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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dear Future Husbands (And wives)

Someday, if you're lucky and/or crazy, you, young man, might jump in to the biggest commitment imaginable: Marriage. An interesting union, for sure, this marriage thing, both blessing and curse and always tipping more towards one than the other any given day. And it's hard.

You enter in with hopes and dreams and an expectation that this other person, this girl, will fill every want, need and desire and for a time, she will. That's what being a newlywed is all about. It's new. It's flawless and easy. Exciting, yet comforting and it seems as though the entire world entered into existence just to allow this manifestation of perfect love.

Then life happens. And when life happens things will change. She will change. And you have to change with her.

Love her with every turn and she will love you. Support her in every struggle and she will support you. Embrace her flaws and she'll giggle, lovingly, at yours. It really is that easy. Let her be her and you will find yourself enjoying a new version of your lovely lover, each incarnation more exciting than the last.

Don't keep her from her passions because that fire inside her will keep you warm, even hot (if you know what I mean) Let her shine bright (yes, even without you) and you'll never be in the dark. Let her break down so you can help build her back up and don't make it about you. It's not (usually).

Don't compete with your kids for you wife's attention, rather compete with your wife for your kids attention and you'll always have hers.

But don't compete with her otherwise because you are two part of a whole. When she's weak, be strong. When she's strong, be humble.

Don't ask her to give up her life for yours. Her friends for yours. Her family for yours. SHE MATTERS.

Don't take more than you're willing to give, give more.

Don't own her, own you. Own all of you and let her do the same. That way each offering of yourself to each other is a gift, not an obligation.

Let her have her own favorite color, music, movie, food.....Yes, really. She doesn't have to like what you like for you to like it. Remember this.

Have and hold....not smother and consume. Until death do you part...don't kill her (figuratively and definitely not literally) because once dead inside, she has nothing to lose.

Be a witness to her growth, not her imperfections.

Value her.

Cherish her.

Listen, learn and grow.

No means no EVEN after I do (it wasn't a perpetual yes; let that sink in HARD)

Love isn't hard dudes. It's not. You do it for yourself every single day. So it's easy. Treat her like that. Or better.

And if you screw it up, on any day, say I'm sorry as fast as you can and mean it. And by mean it, don't repeat the thing you just said sorry for.

Give her grace and space and room and love.

Even if....

IF.....

She doesn't do the same....because at the end of the day.

You live with you.

And there exists no divorce from yourself outside death.

Choose wisely. Or choose blindly. It's up to you.

Jump in. Jump in with everything you have.....

Or don't jump in at all.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Cat in a Bag

And I guess it's out. For some. Some knew a little of the battle raging inside my four walls over the last few months and some know it's been almost a decade long war. True story.

With things like these you never know where to begin, but I knew I had to start somewhere because things that are very, very wrong fester in secrecy and rather than lose my mind, I started to share a bit here and there with my closest people. The problem is bits here and there had people giving ALL sorts of advice. "Oh you need counseling" (been there done that) "Well you need a different counselor" (we've had four now) "You really need to take this to God" (Oh God knows, believe you me.) That is maddening. Like we have crossed every T and dotted every I and we were just waiting for those who barely know us, or our situation, to drop that one pearl of wisdom that will FIX IT ALL. Sorry, folks it doesn't work like that.

So let's talk. What the HELL is going on? What was that post about anyways? Well, it's about my life. It's about years and years of chasing the carrot of approval and never catching it. Trying every which way to please a person who wanted things that were altogether impossible. And a waking up. Not some big epiphany really, but a moment in time. On a porch, talking to a girlfriend, covering the mouthpiece of the phone hoping she didn't hear the epic tantrum my spouse was having because I was on the phone, with a friend, after BEDTIME.

But lest you feel sorry for me, let me share some facts with you. I'm a bull headed, strong willed, competent and well rounded woman. I don't mope, cry, whine or live a joyless existence. My house is obnoxiously loud with laughter, crude jokes and happiness. Because I chose it. Because I found it hidden in the nooks and crannies of life and held on to those joys like a life raft. That's what they were. My life blood. My children. My yarny pursuits. My yard, lush and green and animals doing their pain in the ass animal things. Facebook. Memes. Smart ass friends. My life is full. I'm good. I really am in a place of joy and contentment in my life.

And that's largely because I let go. I FINALLY LET GO. I finally looked my reality square in the eye and said "Well it is what it is and it's his, not mine and I can't change, fix or manipulate it."

