Posted in Healthy verses unhealthy

my past versus the present

“Don’t look back”!!! is often what people will say to you when you make a massive life change and in my case I walked away from a 27 year marriage to start all over again. I do agree with the statement of not looking back, especially if it prevents you from moving forward. For myself I have been thinking lately about some of the obvious differences that are in my life now to what they were in the past. To be more specific I wanted to look backwards a little to see how far I have come in the present from just over 4 years ago.

To even consider that it has been 4 years since I drove out of the gates with my then 9 year old son is incredible. The car was full of both our clothes and not much else. With little cash in my purse I took the opportunity at the request of my ex husband to move out. It was time. All I can say is that I tried for 27 years to convince myself the marriage relationship would get better and it never really did. It was unhealthy from top to bottom. No amount of prayers or church attendance changed anything. No amount of apologising, day dreaming or wishing helped our relationship. Our relationship was tense at the best of times and always on the brink of problems.

What did my relationship look like with my ex husband:

I met him in Church as a young 17 year old girl who had no value in herself. I hated myself. I believed that I was ugly and unloved. I was always searching for love and desperate for it. As much as I was searching for love I didn’t really know what it looked like. Sadly for me I accepted less then I deserved when I said “I DO” that day in front of my family and friends.

As crazy as it sounds I had no idea what I was committing myself to for 27 years. I thought it was love. I thought it was right. I thought it was normal for two people to be fighting and having problems as we did. The arguments and problems started when we were only going out a few weeks in. Getting married didn’t change that, the arguments continued. It was messy and it was complicated.

What were we arguing about?

The bottom line was I hated myself and wanted to be loved. I thought he loved me. I thought he had all the answers to life that he was wise. I listened intently to his words as he spoke with conviction about God, The Bible, Forgiveness, Healing and Loving Yourself. Sometimes the conviction he had took him too far. Like the day we were driving from Holbrook back to Canberra which was about a 3 hour drive. He was convinced that I needed to say out loud that I was beautiful. I couldn’t get those words out of my mouth, I told him I cant say that as I don’t believe it. He then put his left hand on my knee and started to squeeze it really hard demanding I say that I was beautiful otherwise he would keep squeezing me. At first I was shocked and immediately thought why is he hurting me? He sounded so convincing that I had to do what he said and start saying out loud that I was beautiful. This went on for what felt like forever until finally he was satisfied that I had done what he had asked.

We did a lot together I went with him to lots of places and often sat for hours in peoples houses while he talked with them about his convictions. Other occasions I sat in the car for hours while he was visiting either for business reasons or personal. He lived life in his own world and I was in the background. His ideas and decisions were his. My attempts at providing input were not really considered to be valuable. My fears, doubts or concerns about our finances was unimportant. As long as God was happy with him tithing we were going to be just fine as he was convinced that giving 10% to God would mean we would never be without. It didn’t quite go that way. There was no planning or budgeting only spending. He would say to me I can earn money as fast as I can spend it so stop worrying. I worried. I lived under so much stress as debts gathered momentum, debt collectors started calling and knocking on the door. I was left to deal with that all by myself as a young mum with no help from him. It was awful.

I started to lose trust in his decisions. I felt unheard and unimportant. Money was a major area but then there was the communication. My attempts at trying to communicate with him about my feelings and concerns created tension. It created silence. It always became about me. All our difficulties were identified as being my issues. He didn’t take responsibility for his actions. The only action he took was to manipulate OR emotionally withdraw to get me to do what he wanted. This then set the scene of years of emotional abuse.

Where am I now 4 years on from leaving him:

As I got to Canberra with my then 9 year old son it was about rebuilding a new life. I had no choice but to stay here so I decided to make it work. I found myself a small two bedroom unit while on unemployment benefits. Eventually got myself an entry level job and was promoted into a new role within that company. My bank account was in my control and I had the pleasure of paying all my bills on time. Problems and troubles started to feel like a thing of the past. I was now able to live peacefully in my small unit. My safe haven.

