This has been a good year. Really. For most of it I was working and rebuilding my world in a new place. I was happy with my man-friend and the fun stuff we did together. I moved to a lovely new home of my own (renting, but my home). My youngest son graduated from high school and began college. I finally got a divorce from my
ass husband. Our house sold and I have a bit of money in the bank. It truly has been good.
However. In the process of rebuilding, I recognized that I was still replaying negative, hurtful messages that the
ass husband had recorded in my heart. I thought I needed some talk therapy. I first looked into joining a small group at church. Not successful. (See reasons below). Then I found a Divorce Care group at another local church. It is an excellent source of support and healing. It is definitely bringing old wounds and new challenges into the light for me to deal with. That probably has plenty to do with the state I find myself in right now.
But I decided I needed a bit more. Any one person can’t monopolize the entire group meeting to share their pain, and talking is a huge part of healing for me. So I contacted our church about the lay counseling that is offered. I received an email yesterday:
We may be able to help you with one of our women counselors, but probably won’t be available till the week after this, January 5th or so to schedule. How are your support systems now?I give strong encouragement to join as many of the activities our church, our women’s ministries in particular, offer if you haven’t already. The women’s bible study on Tuesday night or Wednesday mornings is so encouraging on Gods amazing love for us – such positive messages!
This sweet woman is trying to help. And it is true that it can be helpful to get out of the house and enter the land of the living. But putting yourself in a social situation that will require your participation in reciprocal cordial dialog or adherence to acceptable group behavior can be excruciating if not downright impossible.
I belonged to a women’s bible study for many years while I was married and raising my children and being physically and emotionally abused. The women show up nicely dressed with their jewelry on and hair combed. They aren’t trying to fit a role that has been scripted for them, they are just getting out and being sociable and connecting. It is healthy. But I wasn’t healthy. So, although I was trying to pull myself into the real world to help myself feel normal, it felt like fraud. It felt fake and painful. At home I had this person who would alternately show kindness and then disembowel me with his words. I’d try to pack my guts back in and heal the wounds but he’d be back soon for more eviscerating. Showing up for any mingling required shoving my innards into place and putting a plastic smile on my face. If you were damned sure you belonged in the ER, what would you think if you found yourself hobnobbing at a dinner party? Not only are you slowly dying from a life-threating condition, you are standing there pretending everything is peachy.
So, no, thank you, I don’t think I’ll join a small group or women’s bible study or the other activities the church has to offer. Thank you for your concern. May I borrow a bandaid?
It has been a good year. There is still pain and, apparently, still depression. But I’ll seek out real help, take care of my genuine needs and not fake it. This next year will be even better and I will do more of the things that make me happy and the wounds will heal.
Jesus came as a helpless baby. He arrived in squalor and poverty, but within a family that sacrificially and faithfully chose love and obedience. His companions and associates emerged from the common masses of a Roman-occupied territory that was regarded with contempt. He showed love and compassion to the crippled, the anathema, the beggar, the thief, the immoral and the greedy.
Do you know who he showed contempt for? The prideful, the arrogant, the elitist… those who, in their own self-sufficiency, did not recognize him or their need for him.
He healed a man, blind and mute, possessed by demons. He spoke gently to and forgave the sins of a woman caught in adultery. He brought an extortioner into his closest circle, his own disciples. He associated with those who were immoral and dishonest. Yet the men who held to the strictest moral and religious laws, those he called a “brood of vipers” and hypocrites.
A couple of years ago, my former husband and I were making a last-ditch effort to salvage our marriage. I was already out the door, sleeping in a camping trailer in our driveway, but he “didn’t want me to leave.” We were seeing a counselor.* He asked me to make a list of 20 things Kurt could do to make me feel loved. I thought this list was ridiculous, but I worked on it…
1. don’t ridicule me, belittle me or call me names
2. hug your sons at least once a day
3. find at least one of my weaknesses endearing, not something to criticize
4. don’t ask me to engage in anal sex
5. i feel cared for when you pay attention to what is important to me
6. be more merciful and less judgemental/critical when i/boys don’t meet your standards
7. don’t yell or put others down
8. give gifts of service and take care of our house more
9. i appreciate that you’ve been accepting my less-than-usual cooking and cleaning lately since i’ve been in school
10. accept more responsibility for keeping your family cared for, protected, loved
11. don’t kick the dog
12. talk pleasantly to our children
13. go away
14. don’t disrespect me
15. have the same standard for yourself as others
16. fuck yourself
17. listen… pay attention
18. take care of the yard, vehicle, roof, etc.
19. go away
20. stay away
In my eyes, in my heart, this man who I married in love, had never genuinely expressed the love and acceptance I dreamed of, longed for. Very quickly the relationship became some sort of bad dream in which he treated me with a disrespect that I never witnessed while we were dating. There was a sense of control and ownership. An element of male privilege. An air of superiority and demand. It wasn’t a mutual love and affection, reciprocal need and nurturing, vulnerability and trust. It was manipulative and domineering. Arrogant. PRIDEFUL.
