Life has changed for the better. Decisions which I made a year ago, I am now seeing fruit and life is wonderful. I am not saying things are easy by any means - no one has an easy go in life. The home life I have with my children is full of peace and contentment, ignoring, of course, the inherent nature of those waving teenage years. Life is good.
I feel a bit odd sharing very personal information, but I also feel a need to share my journey. I am not sharing to look for pity or sympathy. I share because maybe someone else feels stuck. Maybe someone else feels low and is barely hanging on.
I do not regret my marriage...not because of the incredible children which came from it, but rather because what I came away from it with: strength, dignity, some self-worth (still working on that), knowledge about mental health issues, boundaries, compassion...knowing where to end it.
You see, my ex-husband was patient, kind, caring, patient, and loving when we married. I had a list of desirable traits I wanted in a husband, and he had everything on that list. I felt blessed and very lucky. No one asked me out in high school. Not that I was ugly (hopefully). I was told by a few of my crushes after high school graduation that they were too scared or nervous to ask me out. One, Darren, even had the audacity to say he wanted to take me to prom, but thought I would say no. Darren was a dear friend who was also tall, dark, dimpled, and gorgeous - easily the best looking guy at school. When he told me that he wanted to ask me to prom (he said that the following summer) but did not, I punched him in the gut. I thought no one wanted me. I thought I was ugly or undesirable. The date I had at prom was awful. I really should have just went by myself. I would have had a far better time.
I also was told 5 years ago (2008) that I was the only one in high school that had no enemies, that people wanted to be their better selves when they were around me. The president of the student council and the most popular person in the school told me that. I thought she hated me.
So, when my ex asked me out, I felt special. I felt wanted. He treated me great! He bought me hockey cards, baked me cookies, sat on my bed while I wrote my final essays for university with no compaints. He even listened to Into the Woods with hardly a complaint. None. I felt like I found someone who would give me unending support in my career, whatever I thought that would be. He loved watching me be me.
Except when we traveled by car. We always had to listen to his music, which I kind of liked because it was broadening my musical tastes. Plus, he did not like my singing, especially the high notes. I gave him a headache. The bugger. I can sing, not good enough to be onstage, but I can sing. He .... could not. Still cannot. But I held my tongue because he was so patient and kind and helpful. Love is blind...I thought the trade-offs were worth it.
Things started taking a turn 3 years into the marriage. I feel like such a sap. But you see, my mom has a mental health issue. The way the ex started to treat me was not so different as she treated me. It felt normal to me. While what the ex did was more severe than my childhood, it breaks down simply, to this
If you do not do or wear or watch or go _____________________ then you do not love me. And I will tell you how that makes me feel until I go too far.
Of course, they were not this straightforward. It was not so blatant. There was much manipulation. Much control. Much guilt.
I realised I was being emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially abused only 8 years ago, but it felt wrong. The ex-to-be loved me. He only wanted what was best...I came to realise that was wrong in the months and years which passed.
I have actually been working on this stage of my life for over 4 years, 4 years out of 15. I feel stupid.
8 years ago, the ex was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, which, when looked at in a certain light, made complete sense of his actions. There were the grandiose thoughts (seen as me always being wrong), the spending sprees, the bursts of energy, or the complete absence of energy. It made the control and manipulation almost look reasonable.
So I waited...I waited for the right medication, the right dose, the right therapist. I waited for him to be ready for marriage counseling. I had sympathy for him while he ran from it (counselling) - 3X.
Then I heard, it was always my fault because in counseling, all the issues in the marriage revolved around his actions towards the kids and I. He said he was not ready to face his failures. So I had to wait. Again.
The last time that happened was 2012. I knew it was going to be my last attempt at fixing us. I kept that to myself because I wanted to see a real change in him because he wanted to change, not because I was going to file for divorce (as happened before). But again, I heard it was all my fault, that yes, he had failings, but I had to be patient and help him through it.
I got my life in order and he moved out complete with guilt trips, manipulations, threats...but they held no weight anymore. I was free.
The sun rose on the new life I worked so hard to ensure for my kids, who also had their share of control and guilt from their dad, but that is their story to tell. It was hell for them. For years, I lacked strength to protect them - I was depleted. One day, after a particularly bad verbal tirade by the ex, my then 11 year old son looked at me and said, "Mom, why didn't you protect me?"
That is still the worst moment of my life. I will carry that failure with me forever.
From that moment, I have worked to ensure he knows that I am protecting him - protecting him with everything in my arsenal.
In no way has this past year been easy but damn it all - it is worth it. I would love to have started this journey years ago, but I lacked strength. I have worked long and hard on filling up my spirit to get to this point. I could not have done it earlier.
Now, the house has no more egg shells. When you walk in the doors, it feels different. It's as if you can actually feel the peace which dwells here. There are no more fears of talking about nonsensical things. No more fears of giving a differing opinion. No more fear of singing.
No more fears.
The sun has risen on a new day...a new life without fear of being me. A new life where my kids feel no fear within our walls.
And it is just beginning...