Just over 2 and half years ago I met a lovely new man. He does what he says he will do. His genuine and very loving. His good with money and makes the right choices. He asks for my input and takes it seriously. He never wants me to feel unheard. He doesn’t cause trouble and he has respect for my family and friends. He loves to communicate. He has helped me to speak up and not be afraid. He never puts me down in front of others or in private. He supports me always. He does life with me. We walk side by side. There is never any judgement or criticism. He never ignores me. He cares about my children.

The best part about our relationship is we don’t argue.

There is nothing to argue about.

We may have had a few misunderstandings however they were resolved with no effort at all it was natural and it was beautiful. With him life is peaceful, safe and loving. We are building a life together.

The first part of my life was turmoil and now the second part is beautiful.

I cant change my past but I am certainly embracing my future. Its good to look back when you want to get a clear picture of how much you have moved forward. Let the past show you how much you can appreciate your life now.

Posted in Emotional/psychological abuse

Yes, it hurts ….

A calendar hangs on my kitchen wall compliments of my very supportive younger sister. Most days I make it a mission to cross off each day fully aware that in a matter of no time the first year anniversary of a broken marriage will have arrived. In exactly one week it will have been one year that I have lived a single life after decades of raising a large family, being a fulltime mother.

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. ….

Posted in Acceptance

Embrace who YOU are…

Today’s internet gives us access to information from all sorts of places. From the personal blog page (like mine) to the more professional websites providing advice to individuals everywhere about topics such as; being your true self. When I was younger I don’t recall hearing about the topic of being your true self very often, if at all. It was perhaps the biggest issue that I struggled with from a very young age.

OK so not everyone is struggling to be themselves… There are those that have no second thoughts about living life to the full and enjoying who they are. These people have less holding them back as they are not concerned of what other people think. They are focused on their goals and continue pushing through with or without resistance. It would be safe to say they are comfortable with who they are so people’s opinions don’t really concern them so much.

Unlike these types of people who can keep going with or without resistance since I was younger I always cared about what people thought of me. The minute someone let me know they didn’t like me my reaction was to hide similar to a turtle going back into its shell. The idea of someone ‘not liking’ me sent me deeper into my thought life. My thoughts were consumed with trying to understand what made me unlikeable! I often wondered how anyone could say they didn’t like me when they didn’t even really know me.

How often do we make judgments about someone based on their appearance or personality and assume what that person is like? We are all guilty of not taking the time to get to know people before we all too quickly judge them as not worth knowing. It would be better to give people an opportunity to show who they are, as not everyone can be themselves in an instant. For some people it takes time to warm up to others before they feel safe and uncomfortable to be truly themselves.

Taking time to warm up to someone was how I eventually expressed more of my true self to people. I hid behind my insecurities and vulnerabilities. I needed to know that I was safe to be myself before I could allow others to see me for who I was. Naturally my personality is more on the introverted side, although some people have told me they believe I am actually an extrovert in hiding.

Either way I do take my time to show people the real me, the real me that expresses herself with laughter on many occasions. My words may be few in conversation yet I do take thought into what I say and like it to mean something. I’m a deep thinker and I feel everything. I’m often found analysing people and wondering what it is that makes them tick. I watch their moods and consider whether something may be going on that is troubling them?

My nature is sensitive, caring and compassionate. It bothers me to see people upset or hurt. This is the reason why I took up studying psychology in the first place. My heart is to help and support others in whichever way I can. Usually I simply listen. I don’t always have much to say. I listen and do my best to hear what people are saying. I put myself in their shoes to try and understand what life is like according to their experiences.

Being such a sensitive and emotionally in tune person wasn’t always something that I embraced. There have been many occasions in which I had wished I were less sensitive & louder. Why louder you may ask? Throughout so much of my childhood and adulthood I was often described as the quiet one!!! When I was working in a homewares store several years ago they had an end of year Christmas Party. All of the employees got a small gift that described the type of person they were seen as. Naturally in theme of being thought of as ‘quiet’ I got a tiny little mouse which was to sit on the dashboard of my car. I was handed the gift in amusement by the boss stating “this is for you Anu, you’re always so quiet, so we thought we’d get you this tiny mouse”.

