names have been omitted in this post
It was nearing the end of September and October would soon be here… we sat crouched together up high in his daughters new loft bed he'd built with the help of a friend from church. His daughter was at school and her upcoming birthday surprise was him building her a loft bed for her bedroom. It had been a big undertaking and yet was almost done… that afternoon I was helping him by painting the two small shelves mounted on the wall for her to store books on for nighttime reading. I finished the trim work on them with a steady hand and then carefully wiped the excess paint back into the paint can and closed the lid. He set the can aside and leaned over to kiss my forehead.
"It looks great, Jen… you did a great job on them. Thank you for your help. You're skilled at painting. I don't have that steady of a hand." He smiled at me.
I smiled back "You're welcome, I was happy to help."
We sprawled out on the towels we'd used for padding to paint as he didn't have a mattress just yet for the bed. He still had to shop for a comforter set and a few accessories to finish the room. He was really excited to have it complete and see her reaction. I admired that he had gone to so much effort for someone he loved and that he didn't mind putting in the work to do it. He stretched out on his side beside me propping up his head with one hand. His old faded college t-shirt I wore like a smock over my clothes and I looked at him as he spoke. The late afternoon sun shone in the room and soon it would be time for us to leave so he could pick up his daughter from school.
"So, listen, baby… I want to talk to you about something. I think now is a good time…."He paused as though he wanted to choose his words carefully. "This is important. I know we haven't been going out for very long… for a little while now... and I want you to know that you are precious to me. I mean… "He trailed off and gazed at me intently "I want you to know that I think the world of you already. I could see this being it for me… I could see marrying you. But with that I need to ask you something and depending on how you feel, if you aren't in agreement, as much as I'd hate it, there's no reason to keep seeing each other."
"Okay…" I replied. It wasn't quite clicking yet where he was going with this… but I was curious. I already knew neither of us wanted anymore children at this point so that wasn't it.
"My biggest worry is hurting your feelings. I want you to know that's not my intention here." He stressed to me.
I nodded with understanding so he continued "So… here's the thing… when I got divorced I realized how badly I had screwed up. I put a lot of people at risk with my family's money and my businesses. And if I was to get married again I would want to do what I can to protect those things… and those people. So my question is… would you be agreeable to signing a pre-nup?" He asked.
"I don't have a problem with pre-nups. I know some people have issue with them." I replied.
He looked relieved and like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"You don't? Oh, baby, I'm so glad. You have no idea how relieved I am… you aren't upset?" He asked me with a concerned tone and expression.
I shook my head "No, not at all. I'm open to it, especially when it comes to a second marriage." I told him.
"Well… "He added soberly, "I want you to know that God forbid if something happened to me you would be provided for. I wouldn't leave you high and dry. I just need to make sure my other things are protected and my daughter is taken care of." He explained.
I spoke "Oh, I know. No, it's fine. I was actually going to bring it up myself at some point." I told him.
He paused and looked at me.
He seemed surprised by that and then a bit of amusement creeped in his expression.
I took note of it.
And it rubbed me the wrong way. I sensed an ego that believed because perhaps my current assets paled in comparison to his that made him superior and I was merely a "little woman" to be patronized and patted on the head. That irked me. That also made me believe there was more to be discovered about him I might not like especially when it came to the long term. I believe these types of conversations are good to have and early on… as they reveal much about people and whether our values and belief systems line up… in addition any ego or superiority that may have been concealed may now be revealed to us.
"Really?" He asked appraisingly with a slight tilt of his head. He seemed so shocked little me would dare consider asking him for a pre-nup. Or anyone for that matter. I'd broached it to the first man I'd dated post divorce and he hadn't taken issue with it. He'd understood.
I nodded "Well… yes." I paused then continued. "Look, here's the thing. I walked away from my marriage, from my ex and that shocked him. He made good money and yet he never in a million years thought I'd walk away from that financial security. That shows how very little he knew about me. And my character. The truth is… no matter how much he made… I married down when it came to morals. And with that… I walked away from my dad too. I'm no kiss up. I'm not kissing anyone's ass for anything. My grandmother made promises to me and my sisters growing up that I'm sure by now have been legally overturned. So be it. I'm not after your bank account, businesses, family money, etc. That doesn't impress me. What I want money can't buy… love, loyalty, honesty, passion, commitment, a God fearing man."
He nodded "I know… and I admire that about you." He told me giving me a look of affection "One of the things I love about you is you have a servant's heart. It's in all the little things you do. Like today… offering to help paint. Those things mean a lot to me, hun" He pointed out. "And you deserve all those things. You have to know I'd never cheat on you. I'd be lucky to have you as my wife. And you've already shown you wouldn't put up with it by leaving your ex when he cheated."
