In a few weeks, it will be the anniversary of the worst day of my kids and I’s life.
Many of you have asked how this holiday season would feel for us, and I am very grateful for your mindfulness. The truth is, I’m not quite sure yet.
Part of me wants to make it the best holiday I know how to, full of the cheer and frivolity that Thanksgiving and Christmas bring, in an effort to create new memories that are positive and full of love. The other part of me wants to curl up in a ball and mourn for my family’s pain that is naturally triggered by this time of year.
I’m currently in a limbo, and I know if I stay stuck in a limbo I will be frozen and revert to a survival mode that doesn’t do either – mourn or create new memories.
And I have to tell you, I’m so worn down by being in a place of survival. Being in that place of lack for the mistreatment of my family that we experienced on discovery day and the year following. And today.
On the exterior, I am scrappy, strong, and resilient. But inside I feel so deeply that I often take on the emotions of others, most of all my children. Sometimes to the point of losing my own identity and purpose.
And I can’t lose my identity and purpose anymore. If I do, I cannot provide the love I need to give to those who need it most or show up for myself. That has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this past year. In my 19 years of marriage, nearly half of my lifetime, my identity was always my biggest struggle.
On my path of healing since my partner’s abandonment and infidelity, I’ve had to walk backward, really far backward, to make sense of how my family got to this place. Some of this reflection will ever make clear sense, but without looking back, I cannot know how to operate or protect myself and my children moving forward.
We must learn who we were to know who we are now.
Stuffing old and new traumatic experiences only keep us in the same place we’ll always be. Like a carousel of complicity.
And complicity will suck your soul.
If you read my stories and feel uncomfortable, I say that’s good. My intention of sharing these experiences isn’t to “get at” my partner for wronging me or to defame or shame anyone. I’m not writing it for me. I’m writing it for the countless women and men who don’t know how to speak up or simply do not have (or know how to use) their voice. I write it for the people who regularly send me private messages and letters who know the isolation of abandonment, infidelity, and abuse but have no support or advocacy from their community, family, or friends.
That’s why I write.
I have the responsibility to speak honestly and truthfully if I have the platform to do so.
I spent a great deal of my life suppressing truth and honesty because the price I paid for doing so was too high. Or at least, I was lead to believe that the price was too high for doing so.
But no more of that.
I will never cover the truth, speak dishonestly, or accept mistreatment for myself, my children or the vulnerable again. I will not spend my time on inauthentic relationships that are built on secrets and lack of vulnerability.
I’ve tried it for 19 years. It didn’t work.
The most important lessons I learned while walking backward.
My partner never wanted a partnership. Perhaps a sidekick or fan, but not a relational/marriage/family partnership.
My partner wanted me to bring in an income, but not have any attention on me in a career while doing it. I paid the price for the opportunities and spotlights that came my way.
I was alone in the trenches of family life. Child rearing, nighttime sicknesses, doctor appointments, logistics, housekeeping, finances, all of it. I was always alone. Not because I choose to take on these responsibilities alone, but because my requests for participation were met with rage and anger, or at best, a slight change for a few days with the expectation of a reward for doing so. I know now that healthy relationships do not require a begging of participation in the relationship.
My value was in being pretty, being physically and mentally available at all times, and doing any hard family/marriage work on my own quietly. And keeping that truth under lock and key so that the facade was otherwise. Travel was the only time that I felt like myself, and where I was respected and looked at as an equal human being. When I traveled, it not opened my eyes to the world but reminded me that healthy relationships are not devaluing.
I was told that I lacked empathy when I questioned mistreatment or did not comply with crazymaking behavior.
I was the recipient of intense rage and anger, most often behind closed doors, for not complying with crazymaking behavior.
Success (though success is a relative term to each human) could only be achieved through my partner. My creativity, passions and “successes” were minimized and downplayed behind closed doors.
My partner would not receive help for his rage and anger, so I went to therapy alone to do it for him. That investment ultimately laid a solid foundation that is helping me and my children today, so I am grateful that I did. In fact, I just celebrated my four-year anniversary of therapy.
The most important lessons I am learning today.
There were positive experiences in my marriage, which is why I was always in a state of conflict. There were joyous moments of laughter and love. And fun memories. I will never dismiss those moments or only focus on the painful scenes. I will never dehumanize the person I chose to marry and have children with. My biggest mistake was that I did not set healthy boundaries or dealbreakers from the beginning (perhaps I didn’t know how to), so I would often isolate myself from my partner as a means to be armored and ready to rumble. That didn’t help him or my family, and certainly not myself. I know that now and have learned from it.
Today, much of the experiences I shared above with my partner are the same as they were a year ago. I’m doing most of the grueling work and investment for my family solo, and requests for participation are met with…well, you probably already know.
I have accepted this reality. I needed to accept it years ago. But sometimes it takes years to learn what our values and ethics are, which ultimately defines who WE are. I wish it didn’t take so long, but what a gift that I don’t have to question that or be in a state of conflict moving forward.
I’m a scrappy girl. I’m willing and capable of doing the work. And doing the work with my whole heart and soul invested in it. And speaking up when it’s necessary to speak up, especially when it comes to basic decency and humanity.
For that, I can fall asleep at night with peace and contentment.
If you would like to reach out to me privately to chat about the topic of abandonment, infidelity or emotional/verbal abuse, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any communication will be treated with the utmost confidence.