AHHH once again, quiet Anu!!!!

To try and get rid of that identity was never going to happen. In much the same way as actors who have started their careers when young try to convince their audience years later that they have  grown up.

The downside to my personality is that I don’t find it easy to confront people when needed. Although this part of me has grown over the years. I can all too easily let very important issues slide. While I know the issues are there and they bother me for fear of confrontation I can turn a blind eye for far too long. This obviously worked against me in my failed marriage. Had I been able to stand my ground at the very beginning of my marriage perhaps things might have been different?

It is through all of my painful mistakes or failures that I have learnt more about embracing myself for who I am. No longer does it bother me so much that I am sensitive or compassionate. I love being sensitive and compassionate. It allows me to be there for people in so many different circumstances. I don’t just listen, I hear!

Having been in a very difficult marriage has taught me to stand up for myself. I have learnt that I do have a say and my thoughts are important. If a partner isn’t going to value me for me then why keep painfully hanging around hoping for change when change never happens.

Please hear me out!

I’m not talking about the normal marriage issues relationships have, I’m talking about the damaging unhealthy patterns, the ones that involve psychological or emotional abuse, or for some sadly physical abuse.

As we start out in life we have strengths and weaknesses within us that make us who we are. Throughout life these strengths and weaknesses become sharpened. We learn from our experiences and become better at putting these parts of us to good use. It is almost as if life starts to balance us out as we get older.

To be our true selves I don’t think give us a licence to run over people. I don’t think it means we do whatever we want, whenever we want it. That speaks of selfishness. Living life to please oneself alone is unsatisfying. In much the same way I don’t think it gives us the freedom to tell people what we think whenever we get the urge. Everything needs to be done in the right way with the right heart.

If in embracing your true self involves disrespecting people or treating others as ‘nothing’ then I would say that there is something wrong which needs to be looked into.

If we are genuinely embracing who we are,

we automatically embrace others respectably.

Posted in Acceptance, Healthy verses unhealthy

Is the Price too High?

Call me a penny pincher if you must but I’ve always been a person that doesn’t like wasting money on something I want or need to buy. I’m the sort of person that likes to investigate the options available with the hope that I can purchase an item for much less elsewhere.

This Christmas my shopping was minimal due to my peanut budget and life change, I held back on buying an item for my nine year old as I wasn’t satisfied with the cost. Waiting and sweating it out saved me some money which was exactly what I was hoping for. I happened to walk into the store on an unexpected ‘one day sale’. My patience paid off as I managed to buy my sons main Christmas present for less.

How much of what we see in shops is overpriced?

Assuming for a moment that I lived with more than a peanut budget, I don’t think it would change how I feel about wasting money. For me it is a matter of principle, I just can’t bring myself to pay more than I should. I know full well it won’t be long until a particular item I looked at buying will eventually be marked down. When I can buy something that has been marked down a sense of satisfaction leaves me feeling content as it results in saving some money. My bank account isn’t emptied nor do I need to sit at home regretting my decision.

In reality clothes are clothes, shoes are shoes, toys are toys and so on…. The differences between the cost of clothes for instance is determined by where you are looking to buy them. Designer clothes are going to cost you more than the clothes you buy from a department store. Most people are satisfied that designer wear will cost them more. They are willing to spend on the quality of the material and its design as it’s not merely an item that has been stitched together only to last for a few weeks. That being said I’ve never bought designer wear! I can see the sense in spending more on quality I’ve just never had the money to do that.

Where am I going with this you might be wondering?

As I was thinking about the idea for this blog I thought about how much I have paid in my relationships over the years. By relationships I refer to any type of one, whether it is a marriage, girlfriend/boyfriend, friend, sibling, parents or associates.

In terms of relationships I’ve always found it more difficult to recognise how much I am willing to pay. There is always a cost in terms of your time, energy and other resources we all have access to. Relationships require an investment from you. It isn’t about money but rather a giving of yourself to someone. Depending on the type of relationship determines how much you give or invest into the other person.

