The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grey is the new black and white

Tonight in my S-Anon meeting I was reminded about a large part of the reason I ended up married to an addict.

My mother's father was the child of an alcoholic father. His mother, my great grandmother, divorced her abusive husband in a time and a culture where that was unheard of, so it must have been pretty bad.

My grandfather didn't drink, didn't have any addictions as far as I know. But he was an absolutist and a dictator. If he said the sky was pink, everybody would have to agree knowing full well that they could see it was blue and that everybody else could see it was blue. If Grampa said it was pink, it was pink.

As a child of such an oppressive father, my mother developed a very absolutist view of the world - black and white, good and bad, no room for shades of grey. No room for mistakes. No excuses. No second chances.

Mom isn't harsh, but I can feel the judgment. She's good at the passive aggressive guilt-trip. I wasn't even aware of the dynamic until the past year and a half of therapy. But I recognize it in our interactions now.

In my black and white childhood there were rules. For example, rules about what "good people" do and don't do. Good People don't rock the boat, don't make others feel uncomfortable, don't impose on others, don't boast, follow orders, think of others first. I'll even go as far as to say it was implied that good people don't feel deserving and don't expect anything in return for sacrifice. In fact, the very best Good People suffer in silence for a lifetime.

So, striving to be worthy of the Good Person mantle, I never developed boundaries or tools for dealing with conflict. (There was no open conflict because of the previously mentioned Good People qualities.)

Instead I developed the ability to be reasonable, understanding, accommodating and nice no matter what. (Except when I was mean, which I have been with my husband and my mother. But I could never see that because I defined myself as a Good Person and there was no room for a Good Person to be wrong or bad. Otherwise that Good Person would then be a Bad Person.)

I defined the world in terms of good and bad, right and wrong, smart and stupid, perfect and awful. It was all very clear.

What happened next?

Ta-daaa! My higher power saw I was missing some tools, and provided me the opportunity to gain those tools. Poof! Enter sex addict husband!

Nowadays I remind myself that I don't have to be a Good Person. I give myself room to be human. And I make a lot of mistakes. Then I clean up as best I can. Then I move into the next moment. Sometimes this happens easily, sometimes it takes a lot of effort.

Sometimes I forget that I'm only human. But eventually I remember. And then I feel peaceful and free. I'd so much rather be human than Good, Right, Smart or Perfect.


MargauxMeade said...

Wow, I was thinking about the exact same thing this morning. I was thinking about how I can be so judgemental and how I learned that from my father, whose thinking was very black and white. Then I had this thought: Those judgements don't even belong to me and, instead, they're my father's voice in my head. Now I'm trying to figure out who I am without those judgements.

woman.anonymous7 said...

Margaux - That is so exciting! What I got from your post is how easy it can be to give up those things. You're so right! So much of what we struggle with doesn't really belong to us and we can let it be separate and then see who we are.

So great! Thank you1