|Posted by The Thinking Other Woman on March 26, 2021 at 12:25 AM|
People often wonder how I could split from my family.
My brother has bawled me out over this more than once.
I get it, I totally get it. From their point of view, you only make a mentally ill mother worse by running out on her. And I can see that — I can.
But, at some point, you have to consider your own needs.
I really didn’t have a family at all.
I started to understand this when I got brave enough to explain my real feelings about a career I felt stuck in. A career my family, for some reason, had a lot of pride invested in being able to tell others I did.
When I finally came forward with my real feelings about it, they argued with me. “No, you really don’t feel that way. You always felt this way!” Um, no, I was always trying to bend and tweak my feelings to agree with you any way I could, because I knew if I told the truth, this is what I would get.
I would talk about the reality of work. “No, it isn’t, no it isn’t, no it isn’t, no it isn’t!” How do you know? You watched a TV show about it. I’m the one actually living it!
Or, worst of all, I would get the time-honored, “You’re just lazy!” Hmm. This from a mother who never held a job, who couldn’t even drive or balance a checkbook until the age of thirty-five. Nice.
I didn’t decide to leave my family all at once. No, it took many months — a few years, I think — to realize I could leave all this behind, without a word of explanation, and not feel guilty.
Because these people don’t really love me.
People who act like this have a lot of strong feelings they identify as love, I get that. And they feel very needy for you to come back and keep on doing whatever it was they want you to come back and keep on doing.
Because of how it made them feel. About themselves, and about the family.
Because when what you do gives them these feelings they want, they love that.
They love that.
However, I realized over a long period of time, the act of loving that, is not at all the same as the act of loving me.
If my family had really loved me, they would have reacted to my distress quite differently.
When they saw me crying in church over it, a loving family would have said, “Hey, wait, stop. Maybe sit this semester out and come home and think about your major. We don’t want you to be miserable. We want you to be happy in your career, and to have a happy and fulfilling life. It doesn’t look as if you are headed in that direction if you are crying in church over it.”
Instead, I had to pretend and pretend and pretend and pretend to be whatever would make them proud.
I had to pretend to agree with my mother, whatever she had to say about which friend had treated her badly this week, which family member had talked about her behind her back, or that she didn’t feel she got recognized enough for her mission work in the church. I had to pretend enthusiasm when she wanted me to watch an Alex Jones tape three hours long.
I could never, ever, ever say what I really felt or thought. When I did, what an explosion!
And that was about the time she would say that I “had really changed.”
When she started blaming my new husband for that change, that was when I knew going no contact was no mistake.
My late husband was and is the best thing that ever happened to me. The fact that my mother could not see that spoke pretty loudly to me.
All she could see was that I no longer agreed with her all the time.
Years later, when my husband passed away, and I had a brief emotional affair with a married man who was taking the same role in his family, I remembered all of this. (Eventually. Thank heavens.)
I watched as his wife and adult children treated him a lot like this, too. At last, he had gotten enough courage up to say, “I am unhappy here at home.”
At last, he had gotten enough courage to say, “I am moving out.”
I’m sorry to say that my behavior in this situation wasn’t stellar, yet. We’d agreed not to see one another in person until he was divorced. But, once he’d moved out, we could at least talk on the phone.
I know now that people who are using other people take every advantage of those who are desperate for love, the way that people who are using other people take every advantage of poverty to underpay them.
I know because I was one of those people.
I would hear him say he wanted to get his own small house and I would argue with him. I would hear him say, “I’m tired,” and I would ignore him. I’m so sorry about that now.
I was so pumped up that this guy was choosing me over his wife that I wanted more of that. I was looking for more of those kinds of feelings.
I noticed how codependent he was … although, it took me a while to figure out that’s what it was. If he said one thing and I said another, he would swing right around to match me.
All I knew at the time was that something felt very wrong when he did that.
His emotionally cold wife finally got angry at him and blamed all the problems in the marriage on him. I knew good and well that marriage counseling was not likely to go smoothly, and that he’d be moving back into a house with someone a lot like my mother.
But, I also knew I couldn’t talk him out of it. This was something he’d have to find out for himself.
