A few days ago, I found myself questioning something I have never questioned before. You know how sometimes you just accept things because that’s the way they have always been, so you figure that’s the way it is and always will be? I have a feeling that’s what I’ve been doing. For a long time. I was praying as I was driving home. About where I am in life. What I can realistically expect going forward. Thoughts that have been rumbling around in my head for several weeks (or months) now. And as I exited the expressway, I stopped praying and asked myself…why. Why couldn’t my ex-husband ever love me? As I have admitted many times and fully realize, I have a lot of flaws and broken places. I am not an easy person to connect with. But as I was contemplating my question, I realized I wasn’t always the complete disaster I am today. There actually was a point in my life when I was pretty open, wanted to connect, knew I could heal and become whole and was working diligently to overcome my deficiencies. I wasn’t a joyfully happy person…I still had some depression. I had trouble deeply trusting. I didn’t recognize that I was a human being and, if I even suspected I might be, I never thought I was a human being of worth. I knew I came with baggage and a big down side. But I wasn’t hopeless. I wasn’t closed. I hadn’t lost my ability to believe in tomorrow. I wasn’t deeply in debt. My eating disorder hadn’t consumed me. I had the advantage of youth (flexibility, adaptability, openness, ideas and perceptions not yet cemented in). I had been sexually abused by my father for years. Both of my parents were physically abusive, though they never beat me. They just hit me. Sometimes across the room. Sometimes an open-handed slap or two. Sometimes dragging me by my hair. Or knocking me down. But they didn’t hit and hit and hit and hit and do great damage. They were emotionally abusive in that they were very demanding, rejecting, demeaning and disapproving. They didn’t get me medical care at times when it was needed. They ignored me and my needs. Because they wanted to hide the abuse, they tried (and largely succeeded) in keeping me isolated, outside of the requirement that I go to school. I am only touching on the surface of the massive dysfunction of my family in these few sentences, but I can tell you in complete honesty that the environment in which I grew was destructive, damaging, debilitating and nightmarish. It did some very bad things to my heart and soul. Having said that, when I was, for example, 21 years old, I openly sought friends. I connected with them to a limited, but real extent, exchanging thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes and dreams. I did things with them. Picnics at the lake, going to the bar with them or with co-workers after work (I wasn’t a Christian at the time and I drank quite a bit), to concerts, canoeing, dancing, camping, hiking, get-togethers at someone’s house…I was always doing SOMETHING with SOMEONE. I was still lonely because those relationships were fairly superficial. I didn’t have a partner. I didn’t have anyone I felt safe with. But I had people I could be friends with and they accepted me to a certain degree. I got some sense of belonging. Of tolerance. That’s the key word: tolerance. When I married at 25, I was a Christian and I took that commitment very seriously. I had difficulty trusting a person, but God had asked me to trust Him. And I did. That was what allowed me to connect with and to fall totally in love with my ex. I was wide open by the time we married. And he fooled me…because he led me to believe he was also in love with me. It only took a matter of weeks after we married for me to develop the sense that this was not the case. That he regretted marrying me and did not love or cherish me. It took longer for him to admit it. Several months. But I knew before he ever said the words. And it broke me in a whole new and deadly way. After that point, I felt worthless. As Christians, we were committed to our marriage, but knowing he didn’t love me and didn’t want to be with me caused me to close some. I began to see all the times he checked out some cute girl. The way he talked to certain women. That non-verbal communication that said more than words. I hurt because I knew I could never compete. I could never be good enough. He didn’t want me. He didn’t accept me. He didn’t even like certain things about me. In his eyes, he had been saddled with me and God was the one who orchestrated the relationship, so he didn’t like God very much. Yet, God hates divorce. So we stayed together. For a long time.
He tolerated me. Mostly. That non-verbal communication was pretty much crystal clear in conveying his disgust and disapproval. And disdain. There were times I wanted to die because I felt like a worm. So much less than anyone else on the planet.
And then, he told me he didn’t want to hear.
Didn’t want to know what I thought. What I felt. What hurt. What had happened to me growing up. What it had done to me. How that affected me now. He wanted smooth, relaxing, fun, calm. He didn’t want anything to disrupt the levelness of his world. He didn’t want to hear or know about anything that was inside of me. That was the only way he could t-o-l-e-r-a-t-e being with me.
All of this happened before our first anniversary. While it isn’t an excuse for my reactions and actions, I can’t lie and say it didn’t profoundly impact me to the core of my being. I shut down. I numbed out. It took years for that process to be complete, because I tried to fight it and prevent it from happening. But the valve turned the day he told me to keep everything to myself. It went from the “open” to the “shut” position and it was gut-wrenching…destructively painful.
He had to live with a Zombie. Until he finally wouldn’t. Until he found someone he could love. Someone he wanted to be with. Not just someone he had to be with because God stuck us together. He stopped tolerating me.
As I drove home, I finally asked the question…why couldn’t he love me? I wasn’t all that destroyed and awful back then. There were some things about me and in me that were worth loving. Back then. I had enough good qualities to keep me from being the monster I’ve turned in to. All of my life, the most I’ve been able to ask for and expect is tolerance. Why?
Now, it’s too late. But there was a long period of time where a little love would have gone a long, long, long way. So much could have changed and been prevented. The outcome would have been drastically different. I would have been a different person altogether.
I had never thought to ask. But now that it has occurred to me, I can’t get it out of my mind. I am haunted by it. By this nagging question. So simple, yet so complex. There is an ocean behind the inquiry. Behind the one word. Why?
But there isn’t any answer. And there is no one left who finds me worth tolerating.