Often times though it doesn’t matter how much we invest into someone the other person may not be as invested into us. It could be a friendship in which the other person is only thinking about what they can get from you.

It reminds me of a time years ago when I lived in Sydney. I had a friend that used to ring me pretty much every day. She often called me and spoke for hours. I had young children and plenty of chores to do throughout the day yet somehow I was willing to give hours of my time to this person. I thought I was doing the right thing? However over time I began realising that she was only focused on herself and draining me in the process. I got to a point in which I had nothing left for my own children. I was oblivious to the fact that she was constantly taking from me everything that I had. She wasn’t satisfied with her life and found it hard to make the necessary changes for things to change! Her life was going around in circles and while I had good intentions I was also going around in circles with her.  I needed to jump off that ride!

I was exhausted on every level; emotionally, mentally and physically…..

There is nothing wrong with being there for a friend however you need to consider at what cost? Sometimes people only want to hear what they want to hear!

In a marriage relationship you are invested completely. All of who you are is shared with another person. For a marriage to be successful both partners need to invest completely. It isn’t enough for one partner to invest emotionally when the other may be holding back. Eventually the one giving emotionally will start feeling empty.

We often hear people say that you need to keep yourself happy. Yes that is true however if you are in a relationship with someone and your significant other is not providing anything back the relationship will lose connection and intimacy. For a relationship to work it requires both partners to take the time by investing into each other. Putting in zero investment equals zero return!

Money is important and we should take measures to manage it as best we can but what about the other resources such as; our emotions, heart, physical and mental state.

Do we continue investing into a relationship until we are so empty that we can’t even take care of ourselves anymore?

I do believe in loyalty and commitment in a relationship. I’m also aware that in many circumstances and in different seasons you will often find yourself investing more into a relationship than perhaps you are getting back and vice versa.  However there comes a time when you need to take a good look at things if you are falling apart and unraveling into a nervous wreck. ….

Not every relationship needs to fall apart.

Some do and some don’t.

Mine did unfortunately!

I can however live with myself knowing that I did everything possible for far too long in trying to make something work that was never going to move beyond certain foundational issues. These issues were damaging and unhealthy. The amount of times that I personally experienced high levels of anxiety and stress due to the relationship should have been enough to wake me up. I was so determined to “do the right thing” that I overlooked areas I should not have ignored. It got so bad towards the end that I had what I believe to be a nervous breakdown the night before exiting the marriage. I had well and truly reached the limits of what I could take.  There was nothing left in me, I was completely empty. My heart had closed off and I was aware that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to repair the damage that had been done. The price that I had already paid up until that point was enormous.

I appreciate the difficultly in coming to terms with a partner not being as invested into a relationship with you as much as you might want them to be. Consider how much you are willing to pay in order to keep trying. If the cost sends you bankrupt with no hope of recovery it’s time to pay attention to what is going on. The longer you ignore the issues the more damage occurs.

Perhaps when issues are sorted earlier rather than later there is more hope in restoration?

Again that depends if both parties are willing and wanting to have a great relationship. In my case I went above and beyond for many years with no success.

The results speak for themselves today!

It isn’t hard to accept that quality items are going to cost more financially as much as quality relationships are built on both partners investing everything of themselves.

The question is whether the relationship is one of quality? Is it a genuine and healthy relationship? Or a strained unhealthy damaging relationship?

Posted in Strategy

Sifting through ‘muddled messes’…

By nature I am a person that likes things tidy and organised. Complete messes just mess with me. It throws off my mood and general sense of enjoyment. Having had four children under the age of four decades ago I spent morning to night dealing with messes. It was mostly all the practical stuff. Messes spread from room to room while mealtimes consisted of cute little faces wearing food as fast as it was being eaten.  Having mess is unavoidable.  Cleaning up the messes involved some organisation and staging. It seems to work better when we prioritise messes from extremely urgent to ‘this mess can wait’, especially when you are multitasking between young children with different ages requiring different levels of attention.