His sentiment might have been reassuring to some. But it didn't make me feel any better. Instead it concerned me greatly. I kept my thoughts to myself but filed his comment away. I may have a servant's heart but we have to guard against being walked over as well. And yes, I'd leave a cheating spouse again. In a nano-second. But in that I didn't want that to be the reason someone decided to be loyal to me. It shouldn't be because they feared the consequences I'd dole out but because they wouldn't dare cheat because they loved me too much to begin with. I believed he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear and even then the words didn't console. The truth is… talk is cheap… and often those who tell you they won't cheat already are.
I studied him intently "I have my own dreams to pursue. I know I'll make it with hard work and the grace of God." I said and then continued… "The thing is, during my divorce my ex tried to come after me for financial gain over any future publishing I might do. He knew I wanted to publish a book. Which I still plan to do. I have no doubt God can continue to use my story to do good. Some might call that far fetched but I have hope for all possibilities. In that… "I paused, "I'm somewhat hesitant to re-marry on the chance that it could go to poo… and then what? I might have to shell out money to a man who turned on me after I've published a book? Texas is a community property state. I'm not thrilled with the idea of another marriage possibly going sour and a man making money off my story, off my life, my heartaches, my hard work… all my sacrifices… "I have issue with that."I stated.
He seemed to be lost in thought and weighing my words carefully. He then spoke, "Your ex really tried to come after you for money on any future book published?" He asked incredulously.
"Yes." I replied cooly. "Shows what a snake he is. He felt entitled. Here he'd co-founded his own company and made good money… and I'd supported him through the whole process. Then he cheats and wanted to swoop in and also make money off MY future dream? I don't think so." I shook my head.
"No…. I mean, I get it." He replied.
But I wasn't convinced. The truth is his bit of amusement shown earlier bothered me greatly. It showed a tiny preview of what was to come… more superior ego revealed as we dated more. I saw the sign and took note. It would turn out I'd slam the door shut on the relationship end of November because like most journeys… the signs begin small and almost indiscernible. But as you make your way along the path they get bigger and bigger until they are flashing bright in your face and you can no longer ignore them.
The thing is…. like our finances we need to do all we can to protect our hearts from possible hurt and deceit. Not everyone you meet or date will have your best interests at heart. Sometimes we get tricked and that can be very costly.
That old saying… love don't cost a thing?
That saying is so untrue. It could cost you everything.
It could cost you a lifetime of happiness and a tank of regret you drag behind you. If you marry a wolf in sheep's clothing you could lose everything you have… your house, your children, your health and your wealth. You may lose your youth, your dreams and your sweet spirit. You may lose your life. This is why it's so incredibly important for men and women to be absolutely certain that who they are marrying is really who they say they are. And if they have revealed an ugly toxic side of themselves…. if they have revealed a side of great ego and superiority or even a tone of belittlement toward you… believe it when you see it… that's who they are. Don't doubt it or yourself.
You may ask yourself… How did this happen? How did I end up dating, becoming engaged to or even married to someone not healthy for me? Or maybe it keeps happening.
Often we misinterpret what we are experiencing. We may believe the person (man or woman) were seeing to be caring, loving or even romantic. When in reality our experience is really none of those things. Maybe they appear that way initially at face value. But the truth is something much more sinister lies underneath.
3 Behaviors We May Believe Are Wonderful That Are Actually Toxic:
Beware of someone who lavishes you with generous gifts and over the top gestures. They are doing what's termed "Love Bombing"… bombing you with excessive gifts and gestures of love and adoration to make you feel extra special and unlike anyone else they've ever met… you are their chosen one, their soul mate, you are so high in the sky on the pedestal in their adoring eyes you never believe you'll ever be knocked off. But eventually you are knocked to the bottom and lying on concrete. One day you are off the pedestal much to your great despair and because you were lifted up so high initially each time he or she treated you poorly they then gave you a little lift again… much like a person who dangles a piece of addicting cheese to a mouse… only to stomp it's tail intermittently and heightening the stomp each time… alternating the sweet behavior with the cruel… this is how you're slowly morphed from a independent person to someone who feels confused, anxious, walking on eggshells and lost without them… yet WANTING it to work. This is how crazy does… what initially began as romantic is now a tool, a behavior used to keep luring you back in after treating you like yesterday's disposable newspaper.
2. Close Contact
In the beginning of a relationship we undoubtedly want to spend as much time as possible with the person were dating. But two healthy people realize that life happens. And with that it's just not practical to expect to see them all the time. And some distance is healthy; balance is necessary in our lives. The last man I dated expected every second of my time. If I was going to the grocery store he wanted to go. And it wasn't even "Can I tag along?" which would have been annoying enough… but instead it was "I'll pick you up." Before I knew it a simple chore, task, errand I would have been perfectly content doing on my own… had turned into an all day event. Someone who is healthy respects the fact that you need time on your own. They will realize that just because you have a day off work it's not automatically their day as well… they will be respectful of your time and need for self care, rest and time with other people you care about as well… and boundaries. Someone who texts, calls, comes by unannounced and expects every minute of your day, week, month and for it to be accounted for… is not going to be someone you can work well with. Even if you try to set boundaries and voice your irritation, concerns, anger, etc… it will be twisted back on you; Why don't you want to see them? What is going on? Why are you being distant? What are you hiding? Who are you seeing? Are you cheating on me? The myriad of questions will begin and escalate into accusations. It's not possible to simply share your life with someone who begins to believe they own it.
