You know the song. Sinnerman by Nina Simone. You know the tune. The song that plays in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair. I love that movie. Maybe because I love the art in it. Maybe because I like the music in it. But maybe also because it's an interesting story of how one man manages to trick so many and yet the woman who comes to know she's playing with fire still falls in love with him. He of course believes he will escape justice regardless of his actions. Pierce Brosnan's character may have gone on to live happily ever after with the woman who loves him but off screen a man who lives a sinful life will not have such an ending. Instead they often reap what they sow… it may take time but eventually they will receive ten fold whatever poisonous seeds they planted.
Remember, whatever you plant, you will reap!
Therefore, sow good seeds. Sow the Word of God.
Galatians 6:7 -7
Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
names have been omitted in this post
She settled in the chair across from me at Rosa's Cafe… a chain restaurant that served tacos, enchiladas and sopapilla's. I had a plate of sour cream and chicken enchiladas, spanish rice and beans. She was having crispy beef tacos and a side order of chips and queso. It was one of our favorite restaurants… we liked the ease of it, the little patio on nice days, the fact it was kid friendly and on Tuesdays they had the taco plate dinner at a discount. Today we were kid free and enjoying our meal in a shady spot on the patio… it was an off time so we had it to ourselves which made it even better. Dressed in sandals, khaki shorts and a tank top with a straw fedora on her head she looked the epitome of summer and the palm tree fronds blew overhead in the light wind and sunshine.
"Oh my gosh, have some of this queso, I can't eat it all." She urged at me pushing the cup toward the center of the table and then taking a bite of her taco.
"I'm starving, I'm glad we came here. Good thinking… although I don't think I ever get tired of this place." I told her. Wearing a ball cap, shorts and a wrinkled button down top with the sleeves rolled back I popped a chip in my mouth.
"I know… I love it. So tell me what's new in your world… what's going on?" She asked me.
"We have mediation next month. I can't believe I have to take off work for this. If I was to take off it would be to do something fun. You know, like spend time with my kid not go discuss her. Or argue about her. It's all nonsense. He just thinks it up." I told her with irritation.
"Well, he's pulled enough stunts that you'd think they'd have enough to do something about him. Hopefully they will shut him down. He always manages to get away with stuff." She told me.
"Yeah… I know. There's been so much it's unreal. Do you remember the pool table situation? That was a real doozy." I remarked.
She tilted her head slightly "Remind me… I'm not sure."
"Oh, it was lovely. That was during the divorce. We'd decided to sell the pool table, right? I mean… there was no reason for us to keep it. So I'm still living at the house at that time and he puts out an ad to sell the table. Some guy calls and wants to buy it. We arrange to meet at the house. " I tell her and she nods. I continue "But, it's his week with the kids. I tell him beforehand on the phone that there is zero reason for the kids to be present for this, right?" I explain, referring to my soon to be ex.
She agrees, "Yeah, I mean I'd see no reason for them to be there. This is business."
"Right. So I asked him to leave them with his mother. But no… he shows up and the kids are with him. They are waiting in the living room on the main floor with my mom and I while he goes downstairs to meet with the guy. The guy looks it over, likes it and offers him fifteen hundred dollars for it. He says yeah, that's fine." I pause and take a sip of ice water, "He wants a receipt…. I mean, I get that… he was paying cash. So then… " I continue, then referring to my ex "He comes upstairs and DEMANDS I get on the computer and type up the man a receipt. He was ugly about it. So I told him no. Then he gets up IN MY FACE… literally a half inch and screams at me 'YOU GET DOWNSTAIRS AND TYPE HIM UP A RECEIPT!!!! RIGHT NOW!!!!!' and my mom is standing in the kitchen on the opposite side of the bar from me. The kids are huddled together scared clinging to each other in the living room completely freaked out."
"Why couldn't he just write up a receipt? Doesn't even have to be typed. Just write up something. Takes two seconds." She told me.
I nodded "I know… exactly. He was acting like a psycho. Screaming like a maniac. He kept doing it. I couldn't get away from him, I was trapped between him, the bar and the little end wall to it. So he sees that I'm not moving and doing it. I stand there and grip the counter top with my left hand to steady myself and my mom is telling him he needs to stop. She thought he was getting ready to push me backward or hit me."
"I hope you called the cops on him." She told me.