To let the day go with the flow would not have been as effective. Those types of days happen occasionally, however forward thinking or planning ahead can remove unnecessary stress and save time.

As a young mum in those days I had to be fairly fast with decisions and good at organising. It is no easy job to be a mum of four under four. At various stages I was also pregnant while looking after toddlers. So not only was I dealing with messes I was dealing with pregnancy and everything that came along with that. Naps were necessary and general care of myself was highly crucial. With pregnancy come the sensitive emotions riding alongside your hormones. No matter my emotional state I had to consider what the practical needs of the day were and stick to completing them. There were no options of staying in bed feeling overwhelmed with emotion as young children needed me to take care of them. We all know that young children don’t give you a day off.

No matter what season we find ourselves in there are messes to clean up in life.

Where there are people there will be mess.

In the same way that messes are unavoidable in daily living within a household, emotional mess can build up on the inside too!

Given the past three months or so of my recent journey I have been faced with plenty of mess. If it isn’t my own emotions swinging from one tree to another the challenge of my circumstances can sort of pile up on top of each other and leave me feeling overwhelmed. It is challenging to sift through messy emotions and messy circumstances all at the same time. Unlike Tarzan who loves swinging between trees I can’t say that it is really a skill that I have.

Until you find yourself in a situation such as a 27 year marriage breakdown it is difficult to comprehend all the various aspects one must deal with. There are the concerns you can’t help but feel for your children who are also struggling to deal with the situation somehow. There are the endless questions that pop into your mind which keep you up at night or hold you captive during the day.

In this particular season my four children who were under four decades ago are now adults. I only have my 9 year old with me. In some ways my adult children are now faced with sifting through their own emotional backlog of hurt and pain. I can’t do it for them no matter how desperately I wish I could take it all away and put a big smile on their cute little faces.

As I sift through these muddled messes I consider which areas are the most important right now. The minute I try and deal with everything at once I get extremely overwhelmed. It is essential for myself and my youngest that I do some forward planning and consider which areas are of most importance. While the needs are enormous practically and emotionally I have been learning to pace myself daily in order to accomplish some form of problem solving.

The problem solving is now on my shoulders!

I take my hat off to all the single mums out there who are in the same boat.

When questions or overwhelming emotions start cluttering my mind  I can only resort to looking at the situation by pure facts. It is the facts of this situation that speak clearer to me than my emotions can. Emotions can lead me astray. When I put those messy emotions aside for a moment I remind myself about the reality of what has taken place. Some of those realities or facts tell me that there is nothing I could have done to change anything. There are some messes in life that are out of my hands to clean up or fix. They are messes someone else has chosen to create and therefore it is out of my control.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog I am the sort of person who needs organisation, I can’t handle too much mess. Being in this current circumstance has been challenging as there has been plenty of mess to sift through. Trying to make sense of the mess is impossible. Trying to clean up all of the mess is also impossible. It simply is not in my power to do so.

The position that I can take in this muddled mess is one of prioritising, recognising the facts that can’t be changed and constantly reminding myself that I have no control over other people’s choices or decisions. I do have the power right now to move forward with little steps. To not expect that I can somehow problem solve everything in a day.

That no matter what has happened to me or my kids it is crucial to not let any further mess into my hurting heart. Having boundaries was never really a strength of mine when I was younger and perhaps that has caused me more grief than I can imagine. Having had such little value for myself opened the door to letting other people take control, almost like being tossed around at sea with no anchor of my own.

Whether you find yourself in a muddled mess or feel as though you are being tossed around out at sea I hope that what I have written reminds you to take a look at the facts. Don’t let emotions be your leader. Don’t give all your control to someone else, set boundaries and keep an anchor handy for those moments when you need to stop being tossed around out at sea.

An anchor can be your friends or your family. As a Christian a great anchor is the bible, church and prayer. All of these things are good for keeping you from being tossed around, feeling helpless in your circumstances.

Most of all no matter the mess,

you matter ♥