TL: Thinking it through

As we sat in B’s office yesterday, we talked a lot about our birth families. I feel such anger, and yet sadness, about MC’s mom. I know she is lonely, but I also know she is just not a healthy person to be around. She doesn’t get it, see it, understand it and she likely never will. I am sad for MC. I am sad for our children who do not have a close grandparent relationship in their lives. I am sad for MC’s mom who we, including B, truly believe is mentally ill and imprisoned in the loneliness of that mental illness.

My family was screwed up too, my mom was also mentally ill (actually diagnosed as such, unlike MC’s mom who would never see such a doctor). But, I had love and compassion at least from my father. I know what it is like to be loved and to be able to show love, I have a sense and inkling of what that feels like and looks like.

Still, there were many in my life whose love and approval I tried so hard to win. And, this was another point we talked about yesterday. I spent so many years trying to get MC’s mom to love me, approve of me, accept me. When the fight happened about our child, I threw that all out the window realizing she never would. Just for the sake of being MC’s wife, there is no way she will ever love, approve of, or accept me. I think I was also trying to win MC’s love, approval and acceptance. Upon d-day, I realized I must stop trying to win love and approval. People in this world, including MC, can choose to love me or not.

Yesterday as we talked about all of this, we talked about how MC and I are each broken in our own ways, but how we are each healing. B sees in me the person that I used to be, including the spontaneous free-spirit part of me that had been hidden for so many years. And, I saw MC talking about, accepting and loving that part of me yesterday, a part I felt I needed to hide for so many years. And, here he was talking about how that is one of things he found attractive about me when we met. He said it with love, not anger, not resentment, but with love. I felt ok to be me. I felt safe to be me. I felt that MC can actually love me for me.

I don’t feel the walls between us like I did before. Somehow the walls of resentment and anger between us were not at all there yesterday, not from him and not from me. I feel like MC is now showing all of himself to me, being vulnerable and exposing the parts of his pain that he hid from for so many years. He is allowing me in, not some fantasy version of me, but just the real me. And, I am starting to feel like I can let him in again too.

I don’t know if any of that makes any sense to anyone out there. I am struggling to explain what brought those feelings to the forefront yesterday. I think this is at least a big part of it. Perhaps as time moves forward those moments will grow in duration and frequency. Perhaps one day those moments will be our life together. I think that is what brought the thought “we just might make it.”

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13 thoughts on “TL: Thinking it through

  1. I understand every word you wrote. Seems you were both hiding from each other. Now that you don’t have to, once daylight hits that which has been hidden away out of fear or embarrassment or shame, it doesn’t seem so scary, right? I remember, once I could truly open up to my wife, wondering what the hell I was so worried about. It’s freeing and leads to further growth for both. It’s hard for us guys to show vulnerability. To us, it’s a sign of weakness. My wife says that it’s actually a sign of strength. We, guys that is, aren’t taught that. Sounds as if you have a terrific therapist. Happy for y’all that its working. Stay on the clock. You’ll be amazed at the results, I think.

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    1. Sonofabeach, yes, I guess we were both hiding some parts of ourselves from each other. TL did not hide, at first. But, she quickly began to hide her true creativity, courage, strength, and unique world view when she encountered my insecurities, judgmentalism, selfishness, childishness, and anger.

      I only recently began to understand just how much I had been hiding from TL. Of course, I was hiding selfishness, adultery, and disregard for others. In addition, however, I was hiding — both from TL and from myself — my inner conflict between puritanical me and progressive me, and my habit of measuring my self-worth based on how I fear women — first my mother and then TL — might view me.

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      1. I hear ya. Y’all can change that culture though. You’re both in control of that now that it’s all in the open. I understand where you’re comin from. I really do. But now that it’s out there, own and change it. It’s possible.

