Putting Up With Crap
This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "The Rest of the Story". Here is what I have to say...
First - a disclaimer may be in order: The content of this post is solely my opinion, based on my experience. Ultimately, we should all listen to the small voice within us that guides us on our way. No one knows all the right answers for another. The point of this piece is to initiate thought and discussion - please feel free to comment and to agree or disagree as you like!
Last night found me involved in an in-depth discussion with my favorite Monkey regarding monogamy, infidelity, and the choices we make about our partners and marriages. Needless to say, it got pretty interesting, with points we agree on, and points on which we agree to disagree. It can be safely said that as an Aquarian I tend to look at life a little differently than most, to be more willing to see both sides of situations, and to be more accepting of ways of doing things other than the accepted social norms. I am also aware that the way I view the world is not a common one, and most folks are likely to disagree with me more often than not. I'm ok with that, I am secure enough in my beliefs to have them contradicted, and I am always open to new ways of looking at the issues. As it is said, "Often solid, concrete people are mixed up and set in their ways." While I know I am becoming a bit more set in my thinking as I get older, I never want to reach the point where I am unable to see the light pouring in thru the window because my eyes are squeezed too tightly shut!
On to the topic of last night's debate - How much crap should one put up with from a partner before they say enough is enough and call it quits? The simple answer has always been, "If the good outweighs the bad, stay and if the bad outweighs the good, go." But in reality it's so much more complicated than this! We also have to take into consideration that people in situations that they are re-evaluating are often receiving so much outside input that their own inner-voice has been drowned out by the noise. Truly well-meaning friends and family see the elephant in the living room and are quick to point it out, and maybe you know he's standing there too, but are not ready to deal with his presence, or maybe you are embarrassed and humiliated and hoping no one knows.
How much is too much isn't really as simple as making a numbered list of pros and cons and seeing which list is longer, because items are weighted differently. How many of us have known, in own lives or someone else's, what appears to be a picture-perfect family in the community, or a wonderful neighbor - and then when the news hits with some horrific event or crime that has occurred, everyone shakes their head and says "But they seemed so nice and normal!" My point exactly! We don't know what is going on inside someone's mind, and what events are taking place behind their closed doors.
How often with my ex-husband I had people tell me what a cool, funny guy he was... charming, endearing... outrageous. Oh yes, he was all of those things when I first knew him, and remained that way in public... that being the key - in public and when around his friends... his private persona at home was something else far darker. Filled with anger and stubbornness, haunted by untold miseries of his growing up year, self-medicated, and knowing no better way to deal with things than take them out on his ever-faithful and devoted wife.
Abuse takes many forms, we all know that now. It's not just a black eye or a bruises, it's also about mental, and emotional abuse, manipulation - broken hearts and broken spirits. Cruel attacks and words spoken intended to subdue the one thing in the world they can control - the person who loves them. The one person who probably won't leave despite how much crap is dumped on them.
Many are the partners, both female and male, who could tell you just how far it goes. How much they actually put up with, swallowing their pride, their dignity, and their belief in themselves... after all, there must be something wrong with them that they can't keep their partner happy and content. They must be the reason he/she strays, right? Not man enough or woman enough to keep them? They must be the reason he/she is always angry - the house not clean enough, the food not good enough, the bills not paid? Abusers always find ways to turn it around so the victim is at fault, and just like the proverbial drop of water constantly dripping, one's self-esteem gets eroded away to the point of being nothing. You began to believe that you are the problem, the failing relationship is all because of you. You just can't do relationships right, can you? You are hopeless. Have you ever felt that way? I have.
I had a friend once who told me point blank that my life was so screwed up, and I had put up with it for so long, that I didn't even know what "normal" was anymore. Those words hit me hard, because deep down I sensed it was most likely true. I had began to believe that marriage was like this, or more importantly, that this was the best I could do, since surely I wasn't worth very much more. This line of thinking ends either when you find your own inner strength to break out of prison and leave, or you end up dead - either by your own hand or theirs. The far more common alternative is to put up with it for years and years, to accept it as good enough, to live a life of misery and pain, like a silent tortured saint, believing somehow this martyrdom will get you into heaven, when in reality you are already living in hell.
I should know, I lived that way for years - long after friends said "Why do you put up with it, when are you going to leave?" I stayed, because I loved him, or maybe it is more true to say I loved the person he once was. I stayed because I believed in commitment for better or worse, and because I believed that maybe one day I could find the magic way to do everything just right to make him happy and loving. I stayed because I was embarrassed to admit how bad it had become, I stayed because in financial reality I had nowhere else to go. I stayed because I was too broken to believe a better life existed out there for me. I stayed, hoping one day I would just die and it would be over. That's why I stayed.
I had a minister, a man of God, tell me that it takes two people to make a marriage, that no marriage can survive if just one is committed to it. Marriage is hard work! If one is working for it and the other is working against it by thinking only of themselves - such as is the case with repeated infidelity, abuse, unemployment, etc. - then the bonds of marriage are in effect already broken, and nothing one person can do will repair them. It takes two.
So tell me all the good things about your partner, and I'll tell you all the good things about mine. There are almost always good things to share, and on the surface everything might look pretty darn good. "He is caring, he is kind, he is helpful..." Yes, when he's home and not screaming at you or hitting you, or not out with someone else. We do not have the power, to change anyone but ourselves, so if you are hoping that will happen, you are kidding yourself!
I am told we are responsible for our own feelings, how we let things effect us, that we allow ourselves to be hurt by what society perceives are wrongs. I don't really agree with that. We all have feelings, and we can be hurt by someone who is uncaring and purposefully cruel. The power we do have over such feelings, is the power to say... enough! I will not tolerate this to be the reality of my life any longer. I won't live this way, I deserve to be treated with respect! That's the key word, respect - mutual respect is an eessential ingredient in a working relationship. Respect prevents us from intentionally doing and saying things that we know will hurt the person we love.
It takes two to tango, and certainly most relationships are not fully one-sided, good or bad. There are ups and downs and ocassional bumps in the road. But if the dynamics between you are such that you are fussin' and fightin' more than you are lovin' and laughin' something is terribly wrong. Ask yourself if you are truly happy, do you feel good about yourself and your life, or deep down are you miserable more often than not? Is your partner willing to work with you to make changes for the better? If not, dig deep, find your inner courage and say, ENOUGH... I WANT A BETTER LIFE THAN THIS, I DESERVE A BETTER LIFE THAN THIS! If you are determined to break free, there is always a way. I wish I had known that far sooner instead of much later. I wish I had swallowed my pride and asked for help. I wish I had been more honest with myself, and walked away years sooner.
And now, the rest of the story... As most of you know, I finally after 13 years said ENOUGH. Leaving him and the home we had shared was the hardest, scariest move in my life. I didn't even know how to live my own life anymore. Everything I once believed to be good about myself had been stripped away in his emotional grinder; all I knew was that my choices were to leave or die. If I am anything I am a survivor, and in order to survive I had to leave. It wasn't easy, and it didn't get easier right way, it took months, a year and more, and there are some scars that will probably remain with me for a lifetime, but the truth is that freedom was worth the price.
Just a little more than one year after packing my belongings and moving out of his life, I met the man who would become my new husband... a man more kind, loving, and caring, than anything I ever could have imagined possible in my wildest dreams. A man who loves me for who I am, believes in me, encourages me, takes care of me, laughs with me, cries with me, and above all - respects and cherishes me. He would never do or say anything intentionally to hurt me, nor would I to him. That's what love is, not like what I thought it was before.
The moral of this story is that life doesn't have to hurt; if yours is hurting do something to change that, take the first step toward finding your own way - you are worth it!