Thursday, January 29, 2009

My failed marriage

As I was getting a little quiet time in this morning, I felt God nudging me to share about my failed first marriage. Unfortunately, it is a good example of two things - the unimaginably high price we pay for unresolved issues (by we, I mean EVERYONE) and a failed support system.

My first marriage should have worked. He and I were both very nice people and had the same values and life goals. We got along very well. In fact, we never had an argument. We were, however, very young (I had just turned 21) and I was hurting more than I was willing to admit - more than I even realized. I'd told him about my childhood abuse when we were dating; however, I shrugged it off as much as possible and pretended to be just fine. On the occasions where I did show some emotion about it, I never told him how deeply those feelings ran.

It didn't start off this way though... Early in the relationship, he was someone I could be honest and open with. But then.. Shortly before he asked me to marry him, there was an incident at home where my mom's 4th husband had become physically and verbally abusive with me. As all this chaos was going on in the background, I called my soon-to-be-fiance. I was sobbing and my mom and her husband were yelling at me, saying awful things and calling me horrible names. He (my ex-husband) came to pick me up 30 minutes later and I never went back. He was supportive and compassionate with regard to the physical maltreatment, but it wasn't long before he was encouraging me to cut my mom some slack and allow her to have a "normal" relationship with me. (By "normal" he meant trips to the mall, dinners at their house, mother/daughter phone calls, etc.) There were so many things wrong with the way my mom treated me and allowed her husbands to treat me, that I just knew there was no way to have "normal" under the circumstances. I tried to explain that my mother's neglect and selfishness were the reasons that the sexual abuse from husband #3 and the verbal & physical abuse from #4 lasted as long as they did. But my ex-husband couldn't grasp my idea that not all moms are created equal. In my case, my mother was abusive and I deserved protection from her. He thought she deserved a relationship with me, regardless. This is when my walls started coming up and I stopped being honest with him about how much I hurt.

As we've read throughout unit 1, many times people do not know what to say or do to help people who have been sexually abused - especially when one is abused by a family member. My ex-husband was a young man who came from a wonderful family in a delightful midwestern small town. Things like this were unheard of - which means it happened in secret and no one talked about it. It was practically taboo for him to talk about sexual abuse, so it stands to reason that he would be ill prepared to help me recover from it.

When I felt like he was "on my parents' side", I felt betrayed and all alone. I completely stopped talking to him about anything I needed. We moved to the east coast a few months after we were married, and distance from home was a good thing for me. I was relieved to be far from the chaos and strained relationships; however, I'd brought all the baggage with me. Birthdays and holidays were the hardest, but I barely let on to my ex-husband that anything was wrong. He could tell that something was "off", but I think he figured time would heal it. When he didn't reach out to me, I didn't bother reaching out to him. That's when I began having difficulty with fidelity - I was looking for affirmation from other men. I needed someone to find me interesting, attractive, appealing. My ex-husband worked hard and was pursuing a career as a professional athlete, so he didn't have a lot of time for me. That hurt my feelings, driving me further away. But I didn't say much. Occasionally I would tell him that we weren't as close as I wished we were... But, by the time we were in marriage counseling, I was already pretty checked-out of the marriage and really had no intention of checking back in.

As I look back on this failed relationship, I have many regrets. He is truly a very nice guy and I believe he was willing to listen, if only I would have talked. I believe he would have been open to understanding where I was coming from, if only I'd have had the courage to be vulnerable with him. I know now that he was just inexperienced, not insensitive.

When I say I have regrets, I absolutely do not mean that I regret where I am today. I DO NOT. But, I regret how I acted in the first marriage, how I hurt my ex-husband and our families and friends; how I dragged that baggage with me and let it consume my life for so many years. I deeply regret how I hurt others, all because I was wounded and was choosing not to deal with it.

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