I sat with someone I knew, who was recommending a "better marriage counselor" after I explained I wouldn't go back because I wasn't the problem. WE weren't the problem. HE was the problem. Sounds arrogant right? In any marriage, if there's a problem it MUST be both parties causing it right? The short and correct answer is NO. When one spouse is controlling and abusive there isn't one damn thing the other can do to create a permanent peace because the second you show any humanity, you've screwed up once again. The second you say anything not on the script, you get the punishment. The punishment in my case is either the silent treatment or an hours long "talk" about all the ways I have failed to show love in the "correct way." It can be hard to wrap your mind around what this looks like if you've never lived it. And it takes YEARS to see that there's a cycle, a pattern, to it...and the offenses are never unique. It's the same thing over and over and over again.

But I'm not here to school anyone on what is and isn't abuse. It's not my place. I'll put it very simply that if someone is consistently up your ass with complaints about normal human things you do...if there is a cycle of freakout, apology, promises, calm....and if that calm can only be maintained by acting a very specific way, there's a problem. If you are given consequences for stepping out of line, that's not okay. Conversely if you are expected to reward loving gestures with anything more than a "thank you, I really appreciate that..." also not okay.

Details are just gossip and some aren't mine to share. They aren't my confessions to decide to give or not, so I leave out details. They don't matter. But I'm disappointed. In so many people. I tried to share some of what was happening and I got a whole lot of super not helpful feedback. And I suppose that's the point of saying anything at all. Because the ONE person (who I barely knew really) who helped me listened objectively and was the first voice to say "Okay, take a step back and ask yourself honestly....can I say this to him and not face retaliation. Do I feel scared? Do I feel safe?" That person also lost a lot of people who just couldn't quite handle the reality of what she ACTUALLY experienced.

I've had messages today. I've had feedback. There is some respect being thrown Jamie's way for "getting it out there" but even in that....there's manipulation. How you ask? Because I let him know last night I could no longer keep this to myself anymore. I needed a stronger support system to keep myself mentally healthy during his wild swings back and forth. And so he beat me to it. Despite not using Facebook much at all, he had to "confess." I'll say I appreciate the sentiment, but it's after years of hell and after painting me in a very negative light to many, many people including co-workers, friends and his individual counselor. It's a new trick from an old sleeve and I've seen similar moves before. I've been through intense counseling where everything was agreed upon and worked on, only to have my ass handed to me months later for saying "Remember, the counselor said we should...." It only stuck for as long as perceived benefits outweighed the effort and when there was no reward for doing the right thing, the right thing was no longer appealing. I pull no punches anymore. I can't. I cannot live in nor support an environment that will teach my son's to act like spoiled 2 year olds or my daughters to walk on eggshells with the man they commit to. Enough is enough.

Silence has its place at times. Covering another's flaws can be loving or it can be fatal. When it kills YOU, it's not longer about respect and giving the other person space to change. There are a million reasons to brush things under the rug and I've ran through them all. I could make this blog go on for hours listing every single grievance I have, but that's not me. I don't have to destroy another person to get anyone on my side because quite frankly if you don't trust me enough to believe my story, I don't need you in my life. I know what I've seen, heard, endured and lived with. I know what I've done, what I've tried, what I've sorted through. And today, right here, right now I know I've given it all I have (and then some) I also know I have the best wishes for my husband as I know the path he's chosen is empty. He could force and coerce compliance for years. It was easy. But empty. The thing about love is, without it flowing from a natural state of mutual trust, admiration, affection and adoration, it's not love. It's routine. And the world has SO MUCH MORE TO OFFER than that.

I have no idea from day to day what the rest of my life will hold. I wake up and I love my babies and my big kids and my home and just bask in the peace that my daytime holds. No worries, no drama, no disappointing anyone, no silent treatment for asking nasty comments to stop. I've become who I need to be through fire. I've sat in the silence and been very honest with myself "what is my part....am I doing what's necessary?" In the end I have to live with ME. Along the way I have made good friends who know my heart; the good, the bad and the ugly. I have people who help me sort out the common husband/wife friction from the "Oh Melissa, that is just NOT okay....are you SERIOUS???" stuff. And so far we have approximately 10 years of weekly conflict that follows the same script. The EXACT same script. I found a letter written to me a little over 8 years ago that apologized for the same offenses, the same words, the same accusations and a promise to "not ever do that again. I've seen the light now. I know better now." And I wept. I wept for all the hope I felt reading those so many years ago. The hope that THIS TIME we'd get it right and I'd do the thing that finally made him happy and I'd not have to apologize for every thing I had failed at, once again.

