Self-Care

A Year Later.

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.

A Year After Separation

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.

A Year After Separation

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.

A Year After Separation

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.

A Year After Separation

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 amybellgardt@gmail.com. Any communication will be treated with the utmost confidence.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

16 Comments

  • Reply Laurie November 12, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Amy, this is so good! Comprehensive and real and endlessly helpful for anyone going through something similar. This kind of behavior goes down in relationships of all kinds, across families and workplaces and communities, so the ripples are significant when someone shares who has lived through it and learned. You are helping so many people. I’m so sorry you have gone through this, but even more glad that you got out. I wish a happy and peaceful holiday season for you and your kids.

    • Reply amy November 12, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you, Laurie. It’s women like you that inspire me to speak. I really mean that.

  • Reply Jason November 12, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you once again for sharing. Your story is helping so many (me included). I’m sorry you are in the position to help others in this way, but I am thankful for you. I hope you and your kids find joy this holiday season and make wonderful new memories.

    • Reply amy November 12, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you, Jason. I’m sorry that any part of my story resonates with you. I appreciate you reminding me of why it’s important to speak.

  • Reply Christina Reyes November 12, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    Ahhhhh, this line is so good: “I spent a great deal of my life suppressing truth and honesty because the price I paid for doing so was too high.” Oh the stories we could tell each other now… Thank you for sharing this. I relate on so many levels, not to mention the fact that we met through the collaborations of our husbands. Hmmm, maybe WE can collaborate someday. The ultimate irony. Stay strong; I am with you, friend. 💜

    • Reply amy November 12, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      I know that you and I have much of the same experiences, most of which I wish didn’t connect us, but here we are. I feel like we need to do some catching up very, very soon. And I’m always up for a collaboration. You stay strong, too, friend.

  • Reply Brett November 12, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Amy,

    A year ago you didn’t know what lie ahead. Just under a year ago, you probably didn’t know if you would make it this far and YOU DID. You made it. Your boys are so lucky to have you as their mama and I’m so proud of you for being strong and sharing your journey.

    • Reply amy November 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      That is very kind to say, Brett, thank you. You’re right – I had NO idea where this would lead. Most days, I was just trying to get through to the next hour. I appreciate your confidence in me. I still have a lot to learn. ❤️

  • Reply Jenny November 12, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Amy, I have so many words… yet so few. I have adored you from the moment we met. Your core is solid and light. I hate that you have had to deal with this painful journey. But I have all confidence in your uprising. I love you.

    • Reply amy November 12, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      I felt the same way the moment I said to you, “You look just like my son’s teacher” and sat next to you and we’ve been friends ever since. I love you, too, friend. You, too, are a light in my life.

  • Reply Becky Willis November 13, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Amy, Thank you for sharing this with us. I worried so much about you last year when I didn’t know you had been living such a tough life/time etc. I am so proud of you being “scrappy” because I believe in you and knew you had it in you to rise above.
    Your kids are lucky to have you, and you are a wonderful woman, person, friend, and friend!
    My son’s wife left him and his almost 8-year-old step-daughter (her biological daughter) and their 3-year-old son 2 months ago 11.14.18.) to “see if she could do it on her own”…. translated to ‘she met someone 4 years younger than her at work’…..
    It has been such a hard 2 months, with a little girl who doesn’t know her worth, as much as my son is trying to make her see she means so much to him, and a 3-year-old who can’t figure out why Mommy no longer wanted to ‘live’ with them and is still at her ‘sleep-over’.
    I pray in 10 months he can see how far he has come just like you have. You will always be special to me!

    • Reply amy November 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      I’m so sorry that your son is going through this pain. It is a pain I would never wish upon anyone, and not knowing the outcome makes it even more painful. I’m not sure why humans hurt other humans like this, but what I do know is that there is a lot of growth and learning that survivors take from it to protect themselves in the future. I will keep your family in my thoughts. Thank you for your support for so many years. xoxo

  • Reply Asha Dornfest November 13, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Amy, what a brave, strong woman you are. Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for all the pain and heartbreak you’ve gone through. I know what you’ve written here will help someone else feel understood and less alone.

    • Reply amy November 26, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      Thank you for your neverending support through my journey. You are truly an inspiration to me, friend.

  • Reply Susan Carraretto November 14, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Amy, thank you for sharing your story. It will truly help so many others!!!

    • Reply amy November 26, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      Thank you so much, Susan. ❤️

    Leave a Reply to Laurie Cancel Reply