Years of marital discord will wear anyone down. This is how you stand back up.
No one likes being taken advantage of. No one gets into a meaningful relationship to be constantly and blatantly used.
It happens in friendships, intimate relationships, and acquaintances. It starts with the first lunch that a coworker conveniently forgets to repay. Maybe it’s a couple tools or your carpet cleaner that you have to beg your neighbor to get back six months after he borrowed it. As demeaning and difficult as these situations can be, nothing comes close to the pain of being used by someone you love.
Now before we get the torches and pitchforks out ready to march down the street and break down someone’s door or torch an ex-boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse’s house, we have to face a hard reality.
We let them do it.
It doesn’t matter if we let them get away with it for a week or the better part of a decade. We…let…them…do…it. Accept it.
We weren’t perfect and neither were they. We share in the blame.
In my case, as in most cases, it started small. She somehow became the wronged one because she felt bad after I mentioned that my feelings were hurt. Ten years later, I knew there was something paramount and wrong about how I was feeling every day.
We never argued to resolution. People argue, of course, but in the end, you have some sort of epiphany and reward yourselves with some mind-blowing makeup sex, right?
Wrong. I was always wrong. I’d gotten accustomed to hearing it and I believed it.
When arguments ended, they only ended with me apologizing and taking all the blame. I felt worn out and helpless. I felt bad, really bad, every single time. It bled over to the next day, then the next.
Every point I made was countered, turned, and twisted until I never understood what it was we were fighting about, which invariably caused me to apologize. I knew I had a point, but being cut-off mid thought and not being able to finish a sentence just kicked dirt in my face defending myself ceased to feel worth it.
By the time I knew my marriage was over, and I mean over; no more counseling, no more “do-overs” or “start agains”, the better part of thirteen years had passed.
I felt more beat-up and beat down than ever and I wanted out. So that’s what I did. I got out. Divorce. When my ex moved out into her own apartment and all her bags, scarfs, jewelry, and clothes were gone, I felt a freedom I had never known.
My first feeling, though, was guilt.
I felt guilty that I felt good. I felt guilty that I didn’t need to worry about how emotionally drained I was going to feel that day.
I also felt guilty because I had failed myself. I let someone take everything from me–my emotional stability, my good nature, my compassion and caring were all damaged. I didn’t know how to get them back or pick up the pieces.
I stopped standing up for myself because it became too much work at some point. It was easier to cave in than stand for what I believed in. I gave everything I had mentally, physically, and emotionally, even when I didn’t have it to give. I wore down my self-esteem to the point where it was buried so deep I didn’t know where to dig to find it.
Here’s the secret: you’ll never get over what you did if you can’t face yourself.
You read that right: you can’t blame someone else anymore if the relationship’s over. You have to come to terms with the fact, with the emotions, and with lessons you learned and you did learn some lessons. We didn’t go through all this without learning something.
Here’s what I hope you’ll take away:
- Don’t ever lose yourself like that again.
- Don’t stand for disrespect.
- Don’t stand for giving more than you get when you’re in need too.
- Don’t sit down when you should stay standing.
Above all, don’t give up on relationships.
That’s the easy way out. You didn’t come this far to not feel everything you missed out on. You know too much, understand too much, and now you know how you need to be loved and how capable you are of love.
It may take some time to get it right. You’ll make another mistake or two but like yourself! Appreciate yourself. Accept yourself with all of your old scars and new insights and lessons. Even if you can’t see it yet, you’ll find the love that can never be replaced: the love that only comes from self-acceptance and clear knowledge of what you deserve and what you’ll no longer accept.