3. Privacy, Please
When someone unhealthy is in a relationship they do everything they can to isolate you. You may not even realize that this is what they're doing because it starts so subtle and innocently enough. They want to see you, they want to hog all your time and they don't want to share you with their friends, your friends, your parents, their parents, etc. Before you know it you don't see anyone else but who you're with. Yes, many couples initially may cut back some on seeing their friends when in a new relationship that seems to be clicking… but that isn't necessarily a good thing. Friends and family members can give us good constructive feedback about who were seeing. They may see things that we are completely oblivious to. One tactic of someone toxic is to systematically remove all the people who care about you from your life and make themselves the only person you have to count on. If they become the one you solely rely on for emotional support they can then take it a step further and re-create reality because you now have no one to give you objectivity. If your partner tells you the new vase you bought is hideous you may believe them if you've been programmed to rely solely on them for opinions and perspective and no one else. Saying they want privacy with you because they don't want to share you, share time with you, etc may seem romantic… but reality is it's the first step in many steps to make you become completely dependent on them. And that then sets the stage for a whole plethora of even uglier behaviors behind closed doors like gas-lighting, projection, physical abuse, financial abuse and more.
names have been omitted and changed in this post
The trees were beginning to bloom and happy pops of yellow daffodils along with crimson tulips sprang from flowerbeds in neatly manicured yards. Large homes graced the sparkling lake we lived on and I breathed in the spring air as my mother and I made our way around it getting some exercise. My mother had moved in with me… we had limited time left living in the home I'd shared with my husband. I was still in the process of my divorce from having filed upon discovering my husband's adultery. Our divorce would likely be finalized within a few months come summer. For now my soon to be ex was living in a modern loft in the cultural district where museums, sushi restaurants and upscale bars reigned while I stayed at the house until it either sold or he moved back in. Ultimately he would end up keeping it and eventually moving in a woman he'd marry three years later. I'd purchase my grandparents home at a high cost having no where else to go. As we walked I spoke "It's unreal… this whole thing… this divorce. It doesn't just make you reflect on your marriage… it forces you to reflect on your whole life. Every decision. It's like this wave of memories that come at you and you reflect on everything."
"Yeah… I see that." My mother replied "What specifically are you thinking about?" She asked. My mother was a naturally curious person.
A long pause hung between us and finally I replied "Jeremy."
I heard my mother utter what resembled a grunt in response and then she spoke "You did the best you could at the time, Jennifer."
I winced. My mother and I for the first time were about to discuss Jeremy in depth. I had dated Jeremy prior to marrying my soon to be ex husband. She had known I'd regretted losing him but not much more in detail had ever been discussed. Him, like my time gone in high school had not been delved into until during my divorce process fifteen to twenty years later. "Yeah… I did but I wish I had been able to share what I'd been through. I wish I'd shared my feelings for him. I hate the cruel reality that you can't have a redo. It beyond sucks." I said bitterly.
"Even if you had there's no guarantee that the relationship would have worked out." She told me.
"True…" I admitted, knowing that was honestly reality… "I guess what makes me angry is I didn't get the chance to find out. That's what makes me disappointed, sad, and frustrated." I admitted to her. "The thing is… the morning after he drove off… I picked up the phone three different times to call him. I was going to ask him to breakfast and explain everything. All of it. But I kept thinking how I'd tried to get him to come in my apartment the night before to explain and he wouldn't. He'd originally wanted us to drive to his apartment which was thirty or forty minutes away… but he'd been drinking and I didn't feel comfortable with it. My apartment was just two minutes from Razoo's. I couldn't get him to come in. He'd already made up his mind. It was too little too late." I told her. "And he wasn't calling me. So… I finally just put the phone down and told myself that he'd made his decision and that he obviously stood by it." Birds swirled overhead and the bright blue sky hovered over us like a beautiful canopy despite the deep conversation. "I wondered what could have been, I just didn't realize it would continue to haunt me and I'd struggle so much with it." I told her and then switched gears referring to my soon-to-be-ex, "At one time he said it felt like there was always someone else between us… I think he used Jeremy to justify his cheating and as a weapon." I explained.
My mother spoke sternly "Your marriage was not healthy. Period. Regardless of Jeremy. Jeremy was such a tiny part of it." My mother told me. She was right. Then softening her tone she continued "And on that same note your regret over Jeremy was magnified to some extent because your marriage was miserable. If you'd had a good marriage perhaps the loss wouldn't have been so overwhelming. I wish Jeremy hadn't been so hot headed and driven off."
