When my son was in high school, he had a girlfriend and was crazy about her. She was his first love, and he thought she would be his last. You see, my son was different than most other young men his age. He has always been more mature than his peers, and is a very decisive person. When he makes up his mind about something, that’s pretty much it. He’s not one to make rash decisions and when he does make a choice about something, it means he’s quite serious about it. So, when he said his girlfriend was his forever, I believed him as well. After 2 years, they broke up and my son was devastated. He is very introverted in terms of his feelings, and I remember him lying on his futon and telling me he just didn’t know what to do about his emotional reaction…his grief. Because of his (self-proclaimed) lesser sensitivity in other areas of his life, he was gobsmacked at the feelings that flooded him. At one point, not knowing how to handle this wave, he put his fist through his bedroom wall and I was greatly concerned he would hurt himself as well.
As time has a way of doing, his grief lessened and he began dating again. He got engaged to a nice young woman who he was in love with, but after a while of living together, they realized they were incompatible and the engagement was cancelled. My son will be moving home within the next few months from living a few states away (I simply can’t wait!) and obviously, his ex-fiancé will not be coming, even though they are still close. As he told me about the broken engagement, he did so in a very calm way. I asked him if he was upset and he stated he was, but the way he has been handling it has been admirable.
This summer, when the grief of Sarge and the abuse I endured came to its’ fullest fruition, I was, of course, heartbroken. My way of handling the enormous feelings I had was to cry, ruminate, hide myself, seriously consider suicide and was going to be hospitalized until my doctor and counselor helped me avoid that situation through other means. I, like my son, was at a loss on how to handle the despair I was feeling…along with the emotions tied to the abuse that was present in our relationship.
I talked to my son, or actually cried and tried to formulate words during our conversations, and asked him how he could be doing so well regarding his cancelled engagement. This is what he said to me: “Mom…you need to grow tougher skin and not allow yourself to be hurt so badly. After my high school breakup, I promised I would never let myself get hurt to that degree again. And I haven’t.”
I thought about this a lot over the next few weeks, and have come to understand that building a thicker wall around my heart is necessary. After this summer, I simply can’t go through the same again. So, the construction has started. I’m learning to see that things Sarge said to me aren’t true. Just because a person feels a certain way about you, it certainly doesn’t mean that is who you are.
When I was with him, I believed the things Sarge said to me and was also convinced I deserved the abuse he perpetrated on me too. I believed I was worthless. Not important. Just an object that had been used. I believed I deserved his discards and abusive ways. I believed his infidelity was because of a lack in me. I believed issues with his family and ex-wife were my fault. And on and on and on.
I’m finally coming to understand these things aren’t true. I do have worth and I’m an important person simply because I’m a child of God. I’m not an object to be used, but a woman who deserves love and respect because that’s what I bring to a relationship. I did NOT deserve his discards…I deserved a man who would sincerely talk out problems and work at managing conflict. I certainly didn’t deserve his abuse, and his infidelity was because of a lack in him. A lack of boundaries and not being able to see the hurt infidelity causes another. It was his sexual issue…not mine. I didn’t deserve the triangulation he used against me with his family, ex-wife, and infidelity partner, and I understand now he was pitting me against them for his own purposes. And…I believe that no matter what I might have said or done, I did NOT deserve to be caught in the web of a narcissist.
I’m feeling my heart getting stronger and like my son, I’m realizing I will NEVER allow myself to hurt like this again. Never. I’m going to be much more careful with my heart, and protect it the best I can. I know I can depend on me. I know I’m a valuable person. I know that I have realized what my boundaries must be. I know I can toughen up. And I’m determined to do so.
There’s a lot of negative things Sarge left me with. But here’s the positive: he’s strengthened my resolve and has forced me to become a tougher woman whose first responsibility is to herself. For that, and only that, I thank him.
This is what I know: we can change, grow, and learn to be more vigilant when it comes to matters of the heart. We can learn to protect ourselves against toxic people and toughen our resolve. We can learn new methods of coping and come to realize we are enough as we are, and that we can depend on ourselves fully. We no longer have to allow a partner to determine how we feel…how we see ourselves…how we react. How about this? Let’s start toughening up together.