This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but my truth. It’s also free therapy for me and maybe you too.
To catch-up new readers here’s the gist:
I was married for 7 years, we separated 8 months ago, and I have two kids from that marriage. I was unhappy for several years before we separated and, yes, we talked about it, went to counseling, read books, and on and on and on.
The divorce process is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some REALLY hard things. We are civil to each other and using a mediator instead of lawyers. But no amount of civility can eliminate how sad this is for our kids or the mountain of work the divorce has piled in front of me. It also can’t change the fact that I still crave a kind of partnership I have yet to find. Moving on means looking back. I look back to find the mistakes I made in my marriage and the unhealthy patterns that existed in many of my relationships. I want to see the path clearly so I can get off of it, once and for all.
One thing I see is how struggles with my parents have influenced my choices in men. My dad was both emotionally absent and physically abusive during my childhood. When I reached my 20's, I cut him out of my life completely. My mom and I struggled as well and maintaining a relationship with her now requires me to set aside all the parts of myself she doesn’t like. Every time I have been real and whole with her she has cut me off---sometimes for a day, sometimes for a year. So I do the dance.
All of this left me feeling like an emotional orphan during my 20’s. I am a very independent person by nature, but everyone needs someone they can count on-- no matter what. Most of my serious relationships have been with men who were able to take care of me in traditional ways. I looked so hard for men I thought could give me the safety and reliability I lacked in my family, that I ignored a bunch of other important qualities. I struggled in each relationship with:
1. Confusion over opposing desires to be cared for and to keep my independence.
2. A belief that no one would want me unless they needed me.
3. The fact that these men lacked most of the other qualities I wanted in a partner.
My mother is a feminist whose life lessons for me included cooking, cleaning, and resume writing. She told me I could be anything I wanted but never said how. She told me I was smart, but maybe not cut out for college. She told me the biggest financial decision I would make in life was who I married. At my wedding she thanked my husband for taking care of me. I was 30 years-old and had taken care of myself since I was 17. At 37 I’ve stopped trying to unscramble these mixed messages and simply decided to think for myself. Why are the easiest solutions never the most obvious ones?
My relationship with my mom is still a dance, but things with my dad have changed drastically. During our 8 years apart, he went to counseling and began the difficult process of seeing and telling the truth. The changes he made allowed us to be a family for the first time in my memory. We spend a lot of time together now and I finally have the safety and reliability I craved for so long. He lets me be me and never asks me to hide pieces of myself away for his own comfort. Do you know how huge this is? This is what love is, right? I strive to give the same in return and to always be grateful. Maybe it is just that simple: you can’t find something until you know what you’re looking for.
My youngest son is effusive with love when he is happy. We were at a paint-your-own pottery studio the other day with my stepmom and cousins. He was so excited about the activity that he kept running around the table, hugging each person and saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” He does this kind of thing all the time. He can’t help it... and he gets it from me. I am the friend who, after a couple of glasses of wine, tears-up and tells you how amazing I think you are. Personal baggage and a wish to not seem insane cause me to rein myself in a bit more than my son. Thankfully, writing or a glass of wine provides an outlet when my love and happiness bubble over. So if you’ve made it this far…I love you, I love you, I love you!
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