"Maybe drinking that night or his ADHD contributed to that... " I surmised aloud, having ADHD myself. "The impulsivity? I don't know..." I trailed off. I didn't know if at the time he was taking medication for it. I had limited information. One would question if I was giving grace or mere excuses for him. I had perspective now years later… I could look at the situation without putting sole ownership of it's consequences on myself… finally. We'd both had our part in it. I also knew Jeremy's decision that night didn't define him. Just like mine didn't define me.
… realizes people aren't perfect and to look at the bigger picture of what we can learn from our situation or experience. Sometimes we've had all we can take. Sometimes we walk. That's what he did. And that's what I've been doing ever since in the romantic relationships I've had.
She ignored it and continued "At some point in time Jeremy was upset, whatever you want to call it over you two not being together… back when he sent you that email years later it was obvious. But now? Today? If you had the chance to ask him how he feels who knows what he'd say. Now he may think he was spared… he may think he missed a bullet… that it's a blessing it didn't work out. We never know what people think later on… people change, perspectives change. And you don't know what he's been through. He's been through something, guaranteed. That's life. You both have changed in ways for sure. And who knows if back when you were dating if he would have been willing to take on all your baggage you still needed to work through. You don't know what his reaction would have been. It was a lot and honestly it would have taken a really strong person to handle it. He might have run. I don't know. At one time I thought he was perfect for you… when you were dating I wanted you to marry him. I thought he was the guy. Now, today I wouldn't be so convinced even if it was an option." She paused in thought, then continued. "Let's say hypothetically he became single and it was an option. I know you. If he was interested you'd bite. But the fact is you not opening up would always be an issue. It likely would turn into a situation of if YOU had opened up we both wouldn't have gone through marriages to other people and been together originally. We would have had babies together. We would have had a longer life together. And you would have always felt bad for the time lost. You can't build on that mess. The fact is life moves on."
On some level deep down I knew I'd been who he wanted when we dated. Back then he was just waiting for me to choose him. Don't we all want to believe that what we had with a specific someone was extra special? Wasn't that human nature? Don't we want to believe that whatever we've been through had served a purpose of some kind… to build strength and more chiseling to be better for the next relationship or chapter? Some might call that idealistic, naive and stupid but something some of us cling to all the same. We all have things we want or need to "get over", to numb the pain, to take away the painful feeling of loss but it takes time to go through it… leaning on God for perspective, comfort and growth.
Jeremy was such a prime example of how it was such a blessing and curse all at once to feel emotions so deeply in life. If you're the sensitive, empathetic type you can likely relate. Joy, sadness, regret, longing, frustration, anger, elation… were magnified with my ADHD and personality type; INFJ *. My empathetic nature often had me wanting to "fix" everything, repair the past and take on the worries of the world. I cared to a self detriment, exhausting myself. Being an introvert and yet always expecting myself to grow, do better, be better… it was draining. How easy it is to give others grace and encourage rest and self care but oftentimes not ourselves? It was one of my biggest issues and I needed to work on it. I needed to stop seeing self care as wasteful and frivolous… yet it was something that wouldn't happen overnight. It would take time.
If this is something you struggle with refer to the idea that to never choose rest is not a self imposed compliment but actually an insult to God. Ignoring our weakness and human need for physical and emotional rest stems from prideful self sufficiency. You deserve and require rest, pampering, rejuvenation and inner nourishment of the soul. Don't confuse this with over-self-indulgence. During my marriage my husband would use my difficulty with self care to berate me because I didn't fit his "ideal", his desired image and get the manicure, the pricey trip to the salon, etc. Post divorce I would slowly make changes toward balance but it was a continual self-reminder to do it. Yet self care is not limited to the outside… it's also finding rest and quiet time with God to avoid burnout from the everyday.
Matthew 11:28 New International Version
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
My sneakers continued hitting the pavement and my ponytail bobbed; a stream of brownish auburn trailing behind, the sun gracing it's highlights. "I had to delete Jeremy as a friend on Facebook because I was getting so much grief..." I said, referring to my husband. "Nothing was going on, for goodness sakes we weren't even messaging!" I exclaimed. "Everything was fine. But I was hearing about it all the time so I finally threw my hands up and said 'Fine! I'll delete him' ". I told her.
"I know nothing was going on and those weren't your intentions." She replied. "You were enjoying seeing what he was up to and sharing what you were up to. Probably wasn't the best idea because your husband was insecure about it. Probably wasn't appropriate at the end of the day. Most husbands would be insecure and I get that. But the truth is your husband's issues had nothing to do with Jeremy no matter how much he may want to blame you and him. His problems were his own issues. That's why aside from Jeremy your marriage wasn't going to work anyway." She told me. She spoke the truth.
