Tuesday, May 26, 2020
It’s been awhile.
8 months have gone by, and the world – both internal and external – has changed in ways I never could have imagined last September.
Right now, I’m upstairs working from home and searching for children’s face masks while C is downstairs, patiently teaching kindergarten to the twins. We’ve been in quarantine since the world shut down earlier this year.
I never could have predicted COVID-19.
Or that I would stay with a man who hit me*.
The words are so black and white, so harsh when I type them out. I’ve just sat here for the last 20 minutes, not sure I even want to continue writing this.
How can I make anyone understand why I chose to stay with this man? Do I really believe I made the right choice?
The short answer is Yes, although I don’t expect anyone reading this to approve or support my choices.
Whatever the case may be, this broke us out of the toxic patterns of behavior in our relationship and allowed space for a new beginning. For some, it may be an affair, for us it was a black eye. Just as dramatic, damaging, and inexcusable as an affair. I questioned his ability to build a deck. He hit me. And I called for a divorce.
I know what all the data says. I’ve read all the articles about abusive relationships and power struggles and narcissistic tendencies and gaslighting and all of that. I know that I entered into this relationship lacking in self confidence, having diminished my true self to become the person I thought he wanted, a smaller person than I truly am. And that the dysfunction of our relationship has as much to do with those choices as they do with any misconduct of his own.
This is not to excuse his behavior in the slightest. This is my way of taking responsibility and control over MY PART in the dysfunction that led to the environment that created this behavior.
I know that my drinking was a way to escape those choices and remain diminished, intentionally blinding myself to the struggle in our marriage and my own responsibility in creating it.
Quitting gave me the clarify and freedom and confidence to consider what things might look like outside of the mental prison I’d created for myself.
And for the Summer and Fall after the black eye, I considered what life as a single mom of twins would look like. While doing that, I agreed to hold off on any definitive moves toward divorce, and C agreed to live elsewhere and get counseling for anger management and alcohol addiction.
During this time, we both got to experience exactly what the other parent was doing to maintain the house, the dogs, the kids – as we were now picking up 100% of the responsibilities when it was our turn. This was eye-opening for both of us.
C researched a number of options and found a 12-week anger management program he liked, and attended it regularly. He and I met with a number of professionals including a divorce mediator and a marriage therapist. I attended an Al-Anon session, and spent time talking with a good friend who had divorced her husband under similar circumstances (alcohol abuse primarily). I read books and articles about codependency. C cut his drinking back from ~10 drinks/night to 1-2 drinks. His behavior toward me changed dramatically.
I don’t want to turn this into a defense of my choices, because that isn’t the purpose of this post. But I decided to remain with him, after seeing the changes therapy and sobriety brought to our relationship.
And that brings me to my last thought for now, and the real reason for this post:
I could never have imagined that 2 years after I quit, C would be on his own journey to sobriety, of his own volition.
And I’m grateful for everything it took to get us to this point. Everything.
*There is no excuse for this behavior. But the conclusion I came to was that our relationship was a mess, yes, but he was not an abusive person. He was a man who made a really bad choice while intoxicated, who was immediately remorseful and who was willing to do anything to fix our relationship (finally having recognized that maybe he had a part in its dysfunction). Whatever power imbalances existed, I had at least some responsibility for. And I decided to give our marriage a second chance.
To anyone who doesn’t know me, or him, including all of my supportive “friends” on social media who know me only through a screen, it can be very easy to write this off as a mistake, to make this black & white, to scream “get yourself out of there before it gets worse!” and “what about your BOYS!” and “you should never – or – always [fill in the blank]!!”.
And honestly, without knowing the person, I would give the same advice.
If he ever so much as threatens me physically again, I’ve let him know on no uncertain terms, that the relationship is over.