The Center of the Onion
“I think I have the right to feel confident about my choice (in a husband)” was what I finally articulated after going round and round with my therapist concerning my desire to possibly leave my marriage. At that, she looked at me and said, “Now that statement feels true. I can’t find anything contestable in that. Your script was how you married B.”
I replied, “There are fleeting times when I look at him and think he is a good choice—I observe his strong shoulders or he does something I appreciate, but then this little voice enters in and says, “No, no, no.”
She replied, “Of course. How can something you got with a bad script ever be positive for you?”
I cried for what seemed like minutes from ramming this iceberg of pain: the confusion and sorrow I have felt for much of my marriage, unable to commit to loving or leaving, part of a script that is not organic to my marriage alone, but to my thirty-two years of life history before it.
It hurts so much, this grief I have over my “script”—the theft of my right to confidence in my decisions, stolen by my mother’s codependent way of loving. After a lifetime of having major decisions co-opted by my mother’s influence, thirteen years of marriage that I questioned from the beginning, seven years of intermittent therapy, I am in the depth of the onion, exploring the most sacred of pain: the rape my free will by my mother and, what feels even worse than that ,because I am so critical of myself, my complicity in it.
I want to wring out the final dredges of every painful moment that I experienced due to that theft. I am no longer a victim and the perpetrator is now dead, no longer around to mistakenly place her fear/pain/issues/agenda/worries and the shadow side of her love on my life. All that remains of her is the purest heaven sent wish that I can live a healthier, happier life.
The catch-22 is that I couldn’t have made a “confident” choice (about Brett, about my career, about many things) because I didn’t have that skill set—sabotaged by the disease of codependency. I came into the world with exuberance, sensitivity, and a true wild streak, but wasn’t given free rein to make mistakes and learn on my own. My nature was a scary concept for my “good girl” mother, herself a daughter of a codependent mother, and I know her love wanted to protect me from the world and myself. Also true was that I had (and still have) a strong intuitive sense, but I didn’t have the grounding to bring my wishes to reality as it wasn’t affirmed that my wishes were valid or that I had a right to them. So torn was I between my nature and my nurture.
Seven years ago, with two children under three and in a very dark spot, it was, ironically, my mother who told me to get to a therapist when she called from a vacation to check in on me. “I will call back in fifteen minutes to see if you have made the appointment.” I did and it launched the past seven years of personal growth and self-work. I am with my fourth and, as I like to tease her, “my final” therapist because I want to change the script, and live my life in confidence—in love with my decisions, my wishes, my beliefs, and myself. I want to get to know and act in those, not needing anyone else to determine what they look like. I want to be in a healthy relationships of my choosing, ones in which I will leave codependent influences behind.
Throughout my marriage, I have viewed B through the “script.” (Is there no wonder why I love that band?) The rarely absent undercurrent that my decision to marry him was based on the codependent patterns of my youth was very similar to my inability to really ever love my career as an ESL teacher. Strongly impacted by my mother’s manipulation, my job choice never felt “authentic,” or one I that I owned completely, and my marriage reflects that same inauthentic thread.
Add to that thread all the conflicts that have occurred over the thirteen years of our marriage—accurate reflection of the internal confusion I felt. Fights based on fear and ego from both partners, the inability of both sides to have healthy boundaries and sense of self, the anger and from my side, the confusion. And while B came to the marriage with an undiagnosed condition, a lifelong struggle with how his condition made him feel and his own codependent background, my reaction to those—especially my over-the-top reactions—were influenced by the background running of the script in my psyche, a powerlessness due to my inability to be sure of myself.
I do not have a clear determination of where this marriage will go, but I finally have wholly owned, clear objectives for the near future:
- To continue to expunge, in the safety of my therapist’s office, the pain created inside of me by the script and how to separate the script’s impact on my choice of life partner and my own god-given choice in a life partner.
- To intend to be open to that which would make me confident that Brett is the right choice during this time that fate is keeping us together for financial reasons while not forcing myself to feel emotions regarding the marriage that are not authentic and true.
- To model for my daughters’ respectful communication with Brett as I am no longer conflicted and thinking I am not safe – that particular script is ending for me. I am no longer in danger in intimate relationships—my decisions and desires are exclusively mine now, no one else’s.
- To safely explore themes in my marriage and what both staying and leaving this marriage would look like for me. For example: why I get crazy jealous when I imagine him with someone else yet can’t stand his touch, what staying/leaving would mean on all levels (financially/emotionally/spiritually etc.)
I have worked hard to get to this point of clarity and neutrality about the script’s influence in my life and in my marriage and there is great reward: I can now say with confidence that it is okay to be in this transitional place working my way through this decision, at my own pace, and on my own path. I feel no rush, no panic, no fear, no insecurity, or threat in this space, just calm.
For the first time in a long time, I have abundant hope and strength because I feel sure of myself and of my analysis of the situation. I don’t feel my former reactive tendencies to the script’s “power” in my life—it has been neutralized. I have returned my rights to my preferences to myself. In being able to look at my marriage in the same way I was finally able to look at my career. I know I will find my own truth of what I want—without fear, without script, on my own, with gratitude for the gifts my mom wanted to give, but couldn’t and for the biggest gift she did give me: the request to get to a therapist, which has ultimately led me home—to myself.