I'd had regret over Jeremy and yet dug in anyway to do the hard stuff to make my marriage the best regardless. I wasn't a sinless wife; I had been mentally focused on the past with Jeremy and that had detracted from my marriage. God knew this. I had cried out for help. In that also Lord knows I had tried in my marriage as well. I had tried to continue to be a good wife to him; supporting his dreams, his career, caring for our children and the home, listening to his work woes and being intimate with him despite not wanting to. In some ways I had accepted this was my life sentence and tried to hang in there all the while continuing to have hope on some level it would improve. My regret over losing Jeremy may have left my husband feeling snubbed, rejected, etc… which I felt guilt for on my own yet also guilted by him. But at the end of the day my husband was emotionally and verbally abusive and it worsened over time. It wasn't a healthy marriage. It was not a marriage where love reigned but instead increasing debts were expected to be paid by me... for anything and everything he did. It left me feeling never good enough, anxious and tarnished.
"I pray for him often… for Jeremy... for his safety, for his health, for God to keep him in His word, for his steps to be that of a Godly man and lead his family, to have a blessed marriage, a good life. I want only good things for him. At this point that's the only expression of love I can send his way." I told her. The fact was Jeremy had a family, a wife and children; he was likely digging in and being the best he could be for them, loving them, cherishing them, leading them and living his life as God intended with those he'd been blessed with. I applauded that.
"I know you do… you've forgiven him." She spoke.
"Yeah… and I've forgiven myself. Generally speaking no matter what choices people make regarding relationships forgiveness frees you. I hope he's forgiven me… " I murmured "Holding back my past and feelings… I didn't do it to be mean… my intentions weren't to hurt him. But they did."
* To learn more about the personality type INFJ click here
Relationships aren't always easy… sometimes they take turns we didn't foresee nor wanted. Relationships show us that we don't have control in life as often thought but in reality other's have free will to choose and sometimes that means not choosing us. Sometimes that means us not choosing them. Just because were dating or even married doesn't mean our partner is choosing us or in a way that is for our best. We hope they are. But we can't force them to. We can love someone and they may not love us back. We can be transparent but they may lie. We may think we have love but it's only a fake presentation and really hiding agenda. We may have given our heart only to have it battered and returned to us in less than great shape. We may have taken our childhood wounds into adulthood and looked for love in all the places not good for us. We may have signed up for familiar only to painfully realize it's like being restricted to our old childhood home of punishment and entrapment. We may have painfully come to realize that what the unloving call love is really abuse. We may have spent a lifetime searching for a love that's real in a confusing world of wolves and sheep. If you are feeling discouraged today because you long in your heart for a love that's true yet still feel the heaviness and pain of those relationships in your past please take heart and don't be discouraged… don't let your hope be extinguished. Invest in self care, invest in loving yourself, invest in reflective solitude, invest in your circle of support, invest in your faith. Like the daffodil that springs forward every spring season we can ask God to strengthen us and color our world with brightness again. Re-newel of your strength, spirit and outlook can be refreshed by Him.
Maybe your faith has been shaken… maybe you have had multiple broken relationships and your longing for a special relationship has remained unfulfilled and you would like to cross paths with someone whose heart is seeking God. Ask Him to move in your life. The answer may be "not yet"… but to wait. But it's better to ask than ignore the power of humble yet bold prayer. No matter what your sadness, regret or grief… please know that God doesn't want you to live a life of anguish… He is for you. When we are trying to figure everything out and the why behind relationships, life's situations or experiences it merely leaves us feeling mentally weary, hopeless and stagnant. Our mental wheels may be spinning yet we are stuck. We may be thinking in limiting and defeating terms: "I will never get past this" , "I am so tired of feeling stuck or captive by these things in my past or present" or "He or she has left me such a mess from the damage they did." We are not meant to live this way and the devil delights in it when we do because we are not looking to God's good promises and victory. We can turn to the Lord and find life in His word. We can find peace instead of worry in God’s word to Moses and Israel as God commanded them: “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14).
names have been omitted and changed in this post
It was November; the month of family and being thankful, of pumpkin pie and gathering round a table to share thanks and count blessings. It was the month of cooler temps, our wedding anniversary and leaves changing colors before they dropped from the trees. I heard his footsteps as he walked through the kitchen door from the garage… he was home from his day at work. I turned back to glance at him where I stood at the sink filling a stainless steel pot with water to boil spaghetti for dinner. He strode in with his leather Kenneth Cole computer bag slung over his shoulder and stooped to drop it gently on the floor by the long foyer table. "Hey!" I greeted him pleasantly as the water spewed into the pot. I heard him sigh. Glancing up, I took note of his facial expression; he looked distraught and upset, almost like he'd been crying or was about to have a breakdown of some sort. Not like him at all. I wondered what this was about and immediately felt on guard. He either had bad news or I was about to get chewed out for who knew what. He walked over to the bar opposite me and leaned on the tall taupe speckled granite countertop with his forearms. Dressed in dress slacks and a crisp dress shirt he spoke.