Last night it happened again. And last week. And the week before. I did something wrong (I asked for him to stop making stupid comments about my breasts, especially in front of the boy going through puberty who is embarrassed by everything BEWB. I asked nicely and only after the third night in a row of such commentary), I was punished with the silent treatment, then a tirade, then apology, then message after message, then a begging to forgive, then a critique of how I wasn't forgiving correctly or nicely enough, then a declaration that the marriage was finished, then another declaration that if I said different words with a different tone the marriage would definitely be saved immediately, a veiled suicide hint, anger, accusation, "fine you're right I'm wrong, you are just perfect aren't you...." and finally a sulking off to bed while I stayed up with our newborn. This is my life. And this is my line in the sand. I won't go through it anymore. I won't engage in conflict that isn't calm, respectful and logical. I won't hug and say "awww that's okay" when we've clearly not made any headway on the root issues. I will not continue to spend hours on my porch, while I attend to the fragile emotions of a man who should be helping get our kids in bed, but instead sulks for hours about how hurt he is that I said a comment bothered me. I will not accept, any longer, that I am responsible for HIS EMOTIONS. (P.S. I just had a baby y'all...I didn't even get a chance to get my hard won postpartum break down. I was too busy attending to his) I cannot control how anyone else feels. I can say what I need to say with respect, a soft and kind voice, with a disclaimer "I know you may see it differently, but I'd like to share how it makes me feel..." but if I am not allowed to say ANYTHING that doesn't fall within certain parameters....without receiving the silent treatment, there's really no point in speaking at all.

The very few times I've tried to get some advice, some help, some back up, I've been made to feel like I'm being ridiculous but I won't accept that ANYMORE. I KNOW that if a man spoke to my daughter like this, I'd clean the floor with with tush and if any of my sons EVER spoke this way, a similar situation would go down. NO MATTER WHAT you need to say, you CAN say it nicely. No matter what the conflict, you do NOT NEED to belittle or threaten the other person. Every person in a relationship, a unit, a family, should have equal voice. They should be heard. No one else, outside of you, gets to dictate what does and doesn't make you uncomfortable at anytime and it took me 36 years to absorb that truth.

I know Jamie is working hard on looking within himself. He's been in counseling for months. We did joint counseling for months. Unfortunately the root is yet to be killed. It keeps growing back. It keeps coming back around. It was his decision to put it out there, in hopes that uncovering it would make it harder to fall back into. We shall see. But knowing what I know.....I am not banking on it. That might sound harsh and defeating, but statistics aren't in our favor. For 16 1/2 years he's had a very different wife. One that would quit something she loved if he expressed disapproval, one that would stay home all day, every day rather than form outside relationships that made him "sad." No more. I will not quit the things that I love because he doesn't understand them (mainly Matthew's Gift). I have always taken excellent care of our children and our home and HIM. I have never done anything that threatened our homeschooling, our children being nurtured and invested in or caused our house to completely implode (explode at time, but we won't talk about that) I will not apologize for a once weekly phone call with a girlfriend after the kids are in bed. I will not apologize for playing in makeup with my teens and wearing a nice new dress. I WILL give that look now when he's taking over my OB appointment talking about his ailments. I will be that woman that wants to be treated with the respect I've poured into this thing my whole life. Because I want that for my kids and I can no longer hide the truth from them. They have their own opinions and they aren't shy in sharing them. I am rather proud that they (mostly) share their views with respect for authority without FEAR of authority. They know they matter and that's a huge win in my book.

And I will not humiliate him or my children by giving every nitty gritty detail. I've been asked. I have seriously been asked "So what's so bad that you feel that way...." and when I don't spill or just give a very general overview "Oh well that's not that bad....really...." DISGUSTING. And nope.

Prayers are great and we welcome them. But we do not believe that everything is a happily ever after. Just because prayer and God are involved doesn't mean you get the outcome you want. Can God heal anything? Yep. Does he? Nope. "Hold on...." Yep. Done that. For longer than anyone reading this knows.

And I will find joy in every day. Life IS good. It has been. Parts have sucked but not all. That girl you "see" online....making ridiculous jokes...that really is me. That's not fake . That is who and what I am and even the suck doesn't cloud that. And even that is an exercise in independence because my joy in all things has been a long standing grievance. On good days, he loves my joyful heart. On bad days my joy is just more proof that I don't love him because if I didn't I couldn't possible have any joy knowing how horrible his life is.

And so the cat gallops gleefully out of the bag. And so it is finished......and so it begins.....