This writer has asked to be kept anonymous, but felt very strongly to share her journey with the hopes that other women will find the strength and courage to find their true meaning in life.
Today is my 30th wedding anniversary and my 6 month anniversary of disappearing from my marriage. On November 6, 2011, I left my husband undercover, undetected and scared for my life. I am thousands of miles away now-safe and free for the first time in my life!!
Throughout my childhood, I felt lonely and unloved. My father was a doctor, a workaholic who was only interested in himself and his status in the community. My sister, my mother and I were expected to worship him. Everyone told us constantly what a wonderful man he was, but the truth was just the opposite. My father did not love and nurture me or my sister. He did not keep us safe from our mother who raged and fought with us all day long. My mother was miserable being left at home with us and hated my father for being gone all the time. My sister and I were two little girls needing love and care. To my mother, we were a burden and a problem. I often wondered why my parents chose to adopt each of us at birth if they weren’t interested in having children around.
I now understand and accept that I was not responsible for being given up at birth or being unloved by my parents. However, both of these events helped me form the unconscious underlying belief that I was unlovable, unworthy and would be abandoned in all my intimate relationships.
The day I got married was shiny and beautiful. I felt absolutely assured of happily ever after. All I had ever wanted was my own family. I was determined that we would be loving and close, connected in every way. My husband would put fatherhood before anything else. He would love and nurture our children and keep all of us happy and safe. My family would be perfect
I picked the perfect man to create that reality for me. I chose a husband like both of my parents — a raging, self-absorbed man who blamed me and my children for anything and everything. My husband used and manipulated all of us for his own interests. He played on our love and trust to build us into a family that revolved around him. Due to my childhood, I felt very comfortable with that dynamic. Everything felt right and normal until it wasn’t. I had made my bed and I would lie in it for 30 hard, lonely years.
Raising my children, nurturing my marriage, connecting my family took center stage. What an apt phrase, “center stage”, because that was what my family was — a facade, a stage set, a replica of a real family with none of the connection, the intimacy, the love. I had exactly the family I grew up with, but I could not consciously see it or maybe I just didn’t want to see it. But I knew something wasn’t right, and just like I felt responsible for my family’s dysfunction as a child, I felt responsible for all my new family’s problems. The same thing was happening again in my own new family and I was the common denominator, so it must be my fault!!
Turns out that what else I could do was alternately binge and starve and numb out for hours with exercise, sleep and reading books about mass murderers. I hated myself outside and inside. The only way I could hide this secret and the ones about the state of my family was to isolate myself from the communities we lived in. Too busy to socialize, too busy to make friends, too busy to connect with anyone lest they find out about how horrible I was and what a miserable life I had. Isolating myself was my protection as a child, too.
As the years of our marriage doubled, my husband became more and more discontent with me. He saw me as the enemy, out to get him like everyone else, worthless, a bother, and wrong in every way. I bowed and scraped and made super human attempts at mending our frequent fights. It never dawned on me that I couldn’t fix this, that I couldn’t find a way to pretzel myself back into the woman he fell in love with. What had I done wrong? How unworthy and unlovable could I be that my parents had rejected me and now my husband found me disgusting too? I was a failure as a daughter, a wife, a woman, as a human being. I was going to be abandoned again and there was no way to stop it. The truth was, that no one was coming to save me. My marriage dynamic was toxic and unchangeable. My husband was pathological. I had to save myself, but I didn’t know if I could.
Another, more horrifying truth was that my marriage was violent. My husband had physically and verbally abused me many many times over the years. Talking to him about leaving could get me killed. I knew I had to disappear and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. For the first time in my life, I told my secrets to my children. My children validated me, acknowledging that things had been horrible in our family forever. They offered me a place to run to out of state and encouraged me to tell the few friends I had managed to connect with over the last couple of years. My friends were shocked and saddened, but offered their total love and support. I was so ashamed for revealing the nature of my marriage and the truth of my life. I was beyond grateful that my children and my friends would help me do this huge thing. No one in my life had ever helped me before. Maybe it was because I had never asked.
