Some of the best advice I ever received regarding relationships: “you can only complain about someone so much or for so long before you look stupid for associating with them”. A variation on the theme- we are responsible for how we allow ourselves to be treated- we are responsible for our situation.
Which is precisely why I abhor when others initiate bitter ruminations on my failed marriage.
The selfish motivation behind it is generally forgiven; it usually doesn’t have as much to do with me as with the offender, and the offender is usually someone I care about on a deeper level. I can have compassion for their pain, and I can understand that to them, consciously or unconsciously, my pain is a tool of expression.
Harder to resolve: the churning of that deep shame they bring to the surface.
I loved the wasbund deeply for a very long time, and I was a devoted wife for many, many years. That I chose him and vowed my life and love to him, as dysfunctional as the relationship was means that my own dysfunctional needs were well fed. While I can take credit for outgrowing that dysfunction, I also must take responsibility for having to outgrow it in the first place.
There are rarely true victims in marriage. Even denial must be owned. A consensual relationship between two adults means that both parties enter willingly and with due diligence, and few are the circumstances wherein someone isn’t culpable for the consequences of a poor selection.
Some women might have kept all of the dirty secrets; they would have died with the thousand subtle cruelties and manipulations in some emotional safe. Other women might have chosen to anesthetize the searing pain of hindsight by wearing their anger and bitterness like a cardigan wherever they go.
Shame, fear, pain, mistreatment- these things all rely on darkness and stillness to endure. Bringing them into the light, exposing them to air means that a part of me no longer hides in that prison. It means choosing responsibility and reality over victimization and denial, it means admitting my role in what I endured, it means that I expose the part of myself that wants to minimize and justify in realization that while it may lessen my pain, it leaves me in danger of perpetuating the cycle yet again.
My decision was to tell those stories to people I trust as I feel it necessary to hold them up to the light. It is an excruciating process, admitting to those with a vested interest the things that still haunt me every time I face the mirror, every time I close my eyes. Long ago I stopped hearing and seeing those memories every day, but the collective scar still shows: in my self-criticism, in every new line in my forehead, in the now permanent dark smudges under my eyes, and most frighteningly, in my inability to trust without reservation.
I admit these things, I tell these stories not to fill anyone’s quiver with arrows, but to set my own self free from the secret shame and pain that rises to the surface when it’s no longer dammed by the isolation and manipulation imposed by the man I chose to share my life with. Or, you know, when someone sticks their finger in that wound.
Perhaps my darkest shame is that I couldn’t inspire him to his greatest self, in any sense of the word. My love was a security blanket that he could not survive without, not a force in his heart or his life.
So, no, he didn’t beat me, as much as that might surprise you. Frankly, that would have been much easier to handle.
Fuck you for asking, though.
March 17, 2011 5 Comments