"Hey…" but his tone wasn't cheery or upbeat. It was more like someone with a bleak outlook.
I bit "What's wrong?" I'd soon regret asking that question.
"I've had a really hard day. Really hard." He told me, his voice giving a hint of breaking. I studied him. I'd never seen him like this. Something had happened. But what?
"Yeah?" I asked cautiously giving him a wary look. "What happened?"
"Something happened today. I jus…" He trailed off and seemed to be trying to decide whether he should continue or if he even could. A pause took place and his voice wavered "I, I've just been having a tough time lately with… you know… "He trailed off again and looked at me pointedly.
My mind searched rapidly for what he could be talking about. Wait, it was November. This was the month. This was when he or she was supposed to have been born. Was that it? What he was upset about? He never ever talked about it. About the baby. About the abortion. Ever.
"I'm having a really tough time, I really need to talk about it." He said.
"I don't want to talk about it." I replied.
"Jennifer… I really…" He began but I cut him off.
"I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! I'm NOT talking about it!" I told him. I was willing and would discuss anything under the sun with him. Anything. But not this. Not ever.
"Jennifer…" He spoke almost pleading.
How dare he. I turned my back to him and placing the pot of water on the warm burner began breaking the stiff spaghetti into shorter lengths and dropped them into the water to boil.
"Don't bring it up again. I DON'T want to talk about it." I told him and taking a deep breath with tears threatening my eyes but not falling I left the room, jogging up the staircase to the master bathroom where I swiftly slammed the door shut mentally calling him every name in the book.
I should have had the baby. I should have been stronger. Braver. Women who made the poor choice of having pre-marital sex but having the baby were braver. I admired them. I should have just had it on my own. I shouldn't have even told him. I should have dumped him and then had the baby. Technically I shouldn't have had sex with him in the first place I chastised myself. All the should's in the world couldn't take back or fix what had happened; the sin that had been chosen. I wasn't going to be his soft place. Not in this. Not this time. It was asking too much. I had been his soft place through so much. I'd stood by him as the doting wife after learning unbeknownst to me he hadn't paid the taxes for three years and we'd had to sell our house and move to a dismal rental. I'd stood by him as he'd built a company in our garage to expanding nationwide and later into Mexico; supporting his dream and raising children much of the time solo. I'd stood by him as he'd continually allowed his mother and sister to treat me as less than and a leech. I'd stood by him for more than I should have ever done. I didn't even truly believe he was upset. I didn't believe he truly regretted it. I didn't believe him. I thought it was all just an act, a ruse to play on my emotions and gain sympathy. To draw me near him. It wasn't happening. I didn't believe he had any regret over what we'd done. On some level I had felt tied to him in our sin and then married him anyway. My mother had told me when I'd married him the abortion would always come between us and I hadn't believed her. She didn't know that we could overcome that, love more than that, I'd told her. Idealistic youth is so lovely until it punches you in the face. She had been right.
The abortion, the baby was always there; lingering between us like a silent invisible fence. Just like Jeremy. Invisible fences may not be seen but they are felt. And they divide. They divide and destroy sometimes no matter how much you try not to let them or wish it wasn't reality.
It was around this same time period he very suddenly wanted us to renew our marriage vows. Completely baffled by this sudden announcement I couldn't figure out where this was coming from. He was one of the most unromantic people out there. Practical was his middle name so I couldn't determine why he was suddenly all up in arms about us needing to renew our vows. And he wanted to do it up big; a big to-do and have a ceremony with our friends and family as witnesses. He wanted us to write our own vows, for me to pick out a dress and flowers. I laughed it off initially as what had to be a huge joke on his part, yet he persisted and I finally realized he was serious. To which I became highly suspicious. Why? I asked him but never received an answer that truly satisfied me. He was giddy as a schoolgirl about it and wanted to start planning it immediately. He insisted on buying me a new wedding ring and soon he had plunked down enough money to purchase a car on one at Robbins Brothers. Suddenly he was more attentive than usual and it was like we were dating again. But it was bewildering to me and I kept having a nagging feeling I couldn't ignore. I stood there staring at him like he was from another planet and unrecognizable to me. Who was this person? I became extremely agitated by this uneasy feeling I had regarding his new behavior and I shut down the whole ordeal. "NO! I'm NOT doing that." I told him.
But why???" He asked "I think it would be great! Why won't you do it?" He asked me with a smile.
"Because I'm not comfortable with it." I replied. Why did he suddenly want to renew our vows? In hindsight later I'd wonder if he'd been cheating and decided to "start over" and "re-commit" to our marriage and viewed it as a fresh start. With the way he'd brought up the baby that one November day I fleetingly wondered if he'd gotten someone else pregnant and she'd had an abortion. But he'd had a vasectomy after our daughter was born so that didn't make sense. Yet on some level I was so naive and didn't believe in a million years he'd ever really cheat. I also on some level didn't think he could get anybody. Surely I was the only one foolish enough to say yes to him. But we don't always see the truth right in front of us; where there's a cheater there's also yet another person for he or she to trick and win over.
