Thursday, September 13, 2012

My part

I have heard, over and over, from many sources including therapists, books, websites, podcasts, and magazines, that in divorce it's really important to own your mistakes, to acknowledge one's own part, or one is doomed to repeat mistakes.

Easier said than done, as it turns out.  I have been filled with self righteous anger, and I might be justified by that anger, but it doesn't serve me.  I don't want to be angry and self righteous, I want to be happy.  I want to be HAPPY.  I want to be one of those people who radiates joy, who lives in peace, who spreads compassion.  As far as I can tell, righteous anger doesn't fit into that vision.

So, this is my attempt to spell it out, to not sugar coat it, to say it like it is.  Here are my mistakes in my marriage, the ones I own, the ones Bryan had no control over, and the ones that are mine alone to fix.  And, because it's too painful to own up to them without something positive, here are my thoughts on how I'll fix those problems in the future too.

Because I'm never going back again.

Deep breath.

*  I believed I would never get what I wanted.  I believed that I had to compromise, and so I got a guy who was overweight, and less motivated, and didn't treat me like a queen, because I figured that in the end that is who would want me.  Now, would you like to be with a woman who, deep in her heart, thought that she'd settled?  I believe that as much as I tried to ignore, deny, and hide those feelings, somehow Bryan saw them, and I do not blame him for not liking what he saw, because I wouldn't like that either.  I cheated myself by settling, but I cheated him, too.  Well, I'm never settling again.  I'm not going to cheat myself like that....and I'm not going to treat a man like that again.  It wasn't intentional, but it wasn't right, either.

*  I believed that I was inherently unworthy.  I'm still working out this one in my head, how I came to believe that I was somehow less than.  It goes back to childhood, to parents who name called and didn't always meet my needs.  I didn't believe in myself, so I didn't expect anyone else to believe in me.  It was an unhealthy, as well as unattractive, trait.  I behaved in a way that said, "I would never require you to treat me well," by volunteering - volunteering! - to do double the amount of work with half the resources.  When I got wise to my own behavior and insisted on more, to him it must have seemed like I was breaking character, and since he was satisfied with what I once gave freely he didn't want to change - he liked it the way it was, and *I* am the one who agreed to live like that initially.  Well, news flash, I don't feel like that any more.  I am more proud of myself, and my character, than ever before.  I actually think I've got something pretty special to offer, and I bring that to the table.  I think I know how to teach people to treat me, and I'm okay with walking away if they don't treat me the way I want to be treated.  I taught Bryan how to treat me, and I taught him the wrong stuff.

*  I did not stand up for myself and stop unhealthy behaviors before they grew out of control.  There were serious warning signs after we got engaged, but I went ahead with the wedding.  When we were first married, there were really serious signs of trouble, and when I brought them up and he resisted conversation, I backed down and tried to sweep it under the carpet.  Denial is not a good coping mechanism, and it catches up eventually, and everyone pays.  Had I stood my ground - standing up for what I truly believe - the marriage might have ended sooner, but it also might have been saved. I believe I know how to stand my ground now.

*  When we dated, I tried to be who he wanted me to be, instead of being who I really was.  I watched more TV.  I went to fewer plays, and more restuarants.  I exercised less, and ate more.  I wanted a guy who worked out (as all my other boyfriends had), who did volunteer work, who cared about his job, who cooked, who went to plays with me, who hiked with me.  But I wanted him to like me, so I went along more with his lifestyle, thinking that surely the laid-back ways were just the early-love stage of things, and they'd change when it got serious.  Well, from his perspective, it was probably ME who changed.  He probably thought "Wait, we love spending tons of money at good restaurants!" when I said, "I'd rather eat at home so that we could spend the money on plays and concerts or travel," and he probably thought that my attention to health (diet and exercise) came out of the blue, when I thought I was being who I'd always been.  The lesson?  I need to be who I am from the get-go.  I didn't do him, or me, any favors when I went along with his way of doing things when that wasn't really me, and I didn't do either of us any favors when I expected him to change over time, too.

*  I keep running into a quote that says, "When someone tells you who they are, believe them."  When Bryan and I met, he told me he didn't ever want to get married, have kids, have the white picket fence.  I knew I wanted all of those things.  Over time, he changed his mind....or that's what he told me, and I really wanted to believe him.  Ultimately, I should have listened to what he told me up front.  He's not a horrible human being for wanting no responsibilities, or for enjoying laying on the sofa with a drink while watching TV, but it wasn't a good fit for me, and I chose it anyway.

So, yes, he screwed up.  He was not an ideal husband by any standards.  But this isn't about him, it's about me, and I screwed up too.  I wasn't ideal either, and I contributed to our problems.

I am determined to learn. I am determined to have the life that I dream of.  I have made so many positive changes in my life in the past year, and I am more "me" than ever before.  I do not know if deep romantic love is in my future, but I think it is.  I do not know how many more lessons I need to learn, but I know I'm trying.

Best of all, I'm finding some peace with who I am, and who I am not.  Whether my new understanding helps me to find a beautiful romantic relationship or not, it is gaining me joy in the rest of my life.  Owning my mistakes is painful, but I'm not as afraid of pain as I once was.

And just for the record - I am NOT beating myself up over this.  I have learned a great deal, and without the path I took, I wouldn't be who I am now.  And you know what?  I'm okay with where I am, and now that I've started learning the lessons instead of just fighting the awful fights of cancer and divorce, I can say with better clarity that those fires have shaped me, and that I am stronger, wiser, and kinder as a result of those experiences.  I do not regret marrying Bryan: being married to him gave me the best daughter I could have imagined up, and truly, sometimes she's like a spirit from my dreams.  And maybe, based on my childhood experiences, I needed to experience life with Bryan to learn the lessons that will bring me to the love of my life, the man of my dreams.  Or maybe I will learn to be fully satisfied without a partner, finding my satisfaction in a job well done, in family and friends, in travel, in volunteer projects that help make the world a better place.

Only time will tell.

But I'm glad this little exercise is done now!


  1. Sweet girl, I applaud you for baring your soul and sharing what you have learned with us.

    It is so encouraging to see you growing in understanding and 'self-ness' (NOT to be confused with the hurled insult 'selfISH') - and I can tell you that as I read through your list, my heart sent out a sisterly hug to you. It is MY list, too. I am in exactly the same place you are, realizing exactly the same things about my marriage, my self, my habits, my compromises, and my journey. And I could not agree with you more.

    I was named after Debbie Reynolds, 'miss perpetually sunny', and I think that you and I, miss PollyAnna, are gonna' make it to the other side of this mountain with big smiles and rose-colored glasses intact. :0)

  2. Oh, Deb, your words hit me so perfectly, and I am grateful to you for them.

    We are already on the mountain. I can see that the views are gorgeous....

    This is hard work, but so worthwhile!