those disturbing incidents… the warning signs.
Was that the problem? Deep inside, did I believe that a healthier person would leave me? That a healthier man wouldn’t love the intrinsically flawed and imperfect me? An amazing young man had already left me and married someone… more deserving?
So now this handsome, funny, sweet, charismatic, about to graduate from college young man has declared everlasting love, has told me I’m beautiful, that he doesn’t want to change one thing about me, that he doesn’t care if I smoke or that I don’t know how to cook or that I’m not interested in ‘keeping house’… and he loves me? Why did I believe it?
Why did I believe it? After all, I didn’t believe it about myself.
When the warning signs occurred, did I just accept it as part of the package because This is all I deserve?
Even if the negative messages about ourselves are buried and subliminal, they’re probably there. Whether it’s the intensity of his need/love that plays to our insecurity, or the familiarity of being treated negatively, being neglected, being invalidated, being invisible etc., something strums an exquisitely resonant and familiar chord within us.
It obviously did for me.
This is why I’m fighting to focus on learning to love myself. When I’m so sad and tired, it’s so easy to believe this is all I deserve.