“I’m afraid of time… I mean, I’m afraid of not having enough time. Not enough time to understand people, how they really are, or to be understood myself. I’m afraid of the quick judgements or mistakes everybody makes. You can’t fix them without time. I’m afraid of seeing snapshots, not movies.” Ann Brashares
Afraid of making mistakes. (Yes, I was.) Wanting to do the right thing. (Always.) Not wanting to judge or be judgmental. (especially since that’s so easy to do without thoughtful restraint and mindful mercy) Having the analytical and intuitive bent that sees the shades beyond black and white. Innate empathy and compassion. Always wanting to understand more in the search for truth. Add to all that a large dose of human frailty, strong will, determination, and unhealthy blind spots.
Time changes things. We’ve all heard that. It’s true with many things, but not all. Haven’t we learned the latter the hard way? The Lord asks in Jeremiah 13:23 if the leopard can change his spots. When turning to others for help and understanding, what most of us probably heard were admonitions to pray, to have faith and pray more, and have more faith. As though we could reach this elusive measure of prayer or faith, and the lack of it on our part was preventing the change needed to stop the pain and bring about a happy marriage. If it wasn’t prayer or faith, it was advice on being a more loving and supportive wife. Yeah, that must be it then, if he had a properly loving and supportive wife, then he would be a better husband.
What an endless trap that creates. Not to mention it entirely leaves out free will, and church discipline for an abusive husband.
I know there’s many here who have strong faith and believe in the power of prayer. I’ve cried out in prayer and wondered if it was hitting the ceiling. I’ve hugged the edge of the bed in silent tears, wondering if I’d been such a especially wicked child that this was my due punishment. To live in the hell of ‘alone with someone’. To be made to feel it was my fault somehow. How else could he have been so impervious to my pain? To try over and over again for years to be someone that was lovable, that wasn’t disgusting, lazy, stupid, or annoying, or selfish, or uncaring, or not thoughtful. There had to be something if he treated me the way he so often did. Definitely unattractive. (It didn’t matter if other men acted like I was attractive. (Obviously, the ‘real’ me must be repulsive or something, because I was so resistable to my own husband.)
You name it, and I’ve probably run a checklist to try to fix it. After all, he wanted to marry me, so there must be some good stuff, if I could just manage to try harder with my bad stuff… right?
Besides being a ‘better’ person, there were the other things I could also try harder with. Cleaner house? Check. House too clean and can’t relax in it? Check. Cook differently? Check. Try to make him feel appreciated and honored? Check. Say too much and nag? Check. Say too little and be accused of withholding what I have to offer as a helpmate? Check.
Only as I said before, none of it worked. None of it changed anything.
Well that’s not entirely true. I was changing. At times over the years, I felt stronger because I was stronger. So determined, and still running on hope. When hope waned and the battle with resignation began, I hit my knees more often, and challenged my own faith. I focused on personal growth, giving, and still enjoying my life despite the emptiness in my marriage. I purposefully built a support system of women friends, although at that time I didn’t let them past the last gates of my soul. At the time I didn’t see the point, and also had never uttered the word abuse, even within my own thoughts. Back then, I thought of it in terms of ‘unhappy marriage’. I considered it to be ‘my’ problem, and my cross to live with. As to the big picture impact on not only myself, but my kids, I really didn’t see.
I had strength and used it to pursue my interests in life.
The strength doesn’t always last. This is the reason that I’m writing this three part post. You can overestimate your strength.
Lonelywife77, a poster here and also a blogger on passive aggressive, commented:
“But I just can’t imagine living with a man that has me so demoralized that I’m afraid to go shopping…that is sooo unhealthy! You have to get out of that toxic poison!“
Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. Because that was just not me.
It happened over time. The me in the past would have scoffed at it happening to me.
I knew a younger woman that danced on the street, jumped and danced on a bed, and while cleaning up after work, danced on a pool table with two co-workers. I knew a younger woman that thought little of driving 1400 miles alone in two days and finding a house to rent. I knew a younger woman that with a female friend founded a private school, and was an original board member. I knew a younger woman that launched a drama program for teenagers. She sang in choirs. Performed in a play. She fought and played and loved passionately. I knew a younger woman that dressed in whatever fun quirky ways she felt like, and laughed when she walked in the rain.
She was strong. She was sometimes shy, but outspoken when she felt truth was at stake. She was brave. She was full of love and hope and dreams. She stood up to the boy-man again and again for over three decades. Fearlessly. She wasn’t afraid of him. But she overestimated her own strength. She didn’t see the hidden quagmires ahead.
Some unexpected things happened. She didn’t see those things coming. She crashed.
She was me.
“When I read your post today it made me so sad…I mean honestly, you sounded so down, almost hopeless…that is NOT a marriage nor is it honoring to God for you to be so emotionally beat up!”
Yes. It’s strange that Time can sweep by while you’re treading water. It’s not the times you’re aware and reckoning, because then you can more or less accurately assess things. It’s that Life can throw something at you that you didn’t see coming at all. Accidents, illnesses, deaths, and other huge, formidable changes. Especially if you have kids. Or it could be that your health plummets unexpectedly. When that happens, you get so focused on getting through it, that one day you look in the mirror and realize a year or two or three or ten flew by while you were navigating, coping, and surviving. All the strategies you thought you had in place to maintain who you were had become secondary to just making it through.
And the toll those unexpected life events take can be fierce and terrible.
“I feel bad for all of us…we didn’t ask for this life…and even though I’m not ready for a divorce right now…I know eventually it’s going to come to that, because today showed me that PA Man is who he is…a hard hearted man who will never change…and I know I don’t want to live like this the rest of my life… But I do stand up for myself, and I tell PA Man to back off and leave me alone and I don’t play his sick games anymore!”
We not only didn’t ask for it, we didn’t see it coming! Wouldn’t we all have run? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who was the blindest one of all?
I want to say that I agree that passive aggressive men don’t really change. If someone is reading this and wondering about their own marriage, I want to tell you that whatever it is, will probably be what it will be. What you have is what you’re going to get. If that’s something you can live with, then do everything you can to love and take care of yourself.
If what you have right now isn’t something you can live with, leave if you can, but find all the support you can. Sometimes we just need to be built up faster than we’re being torn down.
Like some of you, I’m not sure of what I’m going to do, or how it will all play out. I do know that I fully support those of you who have left, or are in the process of leaving. My decisions are currently impacted greatly by health and finances, so I’m a dependent with dependents. Meanwhile, I’m going to regain all the strength and health I can. With eyes wide open.
“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.” Judith Minty