Yes, it hurts ….

There is a calendar on my kitchen wall, “compliments of my very supportive sister”. The calendar is getting crossed off each day and is etching closer to the day that marks one year of a broken marriage.  In exactly one week will be one year of living life single and downsized, downsized in terms of a family which is now broken down and scattered here and there.

Nearly one year ago my life changed as did my children’s lives.

Life also changed for my ex-husband.

The truth is that while most people recognise when things are not going well the reality of a family unit collapsing is a shock to everyone concerned.

Regardless of the pain and hurt within a marriage relationship when a family falls apart it affects everybody. The pain and emotion is tremendous and difficult to describe in words.

No matter the reasons for the marriage breakdown there are no miraculous formulas to help one forget about those family moments each shared. To remember them is to hurt and ache for what is now lost.

As a mum of five children my life revolved around my family. I loved being a mum and still do. There is nothing I can ever do to get those moments back ever again. They are over, done and dusted.

It is possibly one of the reasons why it took me so long to finally get the courage to leave my marriage as who in their right mind wants a broken family. I continued in the unhealthy relationship for decades. My children kept me focused on something wholesome and good. I had purpose. I was busy, too busy to think most days. And had my thoughts taken me to places in which I felt lonely in my marriage there was nothing I believed I could do about it. It was simply too difficult.

Most parents would relate to the idea of staying together for the sake of the kids.

The fact of the matter is that not all relationships are doomed. There are relationships that have the potential of being restored. When a relationship can be restored and operate in a healthy way then why not? Everyone wins in that case…..

When I was married my values and beliefs kept me in the marriage. I firmly believed that marriage was something you didn’t give up on easily. That no matter what went wrong, no matter how hard it was that it was each partner’s willingness and dedication that would have them forgive each other and sort out their issues.

Believe me, I tried so hard.

In the midst of trying so hard I got lost. So much of who I was went missing too. To keep the peace I had to refrain from communicating my needs. Whenever I did communicate my needs I got the silent treatment. I was made to feel like it was wrong to have needs. I recall the moments that I tried to communicate. It usually began with me feeling extremely anxious as I knew that it was not going to be an easy task, that I would be met with all sorts of resistance. Despite my intentions and desires of wanting to have a close healthy relationship, my ex-husband did not share that value.

He would make me feel de-valued, unwanted, rejected and confused. In my mind I thought it was normal to approach your significant other when hurting and needing to talk to sort things out. I believed in sorting things out. He on the other hand was always on the defensive. The minute that I attempted to have a conversation with him I knew it was not going to be easy. He would use his many words or even the lack thereof to let me know that whatever I was feeling was my problem. That he was not at fault. That somehow everything I was feeling was my character flaw.

Often he would quote the bible to me, telling me that I needed to forgive him.

When things got really serious he would then write me a letter. In the letter it would read and list out all of the areas he would ask for forgiveness from me. The difficulty I had with that was his actions continued being hurtful.

Often times he would inflict so much emotional hurt on me that eventually I would cave into depression for weeks on end. On several occasions when feeling completely depressed and overwhelmed he would suddenly turn into the ‘superhero dad’ and tell the kids he was going to take them out for the day. He never spent time with them unless I was depressed. He would then use his methods to convey to the kids that mum had issues, that she was the problem. When I had those moments of depression he would ignore me by giving me the silent treatment.

He made me feel as though there was something wrong with me even when I was depressed. He was not supportive or compassionate.  To him I was invisible.

This type of interaction created such anxiety. It happened so often that I knew what was going to happen every time I approached him with a problem. I knew that no matter how I spoke to him it was not going to be favourable. On occasions I experimented with different types of communication. I tried the meek and mild version, the strong and assertive. I tried the Christian wife version of being humble and loving. Decades later it was obvious that it didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, it was always going to be wrong. It was always going to be an issue that I had created which meant that he didn’t need to take any responsibility for his actions.

There were many occasions in which his attempt at doing something loving for me was equally as hurtful.

On one occasion I recall he and my eldest son had gone on a road trip to Sydney. When they returned I excitedly went outside to greet them. My ex-husband was pulling bags out of the boot of the car. He went on to say that he had bought me some expensive perfume. Then immediately after stating that fact he finished the sentence with “your son said you stink so I thought I would get you some perfume”. I’m almost embarrassed to type this as it sounds so awful, but that is exactly what happened.  Suddenly the idea of receiving perfume as a gift got turned into something so de-valuing.

On another occasion when we were at a shopping mall without prior warning my ex began walking into a jewellery store, all spur of the moment. Naturally I followed him wondering what was going on.  The store assistants were doing their job by asking my ex “how can we help you today”. My ex went on to say with a very loud and sarcastic tone “my wife is here to spend all of my money so can you help her find some jewellery”.  Hmm I’m not sure about most people however that moment was gone for me. I had no desire for any jewellery what so ever. Despite my sudden lack or desire of choosing jewellery he forced me to pick something by making such a spectacle of me in front of everyone in the store.  I felt so embarrassed in front of all the sales assistants.

These examples are only a tiny drop in the ocean of so much more that happened in my marriage. It is possibly the first time that I have shed a little more light into how I was treated.

One can imagine after being in a relationship that was quite unhealthy it is no easy task to recover from years’ worth of damage.