"Oh, Dear, come on, "He chastised in good humor. I hated it when he called me "Dear". What were we? Eighty? But he rattled on. "It would be a good thing for us to do. You really wouldn't want us to renew our vows?" He asked seemingly surprised. He seemed genuinely shocked I wasn't on board with his proposal. He thought me being the romantic I'd immediately think it was a wonderful idea. And it would have been with someone I was happily married to and treated me with respect and kindness.
I stared at him like he was an impostor "What is all this about, exactly? Why do YOU want to do this?" I demanded. I wanted to know his intentions. I felt he was hiding something but I didn't know what.
"I think it'd be a great thing to do." He told me and tried to pull me toward him.
I shrugged him away and spoke "I don't think so at all. I think it's stupid and a waste of money." I told him… "Don't ask again, I'm not agreeing to this. And don't spring it on me as a surprise." I told him.
"So, what you're saying is you wouldn't marry me again? Is that what it is?" He asked, his tone suddenly changing.
I avoided his gaze. "You can take it to mean whatever you want." I told him brusquely. "I already told you I think it's stupid."
"Yeah, but… "He trailed off and stared at me like he'd had an epiphany of sorts. "That's what you're saying, isn't it? You wouldn't marry me again." He stated like he already knew the answer. I felt immediately trapped and wanted out of this moment. But it was too late; it was like being set up to fail; he already knew the answer on some level.
"You're right… I wouldn't." I replied and walked off with a terrible ache from my words that I tried to dull with the anger I had toward him and even myself.
There are some things said you can never take back. These are the verbal weapons that destroy a marriage. Even if you did take them back, deep down you'd know it was a lie. And so would they. The truth has already escaped and been placed in full light. The truth can often be discerned without any words spoken. Sometimes I can't believe I could be that cruel. Sometimes the guilt still nags at me having said that to him. It wasn't right.
I also know exactly who and what I've been dealing with since I filed divorce papers on him. Guilt is something he's not capable of feeling. Ever. I've been dealing with a man so incensed that he was divorced that he's done nothing but create complete havoc, grief and destruction as revenge toward me. He's lied, he's spied, he's used other people to stalk me on social media, he's used our children as weapons and he's drug me to mediation and court much more than necessary; enjoying as I spend down my accounts because there is no opting out when it comes to mediation and court. He's been nothing but a manipulative force to be ignored and at times exasperated with behind closed doors. He is not the boy I knew at nineteen, he is not who people think he is, he is a man I'm not proud to say I married. The only good that came out of the marriage were my children and because I have no idea what person at this point my son will become; all I can do is pray for him from afar and hope it's good and nothing like his father. All I can hope is the goodness left in him overcomes any bad. But I worry. And I worry for my daughter and the corrosion of her self esteem every time her father dismisses her and treats her as an inconvenience. The only reason he wants to have custody of her is to "win", to not pay child support and hurt me. My children and I have endured way more destruction than we deserved for the poor choice I made in marrying him. Losing your child, seeing them both used as weaponry and worrying how they will turn out is a horrible thing to witness whether you're a mother or father in this. It's not something I'd wish on anyone. No one should have to experience this kind of upheaval and ongoing stress, and yet so many people suffer in silence everyday doing just that. And eventually the ones who are orchestrating the destruction will pay… one day they will have to answer for their evil ways, at least to a higher power and when that day comes some sort of justice will take place. I question what his new wife thinks of how much energy he is putting into creating chaos for me; one would think she would raise an eyebrow at how much attention and money he's willing to throw my way. What woman in her right mind no matter how secure would be okay with that?
We have no idea when we marry someone that they may be personality disordered or else we'd have never married them in the first place. That's one of many things that frustrates me about the court system; they like to say "Well, you married this person!" No, I didn't choose this evil. They show their complete true colors later. Much later after you're in and it's too late. The courts have not a clue about the realities of being married to someone personality disordered. Later on in the marriage we may not yet know exactly what were dealing with but we know something isn't right. You can have great relationships with friends, co-workers and acquaintances but it will never be good with someone personality disordered. You can't make sense and order out of disorder. If and when you decide to leave there are things you need to keep in mind that will help you navigate this journey.
