I’ve been gone for a while. I am sorry.
Life gave me what felt like more than I could handle for the past month and I had to put some things on the back burner. I hate that this blog needed to be one of them, but I can’t help anybody if I lose my own sanity.
I had a conversation tonight that bothered me. It came down to this.
It’s not fair.
How many times have we heard, said, or felt that?
Our kids, when one has to unload the dishwasher all by himself while the others are finishing up school work? Our coworker, when she is more qualified for a promotion but is passed by for a lesser qualified person? Ourselves, when we find that we are still paying for the mistakes of another?
Or, how about this “it’s not fair” scenario, building your life on dreams of a future only to find out that your castle was made of sand and built just a little too close to the shoreline?
No. It’s not fair.
I cannot say how grateful I am that my parents repeated this mantra over and over to me while growing up. Every time I cried “Unfair!” they would reset my view of reality with the response “Life’s not fair!”
This, however, doesn’t make it feel any better when life does indeed prove to be unfair as it sometimes does. Have you had these thoughts? I don’t think I am the only one given the popularity of the phrase. Well, I cannot make my life or anyone’s life fairer, but knowing what to expect can sure make life easier as you learn how to deal with the toxic person in your life. (Heads up. The first one was a really big pill to swallow at first as it only seemed to compound the unfairness of the situation, but I promise, it is a lifesaver).
1. Keep expectations low.
Ouch. See what I mean? You have had expectations all along, and rightfully so, based on the vows they made to you and now you are to drop the bar ultra-low and he gets off scot-free (or so it seems)? How fair is that?
I should explain that this one is mostly for post-separation/divorce. If you are still married you have every right to expect good and right behavior from your spouse. This is not the time to drop your expectations.
If you, like me, are separated or divorced then it is a bit different. Cooperation from your former spouse would be nice, but you should try to make it unnecessary. The more independent you are able to become, the less frustrated you will be. If you expect anything, expect more of the same.
It did seem terribly unfair at first, not holding him accountable, but it actually becomes quite freeing. I don’t worry about his continued belligerent, disrespectful, irresponsible or illogical behavior because I no longer need that right behavior from him. Keeping the “No Contact Rule” makes this much more doable.
2. You have nothing to prove.
You were not good enough then, you will not be good enough now and it doesn’t matter. For each accusation that comes your way, step out of the way and watch it fly by. Things will be said. It will seem unfair. You will want to counter.
Don’t engage. Think through this for a moment. Did defending yourself before make any difference? Change his mind? Make the accusations stop? I daresay, that if your situation is anything like mine was, it just makes things worse and adds fuel to the fire.
Now? It doesn’t matter. Trust me. It really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what he thinks or says, no matter how unfair or skewed it is. It still prolongs your interactions and won’t make a bit of difference. It will only give the satisfaction that an angler gets when a fish takes the worm, hook and all.
It is bait. Don’t fall for it.
3. Own what is yours; let everything else go.
Whenever we come home from Michigan, we inevitably leave items there and after a week or so my mother will send pictures via text to ask if random items she has found lying around the house are ours. With 15 grandchildren, she finds a lot of random items that don’t belong there. Sometimes the things are ours and sometimes they are not. I own the things that are mine and tell her to keep the things that don’t belong to me.
Same thing here. You will have “things” (accusations and such) sent your way. Some of these things belong to you and some don’t. There will be accusations that are made up or completely false. If they are not yours, don’t take them. Like in the previous point, don’t worry about trying to deny them and don’t worry if it’s not true. If it is not your baggage, then let it go by.
Some of those things are legitimate, like in my case, some things that I did or said a year into my marriage (15 years ago) are still being used against me. I have owned those things already, a long time ago. I don’t need to keep owning them. They can stay where I left them, in the past.
Which brings me to my last point.
4. Ditch the guilt.
Oh guilt. Such an effective net you are. Ensnaring us into taking ownership of things we have we have no business taking ownership of.
In the previous point, I mentioned the “legitimate” accusations. I want to focus on those for just a minute. I am not perfect; you are not perfect and aren’t we more than aware of our failures? We have failed and messed up and in our marriage handled things wrong or acted vindictively. There is not one of us who can stand and face our accuser and say we did nothing wrong.
This is where we can get caught in the quagmire of guilt. Guilt is a great tool for pricking our conscience when we are in the middle of our failure and for a while after it. Then we set things right and let guilt go. Guilt is a great sensor that tells us something is not right and we need to change it or fix it. After that is done, however, we don’t put in our backpack to keep carrying around with us.
This is, however, what that toxic person is attempting to do. They use old things, isolated incidents, things that you may have done, but have taken care of, and try to put them in your backpack for you. And unfortunately, it is easy to let them do it. You feel the searing heat of that failure and it paralyzes you and keeps you from focusing on his patterns of behavior that went on for years. He who is without sin cast the first stone, right? So how could you possibly accuse anyone else when you yourself have failed.
Recognize that you are imperfect, that your past offenses have been taken care of and that that should not keep you from extricating yourself from an abusive situation or negate the regular patterns of abuse that have happened.
You will be told all kinds of things that will prick your conscience, but if you have taken care of it and it is in the past, don’t take on that guilt again.
Similarly, don’t take on guilt for things that aren’t wrong. As an example, if you are told you wouldn’t have made him mad if you had only had dinner on the table when he got home from work, don’t own that guilt. You will have or have had a lot of accusations that will make you feel like you failed to be the best wife or partner, but these may or may not be legitimate failures. This will take some careful examination, but you need to differentiate what is a legitimate failure or sin from expectations you failed to meet. There is a big difference, but that will not stop the guilt from being applied uniformly.
These are some of the pitfalls you will have to learn to avoid. In the beginning, it can be a virtual minefield and you will fall into the traps sometimes, but don’t give up. Remember these tips and after a while you will find that it gets easier to ignore what is not real and yawn at the reminders of how you didn’t measure up.
I would like to say the accusations stop, but so far, at least for me, there is no end in sight.
Hang in there,