Updated: Oct 17, 2018
We sat side by side naked in the warm luxurious Jacuzzi under the stars like many times before. I felt so loved, so safe in the familiar space created between his chest and his arms, feeling his heart beat, my leg touching his. Relaxed knowing the kids were safe and sound asleep in their beds. I teared up a little as I turned away, not knowing how my husband of twelve years would re-act to my pressing thoughts I felt so necessary for him to know.
I suppose it was good timing to talk about the future.
The months passed and he had become a stranger which was more enjoyable when not around. A forbidding "party-er" choosing to be further and further away from family as I became more and more unwilling to accommodate to the changes.
In less time than it takes to make a baby, this man had gone from my protector to my persecutor. My ally to my greatest threat. My best friend to my biggest hater. And instead of professing love, he was waging war.
It was as though a switch had been flipped after my choice to be vulnerable and open.
I just couldn’t wrap my head around the seemingly abrupt transformation. Had this malicious man been hiding in my marital bed the entire time? Did he somehow wake up one morning a different person? Did I cause this change in him? Or was he always this way and I was finally able to see the truth?
The reality is probably a little bit of all of those.
Self-protection is at the root of behavior.
To begin with, it’s important to remember that at its core, all behaviors are self-protecting. To that end, it made sense for him to play the part of a loving husband while he was receiving the gift of family. This provider image allows him to justify the rage, sadness and disappointment over the reality of his actions.
Once the kids and I were on our own, the distance and coldness I chose protected me from feeling his pain and provided me the space to process mine. In essence, by acting as though he didn’t matter, I began to believe it. A barrier of disassociation. In this view, the switch was flipped more in an effort to prevent pain than in an effort to inflict damage. From concerned, emotionally supportive, and genuine care to turning a blind eye as he struggled. Who is this cold and heartless person? After all we must co-parent still.
For my part, believing in his good-husband/dad routine insulated me from the painful truth during our marriage. I didn’t want to admit the way I was treated (especially when others wanted what I had) and I questioned my strength to break a commitment, so I chose to believe in the best of him. I did not believe I was lovable and acceptable as I was so I made sure to be what he needed instead of expressing my own needs. I passively watched as the tale-tale signs showed before me that we desired different lifestyles. I allowed myself to be disrespected and complied to his leadership. Yet once I refused to dim my opinions and thoughts and dreams, a switch was flipped. I couldn’t understand how someone I loved so much (and who I believed truly loved me) could do those things. Which leads to the self protecting act of choosing to see the other as all-bad. Building up a new image and instead of acknowledging the whole picture it now gets narrowed down to negative details. Who is worse? This view, and the distance it provided, served to protect me from further damage to an open heart, one I knew was all my own obligation. He was no longer the gentleman on a pedistool who provided a simple classic life I was so lucky to have kids with. He was now the controlling, abusive, addict asshole who was out to take me down rallying up a crew to believe this newly created image was true.
Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force.
Cognitive dissonance happens when somebody’s beliefs about themselves and their behaviors are not in alignment. It is a very uncomfortable position, and so we often strive to change either our actions or our beliefs so that they again line up.
One of the ways that my ex minimized his cognitive dissonance between the conflicting belief of seeing himself as a good person and the action of inappropriate attacks is by justifying his choices. Over time he has devalued me, both in his mind and to others. He has created an ‘updated version’ of me. (Trust me, I have heard the candid pocket calls) This new belief then allowed him to act in a cruel and hateful manner towards me while still maintaining his internal integrity.
My own cognitive dissonance was amplified as the belief that my children's father is an caring gentleman is challenged by the cracks in his facade. The consistent verbal abuse proved my memory must have confused me and I ought not volunteer to amnesia.
And for the first time, I saw him as he was, not as he wanted to be seen, or needed to be seen.
You can’t see the big picture until all of the pieces have been assembled.
I now believe that the man I fell in love and share many core building years with was not the same man I chose to divorce years ago. He changed, significantly, most likely from a combination of addiction, unaddressed childhood trauma and exterior influences. Even more so in the last few years. I also know I changed in my own ways and played an important role in our ending by diverting the much needed attention which should have been focused on the relationship over to our children and withholding my own personal desires from him.
And it was only later, once faced with an unnerving guilt and shame and sense of responsibility I began to assemble all of the clues, that I could see how it all fit together. We did not have the same core values to begin with. We wanted different things for our life style and in essence did not manage to allow each other to make much needed changes. Him and I closed a wonderful chapter together and I began reading an entirely different book, one that focused on me.