He said he needed to go back in and “fight it out with her.” And I respected that. Rather than running out on the marriage, he needed to go back and represent himself better within it, and take responsibility for anything detrimental he had done.
You’ve got to respect a guy like that.
But, I knew, I just knew, from everything he told me she’d said, that there was a colossal failure in the making.
Two and a half years went by.
My stomach would drop when happy-looking pictures went up on his Facebook feed. I was miserable without him.
What if I’d been wrong? If they got back together and their marriage was great, it’d be fantastic for them …
… but I’d feel like it was a tragedy for me.
My astrologer told me he’d be back, and she told me when he would be back. I started learning some astrology myself, and I could see another aspect that said the same thing. In class, my teacher and my more experienced classmates pulled several more aspects out of the charts that implied this would be the case.
It happened. It actually happened.
I was overjoyed. I had missed him and prayed he’d come back for so many, many months. Still, the month of October 2017 had drawn almost to a close. I had almost given up hope.
That jolt when you see The Message pop up on Facebook really does send icicles through your entire body.
I asked him to tell me all that had happened. It turned out the marriage counseling had gone exactly as I expected it would.
The guy asked to see me again. Only, I wasn’t really happy with how he did it.
He wanted to come back to the club we had met in just to see me and talk to me again. He was still unhappy, but he had decided to stay in the marriage.
His family had threatened to ostracize him if he left. He would miss his daughter too much. He would miss his grandchildren.
He said, “I made my bed, so now I have to lie in it.”
Here was my chance! I could have met him outside the club. I could have grabbed him by the throat and worked on him. Couldn’t he see that he’d made the wrong choice?
It was clear that all these people he didn’t want to lose, weren’t willing to hear or understand his pain. They cared more about how things looked to them than about how they really were, or how they felt to him.
If they loved him, didn’t they care about his feelings? Like everyone who hears about a marriage breakup, they cared more about his wife’s feelings than they did his, and they didn’t know the true story behind that marriage. (Some of that stuff isn’t fit for a daughter’s or an in-law’s ears.) But I knew it.
I also knew that no one was listening to him.
Sort of like I had neglected to do two and a half years ago.
Sort of the way my family hadn’t listened to me.
What he needed was to speak and be around people who could hear. What he needed was people who could listen to what he wanted.
And what he wanted was to stay married.
It didn’t matter what I thought of his reasons. It mattered that someone heard and respected what he wanted.
It didn’t matter that he said he still loved me and that he’d thought of me every day.
Well … it did matter, it mattered a lot. I’d loved him and thought of him every day, too. It just didn’t matter in a way that was relevant to the point.
The point that, if people really love you, they must respect your right to think for yourself.
Right or wrong, consequences or not, when this man said, “I want to stay married,” he was thinking for himself. It wasn’t my place to question his reasoning, arguing for a life I wanted for myself.
If I stepped in and questioned his reasoning, he would never question it for himself.
And the whole point is, If I love you, I accept your decisions for yourself, and I accept your feelings and your thinking behind them. Even if it makes me unhappy that I will not get what I want.
And this is something this dear, sweet man had never, ever had.
Well, I gave it to him.
I wanted to fight for him, I did. I never met anyone else. I still think it was possible for us to be happy, and I’m sorry we never got that chance.
But I fought for him in a much deeper way. He needed to believe his own wants, needs, and thoughts ought to be respected, and he didn’t.
He thought his family’s mattered more than his own, even when he wasn’t happy and wasn’t being treated well.
In doing what his family, and my family, could not do, I struck the one blow I could for his right to be himself.
And that meant more to me than sinking my teeth into his neck, never letting go, shouting over him for him to see things my way, wrenching him away from his family so I could have his company for myself.
I would have told myself, if I did that, that I was supporting his ability to be himself, but I wouldn’t have been. I would have been okay with him as long as he saw things my way.
People always assume the other woman is a horrible person. “Oh, that poor wife! Oh, that poor family!”
It isn’t that I didn’t think about the wife and family. It’s just that I prioritized his well-being over theirs. In this instance, that meant leaving him with them.
He was a highly suggestible person. I could have fought them all, and I could have won.
But in doing so, I would have destroyed him. Now, it would just be me thinking for him instead of them.
And that, I would not do.
And that’s what love is.