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  2. Sometimes I feel as if experiencing the betrayal of adultery caused scales to drop from my eyes. Not immediately, but gradually. It’s not just us, my husband and me – it’s how I see me and how I see him. I also view life differently. I’m trying to make sense of it all, give it meaning – but it’s a work in progress.
    I also have a difficult mother in law. I think she has some kind of mental illness. A few minutes in her company and its like the life force has been drained out of me. She treats my husband in the strangest of ways – one minute, in her soft voice, all caring and loving as if he was 6 years old – the next, an absolute crone, barking orders at him and bringing up incidents from way, way back which she nurtures in her head. She barks that he never made anything of himself in her eyes. She barks that he should have taken a maths exam. She blames someone for everything that she’s wrong in her life, and that’s practically everything!
    She is a wretched woman. Has not one friend in the world. she is prejudiced to the core of her being and I find this very uncomfortable to say the least.
    If I didn’t have to deal with her, I’d say she was nuts and move on but this is not possible. Since D-day my husband and I have become better at handling her together. We do the minimum and stay together mentally in her presence.
    Some women need to be given a hand book on how to raise sons. The mother is the first female to form the bonds that are likely to last a lifetime. My husband learned to shut down as a strategy for dealing with his childhood anger towards her. He lost all sense of his emotions in doing this. I’m pleased to say that the emotions are returning. I’m sorry to say that it was the adultery tsunami that brought this about.
    TL, I think you’re getting to where you need to be. Where that is, you probably have no idea, but I think the fog is clearing. Maybe the runway lights will be visible.

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    1. I would bet that there is some type of statistically significant correlation between boys who were raised with emotionally volatile mothers and acting duplicitously as adults (that doesn’t necessarily mean causation of course, but something in that dynamic comes into play — just a hypothesis).

      And, yet, I remember that I too was raised with an emotionally volatile mother and did not live any kind of duplicitous life. The difference I can see, however, is that I never really held back what I thought to my parents (for better or worse). Not to say, I don’t have my own issues, just not that one.

      Regardless of the past, what is important now is that we are learning to be healthy people, to be a healthy couple, to live healthy lives and to raise healthy children. Yes, I have a bit of hope that the lights on the runway are beginning to come into view, I like that thought. Of course, we still must watch for the patches of fog and navigate through them together as they appear.

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      1. I agree with you about the correlation. I also think that boys have a completely different relationship to their mothers than girls. When my mother in law embarrasses my husband, you can bet it challenges his masculinity in some way. She shows him no respect. Once she told me that she was going to smack him for something. Smack him????? My husband is 58! WTF? My husband tells me that when he was little she used to prick him with a pin when he was naughty. It wasn’t until he met me that he realised there might be a connection with this experience and his fear of needles. He passes out!

        I’m the same. I’ve never held back my emotions. I’ve suffered the consequences but I have recognised emotions as they became conscious.

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        1. That is just it, isn’t it? We suffered the consequences for not holding back, we allowed ourselves to suffer the consequences of not holding back. I know this is key to what MC is learning about how to live in an authentic marriage today, an authentic family today, an authentic life today. Consequences are scary, but being a man means not letting the scary get in the way of being honest. Sure, learning to not hold back doesn’t mean you turn into Donald Trump either, but it does mean learning to lovingly say your truth.

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    2. Marriagerecovery, your mother-in-law sounds exactly like my mother: friendless, prejudiced, blaming others, dwelling on the past, and treating me like a child. The description does seem too similar to be coincidence.

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      1. She doesn’t have a photograph of me in her house. It’s like I don’t exist. She lives only in the past and always refers to what her mother said or would have said like she was some kind of sphinx! She reads the Daily Mail and believes it holds the truth and once came to our house for the weekend and refused to eat the lamb dinner I had cooked. She produced some dry biscuits from her handbag and ate them at the dining table. Now, I find it both funny and absurd! I could write a book about the times she has put her foot in her mouth and defended it to the hilt! The problem was, few about a year I had stopped visiting her with him – I couldn’t bear to be with her after something that she had done. When I’m not with him there is no censure of her behaviour so he got it relentlessly. It was on one of his solo trips to her that he met Pig Shit. Whether the previous hors had added to his perfect storm I will never know but the one thing I did promise him in our recovery was that I wouldn’t abandon him when he visited. I go along, we don’t stay overnight ever. I have learned to do what my husband did in her presence – shut down! Ironic eh, but the only way I can handle her.

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        1. Marriagerecovery, if it weren’t for my sense that your mother-in-law is British, I’d suspect she is actually my mother. Maybe your husband and I were separated at birth.

          Anyway, it’s interesting that you decided to not leave your husband alone with his mother now. TL and I are doing that too, but it wasn’t even intentional. I simply have no desire — and very few occasions — to be with my mother without TL there.

          Since my mother has such a hard time treating us with respect and not trying to manipulate our children, I really don’t feel safe being around her. Even a phone call with her can become abusive. She tries to lure the children into pressuring us to visit her. And, she often randomly comes up with new ways to irritate us.

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