Every relationship is as unique as the people in it, who each bring, amongst other things, a collection of experiences, wisdom, and personality to it. No matter what, only the two people in an intimate liaison can know fully what it looks and feels like. Like a child’s DNA, something unique to only two people in the world springs up into existence. If it self-destructs, the experience can leave one or both parties struggling with a grief that cannot be easily understood by anyone but the other participant who is now either causing the pain in the first place, or reeling from the shock of the destruction a breaking bond causes. I learned firsthand that the stronger the bond, the more miserable the breaking of it would be. A frustrating and traumatic journey began for me, and I grappled desperately to understand what had just happened to my life.
I knew logically that no one else would have the exact right advice when I first set out to understand what exactly had just happened in my own relationship. I just needed a starting point. I’d had what looked like a fairy tale marriage for over 20 years; suddenly, in a twinkling of an eye, something changed. I needed to know why. My husband suffered a very, very intense midlife crisis, and in a span of only a month or so, everything was different. A warped version of my beloved husband revealed itself, and my best friend became my sworn enemy. My rock-and-roll life instantly became a battleground, littered with the heartache that country songs are made of.
Grief-stricken and panicked, this wife set out on a quest to understand. WHY?
I sifted through piles of articles, and crawled through website after website, blog after blog, looking for the answer. I read anything I could find about midlife crisis’s, drug addiction, infidelity, pornography, motorcycle clubs…all the things that had sprung up in our relationship seemingly overnight.
Looking back now, what I probably should have done at the beginning of this whole nightmare instead, was examine the reason I was looking for those answers in the first place. The answer to the question “Why?” can be positive in aspects of a relationship while negative on others.
At the root of most of my husband’s grievous actions was an addiction to a street drug. Anyone with half a brain could figure that one out; but, I’m obsessive of about knowledge, and I dug deeper and deeper in to the characteristics of that drug. At its conclusion, my quest had revealed that my entire relationship with my husband had been woven primarily in my own mind. My husband had always been selfish, arrogant, entitled, and mean-spirited, though primarily he directed those personality traits at others, not me. I believe he honestly had tried to curb some of those behaviors when it came to me, but they had always been there for me to see. The drug had not made him someone different. It had simply made him unconcerned with consequences of his actions. Those tendencies had been there all along.
The knowledge was rather disturbing for someone like me. First of all, I hate that I could deceive myself so well. Self-deception is one of those things I don’t care for in others; that I could be just as deceived was humiliating. Secondly, it cast a dubious shadow over all of the memories that I had treasured from before my world came crashing down. Questions about motives arose where only happiness had once bloomed. Did he really send me those flowers just because he was thinking about me, or was he feeling guilty about something? Mentally, my mind began to pull back and question memory after memory, and when the process finally grinded to a conclusion, the life and love I believed I’d lived the last 23 years no longer existed at all. In it’s place a more realistic, less wonderful history emerged. A quest to understand and maybe even romanticize the death of something I considered beautiful and tragic, my marriage, had instead shown me that the real tragedy all along had been that relationship in the first place.
I’m a firm believer that everything done in the dark will at some point become exposed to the light. I had lived fairly happily for decades ignoring some pretty evil things done to me as a child. Always on a quest to research and understand something, I had simply chosen to never address being sexually abused for years by a family member.
Any choice to remain ignorant about anything simply is not part of my make-up. I’m a fountain of useless knowledge about the most random of things. I’ve worked at so many different jobs with so many different titles and interests, unemployment for me does not exist. I have always used knowledge to protect myself somehow, and understanding this about myself, the inability to look at how being sexually abused would affect me as an adult was too monumental a thing for me to have missed.
Truth be said, looking back now, I don’t think I really missed it. I just decided to ignore it. Subconsciously, even at the very beginning of my marriage, I knew that I was attracting a pattern of people in my life that couldn’t be healthy. Unfortunately, that kind of knowledge was something that would have to be addressed, and I felt unable to cope with those changes. I chose the familiarity of being someone’s victim instead of something healthy. Then I protected and justified the choice with lies I told myself. I sold myself on the lie that I’d been fortunate to not have been as scarred as most people. The truth is, those acts of depravity and supreme selfishness by my abuser had colored every single important decision I’d ever made as an adult, and the taint had rolled over into my children’s lives as well.
A woman who’d been abused as a child; that child had married someone who created an atmosphere that she’d become comfortable in, albeit negative, and she’d ignored some very glaringly selfish, somewhat abusive characteristics, choosing instead, to see only the positive traits in the one she loved that she so very much wanted to believe were true. Small acts of kindnesses were elevated to massive proportions in her head, used subconsciously to balance out the very troubling abusive behaviors, and allowing her to believe what she wanted to believe.
Had anyone advised me a year and a half ago, when my husband began using drugs, that this next experience would be the most painful, yet the most revealing and freeing one of my life, I would have scoffed. I am very familiar with a person’s inability to stop himself or herself from doing or saying something in the midst of severe stress. For me, searching tirelessly for “answers” helped me believe that I was in fact, doing something constructive towards rescuing my beloved husband. Really, I was doing what I’ve always done, using knowledge as a child would a precious blankie or favorite stuffed animal. My world didn’t feel safe or secure anymore, and I ran immediately for what would make me feel better. I emerged from the journey with answers. They just were not the ones I had hoped for.
I would never advise anyone to choose to remain ignorant about anything, most especially about themselves. Instead, I would challenge everyone to ask themselves “why” right now, instead of waiting for everything to fall painfully apart first. Not everyone will conclude with negative answers about ourselves and the decisions that have led them up to this very moment. For those who have emotionally healthy lives, it is a chance to appreciate how things are for you, and for those who benefit from your good choices. But for the ones like me, who have somewhere along the way, suffered a wound that goes so deep it instantly affects every aspect of your life with its existence, maybe there’s a chance that your life could feel a little better..happier, or more peaceful. The first step towards any kind of healing is the acknowledgement that something is wrong.
I can’t really put a finger on my exact reason for setting off to understand all the behaviors of my husband that had hurt me so deeply, nor can I honestly tell you what I had hoped would change by that information. I can only tell you that my quest ended up showing me more about myself than anything else, and for that, I can be thankful to my ex-husband. It hurt like hell to realize this great love was all a big fantasy I’d spun for myself. So much was affected by knowing that. I felt stupid; I felt shame for letting my kids grow up in this mess; I felt anger at my husband for being exactly who he had always been all along and for not being what I had spun in my head; and I felt so very sad that so many years were invested in something that would never have been anything but what it was… a troubled union.
To my husband: Even before you ripped this whole diseased fantasy open, it was getting hard for me to keep believing in that illusion of marital bliss. I’ve read my journals and diaries. I knew things didn’t feel right. Holes were showing almost from the very start, but the questions were really starting to trouble me a year before all this happened. I know myself, and I probably would have continued trying for many more years anyways to keep our marriage together. I also know, I would have eventually had too much evidence of the truth, and the lie would have collapsed regardless of my wishes. I appreciate not having to watch my marriage die slowly, like a comatose victim on respirator. This experience was horrible, painful, illuminating, and blessedly, over. Next time I enter a relationship, I’m going to make them sign a Marital Do-Not-Resuscitate form.
You didn’t change. I did.