Hate is not the opposite of love.
And then there’s this – the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference. When we truly don’t care about someone, we don’t expend the energy with attempts to bring them down. When an ex is trying to make your life difficult or attempting to manipulate and constantly degrade you, it’s a sign they have not yet let go. And it can also be an indication – albeit an agonizing one – of their own pain. The best way to handle this is with empathy. Strive for an indifference mindset.
Moving on and living a life where, even after breaking a commitment, we are worthy of love and acceptance exactly as we are. We need not beat our-self up for choosing "ME", nor convince yourself the after effects are all one persons cause. Divorce is mutual, it is consented agreement and does not insinuate hate. Indifference is different than hatred and relieving the post-decision dissonance requires you to think twice. Disassembling the dissonance is possible, and it starts with self awareness.
Self awareness and boundary setting.
Tips I have learned from this concept:
1. Do not fuel the fire. This gets easier and easier. Dis-attach emotionally.
Treat the other person as you would an acquaintance (maybe one who had a bad day).
Remind yourself WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU STAND FOR continually returning the attention to the life lived now and how you are bettering yourself.
Disassociating yourself as connected directly to this person, in practice letting go with love.
Refuse the music witch triggers specific emotions and diffuse it down.
Refuse specific conversations with flare up unwanted thoughts and lower its potency.
Guard your influences with as little trigger availability as possible to ensure no back tracking.
Stop blaming the other for your own choices and actions.
Come back to it later with a clear mind.
Apologize when you are wrong.
Be civil, be cordial, be polite because that is just the right thing to do.
Provide as little information about the details in your life as possible at all times. (Could/will be used as a weapon)
Shut up the ego. You are different people on different paths living different lives. Neither better or worse, neither more useful or valuable, Neither more important or less it simply is what it is and be the best you can be.
Just a new stranger on the outskirts of the personal sphere of influence.
2. When the abuse occurs do not accept that emotion simply continue on. This gets easier and easier.
Just another text. Just another attitude. Just another indication there is still work to be done there on the other end. With new behaviors their will be an adjustment period.
Does the criticism stem from a need for correction? If so the make an alteration. If not the move on and set the projection of another aside.
Check to be sure the Justifications, Arguing, Defending, Explaining is at a bare minimal. Do not get JADE'd. You may find that by not speaking with these desired outcomes you may have less and less to say. Find comfort in your quietness.
Instead hand it over to Karma, God, the Universe, Source ….ect. It is not yours to manage or manipulate. Do not take on others emotions.
3. Forgive yourself for ever have allowing those limiting beliefs you once followed.
Be willing to allow others the room to so as well. Do not assume you know the other person.
Forgive the other for all their wrongs with empathy in the past, present, and future. So when the future time arises you have already made the decision.
Forgive not for the other person but because you are free. Free from the burdens of the past. Free from any expectation once held to you. Free to be different than you were yesterday. Because you are on a journey that is ever changing and always rearranging and you have learned an extremely valuable lesson of standing up for your own desires. You are free to connect with others who appreciate and encourage you. You are free to chose to be different as often as you like.
4. Allow yourself to be happy. Being haunted by the past is a form of self-sabotage and gives no credit to our experiences and acknowledgment that every one is different and no two moments are the same, ever.
Allow yourself to try new things and practice gratitude for all you have been through and learned about yourself.
How have your experiences made you stronger and better off?
Are you practicing responsibility over the others choices and actions? Why? Knowing that the ex is a grown person taking care of them self the best they know how simplifies any urge to judge down to one simple acknowledgment. 'Yes. I am doing the best I can.'
Happiness is a choice it is not given nor demanded. It is found and practiced and is always available. Stay busy with your vision and open with the timing of how it all unfolds. Because it is. Let enthusiasm and curiosity take root as love is realized. A love that includes having the strength to let someone go.
From the mind of a passionately stubborn woman experiencing a newly found peace. A remarkable difference from when I was all wrapped up in drama of how and why. Recently I had an intimate conversation about an-others very unexpected divorce and it was acknowledged on a very deep level that there was an urgent sense of needed to hate the opposite person to justify the entire split. Obviously this lead to a very interesting conversation. One that hopefully opens a mind or two.
Who ever it is you choose to share life with and walk next to on your path that reveals more about why we do the things we do deserves never ending love, even when it ends. Who would you be without them? As you accept yourself the cognitive conditioning (beliefs) of the past it becomes a beautiful source of wisdom. After all we all just want to be happy here. Looking at myself I find peace of mind realizing why I do some of the things I do.