Challenged to change

Unlike the man who broke my heart, I haven’t and do not consider myself a “victim.” I have generally understood right from wrong. I have tried to be gentle and considerate to all beings. I can be with sadness, pain, sorrow. I can be with myself and know that I am not held hostage by whatever feeling I have. I can be alone.


These days it’s a reflex to review the last four years with a man and children I was dedicated to. How could I have stayed committed to someone that continued to demolish my sense of perception and self-worth?

Now, I’m prickly, obstinate and feisty. I am known to speak my opinionated mind, in an opinionated way, and speak up, period. My main issue in our relationship was the inequity of consistently being the “wrong” one. If I didn’t agree with him and admit fault – even if it was unintended – his anger grew, any banal situation became dire, and he often threatened to walk and threw ultimatums at me. Offense was his best defense.

The most casual criticism was met with fly-off-the-handle rage. The name-calling followed when I went silent. “Bitch!” “You’re a piece of shit!” and other vile attacks at high decibels that really hurt and never justified what I had intentionally or unintentionally done to receive them. Over time, I grew weary of fighting back, and succumbed to staying silent, numb in the moment, in the face of his rage, waiting for the next moment where he’d reach his arm around me tightly, bury his head in me and tell me how much he loved me.  Then, several moments after that he’d apologize for getting so angry, and for the names he called me. Yet a truce hinged on his demand that I apologize as well, for all the wrong I caused him.

I pleaded with him to end the ultimatums, and to work harder on interpreting criticism as a personal attack. Sometimes I would apologize and own hurting him, sometimes I didn’t see why I should. Apologies are difficult for me, and I was working on admitting more, being more aware of my tone, and practicing in high-stress situations when I am most irritable. I recognized his patterns, he was needy, and desperate for my reassurance of love far more than I was accustomed to giving. So frequently he would tell me that he loved me, and if I didn’t reciprocate straight away, “do you love me?” would come flying out of his mouth. It was more common for him to turn molehills into mountains, so I learned to navigate, process my own response and reaction. While questioning him, he made me question myself.

Now, five months later, I feel like a scientist searching for that part of me that enabled him, the part that made a choice to distinguish his frightening characteristics as merely stuff we would work on, instead of noticing my eroding confidence.

He survives behind the mask of an idealized image of a man he wishes he was. Clearly, his insecurities run deep. He professes. He does not practice. He wants to control, impress, manipulate. He’s not interested and not capable of calming the urgency to change when things get rough. What is he hiding from? What is he running from? The cycle will continue. Over and over, he will play the same plays with someone new. Try it again. And end up right in the same place. He doesn’t love himself, so he has not learned to really love someone else.

Behind the layers of scar tissue, anger and humiliation inside me, is a teensy sliver of pity for him – his external facade that is pivotal to his false identity is so well crafted and believable. 

Recently, I read “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

When my world as I knew it came to a screeching halt, there was nothing else for me to do but be with myself, and look at every emotion that has traveled through my body. Where do these emotions live? How do I carry them? What is the message that my mind gets? How can I sharpen my awareness of who I am and who I am being? Who will I be now that I’m not controlled anymore?

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