One year ago I had just begun a new job, working outside of the home for the first time in 11 years. My first day was May 26, so this time last year I was still aquiver with the abrupt shift in lives. I got the job so six months ago I could get the apartment where I sit right now.
Six months ago I began the culmination, the logical consequence as it were, to years of exhaustive examination of my marriage, my self. I was sifting through every single detail to find a way to stay in that life, and not be here in this. I suppose all of that searching distilled to a single question: "Is it my fault it's not working, and if it is, can I change myself so it will?"
I didn't have very stable ground from which to be objective because I've always felt confused about whether or not something is my fault. I've certainly been afraid that "things" are my fault, in the deer-in-headlights sense.
So, were things not working because I was too selfish? If I became angry because Gary was unreasonable, was I too sensitive? Too quick-on-the-trigger to react? An angry, mean person at core? Someone who felt inherently inferior and so when Gary was scornful when I didn't read his mind accurately it confirmed my own sense of worthlessness and that's why I'd get angry? Did I just not have a sense of humor? Was I 'just' a chronically unhappy person who brought everyone around her down too? Someone no one could make happy?
I certainly was afraid I was those things. In trying to confront those accusations I was sort of cut off at the knees by my awareness that people often rationalize their bad behavior, and why should I be so special that I wasn't? How would I know if I wasn't 'just' rationalizing?
So it took years to work my way through what a different kind of person may have cleared up in a few minutes. Self-doubt had been a strategy a long time ago that I developed to help me tolerate situations I was powerless to change. Then my own strategy hamstrung me so that I was powerless to change.
Years ago I saw "A Clockwork Orange". A brilliantly horrifying movie, but what reached into my psyche and totally disturbed me was the aversion "therapy" our psychopathic subject underwent once he was caught and brought to justice. Any of you who know the story know that he was a totally repugnant and violent hooligan; that he was 'cured' by being forced to watch images of violence and sex while being fed a drug that would make him violently ill. Eventually nausea was so tightly associated with aggression that the slightest hint of aggression rendered him helpless. The scene at the end where he himself is jumped and is unable to defend himself--in fact, his own natural defenses now wrapped him up and delivered him like a package to his attackers--haunted me for days. I'd seen violent images in movies before but this one really got to me, at my core. I see why now. It was an extreme representation of my own dilemma, which was my own strategy for being with people whose behavior I couldn't understand, which often seemed capricious, arbitrary, and unfair. (Yeah, I guess I'm talking about my parents, but not in the "blame" sense. They were products of their own culture, time, and upbringing. I can say that there were things I needed to do to adapt to the implicit demands of my culture, as expressed through the people who raised and love me that have not served me well. I can say this while knowing deeply that I love my parents.)
I got pretty good at it, and so was well-groomed for the marriage I chose. Once I was able to clear up the baggage about whether or not I was a flawed individual and that's why I was seeing things the way I saw them, it really became very simple. What does the marriage need to succeed? Are we willing to do what it takes?
To feel satisfied in a marriage, I need to be with a partner who is willing to negotiate disagreement and build bridges after rifts. This means being with someone who is timely in airing grievances (rather than storing them up and then leaking resentful feelings like a cracked gas tank). In short, I need someone who has the tools to partner with me to bring a marriage back into emotional equilibrium when something has disrupted it. I believe I have the tools in my own personal skillset, but I see that I can no more do it for both of us then I could fly if I was a bird with one wing. And he needs a partner who is either thick-skinned, impervious to passive aggression, totally devoted, or willing to absorb and hold whatever he dishes out without a need to hold him accountable or otherwise bother him with it. He is unwilling or unable to be the partner I need, and after 5 years of examining this marriage from every angle to see if I could be the partner he needs I see that I cannot. Or, I could, but I'd have to undercut myself with self-doubt in order to tolerate it.
I don't do that any more.