working it all out…

I’m coming back to my blog after a really long time!  Partly a function of what has been going on in my life and partly to do with where I am in my journey to ‘personhood’.  So external stuff and internal stuff.  My brother visited me this weekend, and we got talking about my ex and why the marriage broke down. Like most people, he had found my Ex to be pleasant and easygoing and found it difficult to understand my problems with him.  I have always come across as feisty and people saw me as the more dominant partner, and to a certain extent I think that was true.  So nothing made sense really. And I don’t think this blog-post will come to many conclusions so forgive my rambling.  I’m a wip- a ‘work-in-progress’.

I gave him examples of my Ex’s controlling behaviour and the types of stuff he did which I found upsetting but difficult to deal with.  One example is that he insisted, for a while, on coming to bed in the dirty work clothes that he had worn all day (he was a plumber).  He merely took his trousers off and got in bed!  When I complained, he then pretended to co-operate by telling me he was just about to take the T-shirt off, after he had finished reading and was ready to sleep.  So, rather than taking his dirty clothes off before getting into bed (maybe even having a wash?) , he lay in bed with them on for a while until I responded.  Of course, he was pretending to co-operate with what I had asked but was not embracing the principal or spirit of what I wanted.  After he had worn that T-shirt whilst taking out someone’s toilet, I didn’t want it in my bed at all!

So I think people are beginning to get that my ‘sweet’ Ex was difficult and unreasonable, but no-one is getting why I stayed for so long.  And neither do I!  The external stuff is getting easier to see, but the internal reasoning as to why I didn’t leave is still mostly a mystery.  My brother asked me when I first had an inkling of my Ex’s attitude and I told him that it was over 30 years ago, when I brought my newborn daughter home for the first time and he talked only about buying a new lawnmower as we settled in the house.  It upset me- I didn’t feel the lawnmower was the priority in this special moment but I didn’t have the words or emotional understanding to figure out what was happening.  I did express that I was upset but he said “you’re interested in babies but I’m more interested in lawnmowers”.  I guess that summed it up.  He was there, he was pleasant (rephrase that, his words were polite) but he had effectively burst my happy bubble by letting me know very efficiently that neither I nor our new family was his priority.  I should say ‘my’ new family as he never really engaged in it at all.  I’m still talking about his behaviour but why couldn’t I stand up to this?  He intimated that he was entitled to make his own free choices as to what to talk about (and what to wear to bed) but I couldn’t figure out at which stage I was allowed to draw the line and call him unreasonable without me being ‘controlling’ and ‘bossy’.

As is often the way for me, two or three things come together to add up to greater learning.  I’m reading M. Scott Peck (at the recommendation of another blogger, thank you!) about Narcissists- The Children of the Lies.  I’m only half-way through the book but he explains that mentally-healthy people are accepting and submissive to a Higher Power.  I’m not religious (he is) so I demurred a bit at this as I believe in personal responsibility but he goes on to explain that it’s not necessarily about God but might mean to a conscience, a set of social values or your own internal belief system. So ordinary people want to get their needs met but will balance this out with drawing the line at breaking these moral laws. They are empathic with others and how they might feel about our decisions, taking other’s views into account.  Narcissists, however, have no empathy but merely want to dominate the other, to get the upper hand and will therefore break your heart in their efforts to do so.  And the bits of broken heart will merely get in their way and is seen as an inconvenience. Peck calls these people ‘the evil ones’.

Still talking about my Ex and not my own issues!!!  Where is my inner insight into why I stayed for so long? Peck also talks about affirmation from our parents.  As infants, we should be loved simply because we exist.  The love becomes naturally more  conditional as we grow up and demands are made upon our behaviour, for example our mother is more loving towards us if we learn to use the potty but will be upset if we wet in our pants.  As an adult, our partners won’t give unconditional love but expect reasonable behaviour from us- except for me, of course, as I didn’t set any limits on his unreasonable behaviour.  And where I tried, I found it impossible.  He ignored me, ‘forgot’, bent the principal, lied and was vengeful about any attempt to set boundaries with him.  Peck says that he counselled (or tried to) a narcissist and concluded that she demanded unconditional love even as an adult. She didn’t expect to be held accountable for her behaviour.   It seemed my ex was the same.

But million dollar question, why stay if I was so unhappy?  I need to stop being a victim and figure out my own responsibility. It’s all very well analysing HIM so, okay, he expected unconditional regard no matter his behaviour.  What was I expecting from the relationship, and I must have got something back because I stayed for a long time.  I can’t really see a connection but I remember an incident when I was very small, three or four years old, and a small friend and I were playing noisily in my parents’ bedroom.  I’ve no idea why we were playing there, I now wonder if my mother was trying to argue with or discuss something in the living room with my father, who was an alcoholic.  There was domestic violence related to drink and they split up when I was five. My mother came in and shushed us a couple of times and eventually burst in and thoroughly spanked us both.  We both started crying and she then burst into tears herself, gathering my little friend into her arms, sitting on the bed, rocking her and apologising to her to soothe her.  She ignored me and I was clearly excluded from the soothing and apologies.  I sat down on the floor and rocked myself and calmed myself.  Looking back at that incident, somehow I know I was held fully responsible for our noisy, normal age-related playing and my friend was exempt from responsibility.  I obviously just wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t entitled to apologies about my mother’s bad behaviour and I had failed at something.

I have no idea why that incident came into my mind and I haven’t managed to analyse it thoroughly.  It has just popped into my head and I’m guessing it has significance.  I need to work out why I stayed though, so next time I’ll be confident that I will leave. Having read this over again, I’ve realised it’s all factual and I maybe need to access the bad feelings associated with those times in order to work it all out.


2 thoughts on “working it all out…

  1. I found that the easiest way to answer the question, “why did I stay?” is to look at society. Society expects women to obey. It expects women not to raise their voices, be shrill, loud or have opinions. It polices what we wear, where we go, what we do and why we do it. Deviating from those carefully drawn lines makes people anxious. Women are taught from an early age that their boundaries are to be walked over (“go and give your uncle a hug! Don’t be rude!”), and that saying no is impolite.

    Looking at it that way, it makes sense. Women don’t just walk away from abusive relationships because of the backlash we get from society for not “behaving like women” – which, of course, means demonstrating any behaviour which is autonomous, wilful or sets a boundary. These things are all necessary if you want to leave an abuser.

    Personally, I would say that asking yourself what you got out of an abusive relationship is a question society makes you ask yourself. I don’t think any of us who ended up in an abusive relationship chose to stay: leaving is not an option after a while.

    I think the question we should all be asking is not why did I stay, but why does society make it so hard for me to leave?
    Just thoughts from us x

    Liked by 1 person

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