I plotted my leaving like a special ops mission. All the arrangements, phone calls and packing took place while my husband was at the golf course two hours a day. If it rained, I lost my chance. I had been living a double life for so long that by now it was second nature. Outside the house, I was open, happy and free. Inside the house I was wary, quiet and passive. I made sure not to argue, disagree with or anger my husband. I had subjugated myself for so long to keep the peace with him, that I knew exactly how to play it. Everything appeared as normal. He could not, must not get wind of my plans.
D-Day –Disappearing Day — was so unremarkable it was otherworldly. I had everything synchronized and rehearsed. The minute my husband pulled out of the garage to go to the golf course, I packed the last of my things, jumped in the car and left my home. My friends were there to take my precious plants, hide my car and drive me to the airport. Once I was safely inside the terminal I took off my wedding rings and felt instantly invisible. And, at the same time, horribly, hugely visible as a woman alone– not a partner, not a wife, an unwanted female.
Today, six months gone from my marriage, is my 30th wedding anniversary. I live in a sunny, little apartment with a bed, a couch and a kitchen table. I am 7 minutes walk from my girls and we spend beautiful, loving, quality time together every day. They have truly taught me how to love. I am working with a therapist and studying to be an integrative coach. I am healing.
There are many gifts I got from my my parents and my husband. From my parents I got my mental and emotional toughness, my ideas about the kind of parent I wanted to be and the huge need to be seen and heard. Giving the gift of acknowledgement and appreciation to everyone in my life is my passion and purpose today. Thanks mom and dad.
From my husband, I got my two amazing, brilliant, beautiful daughters, the strength to speak my truth and the determination to stand in my power. These things I would never had accomplished without him. He honed me. Thank you. My life’s recipe made me into the spirited, vibrant, loving woman that I am today and I am so thankful for the ingredients, even if, by most people’s standards, they were horrendous. I guess that is what I needed to get here and become the woman I was meant to be.
At the time that I left my husband, I felt that I was losing everything. The truth is that I was gaining everything –my freedom, my peace, my joy, my life, myself. Finally.
I had chosen the passive, submissive path all my life in all my relationships, believing that no conflict meant I would never be alone again. I made my unconscious childhood underlying commitment of being unlovable and abandoned into a reality. Had I not woken up, my life would have played out as planned. I spent my whole 57 years trying to fix, save and love everyone but myself, believing that this would keep me safe, but I had done myself the ultimate injustice. Instead of being rejected and abandoned by everyone else, I had been the rejector and the abandoner- of me. By trying to create the “perfect,” image, I denied myself the opportunity to gain insight and to grow. But now I Finally know, I am the only person I can fix, save and love.
I was afraid for my whole life. I was afraid that I would be abandoned if I let people see the real ME and my needs, wants and feelings. I was afraid that I could not depend on myself. Truly what I know is that I was afraid to step into my own power, to speak my truth, to put myself out there. I was afraid to be my authentic amazing self because I believed I was not worthy. I believed sacrificing myself, would make everyone love and need me. That never worked. No matter how hard I tried to give everyone every last piece of me, they just wanted more and cared less.
Today I ask for what I need, show my emotions, confide in the people in my life and speak my truth, even when it is difficult. I know that not only is it possible to grow and change no matter how old or how far down the road you are, but it is more joyful and more wonderful than I ever thought it could be
I call this piece Dorothy’s Red Shoes because throughout the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy looked for everyone and everything to save her and take her home where she longed to be. The red shoes, that ultimately carried her back, were on her feet the whole time. She always had the power to save herself. .She always had everything she needed inside. We all have everything we need inside.and we have on those red shoes.so we can save ourselves We all look for answers outside, but the truth is that we HAVE all we need. We ARE all we need.
Feel the fear and do it anyway!!