What we see in Jesus, the one who came to us in abject humility, who lived with us in such acceptance, who wooed us with unconditional love, is the unspeakable beauty of grace. Grace in all its amazing perfection. Grace does not deny truth or sin, but embraces it and corrects it with tenderness. Grace can only come from a position of absolute authority, but never condescends or belittles. Grace raises us. It opens our eyes to our best and encourages us to reach further. Grace shines the light on our filth and washes us with mercy. Our response is not scripted or compelled, but a genuine abandon. When we experience such unutterable favor in the arms of God, we have nothing but joy.
My husband’s lack of acceptance, his arrogance, his pride, destroyed us. Please take notes.
Jesus shows us how to lead. How to live. How to love.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
~ Phillippians 2:5-8
* My advice is that a couple with an abusive spouse NEVER EVER go to couple’s therapy or counseling. It is extremely toxic for the victim. Our counselor should have known better.
I’ve been thinking about how I used to feel around my former husband. Since we are focusing on anger in my divorce recovery group, I am looking at anger in my life. I’m not often angry anymore. Someone treating me unjustly… that’s what makes me angry. Makes anyone angry because it’s not right. That’s what anger is. A signal that something is not right. And the best response is to speak to the person about their behavior and what you are willing to accept. A respectful person would listen to that and respond by adjusting their behavior or letting you know that they are not willing to adapt for you. Then you choose whether to remain around that behavior or not.
But I was married to someone who did not believe it was his responsibility to adapt his behavior. And he did not respond politely, but with either arrogance or hostility. At the same time, he believed, that as his wife, I was not entitled to decide to not accept or endure whatever behavior he chose to dish out. It was my place to deal with it and actually embrace it.
He worked diligently at retraining me, stubborn as I was, to believe that his male priviledge included the authority to dictate what I should or should not think, how I should feel, and to accept his decisions whole-heartedly without question. It was his conviction that as head of our family, his beliefs and opinions were the default truth and were not to be challenged or questioned.
I remember one instance of this idiocy when my oldest son was in high school. He had a black argyle sweater that had purple diamonds. Kurt was of the opinion that straight boys do not wear purple. I thought that was downright stupid. I didn’t express my thought, but he did know that I had helped chose and purchase this sweater. Kurt whispered to me that I needed to back him up on this, that it was really important. He proceeded to tell both boys how purple is a color, like pink, that only girls and gay boys wear and that if they ever wore those colors, it was a declaration to the world of their sexual preference for males. He then turned to me for my confirmation of this fact. What did I do? What would you do? Do you know what the consequences for having or expressing anything other than complete and unequivocal agreement would have been? Do you think this made me feel kind of angry?
As a general contractor, he was responsible for finding his next job. He often would have the opportunity to bid several jobs, and if awarded, could schedule them several months out. But he also like to have time off. So, frequently, he would take several months off in the winter. He spent a great deal of that time, while I was home schooling the boys, sitting on his computer, surfing the internet. The boys, who were of junior high age, still had very limited use of any computer or electronic device. My youngest son had saved up enough money to buy himself, with our permission, an iPod touch. This is not a phone or anything with internet capability, just music. Kurt resented that thing like Satan. He would restrict our son’s time using it, take it away as a disciplinary measure, and he also opposed their use of the computer that we had gotten for them. It had all the parental controls on it, but Kurt just couldn’t abide any leisure time they spent on it. He was constantly taking the monitor away so they had no access to it. Okay, so, in my mind, if you are going to set down such standards for your children, then you should set the example and limit your own leisure time on your computer. Nope. Hours and hours he would sit there watching YouTube and Wimp and useless stuff. He actually even told them not to use him as an example. So I’m just really not respecting this leadership. I’m biting my tongue, but inside I’m feeling pretty angry.
So, if you are spending years and years of your life with this internal anger, how do you cope? It will eat your insides up. You can keep giving it over to God to take care of the mess, the injustice, but when it goes on and on and on… you start to give up. There’s no hope of it getting better. I did keep reaching out to other people, but nothing ever changed, so I just had to let a lot of my convictions go. I chose to accept behavior that I found unacceptable in order to maintain peace. And when you do that over and over and over, you begin to lose your sense of who you are and what you believe. It is a kind of numbing and brainwashing. I felt empty.
But there remained a voice inside that insisted on being heard. It kept prodding me, “Not right… this is not right. ” And I whispered back, “Go away”, but I could still hear it. And, feeling a stinging need to do something about this voice, I sought counseling.
Talked to Lupe tonight. Lord, you seem to be confirming through her that this is not what a marriage is. It is not what you want for us. How can I save this marriage? What can I do? I can’t bear this. I don’t want to chose divorce. Lupe said, “Divorce starts in the heart.” I need to think about that.
Lupe asked, “Are YOU the one responsible for making the marriage work?”
I do not feel like one flesh. Isn’t that what marriage is?
I feel betrayed
My friend said “reign of terror” about her chidhood abuse.
