Well dear readers, *I asked for your stories, and I got some! Yay! The following story touched my heart and soul so deeply as I’m sure it will yours as well. The writer paints a very vivid picture of what it is like living with an abusive ‘partner’, as well as why so many intelligent women have a hard time leaving, and finally, her courageous path out of that relationship and into her new self-defined life. I love her wisdom and sage advice to those of us who may still be stuck in toxic relationships, as well as her book recommendation. To this reader I want to say: you are one strong, wise and resourceful woman who leads by example. Thank you from all of us reading this for your courage in sharing your story with us…
I was in a difficult marriage for 13 years. I finally decided to leave my husband who was not only emotionally and verbally abusive, but also addicted to marijuana. My decision became clear when I had a child and did not want to expose him to the toxic nature of our relationship for his entire life. During the marriage, I went to al-anon for years, keeping the focus on myself. My husband and I essentially lived separate lives; we even had two buildings on our property where we each spent the majority of our time apart. It was an empty, sad existence for me in retrospect. My husband continually put down my endeavors and my friends (not to mention, his friends). I was actively involved in working on myself through yoga and meditation. I also spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to fix the marriage with books and therapy to no avail. On top of that, I did most of the household chores, including the bill-paying and money management, etc.
During my marriage, I received from my husband the similar unsupportive messages that echoed those I received from my parents growing up. (They say we pick a spouse that resembles the parent we had the most difficult relationship with growing up.) It was in school and from caretakers that I thankfully received many positive messages growing up. This inured me from some of the fate my siblings suffered.
With regards to my marriage: Once I had my son and still found my husband horribly absent in the marriage, I realized I already felt like a single parent and maybe worse. Along with the exhaustion of carrying most of the weight of the household responsibilities, I was also carrying the emotional burden of a toxic marriage. My decision to leave the marriage was clear.
However, things got a lot worse before they got better. My husband became a nightmare during the divorce, taking control of all our assets including taking control of the family home (i.e. kicking me out), removing his name from all our debt thus saddling me with it. The custody battle was and still remains to be the most heart wrenching. My “ex” had virtually no interest in our son during the marriage, yet the notion of child support payments changed all this. I spent years in Court without much recourse except more pain and suffering on many all levels.
My ex was able to manipulate the system to his advantage and further abuse and sabotage me on unspeakable levels (though very covertly). It was here that I really saw him for who he was. The level of lying and manipulation (and what I was unsuspecting of, even during our marriage) is beyond anything I thought anyone was capable of- especially someone I was married to for 13 years! I came to realize that he is a dominator and a predator by nature who mistakes control for love. On my path to understanding since the divorce, I have read many psychological books that indicate he has many covert narcissistic and sociopathic traits (similar to my family of origin). All those years, I thought if I just loved him more, everything would be “fixed”. Boy was I sorely mistaken! Of all the books I have read (and I have read plenty) Dr. George K. Simon’s book, Character Disturbance has been the most comprehensive in describing my husband (now my ex) as a covert aggressive and how to deal with people of this pathology.
I hesitate to write or talk about my experience much these days as I am determined not to give it too much energy. I feel it has taken control of enough of my life force already for a couple decades. I realize it was my family of origin that helped me define my choices early on. Though I knew my marriage was toxic, I did not leave. I did not take action. Of course, living with a master manipulator who helped facilitate the understanding that our issues were mostly my fault, as ludicrous as it sounds, did not aid my departure. I admit: I have a penchant for accepting blame in relationships in general. Moreover, I did not have supportive friends or therapists who “got” what was going on. (Often friends and would-be supporters are hoodwinked by the abuser making it more difficult to leave a toxic relationship, making it feel like you are the crazy one.)
Now that I have been in a super healthy relationship with someone I call a “normy”, I know it is possible to make healthy choices for ourselves though perhaps we have not in the past. I have to let you know that I did in fact have to kiss a few frogs that were similar in pathology to my ex before I found my current soul-mate. It wasn’t easy; though I learned a lot: about people, about myself. I had to learn to go WAY out of my comfort zone, to radically trust my intuition, and most importantly, to own my own power. The reason I am sharing my story is to perhaps help women in a similar situation- in hopes that they may avoid making the same mistakes I have made.
I want you to know that choosing healthy friends and most importantly, a healthy partner is one of the most important things we can do in life. We might feel alone for a while in finding healthy friends, but this is far better than being in a toxic relationship that robs us of our self-esteem and confidence in the false hope of being loved. We will never ever get our needs met in that place. We don’t need to rescue or put up with abuse in our lives in order to feel loved. We must love ourselves (and our children) enough to make healthy choices for ourselves, and for them.
In conclusion, I will share with you some grand errors of thinking and behavior that got me to where I was in my life. I hope to share them with you so that perhaps you may correct your mistaken beliefs if they concur:
- My first mistake was thinking that everyone is just like to me and everyone has my best interest at heart. This was unconscious thought of mind that was instilled into me as a child. This thinking did not account for the many predators there are in the world that we need to avoid.
- My second error of thinking was to take my intuition for granted. This guidance system had worked for me for years, yet I had let it go, taking it for granted.
- My next error was to forgo my belief in the notion of “falling in love” based on what I read in psychological books. I believe this is an essential ingredient to any long term romantic relationship.
- I have also had a long-standing issue of being a “rescuer”, the capable one in order to be loved. I needed to look at this and modify it so that I am able to receive love. This is an on-going practice for me. I take responsibility for attracting the predatory mate I did in my marriage (though it was not obvious at first), though I was primed for it in my family of origin as many polite young ladies are.
Again, I have come to realize that the most important part of our life is to have healthy people in our lives. If we do not, we will spend a lot of time convincing people who truly want to undermine us that they can’t or shouldn’t. This is a futile exercise! This is certainly a waste of our precious, brief time here on the planet. Don’t squander yours! It is a much better option to avoid toxic people altogether if we are lucky enough to identify them. Or, attempt to speak truth to power if necessary by using resources as outlined in the book Character Disturbances.
*I Want Your Stories!
Are you a woman with an inspirational, uplifting, and empowering story that you think may appeal to my readers (i.e., other awesome women like yourself)? Do you believe in the power of self-help and women helping women?
Have you struggled with and then found peace/healing/strength from any of the following?
An eating disorder
Drug or alcohol (or fill-in-the-blank) addiction
Ageing in a youth-obsessed world
Highly Dysfunctional Family-of-origin
Coming out as gay/lesbian (and the homophobia that goes along with that)
Or any other serious life challenge?
If so, I’m guessing that my loyal readers would love to hear your story.
I’m all about empowering women and I know for a fact that the best way to do that is for us to share with each other and provide support to other women who are struggling with something that we once struggledwith too. We as women have so much strength, support and wisdom to share with each other and I would love to give you the opportunity to do just that via my weekly e-zine.
I have the privilege every day to hear women’s incredible stories of deep pain and suffering but also of how they overcame serious adversity and multiple obstacles that were put in their way. I learn and grow so much as a result but due to confidentiality, cannot share those stories with you, my wonderful readers. But you can choose to share those stories with each other via this e-zine if you’d like. I encourage you greatly to do so and I know personally and professionally how healing and empowering it is to do so.