Touching on my last blog post, the topic of avoidance within relationships and how to overcome it has been on my mind. While my partner has a lot of difficulty dealing with issues head on, I have to give him credit for recent willingness to at least try to overcome that problem. It doesn’t come easy for him and he’s clearly uncomfortable each time I lead him back to the issues we have to resolve. Today, I want to mention that despite the fact it doesn’t always go well or meet my needs for resolution, I do appreciate that he’s trying!!
Now, some time back I came to a conclusion that I’d have to heal myself because maybe he’s just not strong enough to help. Arriving at that conclusion was both good and bad. On the one hand, it gave me a liberating surge of rebellion. A sense that I wouldn’t allow him to take me down, or ruin me!! That I could and would be too strong to break. It was time to focus on the kind of life I wanted to be living and how to be the best me. Not just the me he needed me to be.
This surge of rebellion and anger helped keep the hurt at bay for long periods of time and it helped push my fears away. It helped shift my focus from the insecurities he opened up, back to the internal belief that I’m not only a valuable person but a lady who’s unique, determined and sexy in my own way. (though I still have plenty of insecure moments) It also helped erase the depression and despair I felt each time I considered living my life with a man who’d betrayed and disrespected me so blatantly. It made me a fighter not a victim. I welcomed the change.
The down side to that conclusion was that it disconnected me not only from the pain he had caused but also from the many good things we shared. I’d try but couldn’t imagine a life with him that would ever be stress free and full of the love and energy I want in my life. All I could see was a never ending potential for conflict, selfishness, betrayal and generally just feeling weighted down by the onesidedness of our relationship. My rebellion had now become a mission to find myself and my direction in life, DESPITE ever having met him. And that state of mind left no room for imagining a better life with him. His determination to avoid the pain he had created, to chide me to look toward the future and ignore the past and his neediness for affirmation and forgiveness without regard for my healing process, all served to push him further and further outside the vision of happiness I was trying to find again.
It was a mindset of battle. Even though we avoided arguments at all cost, inside I was literally fighting for my life. He was the enemy. I wanted him to be the savior, the hero, the love of my life there to heal me and protect me. But, when he couldn’t do it, I embarked in a war for my soul, my happiness, my salvation. A war where the prize was hope!! In my mind I felt as though I would never feel hope again, unless I won myself back and banished him from ever having any kind of hold on my heart again. Until I rose from the ashes, literally in spite of him. It was a fight for survival on many levels and though part of me held on to the fairy tale in which he’d become the prince that saved me, each time he failed to do so I would stoke the fires of rebellion inside me, seeing it as proof that my war of independence was justified. But then, I started to realize that I wasn’t going to rediscover myself or create happiness in my life in that mindset
The problem with my war? It was fought entirely inside my head! Inside me but unknown to anyone else. It was a bombardment of images and emotions and unspoken words I shouted in my brain. I couldn’t focus on what I needed, who I am, or where I want to be because the battle never ceased. The noise was too loud. I wasn’t going to find the peace I need in the middle of a battleground. Even one that existed only in my head. I realized the fight for me and my happiness was not a battle against him, or in spite of him, but instead was a gift to myself. Something I owed myself regardless of our outcome. I didn’t need permission or forgiveness for it. I would accomplish it one way or another but it didn’t required an enemy to fight against.
I still feel disconnected at times. Frequently. Still have insanely angry moments when I’m simply pissed and feel completely defeated by the reality that it’s me who in the end will have to give in and let it go. He’s been selfish and weak and yet virtually walked away unscathed. No worse for the wear. The injustice of it all still fuels a wild need to rebel. To fight!
It’s true that he has responsibilities and will have to carry his own weight. It’s also true that I have to heal myself. In the end, no one can do the healing for you. It’s between you and whatever higher power you believe in. As long as I tie myself to his disfunction, his mistakes, the baggage he carries from his past, then I am just hanging an anchor around my neck. As long as my healing is dependent on his responses and his progress I am blocking my own progress. Holding myself in an unhealthy state.
It is very much like our smoking delima. I have long been a rebellious smoker. At first I smoked for the pleasure of it. If you can even imagine that. It became part of my identity. It also became a disease. Something that has slowly eroded at me, drug me down, lessoned me and risked the most precious thing I have. Life.
