I love this exercise of finding something each week to be deeply grateful for. I try every day to be thankful for something, but to write an entire blog post every week about a blessing is a welcome challenge. At first, I wanted to find crazy things for my focus, but then I shifted to just being grateful for the good things in my life. Today, I want to be thankful for something that could be considered tragic. I am grateful today for the lessons from my two dysfunctional marriages.
I have been married before. Twice, actually. The second marriage pretty much picked up where the first one left off. Obviously, I didn’t learn my lesson the first time around. Both men had personalities stronger than mine, and I wilted under both of them. The first mostly was directly controlling and ignored me emotionally. The second was more insidious in his controlling. He did not tell me I couldn’t do XYZ, but he drove all my friends and family away with his narcissism and arrogance.
He was an angry man. Angry at everything. Angry that my family didn’t like him. Angry that he lost his job for mouthing off to his boss. Angry that his mother died. Angry that we had yet another girl instead of a boy this time. Angry that I “let [myself] get pregnant” when I told him that it was the most fertile day of my cycle. (Ironically, these are the only two children who still visit with him on the weekends.)
Angry that we never had enough money. Angry that he used to be swimming in money before he met me and decided to give up dealing pot. Angry that he weighed 500 pounds. Angry that his clothes didn’t fit. Angry that the furniture kept breaking. Angry that I was having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the hallway. Again. Angry that the house was messy. You name it, he was angry about it. And it was usually my fault.
I learned how to walk on eggshells all the time. If I foolishly made him a new garment from measurements I had just taken a few months ago, they wouldn’t fit, and that would be my fault and he would scream at me for it until I sat on the floor sobbing and willing my heart to just stop beating so he would stop yelling at me. But I couldn’t die. I had to protect my children from him. No way in hell was I going to leave them behind with him. And I had already “failed” one marriage, I didn’t want to be a failure again. So I stayed with him for twelve and a half years.
I learned a few things from this. Diplomacy was a huge one. I learned how to present ideas in the least confrontational and threatening manner possible. My emotional safety depended on it.
I learned greater compassion. I don’t believe I was ever really insensitive, but I don’t think you can have too much compassion.
Resourcefulness was another skill I gained as I strove to keep his soda and junk food habit from gutting the grocery budget so the kids could eat healthy food.
I learned my own strength. Eventually, I also started learning how to care for myself better. I still have a long way to go on that one, but I learned that I do have value as a person all by myself.
I learned that I deserve love, and love is not angry. He did not love me. He proclaimed that he did, but he loved instead the sense of power he had over me.
A new woman
I was a very different woman in 2010 when I ended that toxic relationship than the girl I was in 1997 when I started it. I do not consider that time a regret. Four beautiful children came into my life from it. The next few years saw me change even more radically as I recovered from the decade of abuse. I am a very different woman now on the verge of 2017 than I was exactly 7 years ago when I realized I needed an exit plan. Preferably one that didn’t involve anyone’s death.
I am grateful for that dark decade and all the lessons and children I gained from it. It shaped who I am today.