Last night, after an enlightening email exchange with my soon-to-be ex husband I realised that my anger and sadness over the break up was tied to something quite specific.
Namely that I have spent nearly ten years of my life with someone who, when told that they have done something to upset someone or that their actions have made someone feel a certain way, doesn’t immediately think about trying to rectify that issue but tells the person they are wrong and tries to show how it is the other persons fault. If someone tells me that I have upset them or done/said something that has made them feel a certain way my first instinct is to apologise – regardless of what I had meant to do or if I felt that they were overreacting or taking things the wrong way. My standpoint has always been that if I have upset someone then I have not explained myself properly or gone about it in the right way. It is my responsibility to make sure that what I do and say comes across in the way I mean it to and if it hasn’t then I need to put that right. For all these years each time I said something had upset me or made me feel bad I assumed that he thought the same way as I did and therefore assumed that because he immediately attached me, told me I was wrong and that it was my fault that it actually was. I then ended up apologising for being upset and upsetting him and asking how I could make it better.
I have looked back over these incidents (which weren’t regular occurrences as I didn’t often tackle him when he had upset me, I just used to think – oh he doesn’t mean it really, he is just putting it badly, he would deliberately do things to make me feel bad) and I wasn’t being unreasonable, or deliberately misunderstanding, or trying to cause an argument. I was telling the person I loved, who I thought loved me, that something he had done had really upset me. That isn’t a bad thing to do, is it? I think I have to accept, whether it was intentional or not, that I have been manipulated for most of this relationship in to behaving, speaking and acting the way he wanted me to. The only time I ever really tackled him and stood my ground was when I had got really drunk (and courage had therefore made a reappearance from the small box I had locked it in) and then of course I wasn’t coherent or sensible about it and that just gave him another thing to hold over me.
In the last 8-12 months (interestingly enough since I started going to counselling as my boss felt that my self esteem was so bad I needed some help and paid for me to go) I have started standing up for myself on regular basis using the tools my counsellor had taught me and I thought it was getting better. He seemed to be more communicative and I thought we were moving forward and eventually we would be a proper partnership. I was wrong. He was actually lying to me as when he told me, just over a month ago, that he wanted a divorce, he said he had been thinking about it for over 6months and had been unhappy for about the last 12. The only thing I can thing is that he simply didn’t want to work at the relationship and only wanted the relationship on his terms. Once he realised that the change was for good and I wasn’t going to be totally compliant any more and wouldn’t just let him do whatever he wanted without voicing any opinion or asking to be consulted he couldn’t take it and left.
That really hurts – for two reasons; one, that he didn’t respect me, care about me, or my opinions and two, that for over 8 years I let him treat me in that way.
I cannot believe that I let myself be ignored and treated with so little respect for all that time. No wonder my boss thought my self confidence and self esteem needed work – I didn’t have any as I had lost it trying to make someone else happy!
The thing is, although I think it was really dreadful of him to treat me that way and now I have realised how he was behaving can no longer condone it or make the excuses for him I once did (to the point that I convinced myself that I really wanted everything that was happening as that was the only way I could cope) I have to say that I am most upset and angry with myself. There is a quote, and I can’t remember who said it or properly how it goes, but the gist of it is that ‘no one can make you feel bad without your permission’. I allowed him to treat me that way in the first place and in condoning his behaviour at the start (because I loved him and thought that is was a one off, or that he was doing it for me – which was his favourite answer for everything, I’m doing it for you and generating instant guilt in me, how could I have dared criticise him when he was only being selfless!) and then letting it pass a second and third time for the same reasons I set a pattern which imprinted itself in my head. I began to think that it was perfectly normal for me to just be told what was happening, what I wanted and what I thought, so I ended up burying the bits of me that made me ‘me’ and accepted the behaviour. What I can be proud of is that, without the jolt of divorce to make change I had taken control back, I had changed the pattern and I was expecting to be treated with respect and as an individual with needs and opinions that were worth listening to and acting on. The fact that he couldn’t accept a partner that needed to be treated as a true partner says an awful lot about him as a person.
I have also thought about whether, as I began to respect myself and therefore stand up to him, I became too forceful and did to him what he had been doing to me, but I really wasn’t. I listened to his views, put my own forward, suggested compromise or said (when things involved money and I simply couldn’t go halves because I didn’t have it) the if he really wanted to do whatever it was he would have to do it on his own. I think the problem was (especially where money was involved) that he thought that if he went ahead and did it I would then say ‘oh whatever’ and join in/pay up. I didn’t, as that was no longer possible and (again with money especially) if we were going to have a future I had to get our spending under control. In the past I had always made sure that whatever he wanted happened and then, if at the end of the month there wasn’t enough money I took up the slack – you can’t do that month in and month out but I tried to and it caused no end of problems. I took full responsibility (as I didn’t want him to get upset or not have the things that made him happy) but as a consequence he never reigned his spending in. I suppose I treated him like a child rather than an adult but again, I had set a pattern so early in the relationship that I thought it was the right thing to do and when I finally stopped it all, he just didn’t understand and didn’t want to. At least I can recognise what I had been doing and I know that it wasn’t right so I will never make the same mistake again!
Well, I feel better for getting to the bottom of that, but I don’t half feel silly for having let it go on so long. However, I have come out of this a much stronger person, with a deeper understanding of how I work so I can be happy going forward.