Eventually I reached the conclusion that I no longer wanted to be a smoker but strangely the more people suggested I quit or tried to guilt me into quiting the more I fought against it. My life is demanding and stressful, there are many factors such as a child with disabilities that are beyond my control and somehow in some sick way the choice to smoke was an area of control in a life where I spend most of my time coping, dealing, rolling with the punches and accepting without any choice in the matter of what god handed me. A decision I would make or not make but something inside of me refused to let other people make it for me. The very thought that someone might even think they had influenced me made me that much more determined to refuse. In that sense I allowed them to take my choice away. This year I set out to end that and to become a non-smoker but my partner doesn’t want to quit and somehow smoking has become a part of our identity as a couple. Once again he doesn’t want to face change so the thought that I would become a non smoker un-nerves him. It would change his life. And so when I tried to quit he did very little if anything to support me. And it made me angry. Made me resentful and it made me feel even worse about myself that I would allow him that kind of control. That I would cave so easily but around him I smoke way more than I do when we are apart.
Another example is my weight. My partner is very caught up in image and the image of what he wants in a woman. Because god forbid his woman not be attractive enough to enforce his ego and his image. I’m not trying to be sarcastic with that statement. It’s just a fact. And when I put on a few pounds his attitude toward me changed. He used it as one of the many reasons he justified his affairs. It was one of his top 5 needs when we did needs assessments. To have an attractive partner. But between his constant focus on appearance and his affairs my self esteem crashed. It doesn’t help that he is very thin. It didn’t matter that other people find me attractive, or that I believe I’m a pretty, sexy, attractive woman. I became what he saw and what he made me fear and feel. Strangely enough the worse I feel about it the more it materializes in my life. I am now literally gaining weight because the self esteem issues are dragging me down, making me feel worthless and hopeless and building that fear that no matter how hard I try I’m going to eventually not be able to maintain perfection and he will be disappointed by me. You would think that would motivate me. It doesn’t. I am motivated when I healthy, vibrant, happy. Now even though everything inside of me says I want to be healthy, smoke free, active and fit, focused and passionate… my anger, my inner war, my defiance toward him fights against all of those things. The single dibilitating thought that crashes me each day seems to be how Freeking dare he think that he can control me and turn me into his little piece of work. His trophy. How freeking dare he put such shallow selfish conditions on our love! How dare he focus on my flaws and ignore all of his own flaws. Or want me to be something that will let him cover for his own flaws.
You see, the battle can not be against him. I can not hinge my own happiness and my own health, or my own esteem on him because in doing so I become everything I never want to be. The battle mind set has to go. I have to find a way to change my rebellion against him and my spite for all he’s done or does into something more healthy. I also have to face the fear that he might not keep up with me. Might not be able to handle me when I return to my full strength and full potential. It is very codependent in a sense. Wanting me to be super model super woman to enforce his ego yet wanting to keep me down enough that I don’t feel I can do better if I go somewhere else. And I have allowed it. Allowed him to be the center of everything, the focus of my energy and support, and ignore my own vibrancy in the process. It can’t be a battle or a rebellion. My healing and my rediscovery of the me I’ve lost along the way can only come one way. I have to find the love for myself that I have given away over all these years to so many people. I have to learn to care for me.
It’s true that I might one day outgrow him or discover that he’s the one thing that I’ve been letting hold me back. But it’s also very possible that as I heal and re-discover my lost path, he might also grow and find his way to his own path and they may one day merge into a shared path. There is nothing that says loving someone requires you to be on the same path every stage of your life.
So, I recently took another direction. Instead of wanting to focus on the issues he wants to avoid, instead of waiting for him to help me, I decided to address the issues of a better future. First for myself but also as a couple. A better way of being together. I decided to focus on trying to help him learn and understand relationships. Not just ours. But between people in general. He’s more than willing to focus on a new future rather than the past so he’s been very receptive to the new turn in direction. I think it will be a good thing for us.
I’m encouraged by his receptiveness toward trying to understand relationships, needs and the differences between men and women. We’ve recently completed the questionnaire at the end of the book His Needs, Her Needs. More on that another time. We’re also watching an old set of VHS tapes that was given to me years ago. The hidden keys to loving relationships by Smalley.. We’re on tape 8. I think there are 12. They’re old but the information is still relevant. A lot of what he says is instinct for a woman or things I’ve read or learned years ago but there are things he says that are strong reminders for me that I’ve gotten off path. I’ve lost sight of some things that meant a lot in my life. Also he tells some very humorous stories that explain relationship concepts and dynamics to my partner so much better than I’ve been able to. Concepts of closing a persons spirit, honoring your loved ones, the differences in how the male and female brain work, etc. It’s not coming from me in the context of us and our current situation so this makes it more neutral and him more able to just hear what is being said and absorb it. It’s also presented by a man who makes it a very strong focus to explain things in man language! Argh Argh ARGH!