The first step to recovery was leaving. ….

 

Are you stuck on repeat, repeat…

Daily routines don’t vary so much from day to day unless something unpredictable happens such as a sick child or an unexpected event. My daily routine is generally the same each day beginning with motherly duties followed by study, mixed in with the all too often visits on social media sites like face book (especially when studying a statistics unit ).

Once the afternoon progresses I am back to my motherly duties with some more studying and of course blogging! Today as I am writing this blog happens to be a Friday and every Friday for me feels a little like the movie ‘Ground Hog Day’. All too often I find myself repeating the phrase “WHAT it’s Friday again, it always feels like a Friday”. It feels like I had not lived through any other day of the week as it seems Fridays turn up faster than my kids can run when I ask them to wash the dishes.

Humans are often talked about as ‘creatures of habit’. Our habits tend to become quite predictable. We often like to sit in the same seats, order the same meals, buy the same style of clothes and visit the same places for family outings (alternating them of course). When I think about it I tend to play it safe and I have never been known for much of a risk taker. Even my shoes and handbags are quite similar!

When we go out for ice cream I find myself always choosing the one scoop of ‘dark chocolate’ on a waffle cone. To order anything else (in my mind) has the potential to ruin my ice cream experience as I just cannot seem to get away from dark chocolate nor can I bear the thought of choosing another flavour and walking away disappointed. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you are drinking that really good cup of coffee and for some reason or another you don’t get to finish it. You’re left feeling incomplete for the lack of experiencing that last mouthful.

There is no wrong in having a daily routine or enjoying that dark chocolate waffle cone (except for the calories) and it surely would not hurt to occasionally spice up life a little by adding some variety. However, what about those repeat mode settings in our lives that can leave us feeling lost and emotionally broken?

The topic of being stuck in repeat mode could keep me talking for days as I have experienced myself going around in circles for years in particular areas of my life. The truth is that I was so stuck in those patterns that I just couldn’t see them for what they were and the damage they were causing.

One particular pattern for me was very harmful and hurtful, not to mention a huge time waster.   The quest to find ‘that perfect other’, which would fulfil my every desire and meet all of my needs, had me living in a pattern of boy chasing. I was convinced that once I met ‘that someone’ I would not feel lonely ever again and until I found that person I was going to be living empty and unfulfilled.

In hindsight of course it was so untrue! No person on this planet can fulfil your every desire and meet ALL of your needs. Despite that I was convinced that having ‘a boy in my life’ was going to fix up everything. So my life revolved around boys!  This pattern of boy chasing was very repetitive, it took up too much of my time and more importantly messed with my emotions on a regular basis.

Some patterns can be obvious and others rather subtle. The boy chasing was more likely obvious to the people in my life at the time, yet I don’t think I wanted to recognise it as a problem.  To admit it as a problem meant that I would need to stop chasing boys and live single until the right one came along. There was no way I was going to allow myself to feel lonely so the repetitive cycle continued until I met the man that was going to change my life forever.

Some of the more subtle types of patterns for me were emotional.  One particular emotional pattern would put me into depression often for weeks at a time. As soon as life got too difficult and out of control (in other words it was out of my control) I would sort of panic and then go into a really dark place. It was as if someone just came along and hit a switch inside me and then off I went spiralling downhill. I would find it impossible to do life when that happened. Jumping into bed and pulling the covers over me felt comforting in some crazy way. It may have been somewhat stuffy and dark under there yet the darkness in my mind and emotions was so unbearable that hiding away from the world was safer and seemed like the only solution.

We often grow up with certain repeat mode settings or another way of putting it an automatic default setting.  Turning off that repeat mode may take some time and for me it started with recognising it first. It was such a revelation when I noticed how connected my circumstances and the responses to those circumstances were.

Somewhere along my journey I had accepted a default setting that triggered depression every time life was out of control. Of course when terrible things happen one can understand that to feel depressed is normal. For me it was not always a traumatic event it was just that something was out of my control. I’d always wanted life to go right and when it didn’t I just couldn’t handle it. It was the same when people close to me made decisions that were not the best, I would react and respond in panic followed with depression. I needed to get to a place in which circumstances were no longer ruling my emotions.

Not so many years ago I had one of those lightning bolt moments and realised that I did not have the ability to control people’s decisions. People were going to do what they wanted regardless, so once I realised this as a problem I settled it once and for all and decided that I was no longer going to carry unnecessary burdens that were not mine. Instead of  holding onto everyone’s choices I began recognising that the choices people make are not in my control therefore ‘it was best just to let go’ and focus  on my own decisions and choices.

A lot of my healing happened when I was intentional about finding an answer, that rather than ignoring the obvious I decided to face the issues one step at a time. Not everyone can do this on their own of course so I would recommend seeing a professional if that is the case.

It is so freeing when you can find your way off the merry go round. We all have life experiences and some affect us more than others. Those repeat mode settings can keep you going in circles preventing you from living life freely. It is not easy to take a risk and become vulnerable yet the benefits are long term.

It is all too easy to become familiar with unhealthy responses and keep putting up with them; it is very rewarding to discover better responses that do not leave you emotionally empty. No one likes listening to the same song over and over for too long, after a while it just gets really old.

 It might be time to change the music.