We must be mindful not to carry the labels assigned to us, including those we assign to ourselves. To consider ourselves damaged goods sets us up to accept being treated less than we deserve, and further abuse. The label may be given, but we perpetuate it and in that we relinquish our power. Constant striving for the impossibility of perfection threatens our dreams, goals, stability and emotional health, which keeps self-acceptance further at bay. Our beliefs limit our ability to choose people we want in our lives and leave us to be chosen instead. We stay far longer in unhealthy relationships when we believe we aren’t worthy.
There was a weekend about a month before the shooting where he and I were supposed to go away together. His idea was we would use the time together to rekindle our relationship. He’d made all the arrangements. The children and pets were to be taken care of. At the last minute I got cold feet. Knowing now what I could not know then, it’s sobering to grasp the real possibility it was that weekend he initially intended to kill me. I often wonder my fate had I gone.
I had spoken with my sister about the planned weekend and my notable degree of discomfort about going. Something about his change of tactics alerted her and she shared how it all seemed very odd. He’d called her only a few weeks earlier saying I was bipolar, had a spending problem, that I was not mentally fit. She’d responded at the time ‘you all need to work it out’ and meant she did not want to be in the middle. Those who refuse to take sides unknowingly take the side of the abuser. He took her to mean I was supposed to work with him to save our marriage.
On the call with me she pointed out he and I were in ‘the honeymoon phase’. Not familiar with the term, she emailed me a link to the cycle of abuse. I sat in Panera Bread reading the email and dumbfounded, tears streaming, I saw with absolute clarity my entire married life abbreviated in a small graphic on the cycle of abuse. With a true understanding for the first time, I was relieved, yet the finality that nothing would change if I went away with him set in.
I knew I had to tell him the weekend was off and was afraid; afraid of his reaction, afraid I would relent and give in to the pressure I knew he would exert. I felt if I went with him he would lure me back in and I’d never be able to get free. I could feel the hopelessness I had managed to get ahead of close around me at the thought of the trip. I thought if I went all the strength I’d garnered to stay the course to leave the marriage would be lost.
On the drive home I called my therapist to walk me through it. I was hysterical as even then, with all the pain I had experienced and irrefutable evidence that was presented, a piece of me still wasn’t willing to give up on my marriage. My therapist told me I had to decide if I wanted to be married or not. In the years following I suggested to him the question was did I want to be married knowing my husband nor our relationship would ever change with only me working towards it.
I went home that day and told him I wasn’t going. He begged it was what we needed to get back on track. I flashed back to my begging throughout the years. He pleaded. I remembered pleading with him to stop berating me. He cried, the first time I’d ever seen him cry. I tried to remember when I had become so empty I had stopped crying.
I wanted to believe it was all we needed to get back on tract too, but I knew it was a pivotal moment and there was no going back. He admonished my refusal to comfort to him in his emotional display; I recalled dreams of being comforted throughout our marriage; the simplest and kindest of gestures denied me when my best friend died, when my parents died, when I miscarried.
Over the years I’d developed a safe place to go to in my mind. That day it was an ad from the 80’s; I’m L’oreal and I’m worth it. The silent repetition of I’m worth it, I’m worth it, I’m worth it, I’m worth it; my hardfought victory to appreciate my own worth and value, gave me strength to refuse to cave despite his emotional upheaval. In that I was further validated I am worth it.
I cannot, will not hand that over again.
“Accepted and worthy, this is our new name” Jason Gray