It’s wheels up at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.
After four months, I’ll hold my babies again. I cannot wait to see them run out of their house and into my arms. To hear my youngest excitedly yell, “I missed you!” To feel my oldest wrap her arms around me. To listen to my daughter’s sarcastic humor. To learn another’s newest favorite song. To hear my son’s voice as he puts on a bravado to seem older than his 5-year old self. To hear another daughter’s excited laughter as her eyes grow wide with joy over our plans.
Not everything will go perfectly–it never does. Someone will hit someone else. Someone will grow impatient. Someone’s restaurant choice won’t get picked. Hard questions will be asked.
But we’ll be together.
I am not traveling alone.
For the first time in over a year, he is coming with me.
You will get triggered, my sponsor says. And I will be here when you do. Call me.
She’s right, I will. And I will.
Focus on the kids, she advises. If he doesn’t want to do something, move forward with your plans and have fun.
One of the reasons for holding onto such shame and guilt these past several years was because I have almost always put him first. During our affair, I found excuses to meet him, often leaving the kids with a babysitter, or picking them up late from preschool.
I was lost in him.
Even after my separation and divorce, I put him first. This was the relationship I had chosen. I was going to protect and foster it. I was going to keep him happy.
But, the inner wiser voice quietly reminds me, you couldn’t, could you? His happiness was never truly your responsibility.
And nor is it now.
After our confrontation on Monday, I woke on Tuesday seething mad. Spitting angry.
I walked into my counselor’s office and dropped 1,000 F-bombs. I texted a CoDA friend a 100 more. And then I called my sponsor and declared: I’m sick and tired of being his scapegoat.
Self-awareness, I continued, is a bitch. We’re harnessing the ability to identify and own “our shit,” learning to separate it from “their shit,” and yet others aren’t, so “their shit” becomes “our shit.”
It’s shift blaming, my sponsor says. He doesn’t want to feel shame, so he shifts it to me. Covertly, and often through humor–I am his favorite punchline, after all.
His mother speaks ill of me, blames me for the undoing of his marriage, and he allows it.
He conceals our relationship on social media lest his coworkers see that we’re still together and shame him for not moving on after last year’s painful and embittered breakup.
Where he doesn’t feel in control of his finances, children, or health, he insinuates that I want too much, am bitter, or don’t care enough about him.
And then there are the jokes made about our relationship, my physical appearance, my unmatched desire for emotional and physical intimacy.
He’s described himself as a “master manipulator” and jokes about his narcissistic tendencies.
It would be easy to blame him for his behaviors. And yet: this is mine to own.
Others can treat us only in ways we allow them to treat us.
In other words, we receive what we allow.
And I’ve allowed it. I’ve allowed the blame shifting–the shame shifting. I’ve allowed that weight to be heft upon my shoulders, heavy and cold. I’ve allowed him the comfort of perceived innocence and stumbled under chains of castigation. I’ve accepted the label as the other woman, the crazy one, the needy one, the not-good-enough one.
As I took my 3-month chip at Wednesday’s CoDA meeting, the weight I’d bore became too much to carry. My share quickly turned raw and emotional. I cried as I openly recounted comments he’s made, the endless jokes at my expense, how ashamed he seems of me, how very small he’s made me feel.
The words tumbled out of my mouth almost as quickly as the tears fell down my cheeks.
And then a new kind of shame came over me. Shame driven by fear that I had just thrown him under the bus.
Did I actually share with them that he’d identified a handful of women in that room he’d want to play strip poker against?
He would be so mad at me if he knew. He would be even more ashamed of me. I’ve embarrassed him.
I took comfort in the supportive words of my fellow CoDA members, the texts and phone calls the next morning. Still, a new fear set in: Fear that I would lose these new friendships if I stayed with him. They now knew the darkest part of our relationship. They were experienced in getting out of unhealthy relationships. Surely, if I choose to stay with him, they wouldn’t with me.
But I’m not ready to take any big actions. I have no intentions of leaving him. But I do have every intention of continuing my recovery, setting boundaries, changing what I will allow and receive.
As a friend explained to me, my friendships are not conditionally based on my relationship with him. My friends have not chosen me and him. They’ve chosen me.
They’ve chosen who I am.
Who I am is precious. Who I am is loving. Who I am is strong. Who I am is smart. Who I am is beautiful.
When I woke this morning, an hour before the alarm, seized with excitement about seeing my children tomorrow, these words found their way into one of my first thoughts today: I am capable, confident, and powerful.
And I firmly believe I am.