Is that where I leave my children by doing nothing?
Lord Jesus, convict me, if not for myself, of what is happening for my sons. Show me in your perfect truth where they are in this. What is this like for them? What do they need?
Strengthen me and show them your love through me. My love is insufficient and pathetic.
I’ve just begun going to a divorce recovery group. It seems already helpful. I know I need to process my feelings so that I can heal. It is immensely helpful to talk about my experiences, my emotions. It’s as if I have a giant sack I am carrying around that weighs me down. As I talk, I take another piece or two from the sack and leave it. If I talk enough, I will finally rid myself of the burden. That’s why I started this blog. That’s why it helps to journal. Why we go to counselors and therapists. Why God wants us to bring our sorrows to Him. We can’t just keep unloading on our friends and family all the time, either, because, since they love us, they kind of hold on to that little piece we left them with. If we aren’t careful, they will soon be feeling the weight of our sorrows and grief. So we have to spread the manure around…
Of course, there is homework. A big part of the process is figuring out what’s going on on the inside. Naming it… thinking it through…
I feel like I am no longer connected to the planet. That I’ve lost my gravity. My family, friends, home, church, life’s little routines… all those bits kept me planted… like the roots of a tree. That is all gone. So how do I not just float off into space? I have quite literally, physically felt as if I would. It is terrifying. I feel empty and void inside. Jesus certainly has been my rock, my anchor. But I still get that sickening feeling. I’ve asked my friend to hold my hand to keep me tethered. I don’t know if he understands. But it helps. When my oldest son visits it helps, too.
I have such fear and loneliness and hurt. This isn’t new. How can I live for so many years with such sadness? Mom and Dad kept asking me after I left, “Don’t you feel better?” NO… no, no, no! I did not feel better. I am still trying to feel better. I am trying to make connections, friends, but I find I’m not certain I really want them. I’m afraid of them. I don’t want to pretend I’m okay. I spent so many years covering the pain and sadness and loneliness with a smile and busy-ness, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to heal and get better, not pretend I’m okay and healthy and just having so much fun. My friend has been so helpful in making me laugh and soothing the loneliness. I don’t ever feel like I’m pretending with him. It feels more like therapy, like healing. And since he talks and talks about his hurt, I can talk about my hurt, too. He’s not always a great listener, but he’s getting better. And hugs help. Hugs help so much.
I feel like an enormous part of my self has died. And that I’m walking around not really living. I’ve forgotten how to have fun. How to enjoy myself. I still laugh and do things. but they are at like 20%, like I used to ride a road bike fast. Now I need to pedal around the driveway on a tricycle. And I know there is a world of people out there having fun, having a life, and I feel unable to participate. And that makes me very unhappy. Life is passing by and I’m just sort of catatonic. I don’t know how to break the spell and go be a real person again.
This week I am going to do one thing that I love that I haven’t done since I left. That is a promise to myself. To put a smile on my face. To put some healing balm on my wounded heart and begin to recover something I have lost.
In 2006, I was trying to get a grasp on what was happening to me… how my marriage had turned into this monster that was destroying me. I jotted down some notes…
a reconstruction of the events:
- first week or two of marriage- I realized there was a BIG problem (remember sleeping in garage and crying as if your heart would break?)
- blame and lack of support very early months (over financial issues, esp. my small pre-marital education debt)
- complete breakdown of all intimacy and one-flesh… violence during Twain Harte years (remember crashing through the closet doors? punches? wonder about those two broken ribs?) . Kurt began his threats of divorce over the “Men in Grey” stuff he and his mom believed. This is when I had my first dream-vision experience of the creepy knocking on all 4 walls of the house and I prayed and prayed aloud to keep Satan out of our home.
- I sought counseling to deal with Kurt’s control and anger. He refused to take part and my parents paid for it. My mother’s counsel was to bloom where planted.
- slightly better during first year in Sunnyvale I began to learn “compliance” and “submission” according to Kurt. I was happy working. Also, we did seek help together. Kurt was diagnosed as depressed but did not continue his medication. When Kurt got the counselor all excited about discussing the sex issue… a real arena of abuse… I refused to go.
- with Ian’s birth, the violence and emotional/verbal abuse/control became unbearable. I remember once he kicked me and knocked me down while I had our infant in my arms. I got in the car and left, but had no where to go so I went back. I had terrible bruises on my thigh. I simply could not believe this was me. It was here that I’d say the worst several years began… I was in tears, I was so tormented by a relationship that in my gut I knew was wrong, so very wrong, but I had to make it work. I became very confused about submission and who was right. I prayed and sought answers, but got little or no guidance. We moved, we prayed over the house. I cried a lot, Kyle was born, I struggled with Kurt’s parenting, my heart ached for what I felt was SUCH a dysfunctional, sick family, such an empty and disappointing marriage. As always, I maintained an exterior of cheerfulness to others, but I became angry and bitter deep down. Deep depression hit several times, beginning when Ian was 1. I began taking medication.