I shook my head, "I calmly tell him I'm not doing it and my mom begins saying how he's completely out of line. She wasn't yelling, just telling him. He then rushes around the granite bar into the kitchen where she's standing in front of the cooktop trapped like he's going to charge her. She shrinks back away from him. Then at the last second he whips around and storms off downstairs. I don't know what he did after that. I started trying to console the kids. They were crying hysterically from his behavior."
"That's crazy. He needed to be called on. All this and in front of the kids." She shook her head.
"It is ridiculous. And… you're right, I SHOULD have called the police. I could have used it in court. Should have had a report filed on him. But I was so stressed and was focused on the kids obviously. And my mom. Another lesson learned. I wish I'd had it on video." I reflected.
My friend sat across from me and seemed to be in thought… "You know… I know it seems like he's always winning… but eventually people like him will run out of steam… eventually they screw up big time, they mess with the wrong person or something… and they are finally on the receiving end of it. It may take awhile but it happens." She told me and poured more salsa on her taco from a tiny clear plastic container.
I dipped a chip into the cup of queso, "It's been going on five years… do you realize that? I filed October 2012. This is 2017. But in that I know it's going to get better. I have too much on him at this point. That has to count for something. Surely someone can shut him down."
She nodded and spoke "Yeah… and you've handled it the best you can. With way more patience and grace that I ever could have. More than most. You know how many people read stuff like what you've been through and think how they would have lost it by now? You know how many people are probably enraged reading that mess? It reflects badly on him. All you want him to do is behave and be the man, the father he needs to be."
If they really loved you they wouldn't have screamed at you, pushed you, hit you, pulled at you like a puppet to be manipulated and then the worst of all… used your children as pawns in a custody battle because they want to win. They aren't content with 50/50 either. They want to win. Time and time again they show their true colors by their actions shown and then cry that you are oh so terrible. Please. They may have fooled many… or maybe just a few but eventually people begin to see that the saga continues… years on end… and people finally come to the realization that all those outcries of "She's angry, mean, crazy, etc" are nothing but lies and they have been aiding and abetting the devil in disguise.
People wonder why you didn't leave or leave sooner.
Because if you haven't been in a situation, in a marriage where abuse or especially insidious sociopathic abuse occurred you have no idea how truly hard it is to escape. The sinner stands there seemingly saint-like while you are standing in a world of confusion and lies, of fog and chaos due to emotional abuse of projection and gas-lighting. Refer to the 1944 movie Gaslight. You can't explain something you don't even have a grasp on yet yourself. You cannot leave something you don't understand and are trying daily to just get your footing. You have mortgages, children, school plays, in-laws and soccer practice to tend to… the fact that you are barely keeping your head above water just becomes something you slowly learn to cope with… something you adapt to on some level.
Someone asked me once if I was ever mad at my mother for not leaving my dad sooner. I was thirty-seven years old when she left him and it was a day of celebration when she divorced him. She had moved in with me during my divorce process. I told her once my divorce was final: "If you go back home you won't ever be able to leave again. This is your one chance. Right now." She thankfully chose to not go back and filed as she'd wanted to for so long. The day she had him served I cried…. tears of victory. It was a victory for all of us… such a long time coming. It was also bittersweet… my youngest sister wasn't with us. It was all too in our faces that we had not all gotten away unscathed. We were minus one. I had been my mother's confidant during their marriage… some might say she shouldn't have leaned on me. Some might say that was selfish. Some might say she should have left much sooner. I struggled for some time coming to terms with the fact she didn't leave during my childhood. Yet the brutal truth is she couldn't. And when I say that I don't say it lightly. There would have been enormously negative consequences and I knew that even as a child. Having lived it myself right there beside her… suffering alongside her all the years of toxicity, I can empathize with her situation and why she felt she had to stay. We as a society, as a whole need to stop pointing fingers at those who didn't leave or victim blame and instead be the understanding empathetic ears and hearts to those who have been oppressed for much too long.
The sinner of a man can't always be stopped and so often those smaller than the orchestrator suffer needlessly…. and no matter how much you try to cut those chains, to break away to get free… no matter how much you hope you won't hear his tires in the drive each night or his resounding footsteps coming in the house… no matter how much you walk around with a quiet sadness because you are barely hanging on by a thread…. no matter how much you see the despairing reality that stuff means more than family, no matter that control is deemed more important than love…. no matter how much you question how a good God could let you be born in this disastrous mess… no matter how much you wish someone would just fix this dark prison so you could all rejoice in freedom and light… you keep praying, you keep praying for a miracle and until that miracle is delivered the clock ticks on and the song of sin continues… but God is great and He loves you through all the sins you endure… keep praying.
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).