Breathing. taking air in and expelling it. An involuntary action that sustains life.
Sometimes this process, in the figurative sense, gets suppressed. And it kills you on the inside. For me, this time, it wasn’t until I felt I was breathing again, that I noticed I had been being suffocated for some time.
From an outsider’s point of view, my just under two year relationship seemed fairytale-like. And it was in some form. I was swept off my feet. I was grieving and had no intention of sugar-coating that when it started. I fully intended to keep my grieving process going…both with Matt passing 4 months before…and Mike 3 years prior. He seemed to respect that and allowed me to weep, reminisce and pay tribute to them when I needed. He anticipated every need I had…even before I recognized my own needs.
I was greeted, after work surprisingly in my car, with photos of my grandbaby that I had taken that he had printed and framed…because I mentioned when I took it that it was worthy of framing. My hair dryer broke just before work one day and I found a brand new one in my vehicle after my shift. It seemed every time I turned around, a want or need was fulfilled. I can honestly say that it stayed that way until almost nearly the end…at some point he checked out the last few months and I felt myself starting to have needs that were unfulfilled and slowly started to stand on my own two feet. I hadn’t had to do that in a while.
It happened so gradually and subtly that I did not notice…I no longer had to worry about things. Rides for kids…trips to the grocery store……laundry…keeping the pool clean. You name it. If I mentioned it, he made it his job to do it. I found I had to be careful of thinking out loud of a want because it became a mission for him to fulfill it.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? I thought so, too.
You feel what you focus on.
This came at a price, though. There was an anger there. Not all the time. And there was no telling when it would surface. The in-between times were fun, adventurous, romantic, sexy. Nothing is perfect, right? No one is perfect. He loses his temper sometimes. He gets jealous. He looks through my phone. He spies on my facebook messenger…at communications long before him. He hurt me. Physically. But I was assertive about these things…I addressed what I felt was wrong and forgave. I demanded resolutions. Counseling, etc. I focused on the positive and let the shortcomings go. I was strong, spoke my mind and carried on. He was to fix what was broken. And all along there was a plan of action to take care of that.
What I didn’t realize, until removing myself from the situation (at the demand of the local police…which is still in effect) was that I was being controlled by a person that never told me to “Do this” or “You cannot do that”. I was controlled due to my empathy. I could see reactions to certain situations. Going out with friends, talking or texting on the phone…sometimes weren’t met with favorable behaviors. So, I learned to act in ways that had more favorable outcomes. Like staying home. Which was not a punishment for me…I LOVE being home with my family, playing games and such. It wasn’t a sacrifice to do this. It’s not until now I realize how isolated I became. I wasn’t even going to the grocery store anymore…I would start my list and he would insist on getting everything for me. I could do something for me…nap if I wanted.
The first bit of anger scared me. It was out of jealousy. Of a dead person. It confused me because the reason I opened him into my life was due to his understanding of this part of me. Slowly, I was stifled of my openness with my grieving. Pictures even eventually became a problem and I dealt with it the best way I could. I have picked up where I was in that grieving process and am continuing my journey.
The next bit of anger scared me more…and left me bruised. This was not my first rodeo with this type of behavior. I explained I knew how these types of situations escalate. It’s like building blocks. Stacking one situation on top of another and it always gets a little more extreme each time. This relationship was no exception.
I did not just lay down and take it. Well, in the heat of the moment…I did whatever I could to de-escalate the situation. But when heads were clear, I made it known it was unacceptable…demanding he get help…and now I see I tried to see what behaviors I contributed to and tried to not duplicate it. Even innocent and unassuming actions. I became hyper-aware of every step I took to not aggravate any situation. Not fun. Not easy. I wasn’t breathing.
I became stifled. I was walking on eggshells. I was me and enjoying what I chose to focus on…my beautiful family and the positive sides of a dysfunctional romance. But, I was left broken on many occasions…physically a few times. I was left shattered, eventually. And so remorseful that I subjected my children to another loss.
It’s hindsight that has me shaking my head that even though I was trying to be strong and fix problems when I saw them arise, that I still let the abuse and control continue.
I am beginning to breathe again. I am no longer having to pull into the drive way not sure what mood I am about to encounter. I am taking care of me and the children and not worrying about being scrutinized. I am emerging from my home and meeting with friends and am communicating, innocently, with people I had cut-off, so to make life easier. I am self reflecting as to how I let myself get to where I was…and how to never return.
I am breathing. I am healing. And every day it’s feeling better and better.