When it clearly ended, no more picking up the pieces and getting out the crazy glue I had some harsh realizations. I suppose I knew it would never last very early in the marriage, probably about the time my first child was born but I worked hard to keep things together, or so I thought and he enjoyed all the benefits he gained. I find it interesting that I had already grieved the loss of my marriage prior to it ending but discovered myself facing some surprising emotions.
The first and most obvious response was I acknowledged all the things I had lost for my children. I had spent over a decade and a half of my life struggling to create a loving nurturing home where my children had emotional, physical and financial stability. I strove for the dream of a white picket fence with a Cleaver like existence. Although I was perfectly aware that June did not work full time outside the home (at times additional part time jobs) as well as maintaining the responsibilities of the house nor did Ward suffer from addiction issues and undiagnosed PTSD which was handled by a cycle of self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs, aggressive outbursts, anxiety, and guilt. I began to grieve for the potential my children lost, that they are now a product of a broken and their worldview is forever changed. I think that is the guilt of any divorced parent. I take comfort in the fact I was able to shield them from many of the ugly things that occurred within their home. While they know the unconditional love and acceptance a parent has for a child, I regret the fact they may not know what love between two adults looks like. I hope they are able to navigate the water of romance to find safe harbor with another who loves them deeply and fully without condition; that makes them the best version of themselves and is their soft place to land when they need a reprieve from the world. I hope they find the joy of the love they never saw between their parents. I am grateful I have children that are strong-willed, filled with empathy and compassion and the capacity to love deeply.
I was astonished to find myself considering the possibility of all the things I had denied myself. I am a woman of my word and I took vows, I was faithful both physically and emotionally and intended that little saying until death….and now that had changed. I spent years longing to be supported and encouraged, to share my fears and joys with someone and not have it become ammunition for a later confrontation, to enjoy the physical proximity of another human, a loving embrace. At one point I found myself be averse to hugs or spending any quality time with friends because if one small window into my life was revealed I was afraid I could no longer hold it together. Now I had nothing to maintain and the option to have the things I had denied myself, although justified, were now a possibility.
The most challenging reality for me to process what was being told to me by different people over the first few days after the separation; I was a victim of domestic violence. I knew that the behaviors exhibited in my marriage were not always healthy yet I could easily rationalize them away. He is reacting like he did in the military; he hit the wall and not me; he was angry when he said those things. The morning of the last incident, he was so enraged the police were called which resulted in them giving me a phone number to a local domestic hotline. When canceling a meeting with the marriage counselor/mediator, who was going to help me learn what to share our struggles with the children, again I was told very much the same thing. I was also advised by an attorney to file a restraining order and seek assistance from another organization focusing on women of domestic abuse. I could not process the fact I was a victim! Clearly they were mistaken he never beat me. I indignantly acknowledged that yes, he was highly aggressive at times and of course there were time he was physically intimidating. Well come to think of it he was emotionally abusive and at time alienated me from my friends. As they worked through a list of questions I was overwhelmed; I was a victim. I was a highly educated woman with a career. I volunteered for programs that helped victims and their families. I worked with girls to empower them to have a voice and here I was not even noticing I was in the throes of the same thing I had deplored. How could this be? Why had I allowed myself to be treated in such a manner? Living in a perpetual cycle of He loves me, he loves me not clouded my perspective. When one strives for emotional survival it is challenging to analyze your reality. Having perspective from that situation, I can clearly see that yes, in fact they were correct. I am continually amazed as how my hindsight is 20/20.
Below are two very interesting talks on domestic violence; one on why victims do not leave to which I can relate and the other on how me can impact what is so regularly view as a woman’s issue.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson