Once upon a time, I was a bashful little doormat. Yup, it’s true. I walked around with my head down all the time. I’m surprised my chin didn’t fuse to my collar bone.
When I was sixteen, my dad beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. Why? On the surface, it was because I cursed the IRS. Come on, doesn’t everyone?
Below the surface, however, and not to excuse his behavior, I was a sixteen-year-old girl and he was clueless as to what to do with me or how to interact with me. Lots of other reasons, too, which is why I was able to move past this whole incident. Eventually.
But this is what started my ascendance to actually having a voice. I thought long and hard about the whole thing, on and off for years too, besides the first few weeks after it happened. Six years later, I got married.
He talked about the whole white-picket-fence scenario, but he was too lazy to make the effort. He talked a good line, until he didn’t. One time, he sat me down on the couch, hard; one time, he waved a butcher knife in my face. Frequently, I’d come home from work to a houseful of passed-out guys and the remains of a steak dinner all over the kitchen—nothing for me, of course. I’d wake up the guys, kick them out, clean up the house, and go to bed.
And always, always, there was criticism and insults. No matter how hard I tried.
Now, I was no stranger to criticism and insults. I grew up with that, from my mother. She always took the other person’s side—she does it a bit less frequently now, but I call her on it when she does. She told me then that I was selfish…which means, for a long time, I tried so hard NOT to be selfish that I lost myself.
So I got married in 1986 and the knife incident occurred about nine months later. As an aside, my collective parents had been divorced, at this point, more than half a dozen times. I did not want that. Also, I was twenty-three-years-old at this point and clueless about a lot of things. Having grown up with the “selfish” mantra and the put-downs, it felt pretty normal to me.
Things weren’t horrible for the next year or so, we had a beautiful daughter, a nice home; but the stress was incredible. Shortly after our two-year anniversary, and a lot of thought but not much planning, I told him to leave. He did. I told him I wanted at least 30 days to think about things.
He gave me two weeks. That’s when he moved back in one day when I wasn’t home.
I said nothing for another month or so. And then I said it all.
Other than our slightly messy divorce, that was the end of the story. Come to think of it, we went to lunch after court that day. A few times, he came over for holidays, for our daughter. Once, while we were separated before the divorce was final, he took me out to dinner for my birthday. He wanted to get back together; I said no. He told his family we WERE getting back together. Nope.
Fast forward thirty years and I cannot fully understand women who don’t leave. Sorry, but I can’t.
If you’re in a bad situation, make a decision, make plans, and be done. Don’t make excuses. I have two friends going through this right now—okay, apparently just one now, because the other one made a decision and we are no longer friends. Forty years of friendship, all gone because after three years of issues, three years of complaining, three years of waffling, and three years of excuses, she decided to stay with someone who is lazy, controlling, narcissistic, misogynistic, and a real douchebag. Her words, even.
But this post—this is for the women who are smarter than this. In 1988, when I kicked my husband to the curb, I was young and presumably dumber than I am now. There was no Internet, no online friends, fewer resources.
In every situation, good, bad, or indifferent, you need to make a decision, then a plan, and finally carry out that plan. But everything you do should be a step towards completing that plan.
It’s especially important the older you become, because, well, you’re getting older. Do you want to waste the rest of your life feeling like this, living like this? What will you do if you change your circumstances? What will you do if make that decision and move on with your life? How bad do you really want this?
Answer these questions, and you’ll make your decision. Then you have to make it THE decision, the BEST decision. No waffling. No mixed messages. Why wait? Maybe that’s what you should be asking—and those answers will either be legit reasons or simple excuses.
Make a plan. This could be tricky, and there are so many variables I can’t possibly begin to list them all. Money. Minor children. Housing. The list goes on.
But you need a plan. You need a date—either he goes on this date or you do. If he’s going, you really do need to be upfront and tell him, don’t just assume because you picked a date that he’ll automatically leave then, especially if you don’t tell him. Seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised.
Your plan might be detailed, it might not. It might take some time to implement, or maybe it doesn’t. But don’t lose sight of that date you chose and get lost in the plans. Don’t keep readjusting your plans for one reason/excuse after another. Don’t be selfless—this is the time for a little selfishness. Other people will adapt to what you decide is right for you.
Use your experience, your brains, your education—formal or informal. You’re only getting older. How do you want to live the rest of your life? If not now, when?