Divorcing A Narc: 3 Tips
1. It's never a good idea to show a narc your hand.
If you know their cheating, if you are planning to leave them I'd advise against tipping them off. Why allow them to have the upper hand? They are already going to be cunning so to give them a head start isn't wise. If you tip them off, if you confront them on their cheating and say "I want a divorce", "I'm divorcing you" you will be setting yourself up for major backlash. They will promptly tell everyone you've been behaving erratically, crazy, depressed, unstable… whatever they can come up with they will spread like wildfire and tsk tsk at how they are so worried for you, so upset and just not sure what to do as they lap up lot's of "Ohhh, I'm so sorry", "You poor thing" and "Bless your heart, I hope it gets better" type of statements and sentiments from others. They are setting the stage to make it look like you went off the deep end when this thing goes down the pooper all the while kicking you out of the house, changing the locks, canceling your debit and credit cards, clearing out your bank accounts, taking your vehicle, taking your children and making false allegations to have the police or cps on your back. Don't let that happen. Instead, keep quiet and take action. Say nothing, have your children with you, quietly file and have your spouses things out of the house the same day. Have the locks changed, get a protective order and or stay at a friends house or a hotel for awhile if you seriously fear for your life. Have someone trusted checking in on you or with you. Take half of the cash you have out of the bank (check your local/state laws for rules on community property) and keep it on you or go open a safe deposit box at a new bank to store it in. Get the scrapbooks, photo albums and sentimental items out of the house and stored somewhere they won't have access.
2. Mediation is a waste of time & money with a narc
Mediation is often touted by the courts as necessary to ensure everyone tries to "work things out" and resolve the issues without having to resort to court. The court is hoping you will come to an agreement so they don't have to see you. The judge would much rather just sign off on something you agreed to than have to listen to both of you state your cases and then have to intervene and make a decision for you. The truth is mediation is a total waste of time with a narc. The second brutal truth is this: Mediators are not there to help ease you through these issues in a "feel good manner" and help everyone reach a solution that they feel good about. The hard truth is they don't give a darn what you decide; they just want you to agree so they can say they did their job, get paid and move on. Some would tell you it looks better to agree out of court and not have to go before a judge. That's fear talking; stare it down and tell it to take a flying leap. It's such a loss either way: If you refuse the mediation (because we know it's never productive with a narc who merely bullies to get their way instead of compromising like a normal person) you will be viewed negatively by the court, your attorney, opposing counsel and anyone else they can yank in to judge you. If you do it there will be so much pent up frustration at your ex or soon to be ex's continual "no's" and shutting down any compromise that you will come within an inch of losing it. The way to handle mediation since you're pretty much stuck doing it is to grin and bear it. Opposing counsel uses mediation to find out what you want so they will be better prepared to annihilate you in court. So the best tactic when in mediation is to just ask: "Okay, let's get to it. What does he (or she) want?" Find out what the narcs terms are… because they have them, they want something. Already know what you're willing to give or not give. If what they want doesn't line up with what you're willing to do then just say "No, I'm not in agreement. Were done here. Thanks." You are under zero obligation to agree to anything you will regret later. This is not the time to begin feeling guilt or second guessing yourself. This is NOT the time to feel pressured to "agree" so you look agreeable. This is not the time to subscribe to people pleasing. Stay strong and walk. Don't breathe a word of what you want or what you're not willing to do. Once home, gather your documentation together and start preparing for court. I learned all this the hard way firsthand.
3. Be ready for the battle of your life with a narc
A narc's strategy regarding divorce and child custody is one of aggression. He or she is going to throw every dollar and effort into bringing you down and destroying you. They will call their attorney on every whim to spend down any actual settlement you may get. They will brainwash and try to take your children from you. You will be tested like you never have before. Impatient person? Get ready to have your patience tested ten fold and dig deep into near super inhuman strength to gain some. You will need it. Self care is mandatory to survive this so take care of yourself; get good sleep, eat well, exercise, get therapy, lean on your support system. You will need the distraction of your job and children; these are your lifelines in many ways, keeping your life as normal as possible. Narcissists are all about attempting to maintain control and if they can't; unleashing punishment. Divorcing a narc you run the risk of going broke, losing your home, your car and filing bankruptcy divorcing a narcissist. This is why you must pick your battles. You can't financially fight everything; pick the important stuff. If a narc has the financial ability to keep his or her attorney on continual retainer they will delight in continuing to file ludicrous things just to make you spend money you don't have. If you feel you're being pulled into court more often than necessary and your wallet nitpicked apart, ask your attorney whether you can get a reimbursement on attorney fee's. It's rare this is granted, but it's worth asking for. Keeping to the main issues like money (cash settlement and child support) and your children's best interests are what matters; not the dining room table or who gets the bedroom lamps. Working to keep your emotions out of the situation (yes, I know it's difficult) so you can stay focused on what matters is of the utmost importance. Take it one day at a time; looking at it as a mountain would overwhelm anyone. You know what you're dealing with so never underestimate them and be prepared to lose perhaps many small battles; just keep your eyes on the big picture; and lean on Him not the ways of the world for guidance, grace, power and strength to win the war.
Romans 2:6-8 ESVHe will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
John 15:4-5 ESVAbide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Isaiah 26:4 ESVTrust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.