I’m having text and phone conversations with my friend S as she waits for the books she ordered to come in. (“Why Does He Do That” is one of them.). She is doing what I did, getting angry at him, then bringing up the good traits that he has. She mentions the kind gestures, the words of admiration and love. Then the next text comes in, and she is hurt and angry. I’m seeing the maze of my Rabbit Hole time reenacted before my eyes.
I don’t know her husband. I’ve met him a few times but I don’t KNOW him. I’m only getting her side of the story, but her story seems very clear to me. I’m sure if I had confided in my friends about what was really happening to me the problem and remedy would have been very clear. Maybe that is why I didn’t confide in them, I had to work my way through the maze on my own to make sure I was doing the right thing.
It was easier for me because we weren’t married.
What I told S today was:
“I made lists. I kept notes of conversations and my feelings so that I could review them and see the pattern of how often and what really occurred. I would put so much hope into the good times and want to pass over the bad.”
The thing is these men (and women) are masters at pushing to discover your boundaries. A little more each time. A little more hurt, confusion, anger. Then when you reach your limit and they sense that you are starting to see them clearly they pull the smokescreen down again.
There were periods of peace. Laughter and fun. Hope that the problem was really solved. Then boom, right back in that horrible hurt and anger place.
I found that the bad times seemed to fade with time. Because my mind veered away from them. I wanted to build on the positive not the negative. But I had to finally admit that they were getting worse. Which is when is started making notes.
That is when I was able to recognize the pattern. I could see in black in white the lies and posturing. I could see the frequency. This was the time when I sought help at Barnes and Noble and got the book “Why Does He Do That?” Then there was no more maze. I knew what I was dealing with it was just a matter if how to end it safely. As I mentioned before that took months.
One of my friends from Little Rock commented today “Those of us that knew you during the abusive relationship all knew that you were in the wrong relationship and that you were miserably unhappy. We were all relieved when we knew you were starting to mentally end the relationship.”
There was a great sense of relief. It wasn’t all my fault, it wasn’t a lack of communication skills, it wasn’t a deficiency on my part that made the relationship fail. I could stop stressing. I could stop laying awake at night going over the conversations trying to figure out what I should have said.
When he sensed the change he really kicked into high gear. He bought books on anger management. He talked about how he was going to change because I could make him a better man, he was going to do this for me.
I didn’t care.
His actions and words had killed whatever affection I had for him. I went from an emotional mess to being very calculating. I had no desire to hurt him, no desire to extract revenge of any kind. I could look at the span of our time together and acknowledge the good times as well as the bad. I did then, and do now, look at him as a flawed human being just as I am. But it wasn’t my job to fix him, or to stay with him.
I’m not saying that he was un fixable. I’m saying I was not the person to do it. At the end of the day those balance sheets of pros and cons showed me that the bad outweighed the good.
I believe people can change and grow. I’ve seen that in the five years with Steve as we worked through how to live together. We meet in the middle, we sometimes give more than the other, we don’t keep score. I know that the man I’m married to is not the same man he was in his previous marriage. I’m not the same person from five years ago, or twenty years ago for that matter.
The good of what we have together completely overwhelms the little hiccups in our relationship. I see progress in how we communicate. I see our love and respect for each other grow daily. We have built on love, honesty and trust. What we have clearly is worth whatever work we have to do to keep it.
I didn’t have that in the Rabbit Hole.
He is married now. From all appearances they are happy and I am honestly glad. I never wanted him to hurt or be alone. We have had several conversations and while we will never be friends there is peace now.
So as my friend S formulates questions and evaluates answers I have urged her to to make lists and make notes of conversations and her feelings. At some point she will have to see how the balance sheet works out for her.