Well, to jump right into it, last week’s post stuck with me more than I was expecting. (If you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest doing that before you continue on, but for the TL;DR, I've found my feelings of anger towards my ex, reignited as I watch The Guy with my children.)
Anyway, it’s been interesting for me to reflect on last week’s post. Although I stand-by everything I said in terms of not letting my negative emotions consume me, as with any source of anxiety, sometimes it takes a while to figure out where it stems from.
Then sometimes, you figure it out and it just clicks.
I was married to my ex for twice the time that I’ve been divorced, and although I hate to admit it, I still feel more like the wife that was left behind by her first husband, than the wife I am now.
So much of my life has centered around what my ex did to us, that it’s become who I am; single mother, writer on sexual assault recovery, domestic violence nonprofit founder, public speaker on domestic violence issues, and welfare myths, etc.
I became who I am now, because I was my ex’s abused and abandoned wife first.
But now I’m someone else’s very much loved wife… and I’m not sure what that means for my identity.
I don’t want to be the perpetual victim of a life filled with hardships, but at the same time, I’m struggling in the fact that for a long time my path centered on finding the strength to not let those hardships take me down. Now, suddenly many of my hardships have been lifted, and my battle is a much quieter one that involves rediscovering my identity outside of the pressing need for survival.
Watching The Guy with my children is making me think of my ex, because I’m feeling vulnerable.
In order to make my marriage work, I must constantly allow The Guy to be involved in nearly every aspect of my life, and although living life alone has become routine to me, living life with someone else is something I haven’t yet mastered.
There’s strength in charging through life on your own, but there is vulnerability in relying on someone else to do it with you.
And in that vulnerability, I’m suddenly remembering just how hopeful I was when I entered my first marriage, and how many dreams I had that would one day be crushed. With every promise The Guy makes to me, I’m remembering all the ones that my ex made to me first. And with every memory we build, I can’t help but think of all the ones that I tried to make with someone else first.
The pain in having it all rush back is turning out to be fairly intense, and the guilt that I feel for thinking about it at all is tearing me apart even more. I feel awful that every time I look at my husband, I can’t help but think of my ex.
Marriage comes with expectations, and unmet expectations come with feelings of disappointment and sometimes, at the core, feelings of unworthiness.
The flashback memories I’m having when I look at The Guy with my children, are actually misplaced feelings of anger and sadness towards my ex, that are simply masking my feelings of vulnerability.
From the post When Your Life Burns Down: “Anger is a defensive emotion that we use to make ourselves feel powerful. When we feel hurt, betrayed, and vulnerable, we use anger as a shell to protect us from opening up and allowing ourselves to be hurt again. It is the secondary feeling to a primary emotion.”
The Guy is bringing up memories of my ex, because the emotions I’m feeling right now are reflective of a transition I’m in; If I want to have a successful marriage, I must also allow myself the opportunity to possibly get hurt again.
If I want a future with the man I love, I must allow The Guy to become my children’s dad, and everything my ex should have been to me as a husband; my protector, my confidant, my best friend, etc.
Seeing The Guy bond with my children as a parental figure, is the visual acknowledgement that my life is changing and my identity is shifting to include someone else. Seeing my children love him reminds me of how much they were hurt, and seeing him love them, reminds me of how much I was hurt.
I’m suddenly feeling angry with my ex again, because I’m scared to let The Guy fill the role my ex failed to achieve.
I'm terrified to put myself in a vulnerable place, when all I have ever learned is that my expectations and needs will fail to be met.
I was my ex’s wife, and that will never change. I was his victim, the woman he cheated on, the wife that he left, and I am a survivor. I was a single parent who struggled to provide for children who were traumatized by his abandonment of them. But now, I’m someone else’s wife, learning to co-parent with a man who adores my children, and although I have spent most of my life preparing for battle, now is not the time for that, because now is my time to rest, and allow someone else to begin to fight with me, for us.
These last few days, I haven’t felt angry with my ex anymore, but I will admit that I do feel scared. I love The Guy more than I can even explain, but trauma runs deep, and it’s going to take a while for me to feel secure.
So while I’m here, in a place that has me feeling vulnerable, I’m going to be honest about it; with myself, and The Guy.
If you want to trust the people in your life, sometimes you have to take the scary path and give them the opportunity to prove to you that you can trust them. And yes, you may get hurt, and one day I may get hurt again too, but The Guy has come this far, and I owe it to him, and me, to continue forging ahead.
You can’t find your forever, if you are too busy living in the past, to live in the right now.
This I can promise you, because show me one time where we had a tomorrow, while we were still living in yesterday.
Regardless of yesterday, you can’t have tomorrow, without today.